When discussing perceived “flaws” in counseling, my clients are often surprised to discover that the very things the dislike about themselves can be reframed as beneficial in some way. Therefore, coming to my office gives a client a chance to see himself from a new perspective. This doesn’t mean they always agree with my viewpoint, but as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, being able to see yourself in a compassionate manner is always the first step towards behavior change.
When seeking out solutions to problems, it is always worth at least noting that most problems have some benefits to them as well. In therapy we call these secondary gains.
Here are some upsides to common complaints brought to individual counseling:
- The Upside of Anger: A client might feel worried that their anger is uncontrollable, but the positive side to feeling anger is just that – the client is actually feeling something and can therefore DO something productive with that anger. Anger can relieve stress and prevent runaway anxiety. Anger gives a therapist a lot of opportunity to help a client.
- The Upside of Loneliness: A client struggling with loneliness has already advanced past many of us who fill our days trying to prevent this feeling; they are experiencing something we fear most. A lonely client seeking companionship has already been figuring out how to structure his day, soothe his quietest moments, and engage in solo activities. Plus, a client who has learned how to live through loneliness can be well prepared to be an independent and self-sufficient partner. A lonely client gives the therapist a chance to help them build his life around his most permanent relationship: the one with himself.
- The Upside of Anxiety: An anxious client wants to soothe the physical feelings that accompany anxiety. What the client doesn’t realize is that the flip side to his anxiety is the concerted effort his brain is making to soothe him. The client is tuned into life and cares about something; otherwise, anxiety would not be present. Therefore, we can reframe anxiety as a normal response to something that has just gotten blown out of proportion. Anxiety is an extreme measure of self-care.
- The Upside of Depression: Clients who have worst-case scenario thoughts about their lives are usually very good at predicting and overcoming potential obstacles. This can turn anxiety and brooding into action, which is empowering. A depressed client always has positive aspects to his life that he has been downplaying or not tapping into. This is one reason why depression is so difficult to tackle without professional help; there are immense blind spots with regards to positive qualities that a therapist can help the client see and use.
Solution-Focused therapy, in my opinion, is better than any other therapy when it comes to helping a client reframe their problems and see opportunity and choice.