...but that doesn't mean that you can't make a decision.
Sometimes I'll meet a client who needs to make a big decision. A decision that will affect their lives and those of their loved ones to an enormous degree.
They will usually contact me with a fairly vague reason for wanting therapy. They will mention that they are in crisis and that they've realised that they could benefit from talking to someone. Specifically me.
This is a great honour. I am flattered that someone who doesn't know me - possibly has never met me - might consider me someone that they might solicit advice from.
But the problem is, that's not what I do. Or rather, it's not as simple as that.
When I'm working with someone and I'm made aware that they are living with a situation or set of circumstances that they have decided needs to change - or perhaps they need to give someone an answer to a question which might make them uncomfortable - then I observe it and revere it like any other outsider. I am connected with my client - I feel empathy for them, I want only the best for them. But I cannot make a decision for them.
Only through thorough exploration of feelings, thoughts, opportunities, wishes, hopes and fears can that decision be made - and I don't have access to all of that information at any one time. But you do, the client does. They have all of the different pieces of data that will enable them to make that decision, and my job is to help them to access it; to facilitate the teasing out of the relevant thought processes and feelings in a calm and methodical way.
That's my gift to the process - detachment. Impartiality. Otherness. Ironic isn't it when so many turn to therapy for a connection.
It's the separation that gives us the space between us to lay out the puzzle pieces of a life, and begin to put them together again. So if you have an issue upon which you cannot make a decision, where you're feeling stuck and can't make progress - then perhaps it's time to talk to a stranger. Someone who doesn't know your friends or family, who is bound by an ethical framework to provide confidentiality, who doesn't have an agenda when it comes to which path you decide to take.
Perhaps it's time to bring that decision to therapy, and ask not for advice - but for space to work out what your next steps will be and to feel supported and enabled in doing so.
That's what I do in this type of dilemma. It is as simple, and complicated, as that.
Maybe you only need one or two sessions to come to a decision. That's fine. Don't let your ability to resolve a situation swiftly be a barrier to support. Don't let it be a barrier to you moving on with your life, ending an unhappy relationship, deciding what to do with your career, whether or not to marry someone, whether to have a child or not, whether to move to another country. These questions are huge and deserve the reverence of our self-reflection, even if only for a short time.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or book in for your free 10-minute telephone consultation at www.harleycounselling.com/bookonline.
I look forward to working with you.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.