Armchair experts: Is it time to stop advising and start honoring?

“Do you think I should be on anti-depressants?” a client recently asked.

I was a little taken back as we had worked for months and the therapy was focused on problems with the clients boyfriend. She had given no indication that she might be suffering with Depression and seemed to be making positive changes in her life.

“Why do you ask?” I said.

“Because my mam thinks I should”.

“Based on what?”

“I dunno, maybe because she thinks I’m unhappy”.

Now firstly, I would NEVER tell a client they should take any medication. The decision to use medication is a deeply personally one and requires consultation with a medical professional as well as open reflection with a therapist to determine if it is appropriate and make sure they have support throughout the process.

And yet I listen to so many people casually dish out advice on mental health, relationships or any other area of life with limited context, personal experience or awareness of the ramifications.

In particular with my work with individuals who are stuck in unhealthy relationships, I find others are quick to make unhelpful comments such as:

“Just walk away” (Which conflicts with our understanding of attachment style and developmental psychology),

“You have low self-esteem” (How insightful),

“Use the law of attraction to manifest a better relationship” (?)

The worst kind of assistance is when individuals try to ‘help’ by implementing a strategy to engage with the unhealthy people, which often encourages those unfortunate to be stuck in a toxic relationship to propagate the ongoing drama and maintain childish responses to childish behaviors.

The best help I ever got was from my own therapist, a brilliant man by the name of Liam McGrath who didn’t try to jump in and fix my sh*it but simply supported me through my own internal process of making sense of a toxic relationship and deciding what to do next. He honored my experience, respecting that this was an emotionally painful time, full of uncertainty and doubt. He didn’t throw ‘wisdom bombs’ into conversations to add more confusion, he just was present and allowed me to express my reality and find my own truth.

And that is what I would ask of anyone reading this.

Each persons subjective experience is unique and you may never fully grasp it. And offering well-meaning advice may be the last thing someone needs (or wants).

However, sometimes telling a person who is struggling that you don’t have the answer but you give a sh*it and will help them find their own answer is EXACTLY what is needed. It takes the pressure off them to act when there is massive uncertainty, it re-enforces their faith in themselves and most importantly…it lets them know they are not walking this dark path alone and your existence can be a torch along the way and not a mist obscuring the next steps.

Thanks for reading and free free to share this.

Take care


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