We’ve come to accept that talking about our troubles can lead to some form of resolution from the things that trouble us. It’s something we intuitively accept and it has become enshrined as a principle of psychotherapy, even though it has been largely untested.
Therapy is a Trade off
All forms of therapy, whether physical, chemical or psychological, represent a kind of trade off. Let’s consider the side effects from anxiety medication as an example. If we have a headache and reach for a tablet we assume it will do us more good than harm. Yet a quick glance down the information sheet accompanying all medication tells us that for some people there may be negative effects. Talk therapy has different issues, but they are there. For example, around 10 percent of people undertaking psychotherapy appear to suffer a worsening of symptoms. A likely reason for this relates to the unearthing of painful memories and perhaps little being offered in the way of developing positives as a replacement. Typically, treatment goals often do little more than offer a route back to neutral territory. This may be fine for some people but many others would like additional information. They’re interested in ways they might develop positive emotions, and confidence, and even happiness.
Focus on the Positives
If we focus attention on the positives, like ways to develop optimism, resilience, confidence and assertion, then not only do these aspects develop but a corresponding decrease in more negative symptoms is seen. If you’re pessimistic about these claims my suggestion is that it’s due to your experiences and beliefs. These have a way of conspiring to lock us into a particular mindset, but even mindset can be changed.
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.