Therapy vs. Problem Solving

By Vidur Malik, LMFT

Therapy vs. Problem Solving

We go to therapy because we have problems that we need support with. That’s a simple enough idea, right?

Well, when it comes to the support we receive for dealing with that problem, things may not be so cut and dry.

For example, you might have had the experience of telling your therapist about a nagging question you can’t seem to figure out – Should I dump him or give him one more chance? How do I finally build a close relationship with my mom? – in the hopes that you’ll be given a solution or a recommendation on what to do next. Instead, you might just get a warm acknowledgement of what you’re going through without a concrete next step.

If that response would surprise or frustrate you, you’re not alone!

It only makes sense for clients to expect answers from their therapist – after all, we go to therapy to get support with our problems, right? While it might feel like a relief in the short-term to get clear-cut advice from therapy, the most supportive long-term intervention is usually resisting the urge to do something right away. Here are a few reasons why.

Process over Outcome

Your therapist will usually not tell you what to do. Instead, they’ll ask you what you’ve tried in the past, and they’ll help you get a better understanding of why certain situations keep coming up. For example, your therapist may not tell you whether or not to dump your emotionally unavailable partner, but they will help you gain insight on why you always seem to end up in relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable.

This might not provide immediate relief for your presenting issue, but it will help you notice patterns and themes that show up in your life. In the process of developing this insight, you’ll notice when patterns are repeating themselves and be able to make informed decisions about what’s best for you. Your therapist will help you figure out the process – the reasons why you find yourself in certain situations – so that you can feel empowered to make the choices that feel right for you. We often can’t control the final outcome of a situation, but knowing more about the process helps us focus on ourselves and what we can control.

Do Nothing

It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes it can help to do nothing at all.

When we’re in distress, we often feel like we have to act immediately in order to feel relief. Your therapist will likely encourage you to sit with that feeling instead of acting on it. By simply acknowledging how you feel and reflecting on it, you’ll gain insight and prove to yourself that your feelings don’t have to control your actions. Increasing the amount of time between your feelings and your actions gives you more agency over your life, and it makes emotions feel less overwhelming.

It can be uncomfortable to go against the instinct to do something immediately, but this can be an incredibly powerful tool in therapy.

To be clear, there are some situations – such as when your safety or the safety of someone else is at risk – that require immediate action. Your therapist can help you differentiate between issues that need to be addressed immediately and those that might call for some reflection first.

At Mindful Practices, we meet you where you are, and we will never pressure you to make change before you feel ready. This is the foundation we build our support on, and it ensures that you feel safe to take the leap toward healing.

We welcome you to schedule a free, initial consultation to see if one of our clinicians could be a good fit for you.

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Client Appreciations

"As a young queer femme of color, it was difficult to find a therapist that I felt safe around, however with Mindful Practices not only do I feel safe, but I feel valued and seen. Mindful Practice's approach has helped me honor my truth and prioritize my healing. I'm grateful for the clarity and insight I gain every time I speak and reflect with them."
– Former Client
"I met Lilian 3 years ago while I was going through a very stressful time at work that caused me severe anxiety attacks and depression. Lilian showed me through her therapeutic approach and mindfulness practices to control my anxiety but also to overcome anxiety and find peace and harmony within myself. I learned how to deal with challenging times to avoid falling into anxiety again and to find the power of inner healing and love."
– Former Client
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– Former Client
"[Mindful Practices] has helped me to deal with my feelings about retirement and with difficulties with the pandemic. I feel now, more relaxed after I learned the principles of self-care, meditation and breathing exercises. Mindful Practices has given me the ability to understand my feelings and more so accept those from others. Thank you so much for the opportunity to connect with such a wonderful professional."
– Former Client

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