What you can expect from your therapist

I often find that individuals enter therapy with certain worries.  They worry about the therapist judging them, perhaps telling them to do something that they don’t want to.  Often couples fear that the therapist may “tell them to get divorced”.

I do my best to dispel those fears, but I thought that it might be a good idea to explain the therapy process because there does not seem to be much education in that regard.  Most insights into the therapy process are gleaned from the experiences of friends and family.

First of all, according to Carl Rogers – it is the relationship between the therapist and patient that heals.  Not all patients can relate to a particular therapist, so it’s a good idea to go to the first session with that in mind.  If you do not relate, then look for another therapist.  Trained counsellors are aware of this fact and are quite open to recommending a colleague if you feel it could be a better  fit.  Nothing takes precedence over building a trusting relationship with the patient.  In fact, the effective therapist relates to the patient in a genuine, unconditionally supportive and empatic manner.  For a creative session to take place, the counsellor needs to abandon a position of certainty.  No therapist can predict the outcome of the therapy and needs to adopt a position of “not knowing”  or learning.  The patient is the expert on their lives, and the therapist functions more as a companion or guide than an expert.

In his memoir, Karl Jung, commented that therapist need sto invent a new therapy language for each patient.  I strongly agree, and often I will adopt the patient’s “language” to build a strong  connection.  We also may, at some point, as long as it is in the best interests of the patient, alsoreveal certain details of his/her personal life, in an effort to be authentic and genuine.  I often get complaints from patients who have found their therapist too removed, too remote.  I have never heard of a patient who complains that the therapist is too engaged, too interactive, too personal.

So we:

  • Do show unconditional positive regard. That is the first step.
  • Rarely give advice. Often sketch different scenarios, to illustrate alternatives to the patient.
  • Don’t judge or take sides in a couple’s therapy session.
  • become the partner on the journey in a safe, confidential space with the patient.
  • Are bound to a strict code of ethics and confidentiality
  • Can be objective as a patient sketches a scenario. We do not have an emotional investment in the outcome.
  • Do enter the patient’s world, wholeheartedly, and provide a safe space where alternatives can be explored
  • We enter the patient’s world where they are, go at their pace and collaborate with them to make the changes they desire.