Therapeutic relationships are similar to other professional relationships in that it takes time for both parties to come to an understanding of one another. At first, you may have an idealistic view of your therapist – but these perceptions may fluctuate over time as you move forward with therapy. Sometimes it’s a clash between preferred approaches in therapy, and other times it’s based on perceived dissimilarities. Either way, it’s important that you give your therapist a fair shot at working with you because, just like any collaboration, it takes time to develop a solid understanding – unless, of course, unrealistic or inappropriate situations are taking place – always keep your safety number one.
If there are very clear, distinct differences that are going to have a major impact on your success in recovery (for example, if you believe wholeheartedly that addiction is a disease but your therapist explicitly states on their information pages and handouts that addiction is a personal choice) there’s a likely chance that this professional relationship will not work well together. There are four main phases of therapy:
- Orientation – During this time, you will build rapport with your therapist by becoming more open about yourself and your expectations, and learning of their approaches, goals for you, and to answer any questions you may have.
- Identification – At this phase, you and your therapist will discuss what you want to work on; your therapist may ask you questions to empower you and help you feel more comfortable.
- Exploration – As you dig deeper into your life, pain may occur and it may feel worse before it feels better. Suppressed thoughts and feelings may emerge, but this will show that progress is occurring.
- Resolution – If you feel as though you’ve resolved whatever you sought therapy for, you may consider leaving therapy. Some people never make it to this stage, as some life events cause so much pain and heartache that it helps to simply talk to someone.
A 2014 study conducted by researchers from London sought to explore the therapeutic relationship, and they emphasized the importance of mentalization (the process of understanding others’ and one’s own behavior regarding mental states) and being flexible while getting to know your therapist. It’s easy to make snap judgments, but after several therapy sessions, you will have a much better idea and will have ensured that you didn’t leave therapy before it was given the chance to truly start.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.