The therapeutic relationship

I was at a book talk last night (hosted by Susan Shapiro, who is an interesting speaker if you ever get the chance to hear her talk).

At the event, a fellow therapist* made a comment that “Some clients use therapy for problem solving and some clients use therapy for the relationship”. (Its always both to some extent)

It occurred to me that I write a lot on this blog about the problem solving aspect of therapy and not a lot about the therapeutic relationship aspect.

What’s meant by “therapeutic relationship” is that the relationship between the therapist and the client can, in itself, help clients solve their problems.

People who come to therapy get to have the experience of someone else caring a great deal about THEIR LIFE and THEIR HAPPINESS.

You get to lay out your truest self, including anything you feel embarrassed, humiliated, or judged about, and still get liked, cared about, and respected.

One aspect of therapy is that the therapist can absorb and titrate some of your emotion so that you can talk openly about your thoughts and feelings when on your own being so open would normally feel too emotionally overwhelming. This means you can think clearly and process those thoughts and feelings.

An extremely important aspect of the therapeutic relationship for many clients is re-learning how to TRUST in a relationship. You get to have the experience of expressing your thoughts and feelings and have someone be responsive to those thoughts and feelings, when in life often times people are not helpfully responsive.

An element of re-learning trust is that therapists don’t always get it right in being helpfully responsive to you. However, the idea is (in the type of therapy I do) that you and the therapist are both open with each other enough that together you can figure out whatever is getting in the way so that you, the client, can feel helpfully responded to. From this process, you learn skills that you can use in your life and other relationships.

*The therapist’s name is Binnie Klein who read from her new memoir about how her middle aged, Jewish, therapist self took up boxing.

Please note that this blog post reflects my “take” on the therapeutic relationship and other therapists will have different styles and opinions.