John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

Complex problems

Three Thoughts about Complex Problems

Examples of complex problems are:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Recovery from sexual abuse
  • Emotional injuries from childhood (e.g., neglect, emotional deprivation)
  • Self-injury (e.g., cutting)
  • Eating disorders
  • Personal dysfunction

1. Complex problems require special sensitivity and care. By its very nature, therapy –– i.e., talking about the difficult and problematic aspects of one’s life –- can stir up negative feelings, especially anxiety. If you struggle with a complex problem, negative feelings may be especially difficult for you to manage, and it’s the therapist’s job to be mindful of this and to make sure we don’t try to go too fast.

2. Complex problems requires a strong therapeutic bond. If you have a complex problem, you want to feel as though you and your therapist are a good team. You both agree upon the goals for therapy; you feel comfortable enough to say those things that others might not have wanted to hear; you trust your therapist enough to talk about your struggles with trust. A good bond is especially important if you’re going to risk revealing aspects of yourself that are complicated by intense guilt, shame, or pain.

3. Complex problems require a therapist who knows what he or she is doing. If you have a complex problem, look for an experienced therapist, especially one who has experience with your type of concern, and one who has received good training. Be wary of the therapist who promises too much or claims to treat all types of problems. When looking for a therapist, don’t be afraid to shop around. (Tip: if the therapist has a website, don’t skip the “About” or “Bio” page.)

One final thing. Complex problems can be overwhelming, but it is possible to get better and to improve the quality of your life. Don’t give up.