What does it mean to have 'a relationship' with your counsellor?
When people think of relationships the image is often of two people starting an intimate relationship together - seldom do people (who aren’t therapists) think much else. So what does it mean to have a relationship with your counsellor?
When looking for the right counsellor it is OK to ask to speak face to face first, before committing to weekly sessions. It’s all individual.
The relationship between client and therapist is sometimes referred to as ‘the working alliance’. This means there is a hope to fully engage with each other in order to promote change in the client - which will be for their benefit.
How does this happen? Firstly trust is needed. As in any relationship, it’s difficult to talk to someone when there is no trust. Once trust has developed (this can happen immediately, or over several weeks) the ‘relationship’ can develop. This relationship has boundaries though, which means that sessions are generally held weekly for approximately one hour. Through dialogue (or another medium) as trust develops, client goals can be reached.
As with any relationship there can be ruptures (a rift or break), but these can be worked through very well in therapy and it is advisable to do so. This can help the relationship to strengthen, and if it has been difficult working through problems in other social relationships, the therapy relationship is a good place to practice.
In most of the relationships we look for, generally we want to be with someone who we get on well with - male or female - and someone who supports us in our move forward. Relationships in therapy can also be challenging and can help the client to see things differently.
So what does it mean to have a relationship with your therapist? It essentially means that there is a safe place to begin to trust another person; working through the hurt of past experiences and brokenness and having support in the move forward - emotionally and psychologically. As with all relationships, sometimes it can be difficult - there may be tears or laughter - but ultimately the relationship should help to make you a stronger person, more self assured and yes, ‘you’ can come back again.