Some of my clients told me that our relationship is much more intimate and special than with their life partners, family members and even close friends.
What they meant was their willingness and unreserved sharing with me about their deepest and innermost desires, secrets, fears, regrets, pains, woes and other things they have not disclosed, or ever will, with others.
This unique relationship is indeed possible. Especially so, when both of us have already established a strong sense of therapeutic alliance, which is intensive, trustful, respectful and professional!
Yet, I have to emphasize that this rapport and understanding between a client and therapist is a long journey.
Just like how author, research professor and lecturer, Dr Brené Brown, wrote in her number one New York Times bestseller book, “Atlas of the Heart” (https://brenebrown.com/book/atlas-of-the-heart), we are “Mapmakers and Travellers”.
And one particular quote in the book resonated with me, “Even when we have no idea where we are or where we’re going, with the right map, we can find our way back to our heart and to our truest self.”
To me, this quote depicts vividly and reflectively one of the therapy goals, based on a profound yet professional connection that I have developed with most of my clients.
In many situations, my clients and I need to play the difficult but rewarding role of a Mapmaker and Traveller together, co-creating and journeying side-by-side on the personalised path of discovery, recovery, reconciliatory, bravery and victory – for themselves or their loved ones.
The First Listener
At the end of the first therapy session with my clients, many would comment that they felt heard, understood, relieved and accepted. Such an experience was rare to them, as not many people in their lives had “listened” to them before.
As a professional therapist, I am humbled and honoured to be likely the first person in my clients’ lives, who could genuinely and actively listen to them with empathic understanding, unconditional positive regard, and without judgement.
Of course, the therapy services are not just only about listening to my clients. It is just a first step for case conceptualisation and formulating the individualised intervention and/or treatment plan for their respective issues and concerns.
These are the key factors for me to nurture and cultivate a strong therapeutic alliance with them. With such a sturdy bond, they will likely feel safe enough to trust and be comfortable with me. Thus, facilitating a sense of common goals or purposes, as a “fellow traveller” in therapy.
A Goody-Stuffed Haversack
Empathy and compassion from therapists continue to be integral factors in not only forming the therapeutic relationship but also increasing clients’ ability to feel validated and understood.
This is important because based on more than four decades of research on psychotherapy outcomes, the theories and techniques of professional therapy have very little to do with therapeutic success (https://counsellingresource.com/lib/what-works/).
Instead, many research studies support that therapeutic alliance remains a key component of creating successful outcomes in psychotherapy (https://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1057&context=msw_papers).
The findings also concur that clients’ level of personal motivation, personality characteristics, and symptomatology do play a role in their therapeutic outcomes.
So, what exactly contributes to the psychotherapy outcomes?
According to a classic study by Lambert, M.J. (1992), “Implications of Outcome Research for Psychotherapy Integration”, these are the factors and their importance:
40% - client and extratherapeutic factors (such as ego strength, social support, etc.)
30% - therapeutic relationship (such as empathy, warmth, and encouragement of risk-taking)
15% - expectancy and placebo effects
15% - techniques unique to specific therapies
What does this mean?
A therapist might have, or could have 60% of “sense of control” over the psychotherapy outcomes, while a client has the remaining 40%.
A trained and caring therapist should be familiar with the social support networks and community resources available to his/her clients, for helping them in identifying and using these resources as well.
However, all these are made possible, only when clients feel secure and accept the therapists’ approach, which are contributed by the attitudes, authenticity, characteristics and personhood of the therapists.
With a well-built therapeutic alliance, I am in a better position to facilitate my clients to conduct a future-self visualisation. This exercise allows them to immerse themselves to maximise their potential in various aspects of life. I will also need to lead and guide them to make their own life map together with me. This life map is to open up all the possibilities, based on the direction they aim to explore, may it be short, middle or long term.
Then, my other vital tasks are to ensure that they are empowered to throw away all their life baggage, and replace them with a travelling haversack that is full of purpose, hope, courage, energy and positivity!
If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse. If I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I will help you become that. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
This article is written based on Krish Phua's greatest aspiration to be a mind healer, facilitating his clients to cultivate and explore "Inside Mind Insights" for improving their Wellness, Wholeness and Wiseness.
Other articles of Krish Phua:
Sow a Seed - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/sow-a-seed
Last Man Standing - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/last-man-standing
In or Out - https://www.oberdanmarianetti.com/post/in-or-out