Do I get to lie on a couch and talk about my feelings?

We still see it everywhere. In movies, on the internet, and in comic strips where a psychologist or psychiatrist holds up a clipboard, jotting down notes as his/her patient or client lies on a couch, venting out emotions. This is not what therapy looks like, at least not completely. So what would you see in therapy?

1.     Am I going to get analyzed by my counselor /clinician?

 In the majority of the therapy that uses empirically supported techniques, the counselor or clinician is there to help the client process his/her concerns, whether emotional or behavioral. So does this mean the same as getting analyzed? In a sense, it is. The counselor or clinician is there to help the client systematically process the causes, triggers, and maintenance factors of his/her concerns. The therapist is also there to help look at how the client has been dealing with his/her concerns in the past, what worked, what didn’t, and why. Most of the therapy techniques today do not ask about the content of the client’s dreams in order to get a close insight of the unconscious struggles.

2.     Is my therapist going to tell me what’s wrong with me and cure me?

First of all, there is nothing really “wrong” with any patient or client. Clients come to seek therapy because they feel that their life or daily functioning has been affected by emotional, behavioral or other concerns. A therapist is there to help the client deal with such problems, and discover ways to solve them or cope with them.

3.     So do I just show up to therapy and things will all work out fine again then?

Unfortunately, that is not how therapy works. Going through therapy is a lot of work especially for the client. Most of the behavior and cognitive therapy techniques today requires a lot of effort from the client. For instance, exposure therapy designed to help individual dealing with anxiety issues is a quite unpleasant process at the beginning, but the client must suffer through the process to gain improvement. In another example, when helping parents dealing with their child’s behavior issues, therapy often requires that the parents work out a detailed behavior plan with the therapist, and implement it rigorously at home.

Therapy used to be exploring your unconscious with your Freudian analyst, but it is often not the case anymore in today’s world. Just like seeing a medical doctor for physical complains such as high blood pressure and diabetes, working with a therapist for psychological concerns requires you to deal with the problem methodologically. This often is a complex process that involves making changes to many aspects of your behaviors and even life styles. 


Dagong Ran