It is not uncommon to create stories in order to make sense of parts of our environment and people that we may not know much about. One common story is that of the perfect therapist. This story has one major flaw, we are human. Life is a rhythm of balance and imbalance, positive and negative, stability and crisis. Life is not just one thing and as therapists, we are not immune to that rhythm.
A good portion of the therapy process is the therapeutic relationship between the therapist and the client. Thus, it is important to feel as though you can share with your therapist without feeling “less than” when you share. The therapeutic relationship is different from other relationships in our lives because the reciprocity that typically exists in a relationship does not exist. It is not unusual to wonder about your therapist as a person. However, if the story skews to a life without any conflict or turmoil, bring yourself back to a space of curiosity. The difference is as simple as “I know that they must have a great relationship” versus “I wonder if they have a great relationship.” One more step is to take that thought and ask yourself, “why am I wondering this? or “why is this important to me.” There are some instances where you may learn personal information about the therapist but even those disclosures are to be done when it is relevant to your treatment.
Different styles as well as theoretical orientations (theories that the therapist draws from to work with clients) will influence the way the therapist shows up in the room. These influence the use of silence, talkativeness, directness, types of questions that are asked, etc. It is easy to generate stories about what these techniques say about how the therapist thinks or feels about you. However, these are designed to provide treatment and not to convey the therapist’s feelings about a client.
Here are three things to do when you feel like the story of therapist perfection is being created:
1. Check in with yourself
• Do I feel like the therapist is judging me or will judge me?
• Do I feel like I need to take care of my therapist?
• Has my therapist done or said something that offended me?
• Is my therapist a good fit for me?
2. Bring your experience into the room
Talk to your therapist about what are thinking and feeling. This may seem daunting at first but by being able to address the process, you clear the space.
3. Find ways to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable
Growth, healing and change are not the most comfortable processes so there will be times that you do not feel comfortable. The important part is to ask why you are feeling this way.
I invite you to do periodic check-ins to see how the space feels for you.