The Therapeutic Relationship
A therapeutic relationship is the relationship between a client and their therapist. These are easily one of the strangest relationships that exist. A client pays a person to be their soundboard, guide, confidant, teacher, advocate, and safe haven. It can be a confusing pouring your soul out to someone, trusting them with your deep well of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, when you know that after an hour passes you will proceed to pull out money to pay them. Not to mention the pressure you might feel to instantly open up. For one, because you want to get better, heal, or begin the restoration process. And two, you are paying for this, so you want to dig deep fast and quickly. However, like any relationship, it takes time to develop and blossom.
When I first walked into my therapist’s office I felt guarded, scared, and anxious. My foot bounced a mile per minute. I gave brief responses and couldn’t wait until the hour was up. It wasn’t until after many sessions passed that I started to look forward to meeting with my therapist. I would be lying if I told you that our sessions were easy, that there were no tears, or that I didn’t face the painful things of my past that haunted me. But through the challenges and pain my therapist and I found a rhythm. With my willingness to be vulnerable, she began to truly understand and know me as a whole person. Unlike my family and friends who only saw the side of me I felt they would accept, I let her in to all parts of me.
I eventually looked forward to our sessions because we had established a safe relationship. I had never met someone more genuine, empathetic, and nonjudgmental. I felt comfortable in her office to be myself. Anger, yelling, tears, guilt, shame, fear, ambivalence, joy, and laughter were not off limits. It was a space for me to explore my past and see growth in my present. Having the motivation to be raw and real with my therapist took courage and strength. But once I was able to be myself without any masks, transformation started to happen. With the support of my therapist, I was able to make leaps and bounds on my journey to wholeness.
Having a therapeutic relationship can indeed feel awkward and unnatural at times. But if you are willing to lean into the discomfort, you will likely find that a strong therapeutic relationship is one that brings an immense amount of healing along with it.
By Jessica Sapp - Psychology Student Intern from PLNU