Your Therapy

5 Questions to Ask Yourself After the First Few Sessions

From time to time, I’ll be turning over my blog to other therapists specialising in depression from the Your Therapy team, so they can share their own insights on mental- health issues. Today’s post, on the important topic of the therapeutic relationship, is by Mary Benedetti.

In my previous blog, I explained some of the factors to consider when looking for a therapist. This time, I’d like to move forward to the next step: understanding the therapist-client relationship. 

As you might expect, a strong therapeutic relationship is one of the best predictors of a successful outcome to therapy. We have a significant body of research saying as much. Literature on the common factors that create change in the context of therapy indicates that the therapeutic relationship has a bigger impact on whether therapy is effective than what specific method the therapist employs.

Why is the relationship with your therapist an important mechanism for therapeutic change?

At the heart of it, a strong and trusting relationship helps the client feel safe to share freely and honestly with the therapist. It follows that the more open we are with our therapist, the better the collaboration and the more effective the work.

We are relational creatures, with brains wired for connection and attachment. As pack animals, our evolution and survival depended on being part of a group that worked together to meet our needs. When we feel securely attached to a trusted therapist—feeling seen, heard and understood, our emotional needs are being met, which then enables us to show up authentically. 

Thankfully, when we experience a sense of security, acceptance and care in the trusting relationship we have with our therapist, this lived-experience can enable us to better understand and counteract the effects of difficult past experiences in trusting relationships. When the connection between client and therapist is strong, clients often access greater self-awareness and better connect to their intrinsic drive to move towards what is best for them.

To determine if your therapeutic relationship is likely to be successful, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself:

  1.  How comfortable were you speaking with your therapist?
  2.  Does the therapist take steps to help you share when you may be struggling with a question?
  3.  Are you connecting or “vibing” with them?
  4.  Do you get the sense that they are non-judgmental, genuinely interested in you, and respectful of your stated or implicit boundaries? 
  5.  Can you see yourself becoming more comfortable with them over time?

The answers to these questions will help you determine if this therapist is a good fit for you.

Since early sessions are about getting to know each other and building comfort, there’s a lot of ground to cover. Building a basis for a strong working relationship takes time. So, if you are on the fence, you may consider waiting until you’ve had two or three sessions before you make a decision about continuing with this particular therapist.

Another important sign to look out for, is whether your therapist is open to talking through any discomfort you feel in session with them. Remember, therapists are trained to have conversations about uncomfortable experiences. Being honest with a therapist about ways they misunderstood you, or made you feel less connected, is a form of respect for both of you. Actually, these conversations can often be a meaningful way to get clarity about triggers or give the therapist a chance to better understand you and reconnect. I always tell my clients that sharing their discomfort and concerns helps me do my job better, which is good for both of us. 

Build a trusting relationship with a depression therapist in Toronto

Ultimately, these considerations can aid in gauging if you are building a trusting and collaborative relationship with your therapist, overtime. For it is this relationship that is always the cornerstone of good therapy. 

Your Therapy is a safe, welcoming, counselling therapy practice in the Greater Toronto Area. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to reach out with questions about talk therapy or other mental health issues. We offer depression therapy, anxiety therapy and more.

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