For a number of years I taught graduate students the fundamentals of therapy. If you boil it down to the basics what really is therapy? Most often it is two people in a room and one is there because their world is not working out the way they want and the other is there to help them out. We all have been in both roles, although usually we don’t get financially compensated for helping out a friend. But when friends are hurting and they come to you, you do your best to help them feel better. So what are the critical things you need to do to help someone out? And what really are you wanting from someone when you are in emotional pain? When I go to a medical doctor I want relief. The simpler and easier the better. The more difficult it is to ascertain what is wrong and how to fix it, the more anxious we become. The same could be said of therapy. Simple solutions are usually best. Most people would trade in all the insight into why they do the things they do in return for a simple way to alleviate the pain. Unfortunately, the "Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" approach is usually not available. What is available is hope. Not false hope. But real hope. The trick to being an effective therapist is being able to instill hope in people. You want people to believe things will get better. Even if they have to get worse first. How to instill that hope would take more than a blog post to explain, but here is a simple goal to keep in mind. Be encouraging. Along with being understanding, caring, concerned and available. For me, the easiest way to be encouraging is to let someone know I believe in their ability to resolve the situation. In order to be encouraging you need to actually believe they can find a workable solution. Maybe not right now, but if you can believe they have the tools within them to find their way you can convey that belief to them. And personally, I believe the vast majority of time we have the solutions within ourselves. And yes, their solution might not be your solution or the one you think is best, but their life is not your life and you need to support their choices (and try not to say "I told you so" if they don't work out). Another way to encourage people is to let them know when they have done something that touches you in a meaningful way. The little things people do that often go unnoticed, are the very things that when someone points out and appreciates, prompt you to want to get up and try again. It’s encouraging.