Your therapist’s job is to ensure the therapeutic relationship is maintained in a way that allows you both to participate fully in the current process and to feel like there is a sustainable shift in the right direction.
Relationship counselling involves challenge and empathy. You need enough challenge from your therapist to motivate you to try new things and stimulate change, but sufficient empathy to feel like you are supported in your growth.
Therapy sessions are not always equally balanced in this, but your experience over-all needs to be that your therapist is on your side.
Signs that this therapist may not be a good fit for you include:
- You feel judged or shamed in the session.
- They give advice, rather than explore new ideas.
- You feel like your therapist and partner are ganging up on you.
- It seems that they are more like a friend than a therapist (over-sharing, talking about their own experiences too much).
- Your therapist and you are ganging up on your partner.
- They don’t respect your personal goals or lifestyle choices.
- It feels like they are pushing a specific cultural or religious agenda on you.
- You are just checking in or venting in session (coasting).
- They don’t seem to properly listen or they are rushing you.
- You have tried to provide feedback and your therapist seems reluctant to hear or respond to it.
- Either you or your partner just don’t like them.
The relationship between you and your psychologist can have a big impact on the outcomes of your therapy, so it is important to spend some time understanding what it is you need and expect from your relationship with your psychologist before you engage in services. Each partner might also have a different view of therapy and what they anticipate from the process.
What about you?
You need to feel aligned with your therapist – you don’t have to love them, but you do need to like them and have trust in their ability to help you. You need to feel confident in being vulnerable with your therapist, but the relationship is different from having a close friend.
It is necessarily one-sided (it is all about you) and it needs to challenge you to stretch towards growth (and change).
It’s your therapist’s responsibility to ensure that the relationship between you remains professional, constructive and appropriate. In my practice I adhere to the APS Code of Ethics. A professional is always open to feedback and discussing ways of improving your experience in therapy.
- To get the maximum gain from your first session, renowned couples therapist Esther Perel recommends that you talk to each other about the following:
- Why therapy and why now?
- What would you like to work on?
- What is your desired outcome?
- What are you prepared to do to achieve this goal?
- What do you expect from your therapist?
- What have been your experiences in therapy so far, and what was useful? What was not? What are the lessons you have gleaned?
Talk with your therapist in your first session or two, to ensure you have a mutual appreciation for what you want out of the professional service. Let the therapist know about any queries or concerns you have about the process as you progress.
A good therapist will provide you with a space in which you both can feel psychologically safe and supported while helping you to achieve your goals as a couple.