Counselling Resource - The “Directive” Therapist

By Dr George Simon, PhD | 19 January 2015

Folks in emotional distress need to know there’s a way out. They don’t just need to be understood and accepted. They need far more than merely feeling both safe and relieved in venting their concerns to another human being.

Not too long ago, therapists were routinely trained in a very different way about how best to do their jobs. In many ways, they were urged to do as little as possible. They weren’t supposed to make judgments about their clients, or more specifically, to pass judgment on them. They also weren’t supposed to have emotional reactions to the things their clients said, and to be on guard about displaying reactions they couldn’t keep from having. Most importantly, they weren’t supposed to give direct advice. Rather, they were supposed to set an atmosphere in which their clients could feel perfectly safe to explore their own issues, come to their own insights, reach their own conclusions, and, therefore, eventually, resolve their own problems. But in recent years, research on the effectiveness of therapy has provided us some contrary evidence to many of these traditional notions. In the process we’ve learned a lot not only about what makes therapy effective but also about the characteristics an effective therapist needs to possess.

That is probably why my doc is so straight faced and why so many people think their doc or therapist isn’t even interested in them.

I have a hard enough time figuring out how people are reacting to me… I have a hard time reading peoples facial expression… but then to have a doc with less facial expression then me on a bad day…

I feel like… it’s not two humans talking. It’s really doc and bug. But little by little… it’s taken a lot of work… but I’ve been trying to humanize my doc. I think he’s making progress… a few more sessions and we’ll be seeing a break through… :smile: (I love that joke… never gets old for me.)

I love this joke too… Still makes me smile every time I read it!

In my experience most therapists modify their style to be more directive when dealing with folks with sz, sza or bp disorder. They just don’t get very far if they’re fully non-directive.

My present therapist is the most directive I’ve had so far, but it’s funny-- he always prefaces his advice by apologizing for giving it. “I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but…”, etc.

I guess it’s a polite form of directivity.