Is your therapist responsible for making you a “better” person?

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Someone I knew was complaining about the way the people in his life treated them constantly. At first I felt bad for them. But when I realized how bossy their behavior was towards me, I too had to distance myself from them. I tried to set limits, but I couldn’t reach them. My mind automatically started to say, “My God, they need therapy. “

“Go to therapy” is a phrase people like to use as an insult. Use has, of course, been widely criticized for stigmatizing therapy more than it already is by passing it off as punishment. Some experts believe that, as an insult, the statement can be counterproductive – discouraging people from pursuing therapy by creating a negative connection. Well, luckily, I hadn’t announced my thought aloud.

Also, I quickly remembered that my ex-acquaintance had been in therapy for years, maybe even decades. And, to be honest, they’re not the only person I know whose behaviors haven’t improved with therapy. I have been in therapy since I was 15. Yet around the age of 25, I began to recognize several recurring and disturbing patterns in my behavior that had not been addressed in so many years of therapy.

When someone tells someone to “go see a therapist,” they may be hoping that the therapy will make someone more enjoyable. But is this really what therapy intends to do?

Itisha Nagar, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Delhi, explains that, to begin with, a therapist’s job is not to transform her clients into a socially constructed standard of what an ideal human being should be. Instead, their job is to “push” and “guide” customers to who they envision them being. “Therapy is not about ‘fixing’ someone like they have a viral infection. “

“The job of a therapist is not to change a person’s personality and make them a ‘better person’. [Their] their job is to help them navigate life smoothly, ”says Mala Chadha, a therapist from Mumbai.


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Moreover, “what is a ‘better’ person? Nagar notes. There is no single ideal for human behavior. She points out that we often see people with socially sanctioned behavior, such as working nine to five jobs, getting married, and raising children, as an aspiration. In India, people often expect counselors, especially in schools, to teach a “moral science course” to compel an individual to engage in socially sanctioned behavior. But the role of a therapist is not to hold them to arbitrary standards and try to change them.

Shaneel Mukerji, therapist and specialist educator from Kolkata, says. “A lot of people come to therapy thinking, ‘I’m going to tell someone what my concerns are and they’ll tell me what to do. It is an unrealistic and inaccurate expectation.

The “role” of a therapist may also depend on the therapeutic model he chooses to apply, some being more didactic than others, explains Mukerji, who practices narrative therapy, one of many different forms of psychotherapy. She says the approach is to trust the know-how and lived experiences of clients and give them the agency to define what a “better world” is while traveling with them as they go. they go there.

In addition, a client does not necessarily come to therapy to have their worldview challenged. For them, this is their reality, explains Samriti Makkar Midha, a psychotherapist based in Mumbai. Often, these are conflicts in interpersonal relationships. For example, a need to be more assertive in a romantic relationship, difficulty dealing with colleagues or superiors in the workplace, or even difficulty keeping pace with one’s career. Whatever the reason, a therapist’s job is to actively listen to and make visible their innate value systems that the therapist believes can help them achieve their goals. Midha believes that it is vital to tackle the harmful aspects of her client’s ideas, but only when it appears to be an obstacle to their stated purpose or to their well-being or that of others.

Chadha also believes in combating harmful ideas to prevent the client from falling into a trap, where the same concepts hold him back over and over again. “If the delusions are intact, then there will always be something that will prevent them from smoothly navigating their lives. It’s like pushing things under a carpet. It is still hiding and will appear in another form at another time in conjunction with another problem, ”she says.

However, it’s not as simple as just pointing out to people that they’re wrong about something. While a therapist can identify a client’s unnecessary ideas, belief systems, or behaviors, she often decides when and how to present them to the client, based on the client’s willingness to deal with them. The therapist will tell the client why holding on to them is “unnecessary, irrational, and hinders the achievement of their goal,” says Midha. If they’re willing to work at it, their therapist can guide them through the process of overcoming the behavior. Otherwise, their therapist’s hands are tied.


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Mukerji and Midha also insist that individuals retain their free will in therapy. A therapist can also leverage a client’s goal of “this is what you want, and that’s one of the reasons you have a hard time achieving that goal.

For example, if a person approaches a therapist saying that they are struggling with an overload of work, the therapist is trying to find out why. Suppose they find out that the reason their client is overloading is because they are never able to say “no” at work due to their tendency to please people. The therapist may stress that unless they are willing to accept that they are not making everyone happy all the time, they will continue to be stretched at work and deal with the stress that comes with it. This is where the client’s self-awareness comes into play.

Midha emphasizes that she helps her clients become more aware of their situation through a series of questions. Mental health professionals often employ “Socratic questioning,” derived from Socrates, the Greek philosopher, teaching his students. Essentially, it helps therapists unravel deeply held values ​​and beliefs in their clients by getting them to gradually open up about it, rather than just rejecting their interpretations. However, if a client refuses to acknowledge it, sometimes the therapist needs to inform them that it is time to take a break and, perhaps, reflect on what they have learned.

However, if a client is not ready to acknowledge it, the therapist sometimes has to negotiate and figure out what might be hindering them. If a therapist feels that the client cannot cope at this time, he or she may suggest that the client take a break – allowing them to reflect on what they have discussed during the sessions so that they can resume therapy when. ‘he’ll feel ready to work on it. these concerns.

She also notes here that how many of a client’s deeply held beliefs that conflict with their emotional health goals can be addressed in therapy depends on two things: first, how long they choose to stay in therapy; second, what goals do they choose to achieve through therapy. And the duration of therapy often depends on what clients expect of it. “Some people come into therapy with a specific problem or concern, and a brief solution-oriented therapy may be the right solution… Some people come into therapy to explore issues that seem a little deeper. They can be in therapy for several months or even years, ”explained Erica Myers, counselor in the United States.

In addition, the recommended number of sessions may vary depending on the disease one is facing and the psychotherapeutic approach followed by the mental health professional.

After hearing the views of various experts in the field, Chadha’s words resonate loud and clear: “[A therapist’s] the job is to empower [their clients] to deal with whatever life throws at them from time to time. The key to this? Agency and a lot of healthy negotiation.

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