What Is A Therapeutic Conversation?

Many people are surprised to learn that the main activity in therapy is talking. They wonder how that is going to change anything. To them, their problems seem to require a lot more—advice, strategies, direction. Everything is falling apart around them—it requires action to make things right again. Something must be done.

Therapy is not a place for advice or strategies, however. True, in some instances, a therapist and a client might decide on a strategy to avoid, for example, eating too much ice-cream. But for the most part, good therapy operates on the level of what motivates a person to eat a lot of ice-cream. To work on that level, a certain kind of conversation is required—a therapeutic conversation.

But what is a therapeutic conversation? How can it help? I encourage people to conceptualize their life as representative of how they think and act—in short, representative of who they are—as opposed to the result of other people, an unlucky string of events, or environmental pressures. While it is undoubtedly true that many of our issues arise from these sources, this perspective will not be helpful in uncovering the self-knowledge required to change repetitive patterns.

And that is exactly what the therapeutic conversation is: an opportunity to understand your life from the perspective of how you make it so. Not everything in your life is a direct result of who you are, but for the things that are, having the tool of self-knowledge is the most valuable, sustainable agent in changing things for the future.

Some therapy aims at the level of circumventing certain behaviors. It asks, what can we do to cut down on your ice-cream eating? A better way is to understand what motivates you to eat a lot of ice-cream. Chances are, this motivation rears its head in other instances of your life, as well. Talking to a professional trained to understand your motivations, and how they find their expression in your actions, is the value of a therapeutic conversation.

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