A common reason why individuals, families, and couples seek counseling is to “fix” a problem. Imagine if you only had one tool in your toolbox. Would that tool be effective? Depends on the problem, right? It also depends on the tool. Having more tools in your toolbox is a great way to be better equipped for whatever challenges you may face.
“If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”. -Abraham Maslow
Perhaps the “problem” is a hyperactive child or an aggressive child. Perhaps the “problem” is a broken relationship — an emotionally unavailable, argumentative partner or family member. The first three sessions of therapy are critical to help understand and evaluate the “problem” and determine the “tools” that will be helpful. If you only have a hammer, you are likely missing other useful tools that would be helpful in various situations. If the only tool that you currently use is a hammer, it has likely gotten a lot of use! It may not be the most effective tool at times, but it has served a purpose. Therapy is a great place to learn how to add more “tools” to your toolbox. The therapist won’t solve the problem for you but will help guide, teach, and encourage you with new and useful tools as you expand your perspective.
Re-framing the original presenting concern can also be powerful because not all problems are “nails”. By gaining insight and understanding into a situation, one is able to generate solutions and alternative ways of responding. Not every hyperactive child will have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Trauma, anxiety, or environmental factors may be present. Perhaps a combination of all or several of these, or possibly none. Not every child who is aggressive will develop a behavioral disorder. Perhaps grief or loss is present. Is parental conflict, cyberbullying, or community violence a factor? Again — perhaps a combination of all or several of these, or possibly none. Individuals and families are complex! We have unique identities and experiences which shape our lives. There is not a one-fits-all approach to therapy; therefore, therapists offer a variety of tools and approaches. This is shaped by their theoretical approaches with the goal for you to effectively learn and utilize these tools outside of the session.