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Q&A Is therapy just a chat?

"If you discount the years of training, continued education, emotional investment, attention to detail, mastery of multiple theories and techniques to weave this altogether for each individual. Therapists are passionate about their work and committed to your healing and growth. It’s never just a chat."

- From A social media post

Straight away I feel there are two dynamics at play with the client wanting to adopt this passive attitude towards therapy by liking to think therapy “is just a chat”.

The client is taking a defensive stance against the intimacy of the therapeutic relationship. They don’t want to let you in because they don’t know if they can trust you. So the client liking to think therapy is “just a chat” helps to keep them safe and maintains a distance between them and you. One of the strategies as to how the client could demonstrate this is through the use of vagueness.

Lurking behind this defensive stance is highly likely going to be vagueness. Which is also a defence. Because if the client likes to think therapy is “just a chat” then they will think it’s about nothing really specific. Vagueness helps us to not be specific and communicate what we need. If we keep what we think we want vague then we won’t feel let down when we don’t achieve it. More specifically, if the client keeps their reason for coming to therapy vague then they don’t have to admit they have a problem. Therefore, as the client thinks therapy is “just a chat” they will want to go off and diversify and detour any of your initial early attempts at probing for feelings because they are in the safe space of vagueness which allows them to jump from one topic to the next without really mentioning any specifics because therapy is “just a chat” right?…

You can see how the client adopting this passive attitude towards therapy and using the defensive strategy of vagueness can initially hinder the therapeutic relationship. Which is why it is so important to assist and encourage the client to distill what their reason for coming to therapy is and to help them come to terms with the problem as valid.

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