Originally published in DARA, a Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Thailand
A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
A popular proverb claims that a problem shared is a problem halved. There is good evidence to suggest that talking about worries and concerns can be highly beneficial for the individual. It can be particular important for people who are recovering from an addiction to be able to do this. In fact it will often have been their inability to handle inner worries alone that drove them to addiction in the first place. There are many options for how people in recovery can benefit from the talking cure.
Talking Cure Defined
A talking cure is where people benefit psychologically from discussing their problems and concerns. It is the effectiveness of this type of treatment that has led to the popularity of many forms of therapy. Sigmund Freud was probably the first to really promote the benefits of talking about worries and concerns. He not only saw it as a way to allow people to get things off their mind but also as a way to get in touch with their subconscious. There are now many different kinds of talking therapy.
Benefits of Talking about Problems
There are a number of benefits that people will experience when they talk about their problems including:
* It can be a great help to have a different perspective on a problem. Other people may be able to come up with solutions that would not be obvious to the individual.
* When people are alone with their problems it can lead to a great deal of stress. Just sharing these concerns can be enough to release a lot of pent up tension.
* One of the great benefits of sharing a problem is that the individual will usually find that they are not alone. Other people will have experienced the exact same thing, and this can be a great comfort.
* If people just think about their problem it can be hard to see things clearly. The brain becomes too fixated on the obstacles to see the solution. Talking about the problem can greatly increase clarity.
* It is too easy to become trapped in faulty thinking and self-deception when problems are not shared. Talking about things helps to prevent this from happening.
* Sometimes people do not really know what is bothering them; they just feel like something is wrong. It is only by talking that they gain insight into where the real source of their troubles exists.
The Danger of Silence in Addiction Recovery
In Alcoholics Anonymous it is often said that people are only as sick as their secrets. The dangers of keeping silent in recovery include:
* It is easy for people to lose their way in recovery. This is more likely to occur when they keep silent about what is going on in their life. Other people can spot the warning signs of impending relapse, but this can only happen when the individual talks about their progress.
* One of the things that people tend to do before they relapse is to isolate. They start keeping secrets and become less willing to share their personal thoughts and concerns.
* Talking can be highly therapeutic. When people are silent they fail to benefit from this therapy.
* When people are alone with their own thoughts it is easier to become trapped in delusion and denial.
The Benefits of Talking Therapies
Talking to friends and family can be a great help but sometimes it is more beneficial to speak to a therapist. The advantages of talking to a therapist include:
* There will be subjects that the individual will feel uncomfortable talking about with family and friends. It may even be damaging to do so. This is because loved ones can become upset or even annoyed when certain information is revealed. It is not really fair for the individual to make other people feel bad just so that they can unburden themselves. Instead they can disclose such thoughts and concerns to a therapist who will not be directly affected by such information.
* A therapist will be obliged to keep anything said in the session confidential. The only exception to this is if the client says something that indicates that they are a danger to themselves or other people. In most instances when people say something to a therapist they can be confident that it will never get repeated. This allows them to feel confident enough to be open to a degree that they would never normally consider. A client will say things to a therapist that they would never dream of saying to anyone else.
* Listening is a skill that most people in the world seem to struggle with. This often means that the other person will be too busy offering their solutions to actually listen to what is being said. A therapist is trained to listen effectively. This means that when the client leaves the session they really feel like they have been understood.
* A therapist is trained to listen without passing judgment. This is important because the individual is unlikely to divulge secrets if they feel the other person will view them harshly.
* The usual aim of therapy is not to tell the client what to do. Instead the therapist helps the individual find their own solutions. This type of communication is highly empowering. It also helps people increase their confidence in their own ability to overcome difficulties.
Common Reasons to Choose Talking Therapy
The most common reasons people use talking therapy (and often find it surprisingly helpful) include:
* Addiction problems
* People who are struggling to find happiness in recovery
* Symptoms of depression
* Grief over loss of a loved one
* Problems with relationships
* Family problems
* Inability to control negative emotions like anger
* Inability to cope with life
* Childhood trauma issues or past abuses
* Difficulties coping with illness
Twelve Step Groups and the Talking Cure
It is often claimed that groups like Alcoholics Anonymous offer the cheapest form of therapy available. There is little doubt that members can benefit greatly by attending AA meetings and sharing their problems. People say that they can go into a meeting feeling like the world is about to end, but one hour later and they are in a far more positive frame of mind. The benefit of sharing at an AA meeting is that the other members will usually have experienced similar things. There is a feeling that everyone is in the same boat and this provides the person who is sharing with a great deal of strength. Sharing at AA meetings does seem to be highly therapeutic and this is probably why people continue to do this for decades after they have given up alcohol.