What is the Talking Cure?

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  • Written By: Marisa O'Connor
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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The talking cure describes relief from psychological disorders with the help of talk therapy. Talk therapy is a time-tested methodology for treating disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia, among others. The social nature of talking to a therapist can trigger instant neurological connections, which can help the patient better understand and change his or her problematic thoughts or behaviors.

When it comes to treating depression, the talking cure has a major advantage over medication. Anti-depressant medications typically take at least a couple of weeks to begin having a noticeable effect on mood. Medication can be a necessary and very helpful treatment plan, but because it works on a chemical level, the changes are subtle and take a while to work into the system. Talk therapy, however, creates an instant reaction in the brain. Neuroscientists give the credit of this instant reaction to the fact that humans are social animals and talk therapy is a type of social connection.


The effectiveness of the talking cure lies in the human brain's capacity for empathy. Mirror neurons in the brain, also called the premotor cortex and the somatosensory cortex, respond to the feelings and behaviors of others. When a person sees someone smiling, it triggers a response in the observer's own smile-controlling neurons. The same goes for observing someone in pain. If a person sees a friend or even a stranger stub a toe, that person will likely feel sympathy pain in his or her own toe, controlled by the mirror neurons.

The talking cure works because of these mirror neuron reactions in the human brain. It is often the case that people suffering from psychological disorders, such as depression, are not aware of the root causes behind their feelings. Talking to an objective, empathetic, and psychologically knowledgeable third party can trigger neurological connections that may not have otherwise been experienced. These new connections may be in the form of experiencing empathy for the self or learning new coping mechanisms.

The talking cure also helps patients understand their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The compulsive nature of thoughts and behaviors in people with depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders can be very overwhelming. Talking to a therapist who is not stuck in compulsive patterns can be an incredibly refreshing and healing experience, showing patients that things can be seen with a different perspective than the ones that automatically flood their minds.

Unlike some other forms of therapy, like medication, the talking cure puts the power of change into the hands of the patient. The therapist and patient work together to develop a tool kit for the patient to take with him or her when therapy is complete. Talk therapy helps the patient identify, understand, and ultimately change behavior and thought patterns that have become problematic. The effectiveness of talk therapy, like most therapy, lies with the patient and how much work he or she is willing to do.


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Post 3

@umbra21 - I disagree. There are a lot of people who don't get the same benefits from talking about their problems, particularly if they don't have someone they trust to talk to.

I've never been able to feel comfortable enough with anyone to really feel like I'm being totally honest with them. I always feel like I'm trying to figure out what they want me to say, and that ends up making me feel worse in the long run. I'd rather figure out my problems on my own.

Post 2

@bythewell - I had always been taught that going to see psychologists and psychiatrists meant that you were basically weak. My dad spoke very insultingly about the talking cure and especially Freud and his theories.

So it took me a while to decide that I wanted to try counseling as well. I think it's a long way from what people sometimes imagine it to be. I don't sit on a couch or talk about my childhood (much). I don't blame my parents for anything. The psychologist and I just try to understand what is going on in my head and how we can make it easier to be happy.

I actually kind of wish that counseling was mandatory for everyone. I don't know anyone who wouldn't benefit from it.

Post 1

I always thought that my depression was mostly chemical and that I was a generally well adjusted person. I finally ended up having some counseling after a breakdown last year and I never realized how beneficial it could be for me.

I have so many habits that have formed after a rough childhood that I just take for granted and I had become very reluctant to talk about anything that was wrong with me, because I felt it made people uncomfortable.

Being able to sit there with someone who is actively trying to help me talk about myself and heal myself is just a real gift. I wish I had done it sooner.

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