Read the label: it may be the problem

How we describe what troubles us will go a long way to determining how it can be resolved.

Each issue has a spectrum of descriptive possibilities – impacting how we and others define and view the problem.





For example, consider Tom*, whose ‘experience’ could be described as:

  • “I feel sad”; or
  • “I am experiencing a state of depression”; or
  • “I have depression”; or
  • “I am a depressive”.




Or consider Jenni*

  • “I feel scared”; or
  • “I am experiencing some anxiousness”; or
  • “I have anxiety”; or
  • “I am an anxious person”.




Or Robert*:

  • “I feel an urge to Gamble”; or
  • “I am experiencing some urgency to gamble”; or
  • “I have a gambling problem”;. Or
  • “I am a problem gambler”.





Perhaps you can see a pattern emerging.  We can describe  any situation in a way that indicates it is a transient, feeling state, through to something which is part of a person’s identity.

How do you describe what troubles you?  As a feeling, as a state, as a possession or as part of your identity?

Helping clients understand that what troubles them is something which is one of a possible range of experiences, or is one of a possible number of identity descriptions opens the possibility for change.  If it wasn’t the problem, what could it be?

As clients understand that as they modify their label for their experience (Jenni*, for example, realised that she was not an anxious person, but was feeling scared in relation to a number of uncertain triggers in her life), it opens even more possibilities and options to change.


In the end, the client gets to choose how they label, view and interact with their experience.  The art is to help them define it in a way which is helpful, malleable and full of positive possibility.  Then change is highly likely.

(*not their real names)