The therapeutic relationship, also called the therapeutic alliance, refers to how a therapist and a client connect, behave, and interact with each other in the therapy room. Today, many counselors view this bond as a key tool in helping clients make positive changes in their lives. Therefore, the ability to develop a strong, trusting therapeutic relationship is now considered an essential skill in the mental health field.
Why Is A Trusting Therapeutic Relationship So Important?
People generally behave like their true selves when they are around other individuals that they trust. This is the reason most people tend to relax and open up when they are with their close friends or family members. However, some individuals who seek therapy may actually feel uncomfortable around their loved ones. Mental health counselors recognize that forging a close, trusting therapeutic relationship is essential for helping clients to relax, lower their defenses, and speak honestly about the issues that are affecting them.
There are a number of factors that may contribute to a client feeling tense and distrustful during therapy. Some of these factors include:
- A history of trauma
- Having a negative past experience in therapy
- Feeling as if he or she was forced into therapy against his or her wishes
- Fear of being judged by the therapist if certain issues are shared
- Experiencing certain mental health conditions such as anxiety
- Feeling uncomfortable in the therapy room
- Social stigma associated with therapy
It is estimated that 20% of clients leave therapy early because they find it difficult to open up and share their emotions. So what specific things can therapists do to strengthen the therapeutic alliance? Consider these ten suggestions:
- Make the client feel welcome and physically comfortable
- Give the therapeutic relationship enough time to develop
- Avoid judging the client
- Keep your personal emotions under control
- Plan your questions before starting the therapy session
- Vary the way you ask questions
- Make the client feel heard
- Find out what the client wants to achieve in therapy
- Focus on the needs of the client
- Show warmth, empathy, and compassion
If you are experiencing mental or emotional concerns, speaking with a therapist may help. The therapists at BetterHelp are licensed mental health professionals who offer compassionate care. Therapy can help you to identify and process the issues you are facing right now. You can also learn effective skills to help you manage emotional challenges that arise in the future.