Who matters most in the therapy room?
Psychotherapy is a relational activity. OK, therapists don’t tell clients biographical details about their lives, and so it’s not the kind of two way exchange we experience in other relationships in our lives, but by its nature it is all about relationship.
Regardless of the particular approach of your therapist, it is how fully the two of you can be with each other that will determine the success or otherwise of your therapy. As the relationship builds, trust emerges, and as it does so, both client and therapist can be more honest about what they are aware of.
For clients, as trust builds we tell our therapist more. We may reveal more intimate issues, the things closest to our hearts and the most painful. The things that evoke shame and pain.
For therapists, as trust builds we may also reveal more. Not about our own lives, but about what we notice and sense in the room and in our clients, and how it impacts our being. We relate at increasing depth, matching our client’s deeper disclosures with a depth of presence and holding.
Psychotherapy, as a relational activity, asks for balance and mutual respect. A good therapist will respect and prioritise the needs of their client, alongside their own needs. Of what use is it to a client to have a therapist who does not acknowledge, manage and meet their own self-care needs? How can a therapist function effectively if they are putting their own welfare behind that of others, including their clients?
Psychotherapy calls us to bring our whole self into the room, and to take care of that whole self, whether we are the client, or the therapist. If one withholds, within or beyond awareness, this will be matched by the other, this is the natural dance of unconscious mirroring.
Psychotherapists hold the responsibility for being alive to these dynamics, and for doing the personal work that enables us to be fully available to our clients relationally, while holding the boundaries of the therapeutic work securely. We don’t always get it right, no-one is perfect. What we can do is wholeheartedly commit to continuing to be alive to the themes in our practice and to address them. As we do this, we enable clients to evolve with us, and to meet the outcomes that bring them into our care.
So who matters most in therapy? No-one. It’s a meeting of equals, and that is where it’s power and impact lies.
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