Giving Advice: In Memory of My Dad on Father’s Day

Giving Advice: In Memory of My Dad on Father’s Day

An article by Dr. Norman Rosethal

As a therapist, I generally try to avoid giving advice. I know that psychiatrists are often caricatured for this trait. “What should I do, Doc?” the fictional patient will say. “What do you think you should do?” the caricatured doctor will respond.

Beneath the joke, there is of course a rationale for turning the question back to the client or patient (though hopefully not in the stereotyped way shown above). It’s basically the Socratic method dressed up in clinical garb. A good therapist wants to help the client think through a problem so that when a similar problem arises again, those mental pathways will have already been practiced and the person will be better equipped to answer the problem without help.

Rosenthal-Fathers-DayEven when I may have some advice for a patient or client, I might say something like, “You know, I have some ideas about possible directions you may want to take here, but it would be far more useful to hear your thoughts first. Then, later, I might share my own opinion if it seems useful.

All this is a preamble to a story about my Dad, who was not a psychiatrist, but a lawyer. People didn’t come to him to learn how to fix their own problems. They expected him to give them direct advice or fix the problem himself.

The attached excerpt – a chapter from my book The Gift of Adversity (Tarcher Penguin), appropriately called “The Fixer,” because it deals with my father’s skills in this department.

Download a pdf version of “The Fixer”

I hope you enjoy it – and happy Father’s Day to all you fathers out there.

Wishing you Light and Transcendence,



If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

From Transcendence to the Gift of Adversity

The Gift of Adversity with Dr. Norman Rosenthal

The Thumbs Must Go


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *