Ask Adam: Questions Everyone Asks their Therapist (Part III)

Answering all of your pressing therapy questions in the comfort of your own home.

There are some questions that everyone wrestles with at night when all of the lights go out. Why did that girl reject me? How do I stop constantly comparing myself to others? How come I lack confidence? I have recruited Dr. Adam Brown to help you answer some of those questions in our last part of our three part therapy series. I hope that this series has been an incredible resource for you and maybe encouraged you to think about seeking out therapy. You are never too young, too old, too smart, too lost, or too anything to begin therapy! And all it takes is saying to yourself “I need a bit of help”.

How do you consult people who have self doubt and a constant comparison to others?

The truth is that everyone has their own baggage and it is so easy to project how wonderful others have it. Yet, it is important to note that there are also plenty of people that have what we have and are content. However, this does not mean that the issue is not a complicated one. We want to encourage ourselves to be ambitious, but if the pursuit is not making us happy and the goals aren’t clear, we won’t feel better about ourselves. 

If you are perpetually someone who is looking for external validation, it might suggest that there is some unresolved grief, trauma, or depression that you should explore with a professional. Moving to the tropical island because life looks so great there is most likely going to leave you with a sunburn, itchiness from the sand, and missing home. 

How do you help a client with low confidence?

Fake it till you make it works, but it matters how much you are faking it. You have to go out and get yourself business clothes if you are working in business, but if you don’t know how to put business clothes on, it’s a problem. Similar to those who compare themselves to others, if you have low confidence, you have to pick some specific goals to work towards. My job is often helping people explore the things that are most important to them and siloing pieces of their life to focus on certain areas. I help some people get really focused on what they want and why they want it. If you want to move to Hawaii, talk to people that live there! Let’s just figure it out, step by step. Where do you see yourself in a month? I make it a rule not to set goals with a client more than 90 days out. Looking too far into the distance isn’t going to help you put one foot in front of the other today. Of course, it is important to have some long term goals, but what can we manage right now? What is it that you want and what measure we use to know that you’ve achieved it?

How do you help a client overcome rejection?

Rejection is a horrible feeling and the first thing to do is simply acknowledge the truth and reality of that. It isn’t ever helpful to say “just get over it,” but rather “what piece of the rejection do I own and what was out of my control?”

If you were applying for a job and maybe they already had a candidate in mind or the casting director was looking for a taller person for the role. Owning what is yours and really letting go of what is out of your control is so important in moving forward. One thing not to do is to beat yourself up over the other person’s impression of you. In a relationship, if you feel the compulsion to confront the other person about the rejection, it’s important to be prepared for an unthoughtful and unsatisfying answer. 

What constitutes a good relationship and what steps can you take to achieve one?

Communication, communication, and communication; I cannot say it enough. You don’t have much of a relationship if you don’t have respectful and constructive conversations with the other person. Here are some quick pointers that I live by when it comes to conflict resolution:

  • Be aware of your positionality or role in the relationship
  • Be aware of your tone
  • Understand what you want to get out of the conversation as well as what the other party desires, the baggage they are carrying, their motivations, and their perspective
  • Be specific in what you are looking to gain from the conversation
  • Speak in the first person, use “I” to say how you think, feel, and what you heard, not “you” to tell the other person what they think, said, or did. 
  • It is O.K. to express personal emotion in regards to the conflict, but make sure those emotions are relevant to the situation.  

Conflict in a relationship is healthy, and even necessary. Conflict avoidance is a slow death to a relationship. If you don’t have conflict from time to time, you aren’t being honest with each other.

About Dr. Adam Brown

Follow Adam on Twitter @adamofbruce

Screen Shot 2020-12-13 at 2.15.18 PMAdam Brown, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, City University of New York and a psychotherapist in private practice. His research has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including “Children and Youth Services Review,” “The Journal of Interpersonal Violence,” and “Sexual Abuse,” and he is an invited presenter multiple times annually at clinical and scholarly conferences internationally. His research has been featured in Rueters, Yahoo!, and Fox news, and he has appeared as an invited expert for comment on events in a variety of media outlets, including for “The City” in New York City, and the “Shanghai Media Group” (SMG) in China.

Dr. Brown is an expert consultant for Park Dietz and Associates in Newport Beach, CA, and a consulting clinician at the Institute for Sexual Wellness in Weymouth, MA. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and his Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work.

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