June 12, 2024

One Way To Know If You're Receiving Meaningful Therapy

This is such an important question. One that any healthy therapy relationship will discuss.

"You know you're receiving meaningful psychotherapy if you can:

A) Tell your therapist that you're angry with them.

B) They respond with curiosity and not defensiveness." - Dr. Jonathan Shedler

This is a bit of a provocative answer. We don't seek to be doing therapy with someone who makes us angry often. The point that Dr. Shedler is making is that psychotherapy is a relationship and if it's going to be a meaningful enough relationship to help create change, there needs to be a capacity to talk about any issue that comes up. Including feelings of frustration, disappointment, confusion, disagreement, etc. towards the therapist. This is the type of relationship that must be present for therapy to foster significant change.

As therapists, we rely on our clients for the content of therapy. We are not mind readers or gurus who tell our clients what is happening. Instead, we are trained to listen, interpret and share what we are hearing and where our mind goes with it. So if a client does not bring in the uncomfortable parts of what is bringing them to therapy, we may realize that something like that is happening but we will not then know what those uncomfortable parts are. We need our clients to take those risks.

Secondly, the therapy between the client and therapist inevitably includes interpersonal patterns that are part of a clients life. It is essential that in therapy we address those patterns, develop insight into them and rework them. To do this meaningfully, the therapy relationship itself must be discussed. At times, this might even include uncomfortable feelings like anger. If a client is unwilling to speak up about feeling this way or the therapist is defensive, the amount of meaningful change that can take place is impaired.

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