Collaborating with your therapist


I know a lot. I do. But the more I learn, the more I realize how much I do not know. Sometimes I go to therapy conferences and continuing education classes and learn amazing things. I can’t wait to use the new information. Learning also means there are plenty of times when I look back at moments in therapy and cringe at my therapist self. “Samonsonite?! I was WAY off!”

Think about it, I can’t always say the perfect thing, that’s not humanly possible.

Sometimes I make unhelpful assumptions. Sometimes I forget your boyfriend’s name. Sometimes I say the exact wrong thing.

Doing therapy is like navigating a maze. As your therapist, I saw the map on the way in, and I’ve been in a ton of other mazes. I’m a maze expert. I read about mazes, I go to conferences about mazes. I do mazes professionally, hours every week. Who better to be in a maze with right? Well, I think so.

However, that does not mean that maze experts never make a wrong turn. I am often honored by the faith my clients put in me. Much of the time, I know my counsel can help. Other times, it just doesn’t, and its important for clients to be honest about this.

Therapists do not know everything! We just know a lot about specific things. This is why it is so important for you to work with your therapist. It is important for them to have your feedback. They need to know not just if you did your therapy homework, but what was it like to try to do it. They need to know about when you tried their advice and it failed. They need to know when they have offended you. They need to know when you feel dumped on. They need to know because while they may be wise in certain areas, they are not all knowing. There are things ONLY YOU can tell them.

I notice that humans tend to shy away from questioning or correcting people in certain positions. Therapy will be forever worse off, if clients are unable to give feedback.

Therapists need:

  1. Your insight about your life
  2. Your failures and successes
  3. Your honest feedback about their advice
  4. Your true frustrations with therapy
  5. Your true reactions to the therapist

Therapists are not one trick ponies. If in walking a section of the maze with them you slam into a dead end, the therapist is not going to be offended. In fact, they are going to be excited because they are even more sure what direction to move in. The more dead ends they see with you, the more certain they become about the specific challenges you face. In fact, some of the most important moments in therapy is when you hit a dead end and wall slam. The things this can teach you about you and your problem are priceless.

Help yourself. Don’t go to therapy to become an A+ therapy client, only doing what the therapist asks, and perfectly. Go to therapy to have a real relationship with someone who will hopefully help you. Real relationships take work, have to be talked about, and inevitably; every real relationship you will have will disappoint you every now and then. Your therapist WANTS you to be honest. If you want to switch therapists, go ahead! Therapists would rather have you working with someone who can help than staying put and staying silent just to appease your fear of confrontation.

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