I get loads of questions come through on #AskEmmy about your concerns and worries about what it is you think your therapist might be thinking about you. A common theme is that people are really worried that they are going to be judged and not believed.
When somebody first comes in to see a therapist what is really worth remembering is that the therapist’s starting point is being in a position where they really want to help that person.
The starting point isn’t looking at that person and not believing them and waiting for them to prove that they are worthy of help and support. We already know that this is somebody who has taken massive steps and, in my mind, has taken great courage, to come and sit in front of a therapist. It’s not easy to come in and face a complete stranger and discuss your most intimate thoughts and feelings. We are aware that you are probably feeling very vulnerable from the start.
When you train to be a therapist there are 3 things that are really emphasised no matter what field your training is in...
One of the things that we all learn is the core conditions and they are that we have to be, as therapists, in a place of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard with regards to our clients.
It’s our job to imagine what it might feel like to walk in your shoes. In my training I spent years making sure that I developed that skill and I was, and of course, still am, really mindful of always considering what it would be like to feel the way the person sitting in front of me is feeling, in that moment. When I have got a sense of that, I am in the best position to help them.
2. Congruence (which basically means being genuine)
As a therapist, we are being honest with you, our clients. We are also being honest with ourselves about what we are experiencing and what we are feeling because what is going on between you, the client, and us, as a therapist, in the room is really important. I often think when people are really mindful of being judged and are wary about sharing things with a new person, that tells me a lot about a person in a much more general sense – that they are fearful of being intimate and that they are fearful of being vulnerable. That can be for all sorts of reasons that we uncover during our work together.
3. Unconditional Positive Regard
No matter what somebody is bringing to us, it is our job, our duty and pledge to our client, that we are going to continue to view them in a positive way. I have the ability to form an opinion about somebody’s behaviour that doesn’t impact on how I see that person. I can recognise that some behaviour may not be good but it doesn’t necessarily mean that I think that the person isn’t good. We all behave in ways that we are not proud of sometimes.
A therapist’s job is to support their clients and to help them to achieve the goals that they want to achieve.
Typically, you’re not going to find people in that role who are especially judgemental or narrow minded. A kind of prerequisite to the job is that we are not like that so next time you are thinking or worrying about what your therapist is thinking of you, maybe try to share your fears a little bit with them.
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