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  • Mary Katherine L

The Client-Therapist Relationship - Part 1

The client-therapist relationship is unique; it is unlike any other relationship in a person's life.

The client-therapist relationship is different because of its neutrality.

Contrary to what many people think, therapists are not objective third-parties. A therapist certainly has a different kind of perspective that is informed by their training, but they are partial. More specifically, a therapist is partial to their client because the therapist has an allegiance to their client but also because their client is their only source of information. That said, therapists are able to approach problems and solutions from a zoomed-out perspective. Whereas a client may have been steeped in a situation so long that it is hard to see beyond what is immediately in front of them, the therapist can more easily see the "big picture."

In the client-therapist relationship, there is no expectation of reciprocity.

You are the focus and the only focus. In most relationships in life, this isn't the case. If one person describes their week, the other person is likely to do the same. The reciprocity is an important part of interactions. Connection happens through finding commonalities. Relationships are built on the "Me, too"s and conversations are nurtured through the "I can totally relate"s.

Finally, the therapeutic relationship should be some degree of unconditional.

This varies from therapist to therapist; it just depends on the therapist's philosophy and approach. Some therapists practice unconditional regard (meaning, they think highly of their client no matter what), and others practice unconditional empathy (meaning, they extend understanding to their client no matter what).

Personally, I practice unconditional respect and compassion. I will always respect them for who they are, and I will always advocate for who they are. I consider each client and who they are to be legitimate and worthy. Also, I show my clients compassion. This doesn't mean that I'm not willing to challenge my clients, but it does mean that I acknowledge their experience as a human with emotions.

Whatever the therapist's philosophy or approach, there should be a special sort of safety inherent in the therapeutic space that allows you to share your life without shame.


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