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Trusting the Therapeutic Process
As a therapist, one of the most challenging things that takes place in the therapeutic relationship is when people do not trust the process, or they doubt it from the start. I get it, this is a hard ask. Most people come to therapy because they are experiencing anxiety and/or depression, they have experienced trauma, or they have made poor decisions in the past. All these things and more can potentially cause people not to trust themselves so asking them to trust “the process” can feel defeating. So, why is this so important?
Research has shown that the relationship between the client and the therapist is one of the most important components for therapeutic success, but like all relationships, this takes time.
I do not expect that someone is going to come into their first session and trust that they can share their inner most thoughts and feelings with me. What is more likely, they are thinking that sharing these things is going to lead to judgement. You don’t typically go on a first date with someone and tell them all the things that make you feel afraid, it would turn somebody off, right? The honeymoon period lasts for a few months and that is because we are showing up as our best self. I often refer to this in therapy as wearing a mask. We present ourselves to people in the way that we want to be seen.
But like all things in life, an event happens.
Maybe it is something that the other person does that triggers you, maybe you lose a loved one. How the person you are in a relationship with handles these situations tells you whether they are safe. Do they hold space for you to feel your feelings, are they going to comfort you, will they support you, and so on. This process isn’t any different when building a relationship with your therapist. It is up to the therapist to provide you with the space where you can feel safe to share so that you can continue to build the foundation for growth.
People seek out therapists because they have come to recognize that there is something they want to change, but if change was that easy, therapy would not be an occupation. The first time you meet with a therapist they are going to ask a lot of questions and get an idea of who you are and what has brought you to this point. A treatment plan is developed based off this session. It might be things that you disclosed that you want to work on, or it might be goals that the therapist develops based off the information you provided. Setting goals is a good way of acknowledging that things will take time. Change is probably not going to happen overnight, but you are not alone. The relationship is a collaborative one.
Here is where the trust comes in.
Sometimes therapy is not going to feel good or easy. I know, it sucks! You are spending time and money to be with this person, and you want them to help fix the things that you want to change, and it is taking time and energy. You might become frustrated that change is not taking place as soon as you would like, or it might be bringing up a lot of feelings that are uncomfortable. Maybe you think to yourself, “This isn’t working.” There are going to be periods when things click, and there might be setbacks, but easy things don’t change you. This is the process. This is an opportunity for growth to take place.
You could decide that therapy isn’t for you. You need something else. A change. Maybe a new therapist- maybe a different approach – maybe moving across the country will do it! BUT, wherever you go, there you are. Chances are that you will go back to the things that brought you to therapy in the first place. The same feelings might come up again in another relationship with a partner or with another therapist. It is moving through the tough stuff that will get you to the other side. In other words, it is a commitment.
There are no guarantees and everyone experiences therapy differently, but the therapeutic space is an opportunity to build a relationship with a therapist, identify what you want to change and commit to working towards those changes…this is the process.
Krista Stanzione, MS, LGPC has an extensive experience in the field of mental health. She gratudated in 2003 from Frostburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in Child & Family Psychology. In 2019, she graduated from McDaniel College with a master’s in Counseling. She has worked with domestic violence, in residential and outpatient settings for substance use disorders, crisis, and community agencies. She also worked in the correctional system and recognized that substance use disorders were not the problem, they were a symptom of a problem. Connect with Krista!