How the Couch Has Become a Staple Tool for Therapy

man undergoing therapy

man undergoing therapy

When people think of a psychiatrist’s clinic, they often visualise a rather comfortable Victorian-style office with several medical books neatly stored in oak shelves. On top of that, they imagine a couch or sofa sitting in the middle of the room for the patient to lie down on.

For so many years, the couch or sofa has been associated with a psychiatrist’s clinic, but many people don’t know why. If you’ve been wondering why a couch is often associated with therapy sessions, read on to find out how this household item, whether it’s a 3 seater sofa or a single seater couch, has become essential to the practice of psychiatry.

The importance of the couch

It may seem trivial for some, but a couch is an effective tool for both the patient and the psychoanalyst. According to psychiatrists, one of the main reasons couches are effective in treating patients with psychological dilemmas is that there’s limited face-to-face communication between the patient and the doctor.

During therapy sessions, psychiatrists try to understand what goes on inside their patients’ minds by interviewing them. The problem is that people tend to edit their thoughts and words when speaking face to face with other people. That’s because when they see the person they are talking to, they automatically put themselves on guard and try to be polite.

This, then, obstructs the psychiatrists’ method of treating patients. Doctors don’t want patients to put up their guards during therapy sessions because it blocks their real thoughts and emotions from coming out.

man laying on the couch talking to a psychologist

This is why the couch is an important element in a psychiatrist’s practice. When patients lie on the couch, they don’t see their doctor eye-to-eye. This mere fact helps patients be more open to expressing whatever they feel and think. It allows them to speak without inhibitions.

And this is what psychiatrists are after, which they refer to as ‘free association’. Experts explain that when patients speak freely, the thoughts and words that come out actually come from their subconscious minds, and their subconscious minds are what psychiatrists try to learn more about.

Position is everything

Many people often take for granted the fact that they feel more relaxed whenever they recline on a couch or sofa. For most people, the idea of relaxing in a couch is nothing more than a way to relieve stress from a hectic day.

But for psychiatrists, the act of reclining on a couch is extremely useful for bringing their patients into a vulnerable state. Psychiatrists want their patients to be in a dream-like state because that’s when their minds are more capable of recovering long-lost memories. Those memories may help explain why patients are behaving in a particular way, for instance, or why they are having some issues.

So, the couch may have become a gag or punch line for some people, but it’s a useful tool in a psychiatrist’s therapy session. It lets people feel safer and more at ease in a strange environment, allowing for more effective psychoanalytic therapy.

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