Starting a therapeutic relationship is one of the most daunting things many of will ever face but in this article I will share insights to encourage you to give it a try.
Often many people delay accessing therapy for fear of not being able to open up to a stranger, not knowing where to start, or wondering whether it’s going to be a useful investment of time and money.
In actual fact what I find is when a client of mine makes that initial phone call there is an instant sense of relief that comes with the knowledge that they’re about to receive some support.
Suddenly things feel a little brighter. There is hope is on the horizon.
Finally someone understands me
It’s always wonderful to see the sense of relief when a client of mine feels understood after so much initial anxiety when they come for their first session.
I often notice the sense of relief on their faces; the breathing out that comes with the relief when they realise that I’ve understood them in a way that others have never been able to articulate.
In my mind, therapy is not just about teaching skills or achieving change with the most effective techniques that we can learn to apply in the real world.
Yes, that is an important part of it, and one that we provide, but in my opinion, the relationship itself is the most fundamental agent of change. And, as is noted by much research evidence on therapeutic outcomes, without the relationship, not much change is going to happen.
You see, good therapy is not an exact science, in fact in my opinion it may be quite creative and at its best requires that full presence on both the part of the therapist and the client.
Think about how often you’re fully present with another person in daily life.
Do you have many conversations in your world where both people are completely present and engaged? If we did, I think therapy would not feel so unique and precious.
Therapy is never black or white
Therapy is never black or white, because every human is different.
In any case, it is not a process that follows a clear recipe book to get a certain outcome.
Current therapeutic models and processes are gradually shifting to more flexible processes to be more useful to people and achieve more than symptomatic relief.
Yes, we draw on scientifically-validated processes and techniques that are based on solid evidence, but how we deliver those techniques is very individual. What suits one person may not suit another. So being adaptable as therapists helps us form a unique connection with you while also knowing that we will not suit every person.
This is what makes every therapist unique and every therapeutic process distinct as it is shaped by the two or more people that come together in a unique setting to speak about all sorts of things that may not always be spoken about in other spaces or relationships.
From my experience in 25 years of clinical practice, how we have a conversation can make a big difference to whether that relationship becomes one of healing and change, or one that feels awkward and uncomfortable for you.
The conversation is mighter than the wand
Why is conversation the cornerstone of therapy?
It’s because ultimately therapy is based on one of our most fundamental needs: connection and unconditional acceptance.
So even though you might want the magic wand to make it all go away, what you’ll actually get, that’s even more profound and useful I think, is a relationship of healing.
This relationship will be one where you feel understood and supported to be yourself and, over time, find a way of living a life worth living through working collaboratively and authentically.
One of the things I love about being a therapist is those aha moments when a lightbulb turns on for the first time.
It’s a precious moment when a connection is made between different experiences that can be explained or that allows someone to feel maybe there is hope as the problem now makes complete sense.
These are the shared moments of gold that make the relationship alchemy happen.
This enables both the therapist and the client to keep moving forward even in the face of discomfort, confusion, and uncertainty, to forge a new pathway towards change.
Embracing relational alchemy
A term that I’ve found to be useful to describe the magic in the room, rather than the magic wand, is what we call Relational alchemy. It’s a term that I recently learned in my training in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.
As therapists we recognise that each relationship has a unique nature that spawns something bigger than its parts. We honour deep, authentic connection as well as interpersonal challenges that are avenues of personal growth, accepting the imperfection of the human condition.
So next time when you are thinking about if therapy is right for you, consider what it might be like if you were sitting in a room with a therapist like me, and I was able to find the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle arising from intense listening and curiosity.
Maybe you haven’t been able to see it or the puzzle has been so messed up you couldn’t find order in the chaos.
I’ve seen it many times. Out of this deep authentic connection, mindful awareness, and belief in the capacity for change, a new pathway begins to emerge, all the while acknowledging the equally powerful desire we have, pulling us toward what is familiar and comfortable.
Good therapy is attuned therapy
What makes good therapy in my view is a therapist being attuned to your needs for that session completely, knowing when to challenge and knowing when to back off, and always watching and inviting feedback to adjust the process to match your needs.
You don’t necessarily have to be someone with extreme distress to go and see a psychologist or a mental health social worker. All you need is to have some issue that you’re struggling with that you can’t seem to find ways of dealing with effectively yourself.
How many of us can honestly say that we’ve never had a moment where we’ve got stuck or we just needed someone to talk to to bounce things off and make sense of our world?
How wonderful it is for the therapist to provide a safe space where we all can talk through whatever is on our mind and find ways of dealing with it more effectively.
Relational alchemy heh!!
There might not be a magic wand but maybe this is a kind of magic that surpasses the quick solution we all crave and paves the way for meaningful long lasting change and a model of hope for other relationships based on trust, unconditional acceptance and authenticity.
I invite you to meet our therapists at Attuned Psychology, to see if there is one who will suit your needs. As you know by now, we will all have our own unique style and sensibility.
We are here to make your therapy experience safe and rewarding, whether in a face to face session or a video session known as telehealth.
– Alexandra Frost
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