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How Could Talk Therapy EVER Possibly Help Me? #2

June 7th, 2015 · talk therapy

“Could talk therapy ever possibly help me?” As we started to examine in the last post, the evidence shows it most definitely can.

talk therapy

What’s more, research shows that the benefits of talk therapy go on and increase after the therapy is over.
Here’s why that’s true.

The Power of Talking with a Supportive Witness

There’s real value in speaking with others to gain clarity.  Often what we feel or think can be indistinct and vague until we start to try and express it.  Then, as we try and make clear to another what we mean, it becomes much more distinct and understandable.  An emotion or an intuition or a vague idea becomes vclear and inwardly, we feel, “Yes — that’s it.”  And if this happens while we’re speaking with someone highly supportive, we also feel that this sharing of what’s within us validates and affirms us.  We not only understand and are more conscious of our inmost feelings and thoughts — we feel that they are valid, that another human “gets us”, and our feelings connect us with the broader human race.  This leaves us freer to accept our feelings and ideas, to manage them, to take steps to alleviate them, or, to fulfil our desires.

In the particular focussed space created by psychodynamic therapy, also know as “talk therapy”, a rare type of conversation goes on.  In it, the dialogue revolves around the inner live of the client.  Things become clearer, more visible — more conscious — and easier to address.

Getting Past Repressed Emotions

If a person doesn’t talk about the emotionally powerful and difficult things in life,  and represses them, or dissociates from them,  they will make likely make their presence felt,  often in destructive ways,  in all kinds of situations in the person’s life.   Contrary to what many think,  pushing down and trying to forget one’s real feelings doesn’t work all that well,  in the long run.   If we refuse to give our feelings attention,  at some later point,  those emotions will force us to attend.   This often happens in midlife transition,  but that’s is far from the only place where this occurs.   Strong emotions that are left unexamined and unchallenged produce powerful complexes  that distort our relationships,  and sap our energy and happiness.   Talk therapy offers a safe container to process and explore  this kind of emotional dynamite.

talk therapy

Research: Long-Term Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Rewires the Brain

An arresting fact about about talk therapy is that, at least in some situations, it can bring about changes that are observable by brain imaging in the way the brain functions. We tend to think that this is something only medication can do, but there is strong evidence of talk therapy bringing about such changes.

Here’s additional information on the studies referenced in the slides above:

Symbolic and Archetypal Connections Made Through Talk Therapy

talk therapy

Talk therapy enables clients to process symbolic material such as comes up in dreams.  Brain science and neurolinguistics have discovered how our brains innately use metaphors to comprehend things difficult to understand, both in waking and in dreaming.  As U. Berkeley cognitive linguist George Lakoff puts it,

The metaphor system plays a generative role in dreaming….  Of course, upon waking, the dreamer may well not be aware of the meaning of the dream….  [yet] dreams are not just the weird and meaningless product of random neural firings, but… a natural way by which emotionally charged fears, desires and descriptions of difficulties in life are expressed.

Discussing dreams in the course of talk therapy with a skilled depth psychotherapist often yields up new understanding of life situations, which may have great importance for the individual’s journey.

Talk therapy can make a profound difference.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst


PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  woodleywonderworks ; Jimmy Harris ; gnuckx
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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How Could Talk Therapy EVER Possibly Help Me? #1

June 1st, 2015 · talk therapy

Talk’s proverbially cheap… so how could talk therapy — talking about the issues in my life — ever really benefit people in distress, seeking to find concrete help?

talk therapy

How can just talk — without drugs, surgery, electrical stimulation, etc. — have a positive effect on a person’s well-being?  It seems that the answer lies in the kind of talk that goes on in talk therapy.
Here are some basic things to know about talk therapy — and why it works.

Human Beings are Hard-Wired to be Social

Evolution has made human beings a social species.   Important parts of our brain are made to function specifically in social interactions.    Deep in the unconscious parts of the brain we’re programmed to look for interaction and connection with others.   In fact there are important centers of the brain that only “light up” when we are interacting socially.   Because of the social nature of human beings, one of the best ways for us to process things in our inner life, often, is to talk about them in the right kind of supportive environment.


This doesn’t mean that we benefit from just any environment where idle social chitchat occurs.   What works well for us is the specific type of environment found in “talk therapy” or as it is also known,  psychodynamic therapy.   Here,  the individual is encouraged to talk openly and freely about his or her life in the presence of a supportive, attentive, non-judgemental listener,  who is highly trained to identify patterns, both conscious and unconscious.

“Mirroring” is Essential

talk therapy

At the deepest level, individual human beings want and need to be “positively mirrored”. By this we mean that the individual wants and needs to see him or herself positively valued by another from the individual respects in values. The person wants to know that they are held up by the other, and guarded in a positive and and affirming light.

Although we have a strong need for this type of mirroring in the early stages of life, many of us do not get nearly enough of it. As a result we find ourselves incapable of valuing ourselves in the way that we otherwise would. And it is precisely here that we see one of the ways in which talk therapy shows that it is not merely about idle talk. Very often, talk therapy becomes the vehicle for receiving vital affirmation that is essential for the growth and development of the self.  This is much more than navel gazing or the exchange of idle chit-chat.

Fundamentally, Talk Therapy Involves Insight

talk therapy

One of the fundamental characteristics of talk therapy, and one of the most characteristic things which distinguish it from idle chitchat, is that talk therapy is about gaining insight into oneself. Although other profound things occur in the course of talk therapy, at least some new insight is certainly needed if the process is to be meaningful.

What types of insight into the self are needed? In the slides below are some prominent examples:

Talk Therapy –Works!

talk therapy

The evidence is quite clear that talk therapy does work for people.  U. of Colorado psychiatry professor  Jonathan Shedler’s research review shows that effect sizes for psychodynamic psychotherapy are as large as those reported for other therapies that have been actively promoted as “empirically supported” and “evidence based”.  Some studies suggest the effect may even be larger.  What’s more, the benefits of talk therapy can be shown to go on and even increase after the therapy is over.

Talk therapy can be shown to be an effective and genuinely helpful technique.  We’ll examine its benefits more in the second part of this post.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst


PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Banalities ; Wolfgang Staudt ; Yogendra Joshi ; rochelle hartman
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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