Therapist-Client Relationship: A unique kind of bond
The relationship between therapist and client can be a very special one. So special, in fact, that did you know it can be the determining factor to whether you actually improve or not? Crucially, the rapport you have with your therapist is more important than their experience, training or the approach they use – and there’s research to prove it.
Therapist-Client Relationship: Why Cognitive Hypnotherapists are particularly ace
Those of us who have been studied to become Cognitive Hypnotherapists understand the importance of the therapist-client relationship and we are specially trained to increase rapport with our clients for this very reason. You might not notice it during sessions, as building rapport should be a subtle process, but a good therapist will be doing lots of different things to ensure you develop a positive working relationship with each other. We also take particular care to work with you and your own way of seeing the world which can mean better outcomes for you. Three cheers for us!
Therapist-Client Relationship: We are all social creatures don’t you know
Why is rapport so central to the success of therapy? There are several reasons. Our need as social creatures to be connected to others can partly explain why this relationship is so important. Our very survival depends on trusting those around us. Back in the day, when we were hunter-gatherers, cooperating and building safe relationships with those in our group could have kept us from the jaws of marauding predators or kept our spirits up when we ran out of berries. Especially if Kevin from the cave three doors down had eaten them all again.
Having a therapist who you connect with can also be mind-shifting if you don’t have close relationships in your life yet or want to deepen those you do have. It can really realign your ability to trust other people. Imagine; if you are able to chat openly with and have faith in your therapist, then isn’t it possible that you can do this with others as well? For many, this will be an extremely important step in the therapeutic process as it is known that good relationships with others is one of the key things to healing. (The other is nature so get your wellies on and get out in the green stuff as much as you can).
Therapist-Client Relationship: What about attachment?
Well, it’s funny you should mention that. The attachment theory proposed by a psychologist called John Bowlby stresses the importance of a close, secure bond with an infant and main caregiver (usually the parent). If you did not experience this, or had a distant, critical or even abusive parent(s), you may have issues with forming close bonds with others throughout your adult life unless you do something about it.
These early relationships act like a blue-print for later ones. Do you feel devastated when relationships end or feel that your partner does not love you? It may be that you had insecure attachments when you were young. Or do you avoid intimacy, perhaps finding it difficult to stay in long-term relationships? Again, maybe something was missing from your early attachments and you are unconsciously repeating these patterns without really knowing why.
A stronger attachment = A new way of doing things
In this respect, the relationship established in therapy is a crucial attachment and can, if nourished properly, act as a model from which you can begin to form new ideas about relationships and even your identity. The therapist is the surrogate parent in the sense that they help you to build up your self-worth with the ultimate goal of better mental health, things perhaps, your own parents were not able to do.
The therapist then, can support you by acting as a nourishing parent would. In order to help you manage your emotions and develop a stronger sense of self, they may show the you how to self-soothe in the face of fears and anxieties, for example. A skilled professional will provide a non-judgemental and safe space and accept you unconditionally for who you are. How great is that? When I had therapy I told my therapist things I wouldn’t tell anyone else, and it was a great release to be able to do this and not feel like I was a weirdo. And she didn’t mind when I had snotty cries.
What about the brain?
Good point. First of all, know that the brain has plasticity which means that it is brilliant at changing and adapting. Mostly, so it can act quickly in order to keep us safe, it acts as it always has done. So if you feel anxious about getting close to others, it’s likely your brain always responds in the same way if you are asked out to a social function, or ‘do’ as they were called in the old days. Most likely this will be avoidance – you’ll decline said invitation and feel relief as you snuggle (alone) in a onesie in front of the telly.
But because of plasticity any changes you experience through therapy will be mapped as new routes onto your brain. So once you start developing an attachment with your therapist, your brain will make new connections and consider other possibilities, not just the same old, same old. It basically opens up new doors and that, my friend, is where change starts to happen.
Any chemical stuff getting in on the action?
Oh yes. As a result of this positive relationship between client and therapist endorphins, serotonin and dopamine will buzz around your system like nobody’s business making you feel clip-clop-tippity-hop. Once you find yourself moving from a place of protection to a place where you can expand and get rid of all the horses**t, levels of the above chemicals will increase. This means that you’ll feel better. And the more this happens, the more likely you are to keep on doing the things that make you feel this way (called the Pleasure Principle). And even the smallest things that give you a buzz will go on to have bigger and bigger effects as you realise the difference you can make to your life. It’s a no-brainer.
Therapist-Client Relationship: Letting the right one in
So, what have we learnt? Well, papa ain’t raised no fool so make sure you spend some time choosing a therapist who is right for you. Try not to plump for the first one you see advertised or speak to. Most therapists give a free consultation so take advantage of this to speak to as many as you can until you feel comfortable with your choice. Your wellbeing and safety should be your therapist’s number one concern so if you don’t feel either of these, it’s your prerogative to change. Good luck.