Psychotherapy, talk therapy, and counseling are all terms used when treatment revolves around a patient talking to a therapist every week. This series of blogs aims to evaluate some common myths about getting therapy for one’s mental or emotional symptoms.
Myth: The purpose of psychotherapy is to see your counselor and ‘vent,’ or describe all of your problems.
Reality: This may be partially true. The term catharsis is a fancy one that means letting one’s emotions out. This can be helpful when a loved one has passed away, for example. This is helpful over a few sessions, but doing this every week for a year likely does not help
Venting and just rattling off problems sometimes helps if an objective observer can help you think through the problem. But the goal of psychotherapy isn’t to have someone tell you what to do, or how to do it.
It is important to tell your therapist what has happened to you during the week: the good, bad, and neutral things. This way the therapist figures out your usual coping skills and ways of dealing with people and social situations.
The real work and cure in certain types of psychotherapy is actually how you relate to your therapist over time. It isn’t necessarily what you say in session, describing your problems, but more the process.
For example, if you are venting and you feel your therapist disagrees with you, then you might get angry and defiant, or perhaps sad and feel let down. But to get the most out of your therapy, it would be best to tell your therapist that his or her comment made you feel angry, sad, abandoned, etc. and discuss this interpersonal problem rather than just go on talking about the flat tire you got on the way home from work.
This works on the process and patterns between you and your therapist and may actually give you better skills for dealing with these tough situations in everyday life when other people let you down, abandon you, or make you feel angry, or sad. This way you will know how to handle these situations better without getting depressed, anxious, drunk, violent, or suicidal.