Relationships can be a challenge for anyone, but living with anxiety sometimes makes relationships feel more challenging. That is why anxiety treatment almost always addresses your satisfaction with the people in your life; but did you ever stop to consider the significance of your relationship with your psychotherapist? Yes, it is important that your therapist is adequately qualified and competent enough to help you. You may also be interested in a particular therapeutic approach in which your therapist has expertise. While these attributes are important, my current focus is more personal than these attributes. While it is essential that your therapist has clinical experience in helping clients achieve results, how you relate with him or her on an emotional level is just as crucial.
Cultivate an Emotional Connection
Can you feel your therapist's kindness and support? How you feel in your emotional relationship with your therapist, your rapport with him or her, is the primary component for therapeutic healing and therapeutic change in your treatment. This dimension of your psychotherapy relationship acts as the engine for positive progress and the foundation for trust.
Building this trust is not only essential for your treatment, it is also essential for building and strengthening the trust in your other relationships. In this way, feeling comfortable with your psychotherapist can make it easier to relieve your anxiety symptoms. It also helps you grow more confident with others. With this type of comfort and trust in your psychotherapist, your anxiety relief begins when you walk into your therapy session.
Prepare Yourself to Begin Trusting
Part of your contribution to the psychotherapy relationship is your willingness to cultivate it. This goes beyond just coming in for the visit. It can include asking questions you may be afraid to ask or voicing your opinion, even when it may not be in agreement with your therapist's perspective. The strength of the relationship with your therapist is reflected by your ability to collaborate and resolve differences when they arise. Very often, anxiety will invite you to avoid a situation, even if facing and resolving it will help you heal and grow.
If you are currently looking for a psychotherapist to help you with your anxiety or other mental health concerns, here are some questions to keep in mind:
- How responsive is the therapist to your first call or email? A responsive therapist will make initial contact with you the same day or early the following day if you made your first call in the evening. An experienced psychotherapist will be busy, but will always make your call a priority.
- How do you feel after the therapist responds to your first contact? Someone who is a good match for you will want to know some detail about your needs and what you wish to accomplish in treatment. Make this time count and ask questions about the therapist's experience in treating anxiety, including the therapist's particular treatment methods. Be sure to ask about your scheduling and payment needs. At the end of the conversation, did you feel heard and understood? If so, you may want to schedule a consultation to meet the therapist in person.
- How do you feel after your first visit with the therapist? You have already had positive contact with the therapist by phone or email. Your visit should confirm the good feelings that have already been generated. If your first visit was a positive experience (you continued to feel heard and understood, felt relaxed, and reassured by the proposed treatment), you can schedule a follow-up visit. If this is not the result at the end of your first visit, you may not be sure that this therapist is a good match for you. Consider the emotional intimacy that occurs when you share a meal with someone you care about and who cares about you. That type of unspoken presence is what supports an in-person psychotherapy visit. Take time to reflect on your concerns and discuss them with someone you trust. You may wish to meet for one or two more visits to have more experience with the therapist before making a final decision to continue treatment.
Gradually Trust a Therapist to Help You
Your psychotherapy relationship may be one of the most important relationships you will ever have. Be sure from the initial contact with your prospective therapist that there is enough common ground to begin your collaborative work together. Your psychotherapy relationship will grow from there. It has the potential to deeply satisfy and heal you emotionally. I wish you well on your healing journey and with the growth of your relationship with your psychotherapist.
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Date of original publication: August 20, 2014