Journeying Toward Wholeness

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4 Advantages of Individual Therapy Over Self Help Books

March 25th, 2013 · 4 Comments · individual, individual therapy

Self-help books are unbelievably popular, but they don’t meet many of the needs that individual therapy can meet.

individual therapy

It’s not that self-help books aren’t good or useful.  But there are some key, bedrock things that we need in our lives that we can get from individual therapy, particularly depth psychotherapy, that we can’t get from books or videos.

Four key advantages of one-on-one therapy are …

1. An Empathic Witness

A very important thing about individual therapy: you’re not alone with whatever you’re carrying or trying to sort out

The reality is that many people in our world have never really been truly witnessed, or seen in their own right, as who they really are.  It can make a profound difference when, in individual therapy, a person actually gains consciousness of this.

To sit with a therapist committed to a non-judgmental, unconditionally accepting stance, who helps me to move towards full acceptance of who I am can be powerfully transforming. It can humanize my experience — help me to feel that, even the things that I have the greatest difficulty revealing or talking are all comprehensible and essentially human.

Hand in hand with this experience comes another…


2. Recognition of Individuality

Through telling the story of my life with a truly listening witness, I become aware of the dimensions of my story that I share in common with others, but also of the ways my own story is unique to me and defines me as an individual.

Often only the acceptance of a non-judgmental other, who helps me discern the patterns in my life, can help me gain real understanding of my own character and unique identity.

3. Therapist’s Insight & Experience

A self-help book, published for the masses, will necessarily deals in generalities, and only speaks to my life insofar as I can extract meaning from its generalizations.

But an individual therapist can take in, and respond to my individual reality, providing meaningful insight and specific interpretations of my situation and what I’m going through.

Work with an individual therapist reveals aspects of my situation where I have “blind spots”, or where I don’t understand my own reactions, or make meaningful connections.

individual therapy

4. Awareness of the Unconscious Personality

Depth psychotherapy , as defined by Eugen Bleuler, affirms the self healing nature of the psyche.

But unless a person understands how those dynamics are at work in their specific case, he or she will likely not be able to connect with and cooperate with that healing.  To do this may mean confronting the part of myself that I don’t know — what Freud, Jung, Adler and others call the unconscious.

To understand this, we generally need help to discern where the unacknowledged parts of ourselves are appearing: actions and motivations that we don’t understand; unique anxieties and obsessions; our dreams.

It’s nearly impossible to get this kind of deep insight in a way that is anything like specific enough from a book.  Such insights are key, valuable parts of the journey of individual therapy.


PHOTO: Attribution Some rights reserved by arhatproblems ; Akuppa
© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)




4 Comments so far ↓

  • Mario

    Nicely done! I learned of you through Angela Devita’s fb page. Keep up the good work keeping the therapist in the therapy.

  • jamenta

    Sadly, here in the states, mental health is a second class citizen when it comes to health insurance policies. So if one finds themselves limited in financial means – you can usually only afford a book or two. Makes you wonder what society would be like if money weren’t the neurotic focus of daily life?

  • Brian C

    Thanks very much for the comment, Mario. I think it’s essential that we stress the importance of the living client-therapist relationship as the keystone of the power of therapy to bring genuine healing and change. I look forward to interacting with you more, Mario!

  • Brian C

    Thank you very much for your comment, John. It’s true that the importance of the therapist-client relationship is often overlooked by providers of health insurance. This is particularly unfortunate, given the very substantial amount of research that shows that the therapist-client relationship is the single most important dimension of the real healing that can occur in therapy. I continue to hope that health insurers will begin to take mental health issues, and the importance of good in-depth therapy as a way of dealing with them, with the seriousness deserved.

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