Should your therapist give you advice?

“What? Isn’t that what I go to therapy for?”

No… Not really. Psychotherapists and counsellors are normally taught not to give advice (for important decision making) to their clients. We do not want our clients to become dependent on us, instead, we guide them and equip them with the skills to think more rationally, realistically and in ways that are helpful to them.

I remember there are few occasions when clients first came to see me, and they told me about how previous psychiatrists/therapist/counsellors had advised them to do certain things like leaving a boyfriend or a job or moving house etc, how they still ruminating about it today and still don’t think it was the right thing to do. Here, I’m not blaming the therapists or consultants. It’s both ways… Because quite often, clients want quick fix, they want the answer now… And the therapists feel the urgency to help and provide the quick fix.

But there are times when we do give advice, and that’s on severely depressed clients, and on suicidal prevention. We do advice the subject and the family around him/her what to do.

Also, I do provide psychoeducation to family members of most of my severe OCD clients. In a sense, sometimes there are family members who cannot rationalise how they are reinforcing the OC symptoms, then I will just advise them what and what not to do.

So right, your therapist should be there to teach you how to fish (how to solve your problems, how to handle your negative emotions, how to make decision etc), but not to just keep giving you fish. If it’s the latter that they are constantly doing (it’s quite normal to do it in the beginning of the therapy or when your condition doesn’t allow independent decision), at some point you are going to realise that you can’t live without them…

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