Dr. Keely Kolmes – On the Difference Between Therapy and Giving Advice

Sometimes we want to be told what to do and that's fine but not always what we need from our therapist. Dr. Keely Kolmes, psychologist and writer, explains…

"…giving advice is not psychotherapy. Therapy is a place to explore
your feelings and learn about yourself. It’s a place of self-discovery.
It’s a place to find out how you have become tangled up and a place to
learn how to untangle yourself. It’s a place to gain a better
understanding of your inner world and your relationships. This process
is what people come into therapy to learn. It’s what mental health
professionals go to school to learn how to provide. Sometimes it takes
time and reflection to see the patterns and it isn’t a quick fix, as
much as both therapist and client sometimes wish it were. Sometimes
just acknowledging and sitting with that pain, confusion, and wish for
an immediate answer is the best thing we can do."

She goes on to say…

"If you want a therapist to tell you what to do, as opposed to helping you figure out what is right for you, it could be worth thinking twice about what you’re seeking."

In other words, in therapy, as in life, the Rolling Stones said it:

You might not always get what you want,

but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

To read all of Dr. Kolme's blog post click here.

One comment

  • TPG

    What’s the great fear of giving some advice from the point of view of an outside observer who knows the therapeutic client well?
    Look. Everyone comes to therapy for two reasons. There’s the presenting problem, and then there are the components that can make for long term change. Clients want help with both these things. In fact, clients need help with both.
    I think Dr. Kolmes sets up a straw man in her formulation. Since when is advice being told what to do? Advice is counsel. C-O-U-N-S-E-L. It’s not a military order. It’s up to the recipient to weigh it, heed it, and put it to use as s/he sees fit.
    Therapists so contained by supposed therapeutic boundaries that they will never give some advice on particulars from time to time are far less helpful to clients than those who choose their spots and share their perspectives. No, therapists are not lawyers, accountants, and friends. But if one is being paid for life judgment, expertise, and insight? Share it as advice from time to time! I won’t always take that advice, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it. And I won’t hold it against you if your counsel turns out, from time to time, to be wrong, if the rest of the therapy is working and the alliance is strong. You’re a therapist, not the Almighty.


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