The Therapeutic Alliance
The most important thing in the therapist-patient relationship is the Therapeutic Alliance. This is a jargon term for how well they get along. It is more important than theoretical orientation or technique.
What are the elements of a good therapeutic alliance? Empathy. Does the therapist have some kind of understanding or experience with your problem. It’s not about common age, gender or race – although life experience probably helps – it’s about the therapist’s appreciation of the situation.
If the therapist likes you, that’s even better because his or her role is often as cheerleader. Hard to cheer on someone you don’t particularly like.
Remember to watch the therapist’s body language, also called non-verbal communication. Experts say it is 93% of the message: it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Watch his facial expressions, hand gestures and posture.
Trust your intuition. As one ages, intuition gets keener. If your gut tells you something isn’t quite right with this person, it’s not right.
Here are some things to watch out for:
- The therapist talks too much.
- The therapist talks about herself.
- The therapist trivializes your problem: “You think YOUR mother was bad…”
- He repeatedly says, “I’m wondering”…or “How do YOU feel about that?”…or “What do YOU think it means?”
- She doesn’t give you feedback, interpretations, or advice.
- He tries to “fix” you rather than help to solve your problem(s).