Understanding the therapist-client relationship
Let’s talk relationships. Not just any relationship, but the therapist and client relationship. We tend to hear this a lot, “the therapist-client relationship IS a relationship.” But what does that mean? How do you know you’re in the right relationship? If you are struggling to find a therapist, are having a difficult time breaking up with your therapist, or would like to learn more about this relationship, this post is for you!
If we were to realistically describe the therapist-client relationship, it can be described as uncomfortable, challenging, one sided, and vulnerable! Does this sound positive? How can a relationship be one sided, uncomfortable, challenging and vulnerable AND be of benefit? The simple answer is YOU. As the client, YOU are the priority. You come first and as the therapist, we are here to walk your life with you WITHOUT judgment. Everyday we may come across at least one judgmental thought about ourselves or another person. In therapy, you do not have to worry about being judged! How cool is that! We are here to understand your challenges, and help you gain different perspectives and strategies to better overcome your adversities. Having a therapist means you get to be in the driver’s seat and drive as slow as you need to without someone honking behind you! What this means is in therapy, you do not have to feel like you need to reach a goal at a specific time or develop high and unrealistic expectations for yourself. Entering a relationship knowing you are allowed to throw expectations out the window can be a huge relief!
The next component to this relationship is developing trust. As a therapist, I would not expect you to tell me about your deepest darkest secrets within our first session. How often are we vulnerable? How often are we vulnerable to strangers? Maybe not often! That is okay! When we develop authentic trust and connection with another person, we feel safe to express our truest form of ourselves. Safety is HUGE in therapy. You are the number one priority which includes your emotional/mental safety. If we feel unsafe, we may be closed off, worried and too distracted and distressed. As you start to develop trust, this trust can indicate that there is a level of safety you are starting to feel, and for some, maybe feel for the very first time. Lean into this, it takes a lot for us to develop safety! Once we feel trust has been formed, it is both of our jobs to continue to grow this. As you continue your therapy journey, you may find some sessions to become a bit more difficult. It means you have developed a sense of safety, and you are willing to put yourself in a vulnerable position for the benefit of your mental health journey. Once we start to unlock painful feelings, thoughts and memories, we may notice the shift in therapy sessions which can be known as breakthroughs! These moments in therapy may take a long time as trust and safety needs to develop. Again, do not feel like you need to rush this process. If we “fake” our trust and rush the process, we may be doing more harm to our mental health than we realize. You may notice therapy sessions where you talk about your only interests or what you did over the weekend. That is trust building and that allows the therapist to connect with you deeper before getting to the vulnerable parts. Do not rush this process. Take it slow and let authenticity guide you.
Now, what happens when you have developed this relationship, you have gained what you needed to gain, and you realize it is time to move on. Breaking up with a therapist can feel difficult, however, breaking up with a therapist can be the easiest thing to do! When a client breaks up with a therapist, the therapist WILL root for you. You were aware of what you needed/did not need, you advocated for yourself, and you put yourself first!! Never be afraid to break up with a therapist, especially if the relationship does not feel right for you. Go shopping for a while! Picking out a therapist is like finding the right pair of jeans. Once you feel that perfect fit, you know it is for you. Trust your intuition and know that there is a therapist out there who would love to work through your challenges with you and create change to expand your wellbeing! Here at Bella Valore, we will always root for you! Try us out, trust your intuition and know that therapy is about YOU!
-Izzy Brown, MA, LPC, R-DMT