The perception of control in regard to dealing with problems is the focus of coping strategies. When you encounter a problem that you haverun into before and successfully figured out a response to that either solved the problem or ameliorated some of its adverse effects, that information is stored in your mind, so that, when a similar problem arises, your mind can reference to the previous resolution that you utilized and assume that this approach may work again. This is a perception of control. The perception of control gives you a feeling of self-confidence in approaching, dealing with, and resolving the problem. That is a successful coping strategy.
Thus, what is important in the coping strategy is the development of the perception of control. “Problems” for human beings tend to be at some place in the sector of interpersonal relationships. It is also in the realm of interpersonal relationship[s that coping mechanisms are discovered, tested, and stored in the mind.
One common form of coping with stress is to work it through one or more interpersonal relationships. The most common form of this is talking to a friend or family member about the problem or stress-inducing phenomena. Often, in “talking things over,” that gives the mind a way to organized thought about the problem, and that organization may clear the way for the conscious or unconscious development of a strategy to deal with the problem. However, the problem with this seemingly easy solution for the discovery of coping mechanisms is that there are sometimes things that one does not want to share with friends of family members, regardless of how close they are.
That is where the psychologist comes in. The psychologist is not a friend or family member with whom you might not want to share certain information or who you would like to shield from the problems and stresses that you are facing from. The psychologist asserts no value judgments on you or the situation as friends or family might. Further, the psychologist has the capacity and skills to examine your problems or stressful situations more clearly then either you or any friend or family member might be able to do.
So, seen in this way, the psychologist becomes a surrogate for the friend or family member, someone who you can talk to without fear or shame, or merely not disclosing things about yourself personally that you might not want to disclose.
While family members or friends might make suggestions to you as to what to do about your problem or stressful situation, they do not have the knowledge and skill of the psychologist who has studied a broad range of coping mechanisms. Thus, while the friend or family member might tell you what they would do in your situation, that doesn’t really help because “they” are not you. On the other hand, the psychologist doesn’t tell you what he or she would do in the situation, but informs you of one or more coping mechanisms that are “tried and true.”
So, your psychologist is not your friend and is not a family member, but is a person on whom you can rely for expert, skilled advice on coping strategies that are likely to work in your situation. Like the medical doctor who gives you medicine to help you to control your high blood pressure, your psychologist offers you coping strategies to help you to control your stress related to interpersonal problems.
Thus, if you are feeling out of control of the stressors in your life and the coping strategies that you are using don’t seem to be working, then it’s time to consult with a psychologist.