What’s the purpose of talk therapy?
There are many answers to this question, and the answer depends on many things, including the therapist, client, issue, and approach.
Here are a few possibilities: to feel understood and respected, so we can more easily understand and respect themselves. To come to terms with past, present, and possible futures. To recognize, see through, and release stressful beliefs and assumptions. To learn to play well with the cards we are given in life or a situation. And to befriend ourselves,
There is another important element: To help ourselves feel what we are feeling. This one is not always made explicit although it’s an important part of the process.
Why is this important?
Avoding what we feel reinforces the scary thoughts we have about what we feel, it creates additional stress, and it can lead to a wide range of possible avoidance behaviors – including blame, judgment, compulsions, addictions, bigotry, and so on.
Moving towards allowing our experience comes with a lot of possible benefits. It can help us recognize and examine our scary thoughts about our experience and what it means (and see that these thoughts are not necessarily true). It helps us befriend ourselves and our experiences. It helps us relate to what’s coming up in us in a more conscious way. It creates some space to what’s coming up in us and our reaction to it. And it gives us space to relate to all of this more intentionally.
How can talk therapy help us feel our feelings?
In the best case, talk therapy can help us reframe and have some understanding of the triggering situation, what’s triggered in us, and how we relate to what’s triggered in us.
It’s a first step in befriending ourselves and our experiences, and relate to it all with a little more clarity and kindness. It can help make the feelings and the thoughts we associate with them seem less scary, and this is an important initial piece in healing.
Going beyond conventional talk therapy
For me, talk therapy is – at most – a first step.
There are many ways to go further, including subpersonality or parts work (dialog, acting out internal relationships), heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopno, metta), inquiry (The Work, Living Inquiries), Basic Meditation and noticing + allowing (Natural Rest), energy work (Vortex Healing), somatic work (Trauma & Tension Release Exercises, Somatic Experiencing), and much more.