When I was in graduate school, we were often taught about the “therapeutic alliance.” That feeling the therapist extends to a client to let them know we are aligned with them and their needs, desires, hopes, fears, and anything else he is bringing into the therapy room. I am struck by how clinician-focused this term is when therapists-in-training are taught about it in school.
Yes, the therapist must align and become an ally to one who is seeking therapy, but even more important is for the client to feel an alliance with his therapist. I believe school teaches practitioners that this will happen naturally for the client if we align ourselves with them and, yet, I feel that a client must gauge for themselves if someone if therapeutically attuning to him.
How can you even know if a therapist is forming an alliance with you? And what if the therapist is doing all the right things, but it just doesn’t feel right to you?
Aha! Those are the important questions to keep in mind when creating a new relationship with a therapist. We have been taught how to form an alliance with you, but I don’t think there is much thought given to educating the public who seek therapy regarding whether someone is a good fit or not for you.
My number one suggestion to you is to gain an intuitive sense about what you are looking for in a clinician. Do you want someone direct or perhaps indirect? Do you want someone to stay silent or do you really need to have the person responding to you throughout the session? Are you interested in learning new coping skills or are you there to take a deep dive into old patterns? Depending on your answers to these types of questions, you can observe if the therapist sitting in front of you is going to form an alliance that is supportive of you and your unique self.
There is no one therapist who can meet everyone’s needs and desires. That is not even the point. As much as you the client are unique, so too are the therapists. We have been taught a particular set of skills to align with you, but it is general and not specific to any one person. The magic is when you find a therapist who does align with what you need and who you are that can make the work be wholly attuned to you.
And what if we are doing everything that seems like we are a good match and alliance for you, but you are still not feeling it? It’s completely OK to be honest about it not being the right match for you. We are always trying our best to match and align with you, and we also know it doesn’t always happen. Find your voice and say as much.
The therapeutic alliance is a must and is a golden space when we align from both sides — the Clinician and Client sides.