Can talking with a therapist really help?
With digital messaging, online networking and emailing so convenient, talking to another person may seem old-fashioned. These days, communication is often brief and electronic. A quick text message or a short email is usually enough to get any message across.
But humans have been talking to each other for a very long time. Our minds are programmed to be social and the need to communicate with each other is powerful. Talking is a way of relating to another person.
We know more about the brain than ever before and developments in neuroscience have shown the important links between communication, language acquisition and emotional development. The truth is that humans need to talk with each other. Thoughts, ideas and feelings stored inside and left unexpressed through language can leave us emotionally or psychologically overwhelmed.
Language, it seems, has evolved for many reasons.
Most of us talk all the time but really talking isn’t always so easy
Talking about things that really matter may be difficult and sometimes the hardest thing about feelings is sharing them with other people. We often confine our most significant thoughts and emotions to our internal world. We hold them safely in our bodies. These thoughts or feelings are very alive within us but we may never feel confident to share them with friends and family. They remain inside us, and sometimes take on a life of their own.
We often feel afraid of being judged for our thoughts, hopes or feelings and this makes sharing these parts of ourselves difficult. We may doubt ourselves. We may feel shame. We may worry what other people will think of us. We may fear that we are the only person with these thoughts or feelings and that no one will understand.
The truth is simple: talking is good for you
A catharsis is defined as the expression or discharge of repressed emotions and ideas. Putting emotions and thoughts into words can relieve emotional unease and untangle complex feelings and ideas. Getting problematic emotions out of ourselves and into the world allows us to focus on our feelings from a distance and helps us maintain good mental health.
Talking can also help resolve problems. Through talking feelings get expressed, we gain more clarity in our thoughts and solutions will often surface. In talking with another person, new perspectives often come to light and new perspectives can make old issues feel very different.
The way a person feels inside is important and a person’s internal world should not be neglected. Through identifying and naming internal feelings and emotions, we then know what feelings we are dealing with and we may regain power over difficult emotions. Being able to communicate what’s inside through spoken words is essential for emotional and psychological well-being. Over time, unexpressed thoughts and feelings can lead to depression, anxiety, shame, relationship problems, self-harm, self-worth issues and many other forms of emotional or psychological distress.
But why should I talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist?
Talking with anyone can be useful and sharing thoughts and emotions with friends, colleagues or family members is a great way to connect with other people and feel supported. We all need to feel safe, understood and supported from time to time. We all need to open ourselves to others.
And turning to someone for help is not a new concept. Though contemporary counselling and psychotherapy has been around in its current form for only a century, people have been using the power of talking throughout history. In the past, spiritual leaders, physicians, social workers and village elders were the authority figures people often turned to for help and support.
A modern-day therapist is not a friend or a family member, but someone who builds a healthy, professional relationship with their clients through trust and openness. A therapist is trained to help people communicate their inner world and to facilitate verbal communication in a way that helps promote self-awareness and self-development.
And therapists are not judgemental. They will not judge a person’s life experiences or life choices. Though every person’s story is unique, an experienced therapist will have likely ‘heard it all before’. Experienced therapists know that all thoughts, feelings and behaviours easily fall within the broad range of human psychology.
It is a mistake to believe that therapists ‘only listen’ to their clients. Professional therapists in the UK undergo several years of specialised training. Therapists understand human psychology, they are often trained in multiple styles of counselling and psychotherapy and they take their clients’ lives seriously. Therapists are highly trained to do the jobs they do.
A good therapist will understand how complicated life can be and how emotional and psychological forces can dominate someone’s life. Counsellors and psychotherapists are trained to talk, listen, explore and support. For the benefit of their clients, that’s just what they do.