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The World of Clinical Psychology: What is Really Happening on the Couch.

People often think that Psychologists try to change behaviour through rhetorical questions, smoke and mirrors, and mind  reading. I am here to tell you though, that is not at all what they do. What they do is much less exciting but much more powerful.

I mean, no one really knows what goes on with Psychologists, right? They go to university and spend 6+ years learning all about human behaviour. Surely, knowing that much about human behaviour means they know how to change someone's idiosyncrasies. They must learn how to make people happier, be less neurotic, be kinder, do the things they want to do in life... Right?

This is the view I also had when I first went to therapy. Like many psychologists, I have done therapy myself. I know how it felt for me to sit in the chair with a psychologist opposite me and wonder, "Am I saying the right thing?". Those appointments were before I even realised, one day I would like to be the one sitting in the other chair.

After a series of events, I ended up with that very realisation though. I decided to go to university and become the one learning all about human behaviour and how to make people happier. What I learnt though, is that the way therapy is seen is very, very wrong.

One of the hurdles I (and I assume many others students) had to scale in university is learning that we know a lot about human behaviour, but we also somehow know very little. We know that 68% of the population has an IQ ranging from 85 to 115. We know that Cognitive Behaviour Therapy elicits positive results in a significant proportion of individuals within the general population that have Anxiety Disorders. Note however, the use of the word population. In Psychology, we know what happens in the majority, but we don't know about you, or if you fit that majority the same way everyone in the majority does.

This then becomes apparent in therapy. You are sitting on the comfortable couch with the psychologist opposite you and they say, "What can we do here to help you deal with your struggles?" You are confused, you came here because you don't know the answer to that question, otherwise you would have done it already. So, your mind wanders to, "Why would they ask that? They must know, this is their job. If they know the answer, then they must be asking for a different reason." But the bottom line is, we don't know. We don't know what will work for you.

So what to do when no one knows what to do? This is where the Psychologist knows what to do (confused yet?, us too)! We know how to support you while you explore what might work for you. We are not taught how to change behaviour or make people happier, we are taught how to support people in exploring their own behaviours and happiness. Yes, we have tools and knowledge around how others have dealt with these issues, but we do not have the answers for you, only you have them.

It is our job to hold the emotional burden long enough for you to take a step back, look at it, and figure out how it fits into your own narrative. We are merely a vessel to hold the feelings that are too heavy for you to hold whilst also processing them. We will always give them back and they will always be yours to do with as you need. We are just trained in how to do that holding.

Being supported in this way is the power in Psychology, not the smoke and mirrors or mind reading. It's the power of being with another human being and being unconditionally supported, regardless of your flaws.

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