When you are in therapy, the assumption is that your therapist is helping you, and if she isn’t, it’s time to head for the hills. However, as with most things in life, the therapeutic process isn’t always so clear cut. There are times, for example, when your therapist needs a little help from you.
To be clear, we are not suggesting that you help your therapist through their personal issues. If your sessions have turned into you listening as your therapist talks about her own personal issues, RUN, DO NOT WALK, to the door. No, the focus of your sessions needs to be on you, and only you.
What we are talking about, is when your therapist needs help helping you. Therapists are not omniscient beings and as much as we try to help, there are areas of expertise, and even ways of looking at the world, that we are not familiar with. Good therapists, however, are willing to learn.
Understandably, some clients find it difficult, or even confrontational to “tell their therapists how to do their jobs.” Yet, in this age of consumer advocacy, it’s essential to learn how to do just that. We promise, it isn’t condescending to advocate for your rights. In fact, if your therapist is worth his weight in gold, he would want to know how to better help you.
One of the areas where therapists, and healthcare professionals in general, may need guidance is, paradoxically, in the ability to accept clients as they are. Because we are so invested in helping our clients live the best lives that they can, we sometimes fall prey to the idea that improvement and change are a better course of action than simply accepting and honoring whatever conditions our clients are in, whether it be emotional, physical, or mental.
In this well-written post, one writer gives advice on finding a therapist who is adept at working with people with disabilities. This writer points out that it’s okay to ask a potential therapist pointed questions like: “Have they ever had a disabled client before? What’s their background in cultural competency? Do they prefer to give advice, or guide the client as they work things out for themselves? Are they big on recommending outside resources or not? And how do they handle it when a client voices concerns about how sessions have been going?”
She goes on to say that “In initial consults especially, you’re there to figure out whether you’re right for each other. It’s okay to be upfront about what you want and need. It’s their job to help you, not your job to be the perfect patient.”
As therapists, we completely agree! And, we would add, it’s okay to continue to educate your therapist on what you need, and what is helpful for you throughout the therapeutic process. More than anything, successful therapy is based on a healthy relationship with clear communication at the root of it. Remember, a tree with a strong foundation is free to grow the loveliest flowers.
If you would like to learn more about the therapeutic process, or how our therapists can help you, contact us. We would love to hear from you!