Psychologists have the job of studying people’s behavior. They help people understand their problems by interpreting their thoughts and emotions. They listen to the meaning and significance of what their patients tell them.
Jacques Lacan, a French psychoanalyst, proposed the idea that the unconscious has the structure of a language. The unconscious would be the place where you store your desires, fears, and emotions. So, according to some schools of though, psychologists are the ones who give their patients the resources to make the unconscious, conscious. Let’s explore this further…
“We can’t change anything until we accept it.”
Qualities that help psychologists interpret thoughts and emotions
Psychologists have certain qualities that enable them to interpret their patients thoughts and emotions. They are also able to put it in a language that is easy for the patient to understand. Here are some of these special abilities:
- Empathy. This is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s place. It is easier for psychologists to understand how and why a patient’s problems affect them when they put themselves in the patient’s shoes.
- Communication. Paul Watzawick, an Austrian psychologist, believes that communication is the foundation of relationships. That’s why psychologists are able to interpret what the patient is thinking and feeling.
- Knowing how to listen. Psychologists have to be attentive to what their patients are saying so they don’t miss anything important.
- Self-awareness. Psychologists must separate their patient’s problems from their own. Otherwise, they could taint the communication.
Gestures, expressions, tone of voice, and posture also speak volumes about what’s going on in your life. They can provide valuable information about our emotions that we are unaware of. Since we aware of it, we don’t bring it up verbally.
Also, thoughts and emotions don’t fit into words sometimes. So to decipher them, psychologists observe their patients very carefully. For example, they watch their facial expressions when they talk about a problem. They might also observe the way their patient sits and where they look.
Tone of voice is another giveaway. For example, does the patient’s tone of voice change when they talk about certain subjects? Do they pause? Stay silent? Are they short of breath? Does their speech speed up or slow down? How loud are they talking?
The aspects that we just listed are important because they help the psychologist understand the whole picture. They give psychologists clues into the patient’s ideas, representations of reality, and feelings.
What are psychologists’ favorite techniques?
Here is a list of some of the techniques that psychologists use most frequently in their practice:
- Cognitive techniques. Aaron Beck, a psychologist from the United States, proposed that there is a relationship between your thoughts and your feelings. Beck believed that we can restructure these thoughts and feelings. Psychologists can help us in that task.
- Drawing or painting. The process of drawing or painting makes the unconscious visible. Here, the psychotherapist helps express the ideas and emotions of the patient when they’re difficult to put into words. Then, they interpret them.
- Through speech. The therapist recognizes and identifies people’s thoughts and emotions while they are talking.
- Through behavior. Therapists observe how patients act during therapy. They also listen to patient descriptions of how they act outside therapy. For example, are the aggressive, apathetic, motivated, excited?
- Nonverbal language. In many cases, psychologists can help patients translate their thoughts and emotions because they pay a lot of attention to how they express themselves nonverbally. They listen to the content of their speech but don’t get distracted from the heart of the matter. In other words, they always keep in mind gestures, facial expressions, and posture.
- Bringing the unconscious to light. Most psychologists who believe in the existence of the unconscious think that it manifests in different ways. It might come through in art, mistakes in speech, or forgetfulness. Psychologists pay attention to these issues and point them out to the client/patient. They are the ones who will give it meaning (if it actually has any meaning).
- Psychodrama. This is a technique created by Jacob Levy Moreno in which patients act out what’s happening. Afterward, the psychologist helps the patient interpret their acting, understanding that some things in the unconscious might come through.
Psychologists often act as a kind of mirror. They reflect the expressions of the patient so the patient can then interpret them. They can also help organize their patient’s speech and ideas. They do this by allowing the patient to speak freely, acting as a kind of crutch or support so that the process doesn’t lose continuity.