Why Psychologists Don't Give Advice
Mental health care is normalizing and every day more people are encouraged to go to therapy. Despite this, some myths and taboos remain.
For example, there are those who think that therapy is a waste of time and money, and believe that the function of a therapist can be fulfilled by any friend. However, this isn’t the case. As a matter of fact, unlike friends, psychologists don’t give advice.
This is something that can frustrate and confuse you when you go to therapy for the first time. After all, you’re asking for help because you’re suffering and your circumstances are overwhelming. Therefore, you think that you’ll find relief by placing the burden of decision-making on someone else.
Should you end your relationship or give it another chance? Should you quit your job? Do you cut off contact with that toxic family member? Is it you who’s the problem or is it their fault? You go to a psychologist looking for answers but they can’t give them. In fact, their aim is to help you find answers, not to take the helm of your life.
A psychologist will try to maintain your autonomy
There are several reasons why psychologists don’t give advice. Firstly, it’s because there are no universal answers. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
The word advice tends to be closely linked to personal experience. Nevertheless, psychologists don’t use it, or at least it’s not their main reference. They have a volume of research to consult that’s been produced in the field of psychology, and numerous previous cases to draw on.
In fact, the function of a psychologist isn’t to solve your problem in the way you usually expect someone else to solve your problems. At a general level, their function is closer to providing you with a map that can help you find your destination, than marking that destination or route you have to follow.
Therefore, if psychologists don’t give advice, what do they do?
They offer a safe space
The consultation room becomes a safe space in which you can show your most vulnerable side and let go of what you’ve been repressing.
It’s here that you’re really listened to without judgment and expectations. In fact, you receive unconditional acceptance which allows you to be you. In this environment, you can express your deepest beliefs (even the most unpleasant), your fears, and those longings that only you know about.
In therapy, you may feel that you tell your psychologist more than you ever thought you would. That’s due to the climate of welcome and freedom, which you don’t normally find in your everyday life. It makes you open up. Furthermore, you begin to listen to yourself in another way.
They give feedback and information
Psychologists don’t give advice, but they do offer assistance and guidance. They help to order and shape your thoughts and to observe them from perspectives that you won’t have previously even contemplated. Actually, even if they don’t tell you anything new, a different way of formulating or looking at what you think can bring you great clarity. In effect, they help you to arrive at a solution inside yourself that you were looking for on the outside.
In addition, a psychologist can help you understand where you come from and why you’re the way you are. Understanding your thought processes, the origin of your emotions, and the reason for your behaviors puts you in a position to be able to modify them. Without this information, without knowing how you operate, it’s really difficult to make a change.
Even just receiving a diagnosis can make a difference. Sometimes, labels limit and stigmatize, but at other times they help you understand, release guilt, and start working on yourself.
They provide resources and personal tools
Just as you need bricks and mortar to build a wall, you also need tools and resources to achieve goals for your mental health. A psychologist won’t tell you where to put the door or the length of the wall you want to build, nor will they do it for you, but they’ll give you the tools you need to do it.
Many therapeutic interventions increase your sense of validity, reinforcing your concept and, ultimately, your self-esteem.
However, if the psychologist designed and built the wall for you, it’d have the opposite effect. You have to learn how to do it for yourself and have the conviction that you can do it on your own.
They accompany you in the learning process
Finally, the psychologist or therapist accompanies your learning while you practice and consolidate these new tools. They offer explanations, model skills, create a personalized plan, and monitor your progress.
As a matter of fact, in therapy, all change is a team effort. It’s the two of you together. The psychologist won’t do it for you, but having their support and guidance helps you move faster and with greater confidence toward your goals.
In short, if you’re looking for quick and superficial advice, a magical solution, or a person to take responsibility for your decisions, you won’t find it in a psychological consultation. On the other hand, if you’re willing to carry out your own process and take responsibility, professional help can mark a real turning point in your life.It might interest you...
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- Castaño, R (2009). La psicoterapia: Un espacio de Juego y una experiencia de Intimidad. Clínica e Investigación Relacional, 3(2), pp. 358-371
- Echeburúa, E., Salaberría, K., Corral, P. D., & Cruz-Sáez, S. (2012). Funciones y ámbitos de actuación del psicólogo clínico y del psicólogo general sanitario: una primera reflexión. Behavioral Psychology/Psicología Conductual, 20(2). https://www.behavioralpsycho.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/10.Echeburua_20-2oa.pdf