Should a psychotherapist be prescriptive with his or her clients?

Cedric Bouet-Willaumez, London psychotherapist, received an email from a person who visited his website (www.london-counselling-psychotherapy.org.uk) and who wrote to him: “My parents sent me a place to be talked out of [my feeling self-conscious] once a week for quite a time when I was very young. It did not good at all”.

Very often there is an expectation of people seeking counselling in London orpsychotherapy in London that the practitioner will ‘do something’ to them to make them feel better. It will be either that the counsellor or therapist will make an unhelpful behaviour stop, or that they will create a new behaviour that can help them feel better in themselves or resolve a situation that appeared stuck. People often feel that if they can be convinced to change the way that they think, their suffering will stop.
Cedric knows from experience that this is not the case. A psychotherapist does give the client an opportunity to change their behaviour and approach life situations differently. What the psychotherapist should not do, in Cedric’s view, is to ‘talk the client out of their beliefs’. Even if the intent is felt to be positive by the practitioner, the effect of this practice is to undermine the client’s worldview and to create a relationship where the therapist is yet another person ‘who knows better’.
So, how does counselling work if the psychotherapist does not seek to replace the client’s views with his or her own?
The therapist will seek to understand the client’s deepest motivations that contribute to creating their worldview and behaviours. The therapist will help the client become aware of these, and will show the client how he or she is affected by them. The therapist’s particular skill, in Cedric’s experience, is to do something for his client that is actually very close to what a good parent should do to a growing child: that is, to be present, interested and allowing the child to grow in a direction that is meaningful to them, and not necessarily to the therapist.
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