The Introvert's Corner

How to live a quiet life in a noisy world

Introverts in Therapy

Accepting their introversion helps a therapist's clients be true to themselves.

By Heinrich Wallnöfer, via Wikimedia Commons

Fellow Psychology Today blogger F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W., who writes the "Off the Couch" blog, about the therapeutic process, was kind enough to let me know that she sometimes suggests clients read my book The Introvert's Way.

Of course I'm pleased and honored, and I asked Barth when and why she suggested the book and how it might have helped. 

"All of the people I've suggested it to are people who in one way or another have had somebody throughout their lives saying to them that they've got to put themselves out there more, got to be more assertive, got to be more outgoing." And, she says, because these people were unable to just get out there and do those things, they felt like failures.

Barth says that until all this public discussion about introversion began, even she approached work with these clients from the perspective that they could and should be different. "We would analyze whey they couldn't do it and what was interfering with their being able to do it," she says.

While sometimes people's ability to get out and mix it up more is due to fear and anxiety, Barth recognizes the difference between people who are dealing with fears that can be overcome and a personality trait that should be accepted. For the latter, she says, "It didn't matter how much they analyzed it. You can feel a difference between people who really need to protect their integrity versus somebody who's afraid because they might get rejected or be disappointed."

Barth says the first thing that happens for introverts in her practice who read about introversion is that they come in and say, "That's me." "They identify themselves as being like other people. You take it out of being stigmatized right away," Barth says. "Everybody has come in and says 'I recognize myself completely' and then they take a deep breath and relax. It changes in a pretty major way."

From there, she says, she and her clients can proceed with figuring out how they can go about accomplishing their goals from a whole new vantage point. "It's been very interesting watching people come up with solutions to a wide variety of things that is about them and not who they are supposed to be," Barth says.

Some people, for example, were unhappy in their work but having trouble getting on with a job search.

"We go back to 'What do you like about what you're doing and what is it you don't like?'" Barth says. "We revisit from the ground up what it was they were complaining about and therefore what they must be looking for." They might talk about the challenges of networking, figure out ways to network that are effective but also allow them to be true to who they are. (One great book about what introverts bring to the workplace is Quiet Influence, by Jennifer Kahnweiler. And Beth Beulow discusses introverted entrepreneurs on her website, The Introvert Entrepreneur. )

Other clients have wanted to find romantic relationships and been tempted but intimidated by Internet dating. But after thinking about how to approach it in a way that feels true to who they are, some have gone online—but done it their way. "People have put up really unusual self-descriptions on their profiles and have had amazing responses," Barth says. Others, she says, decided that they would check their responses just once a month, to avoid being overwhelmed, "And that's been fine," she says. "They've met people." (I discuss Internet dating in my upcoming book, Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After, which will be released January and is available for preorder.)

And for introverts who have trouble setting boundaries with intrusive family members, Barth finds ways that they can both set boundaries and avoid uncomfortable confrontation. "What I've found is that the best way to think about it is that you're not going to set boundaries; a lot of people I've encouraged to read the book are not comfortable making that kind of assertions. But you can set subtle boundaries without having a confrontation with anybody. You can not always be available, or not always respond, or only respond to part of what a family asks about. Instead of saying 'none of your business,' you just don't answer."

Obviously mine is not the only introversion book out there, or even the "biggest" of them (Susan Cain's bestseller Quiet is the Goliath of introvert books), but it's certainly exciting and gratifying to know that overall, our new awareness and understanding of introversion is helping people, and people who help people, including Barth, who says, "It changed my approach so that I'm able to say wait, who you are is a good person, let's not work so hard to try to be someone else."

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Want to hang out online with a few thousand other introverts? Come on over to my Facebook page. 

Please note that anything you purchase from Amazon by clicking through from this post will earn me a few cents.

Sophia Dembling is a widely published Dallas, Texas-based writer. Her latest book is The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.

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