For many clients arriving to their first counselling appointment, their main concern is obtaining strategies to deal with the distress that brought them there in the first place.
This is understandable. However, therapy works in other ways also and I believe in sharing these techniques transparently with clients.
One of these is the use of the therapeutic relationship, or the relationship that exists between the therapist and client.
This is really important because when a client comes in and they are struggling with personal relationships, they tend to come in weighed down with big themes such as lack of trust, self-doubt, insecurity and uncertainty about their future.
Stability and security
In contrast, the therapeutic relationship kicks off with stability and security firstly in the form of a booked, regular appointment which occurs preferably weekly or fortnightly. Both client and therapist commit to this, which creates a strong sense of respect, security and collaboration between both parties.
During my training as a psychotherapist, I was required to attend two years of personal therapy. Sometimes I didn’t feel like going or felt like I had nothing to say – though weirdly those were the best sessions! It felt like my therapist turned up regardless, whether I was up, down or blah – and accepted me anyway.
After some time, like in most relationships, a bond becomes established between therapist and client. This can happy relatively quickly or more gradually. For example, it makes sense that individuals who have experienced attachment injuries or abuse in previous relationships may take a longer time to extend trust.
A good trauma-informed therapist will respect the pace set by the client.
This developing relationship provides important clues to the therapist about what happens for the client outside of the therapy room and what could be contributing to their difficulties, or keeping them in place.
Outside the therapy room
A skilled therapist will notice the way in which a client relates to them, and check in or ask what the client has observed also. This can make for extremely rewarding therapy, plus affirming self-awareness and personal growth.
And as this is a secure relationship, it can help to inspire hope about relationships in general, particularly relevant when this hasn’t been the case, such as clients with a history of traumatic relationship experiences.
Sometimes the fit between client and therapist is not quite right, as with any other connection in life, so it is important that this is recognised and discussed from the outset. A fulfilling relationship requires honest input from both parties; good practice for living in general.
Yes, therapy is not always a quick fix, but I reckon getting to know yourself, finding out how you want to be in your relationships and trying new ways of being are priceless.
So, try not to get consumed by putting strategies in place, these will come and rest assured they will be specific to you. And as my therapist once said to me, ‘trust the process’. 😊