Thinking in therapy

So often in therapy what we are working on is on the feeling level -- emotions, sensations, memories, desires, and frustrations that are charged for us and need a safe space to be talked about and worked through. Blocked up feelings produce consequences and affect our health and well-being, not to mention the people around us. Furthermore, no amount of insight brings about personal change unless it is accompanied by a deep and effective emotional experience.

However, it is my belief that the working through of psychological issues is just as much a matter of thinking as well as feeling. In the therapy room we can together think through seemingly intractable problems. Familiar patterns one feels stuck in can become unstuck when the new perspective of talking and thinking about them with a therapist happens. Thinking together is an integral part of the psychotherapy process.

The integration of thinking in therapy is especially important for those people who are constitutionally, or temperamentally, inclined to thinking as a primary mode of functioning. Many people in the world in their nature tend to use their thinking capacity first and most strongly. This is not a problem in itself. In fact, it is a strength and it is important for the success of psychotherapeutic work that this strength be made use of. The use of this strength only becomes a problem when it becomes an involuntary overdependence, to the exclusion of other capacities.

In my experience, it is a relief to predominantly thinking-type people to realize that in therapy they are not going to be required to abandon their thinking. Forcing them to feel can be torturous and can create an impasse. Rather, thinking can be the starting point, a gateway in, an entry way to the rest of the psyche. For example, for some people, thinking about feeling can give access to feeling. Then, after going through this indirect path, the feeling can be felt. And thus, a sort of wholeness is experienced.

It is the job of the psychotherapist to recognize different modes of functioning and to respond to the client in a way that can best facilitate their personal path to wholeness. In the therapy room, then, in this way, all parts of ourselves can be honored, and nurtured.