A therapeutic relationship is something very unique. There are a lot of closeness and trust which many of us don’t experience in relations with people. But at the same time, a therapist is never a friend of ours, there are strong boundaries between a therapist and a client. It is possible to feel lost in this building expectations and having doubts if we work with the right person. I asked Craig Smith, a therapist and a clinician about sharing his view on this topic with us.
THERAPEUTIC RELATION IS A PARTNERSHIP
Relationship between a therapist and a client is one of the biggest predictors for success in treatment. By gaining a partnership with you, we can work together to identify and break through the barriers you have been facing and help you live the life you were meant to have. In order to effectively support our clients it is important to set clear boundaries with them from the first session.
It can be exciting to have someone that listens and validates you, but it is key to remember that a client/therapist relationship can’t and won’t ever be more than that. We are not friends and will not be hanging out on the weekends between sessions. There are certain boundaries that have to be set and maintained to foster the therapeutic alliance, which as stated below, is crucial to helping create outcomes for clients. This can be difficult for some clients to accept and it is the therapist’s duty to make sure boundaries are clear.
There are ethical considerations for the various licensing boards and depending on the licensure, the boundaries can be stricter for some, but the safety of the therapeutic relationship is always the focus. If the relationship of therapist and client is blurred, the therapeutic alliance can be jeopardized.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT IN THERAPEUTIC RELATIONSHIP
This will vary from clinician to clinician but for me, it is all about the trust, connection, and alliance I can build with the client. My ultimate goal is to help the person coming into my office, leave with a greater sense of belief in themselves and their ability to solve the problems they are facing.
WHAT IS A RELATION WITH THERAPIST IS NOT ENOUGH
A relation with a therapist is important but the biggest predictor for change in the therapeutic process is the client themselves; what they bring in regarding motivation, spirituality, support systems, desire to change, employment, etc.
According to research, this accounts for 40% of the change in the process. The therapeutic relationship accounts for 30% of change. How the client perceives the clinician to have empathy, genuine care and concerns, trust, warmth, and a shared interest in the client’s goals, matters. In fact, it matters more than the specific modality the clinician utilizes (15%), and expectancy for change (15%). (Miller, S. D., Duncan, B. L., & Hubble, M. A. (1997). Escape from Babel: Toward a unifying language for psychotherapy practice. New York: Norton.)
In summary, 70% of the change that occurs in therapy will come from the way the client perceives their own ability to solve a problem and accomplish their goals, combined with the sense of support and alliance they have from their therapist.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – a previous interview with Craig Smith:
Craig’s website and podcasts (check them necessarily!):
Follow Craig on Instagram: @greatestdaymindset
Contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org