As a Therapist, I don’t want to be a mystery, or it to be magic when you see results while in therapy, because it was your work all along that brought you to now.Alyssa Lazzeroni
Every so often themes pop up in a week, between clients, colleagues and loved ones. A theme that popped up multiple times in one week was that therapy is mysterious. There was also a sense that the therapist didn’t want to share how therapy was going to work for these clients.
Let me just say, therapy does not have to be mysterious to work. Period.
There are some things around therapy that we might not fully understand how they work, but as therapists we should generally have an understanding of the relevant theories and be able to explain what it is about therapy that works in terms that make sense to you the client.
Many studies have shown that it is the therapeutic relationship that is responsible for healing far beyond any specific technique that is used. So how do we make a strong therapeutic relationship?
Trust, transparency, and being able to offer feedback can all help to create a strong relationship. For a client that looks like: a therapist explaining who they are and what they do, explaining which techniques they are using as why, and asking for feedback about whether this session or relationship is going well or not (Feedback Informed Therapy).
Therapy cannot just be done to someone. A client is the driver of change and results. Even talk therapy can be mysterious, like why are we talking about this, what is guiding these questions? If the session is heavily focused on thoughts and behaviors, it’s probably cognitive behavioral therapy. If the discussion is about parts, (part of you wants this and another part wants to protect you), then it’s probably Internal Family Systems. There are so many different ways that therapists provide therapy.
The thing is, many therapists have picked up many tools over their career and maybe favor a few ways of viewing the world (examples being Feminist, Multicultural, Adaptive Information Processing for understanding trauma). Even an eclectic therapist has a way of understanding a Client’s presenting issue and how they understand what will help you create the change you want. It can be important for you as the client to know how they are going to provide you the services that will help you meet your goals.
As the client, ask your therapist questions. What’s your background, how do they believe therapy works? How will they work with you to reach your goals, and maybe after a few sessions, what’s the plan we are working with to reach my goals?
Some therapists may be used coming from the perspective of an “expert,” be more directive in the way they communicate, or might not be used to explaining their techniques to a client, but if they aren’t willing to try, that tells you something about how they think about your treatment.
Therapy is different from talking with friends or family because therapists are supposed to hold you, the client in unconditional positive regard and listen non-judgmentally, free from offering advice while working according to a plan to help you create the change you want. What that means is no matter what you tell a therapist, they will believe you, think positively about you, and not try to tell you what you should be doing while following a plan they involved you in creating.
All of this is to say, please ask your questions, tell us when something feels off or lands badly, tell us how we can better serve you. I don’t want to be a mystery, or it to be magic when you see results while in therapy, because it was your work all along that brought you to now.