There is much to be said about what beneficial effects psychotherapy can have on a person’s life and just how it works. A person feeling certain distress in his life comes to psychotherapy for relief. And the principle means of that relief, at least from my perspective, comes from talking. Putting into words one’s feelings and thoughts. Saying what needs to be said.
For many people, talking in this way, genuinely, is healing and reparative. In this way, psychotherapy addresses one of the chief deleterious effects of certain childhoods – learning not to speak.
It is not an uncommon experience for a client to tell me that “we didn’t talk in our family.” It is a too common experience that people grew up in families where there was not open communication. In such situations, there are subjects – often including people’s emotions – that are taboo and off limits. Or in other families, one member may dominate and overshadow the others. Here, a person learned to keep his emotions and thoughts to himself, perhaps feeling that there just wasn’t enough room.
Psychotherapy helps to reverse these old habits and lessons. In the psychotherapy encounter, everything can be talked about. Thoughts and fantasies. One’s highest aspirations or most troubling and depressing thoughts. And certainly there is a great deal of attention to talking about feelings.
Through the act of talking, a person gains greater insight into himself and his inner world. Often a client has said to me that talking about a subject “makes it real.” Sometimes what is made real is painful and difficult to deal with. But in this way, by saying aloud what is troubling and often suppressed and unconscious, that thought or emotion becomes less burdensome, less shrouded in darkness and secrecy. Bringing things into the light is the direction of psychotherapy,
Saying what is real and genuine increases the experience of authenticity in a person’s life. And to me that is the great goal of psychotherapy: to live a more authentic life. And that begins with what one can and does talk about.