The decision to work with a therapist is never straightforward, but there are times in life when we just need that extra emotional support. While we may have loved ones who will help us through rough times, it is often a good idea to seek the less biased support of a professional when dealing with life’s difficult emotional challenges.
Many people who go into therapy have good experiences. The patient feels understood and well supported by the therapist, who uses his skills to facilitate the patient’s discovery and healing process. But what if your therapy leaves you feeling frustrated? What if you believe your therapist isn’t “getting you”? What if you aren’t receiving the outcome you expected?
If your therapy isn’t going well, where does the responsibility lie? Is it with you? Or could it be the type of therapy you have selected or even the therapist? What is the best way to talk to your therapist about these issues?
It’s not uncommon in any therapist-patient relationship for the patient to expect that the doctor will be all-wise and all-knowing. Sometimes the patient assumes the therapist will take care of everything and that he or she, the patient, must simply follow doctor’s orders. It may seem easier to let the professional call the shots and make the decisions about treatment. As the patient you might feel reluctant to ask questions or voice concerns.
The problem with this perspective is that therapists are human beings, and therefore fallible. Therapy, by nature, is a subjective process, and the therapist can only give his own opinion, an opinion, which has been shaped by the therapist’s training and professional orientation, as well as his life experiences.
So, as the “consumer” in the therapy relationship, it’s ultimately your responsibility to look after your best interest and to be an active participant in your own therapy. If something isn’t working well for you, then it’s up to you to discuss it with your therapist.
In an ideal therapy situation, the process works because it is truly collaborative with patient and therapist working together in partnership. The patient participates with the therapist in determining the direction of the therapy and in making decisions about the course of treatment. The therapist is open to the patient’s ideas and concerns.
However, not all therapy alliances are ideal. Therapists are subject to their own biases. For example, the therapist may not be able to recognize when he is having a problematic reaction to the patient. To regain the kind of objectivity that will support the patient, the therapist may require direct feedback from the patient, or perhaps even the opinion of a third party: a therapist-consultant who is trusted by both. It may be worth noting that doing this is analogous to seeking a second opinion in medicine.