In any relationship, misunderstandings can arise, and this is especially important when the relationship is between a client (patient) and a therapist
Many clients, though, feel that they aren’t allowed to do that – after all, isn’t the therapist the one who knows everything?
But therapists are perfectly human; indeed part of our training is learning how to be sensitive to and how to repair this special relationship of trust, openness and collaboration known as the “therapeutic alliance”. If the therapeutic alliance goes off the rails, your therapy goes off the rails with it, because studies have shown it is the single most important element in determining whether or not the work is going to be successful.
Come Out With It
There are lots of ways that therapists can make you feel upset:
from giving unasked-for advice,
to talking much more than you do,
to misinterpreting how you feel, to not really listening.
They may be judgmental, have haphazard organization or start the session late.
And there are lots of way that clients can hide their negative feelings:
pretending the therapy is working for them,
playing along with the therapist’s suggestions,
burying their real opinion of the therapist.
Indeed, one study in 2016 revealed that 72.6 percent of clients or patients have lied about how they have experienced their psychotherapy. Sadly, this means their needs are not being met, and this is why it is so important to communicate about the problem.
Finding the Words
A simple opening line like “I’d like to talk about how I feel about coming here” is a good way to get started. After that start, many clients feel they have to look out for the therapist’s feelings by saying something positive. You don’t. The therapist is the one who has been trained to do that. You’re ok just explaining what your feelings are: “I’m upset by what you said, and I want to discuss that with you” or “I don’t need to hear your own life experiences, I’m here to work on myself.”
A Good Therapist Responds Positively
You know you’ve got a good therapist if they respond positively and empathetically. If it is appropriate, they should apologize, and then start seeking ways to improve the sessions, while commending you for having the courage to speak up.
If your therapist tells you, however, that you are being “resistant”, gets angry, judgmental or defensive, or wrongly attributes what you are saying to your own psychological issues, you would be better off with another therapist. They are going to do more harm than good.
Depending on the type of psychotherapy, therapists may use your feedback as a way to strengthen the therapeutic alliance. In any event, you should feel your needs have been met and that it is worth it to keep working with the therapist.