How does therapy work?
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dave Rutlidge
11th December, 2010
I'm often asked how therapy works, and even if it works at all. Those of us who have experienced emotional growth through counselling can readily understand that it's not an easy question to answer. There is no "magic pill" in therapy, rather it's the relationship between the client and the therapist, ideally one of trust and mutual respect, routed in the security of confidentiality, that becomes the platform for healing.
This concept, that's it's all about the relationship, rather than tools and techniques, can be difficult to convey and therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which has measurable results built in, have gained popularity in part because it offers more immediate proof of change, though effective outcome measures are available for all forms of therapy.
While it's always been at the heart of Person Centred Therapy, and underpins all therapeutic models, recent publications have emphasised that it is the relationship that provides the major impetus to emotional change. Research by Trisha Stratford, of Sydney, Australia, has revealed a “sixth sense”: moments when two minds connect and are in sync, which can be extremely healing.
This new research, which seems to reinforce the work of Mearns and Cooper on Relational Depth, uses brain imaging to show the synchronous brain activity that occurs between client and therapist, offering proof of the effect of relationship in the therapeutic process. I have witnessed this many times in my career: when conditions are favourable and clients feel safe enough to trust the therapeutic process, personal growth inevitably takes place.
This research highlights the importance of the relationship between client and counsellor. As with any relationship, this is a union of two individuals and not all combinations work well. It's, therefore, important that that both parties feel comfortable with and trust one another. If the relationship's not working, both the therapist and the client should acknowledge this and it may be appropriate to seek referral to another counsellor. Doing so is not a sign of failure or rejection on either side.
However, if a client repeatedly finds it difficult to engage with multiple therapists this may indicate a deeper, more general, difficulty establishing relationships. In such instance,sticking at it and working through the difficulty can be a very effective way of addressing the issue.
You can find more information regarding Trisha's research here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1315326/Sixth-sense-really-does-exist-Research-shows-brains-couples-love-work-together.html
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