Therapy is more than just talk!


Therapy sessions and mental health issues have been stigmatized for a long time. This stigma occurs when people view mental health issues in a negative light and this stigma may lead to discrimination. This is a big reason why many people hesitate to seek out help or treatment for themselves even if/when they are suffering. The primary thought that crosses a person’s mind when asked about therapy sessions is ‘why should I pay someone to hear me talk when I can just talk to my friends/family?’ This is due to the misconception people have regarding therapy sessions. So, we asked a few of our therapists to share their understanding of therapy and how it is more than just ‘talk’. 


Rafath Unnisa starts by saying that the topic ‘More Than Just Talk’, was a little ambiguous and asks Pooja Gupta how and why it is that they came up with this name?


Pooja says that therapy itself has been a place where one can speak for themselves. But for her, personally, therapy has been a journey of finding new ways of connecting and about the different possibilities it has. Apart from just having conversations about concerns that people have and how to build onto what they want for themselves. 


“Yes, that (talk) is what we do at therapy, but apart from talk there are many other things that we, as therapists, have discovered on our journey with our clients. Just the therapy spaces has allowed us to explore many possibilities apart from just talking; I feel like that exploration has been so intangible, yet so tangible.”


Rafath agrees and says how when they were thinking about this topic, they were thinking about how the idea of therapy is just two people sitting and talking, but there is so much more that happens. 


“Even though it’s just conversation, there is so much that happens, that goes unnoticed. It is about exploring possibilities.”

What are some of the most dominant ideas or what the world thinks therapy is, some of the ideas around this word or talk therapy?


One of the things that comes to mind, says Pooja, is just lying on the couch, talking about what’s happening and the therapist sitting on a chair and making notes. “That is what comes to mind when I think about the dominant idea of therapy”.  She goes on to saying that the popular media representation of therapists is that they are these witty, sarcastic and smart people (which we are), but we are more than just that. 


Rafath brings up another dominant idea, about how people think that just because they have professional or the theoretical understanding of human behaviour or psychology, they are expected to have their lives together or that they should know stuff. Another dominant factor that shapes the way people see therapy is how sometimes when people come to therapy, they need answers and they expect that one or two or even several sessions will give them those answers or make them feel like they have solutions for their problems. Like therapy will magically change their life for good. 


“The possibilities of what can become possible when a therapist and the client are exploring together gets lost in such a representation. Because, at least, I think of therapy as a walk that we take together and it is not like the therapist runs in front and then comes back to pick the client up. It’s not like that. They (therapist and client) are taking the walk together and are exploring the possibilities that come from it, together”, says Pooja.

So, when talking about possibilities, what do you think opens up these possibilities? What are the things that you bring into therapy rooms that bring out these possibilities with your clients? What is the ‘more’ in that ‘more than just talk’?


Pooja shares her experience with some of her clients. She remembers how difficult it was for her initially to be creative in sessions. She sees families and children. With children there is a lot of creativity that is needed in sessions. “I remember the stress of just trying to figure out what my creative side looks like as I didn’t even know that I had one”. And being introduced to narrative techniques by Ravi, showed her brilliant ways of connecting in sessions. Those were the starting points for her to even hope that there can be more than just talk in therapy sessions. 


“I remember one of my clients drawing their journey as this little thing that was buried deep within the soil and how suddenly it was all out in the open and there was this turbulent weather, and beyond that is the sun with bloomy weather”.


These are some of the things one can not talk about, the representation is something that cannot simply be talked about. Pooja shares another memory of when she and her client together sat in one of her sessions and instead of talking, they made a collage to answer the question ‘who am I?’ But instead of just talking about it, they are answering it from a very intuitive space, where the words and images are cut out from newspapers and magazines. Making it look brilliant and beautiful. 


Rafath, who sees adults and teens, says that she would get these children’s books with topics like self-doubt or compassion, and would sit and read it with her client. However, she was surprised when they started to cry, amused about how a picture book, without any words, can move someone so deeply. And that opened up a possibility of exploring into what it meant to them. Similarly, just talking about movies and TV shows, and what they mean to them, opens up so many doorways/possibilities that we didn’t know existed. She goes on to saying that in some sessions there would be a conversation about some part of the client or some part of their childhood, and they would write letters to these parts or to a toy or to someone who has passed on. Just writing these letters might make them feel liberated. 


“The experience of opening up oneself through letter writing is very magical in it’s own way”, she says. “Talking about situations or topics using metaphors like referring to movies or tv shows or fictional characters may help them open up”.


Pooja mentions that for one of her clients, the therapy room is like them sitting on a cloud and her sitting on another cloud, a rainbow connecting them together, with butterflies all around them. All of the above mentioned memories and experiences goes to show that therapy sessions are truly ‘more than just talk’. They are a way for not just the client but also for the therapists, to explore new possibilities, new ways, through which they can help each other, together. How they can come back to the present moment in such a magical way. 


Our ideology at Pause for Perspective is that the individuals are not regarded as the issue or the problem, but the multiple layers of the system which they live in, which might be influencing the way an individual functions. Listen to our therapists, Rafath and Pooja, discuss “More Than Just Talk” in our podcast ‘A Little More Closer’, which is a series of conversations where our therapist talks about issues or problems faced by people from a systematic lens and not from a very individualistic lens. 

Transcribed by Insha Fatima,

Writer at Pause for Perspective.