Why Can’t My Therapist Just Tell Me What to Do?
Updated: May 28
A common experience in therapy is the realization and disappointment that follows when you learn that your therapist is not going to tell you *the answer.*
But here’s the thing: If you are someone who is great at giving advice to others, but bad at taking that same advice from your friends (or even yourself!), then you know that
creating your best life is about more than just hearing the “right answer” from someone else.
Therapy can actually be extremely beneficial to those who recognize that they are fully capable of coming up with a plan of action for what they want and aware of what they should be doing differently, but just can’t seem to stop doing what they’ve always done.
As a therapist, my job is not to tell you what to do, but to help you figure out what’s making it so hard for you to take your own advice. My goal is to help you see what gets in the way of making the types of changes that you want to make. Usually these are things far outside of our conscious awareness.
Surprise: There is no right answer
Another reason why we don’t give advice is that your life is yours to create. While we as therapists are experts in mental health, we are not experts in you. We can help you see things from new perspectives and even help you consider alternative solutions, but we honestly don’t know which decision will lead to the best outcome for you. The idea of 20/20 hindsight is that the only way for us to know if a choice is “good” or “bad” is by its consequence and the meaning we assign to it.
We trust you
A little known secret is that we therapists are actually human, with our own ideas and beliefs about the world. As a result, we also make mistakes. In the case that we do have an opinion about what might be the best course of action for you, in some cases, sharing that with you might imply that we don’t think you are capable of coming up with an answer on your own. And that’s counterproductive.
My ultimate goal is to help you make healthy choices in my absence.
Instead of worrying about the right thing to do, sometimes I ask clients to think of my voice in the therapy room as a guide that they can bring with them when I’m not around. Consider thinking, what would my therapist say? How would she help me figure out what I'm feeling and why? That way, you can try a new cycle of self-talk that can help you achieve your goals rather than drag you down.
about the author
My passion is helping people connect with their most authentic selves. Through this blog, I hope to offer resources to demystify psychotherapy and encourage you to think about your mental wellness.
In my integrative psychotherapy practice in Echo Park, my mission is to support you in finding your best self and living an examined life.