How do I help my therapist help me?

In the past, therapy was often characterised by a hierarchical structure, where therapists were regarded as unquestionable experts, and clients played a passive role. Therapists held the authority, making decisions about treatment without much client input, resulting in one-way communication and limited client autonomy. This approach sometimes reinforced the stigma surrounding therapy and didn't prioritise the client's perspective. However, today's therapy landscape has evolved significantly, embracing a more collaborative and client-centered model. Therapists now work with clients as equals, valuing their autonomy, strengths, and active participation


The changing dynamic

The recent phenomenon of "How do I help my therapist help me?" being a highly Googled question is a testament to this evolving nature of therapy and counselling. It reflects a growing awareness among individuals seeking therapy that their active participation in the therapeutic process can significantly impact its effectiveness.

However, there is often a clear distinction between collaborating and assisting and, often, instead of merely contemplating various ways to support your therapist, it can be insightful to explore some of the other underlying motivations behind wanting to actively engage in the relationship. This exploration can help distinguish between your desires, shedding light on your motivations and potentially revealing valuable insights about the roles you might be unconsciously taking on in your daily life.

The therapeutic relationship

In counselling, the relationship between the therapist and client is often regarded as the cornerstone of the therapeutic journey. This relationship sets the stage for open communication, trust, and emotional exploration. During your initial sessions with a therapist, one concept that commonly arises is 'transference'. Transference refers to the process of projecting feelings, often unconsciously, onto your therapist based on past experiences and relationships, particularly those with caregivers.

It's important to recognise that our emotions and reactions towards others are often shaped by our past experiences and the associations we've developed over time. When you find yourself wanting to overhelp people who are there to help you, it might be linked to patterns of behaviour and emotional dynamics from your past. Exploring these patterns and understanding their origins is a crucial step in therapy.

The value of transference and countertransference

Being open and honest about your desire to support your therapist can be a pivotal moment in your counselling journey - if you choose it to be. This is an opportunity to discuss 'countertransference', which refers to the therapist's emotional reactions and feelings that arise in response to the client's transference. Your therapist may share their own experiences and reactions to your desire to help. This candid exchange can foster a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play and pave the way for rapid progress in therapy.

Reparation, a significant aspect of therapy, involves addressing and repairing emotional wounds and patterns of behaviour that have been identified. It's invaluable material for self-discovery and personal growth. By acknowledging and working through your patterns of behaviour, you gain insight into aspects of yourself that may have been previously hidden.

Therapy is fundamentally about the client - it's their dedicated space and time for self-exploration and growth. It's essential for clients to embrace and utilise this opportunity fully, allowing themselves to engage openly and authentically in the therapeutic process without having to focus on others.

Counsellors have counsellors

In the realm of counselling, therapists regularly engage in consultations with their own personal counsellors and supervisors, seeking invaluable support and guidance. This practice underscores the significance of self-care and the acknowledgement that even those trained to assist others require assistance themselves.

The inclination to contribute to your therapist's understanding and, in turn, your own therapeutic progress is a natural and commendable facet of the therapeutic journey. It signifies your dedication to personal growth and heightened self-awareness. Embracing this desire and initiating open conversations with your therapist regarding it can yield profound insights and propel you further along your counselling path.

However, there can be instances when the rapport and trust between a client and therapist do not reach a sufficient level to continue effectively. In these cases, it may become necessary to consider the possibility of changing therapists to ensure that the therapeutic relationship is conducive to the client's growth and well-being.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9
Written by Natasha Kelly, BA (Hons) MBACP
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9

Natasha is a counsellor based in London and online. Her passion lies in helping individuals build meaningful connections and foster strong rapport. With a deep understanding of human emotions and interpersonal dynamics, she has worked as a primary school teacher and as a freelance writer on mental health.

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