The Importance of Therapeutic Relationships
A therapeutic relationship is an effective way to promote positive change in people. It involves building trust in order to encourage openness and honesty. This leads to better understanding. Those people who are undergoing any type of therapy will want this type of interaction with their therapist. This is because such a relationship will produce the right conditions for them to be able to get the most from these sessions. The therapist will also be keen to promote this type of interaction because they know that it will produce the best results. It could be said that without such a relationship the therapy will be unlikely to provide much benefit.
Therapeutic Relationships Defined
A therapeutic relationship takes place between a professional and a client they are trying to help. It differs from other types of relationship because the focus will be on helping the client experience positive change. It is by nature an unequal relationship because the therapist will be in a position of power; they will be using their knowledge and skills to help the client. Such a relationship can only develop with the permission of the client, and it can take a few meetings before it begins to develop. This means that not every encounter between a therapist and a client will be therapeutic in nature.
Elements of a Quality Therapeutic Relationship
In order for a quality therapeutic relationship to be established it is necessary for it to contain certain elements including:
* Clear boundaries
* Self awareness
* Good rapport
* Good communication
The Benefits of a Therapeutic Relationship
The benefits of a therapeutic relationship include:
* If the client trusts the therapist they will be far more likely to accept any advice or guidance.
* Such a relationship encourages people to be more open about their inner thoughts and feelings. The client feels safe so they are happy to divulge such information.
* Empathy allows the therapist to better understand where the client is coming from
* A therapeutic relationship is empowering to the client. They will tend to view the therapist more as a resource than as somebody who tries to tell them what to do.
* The client walks away from such an encounter feeling like somebody has really listened to them.
The Importance of Empathy in a Therapeutic Relationship
When people experience empathy it means that they can identify with another individual’s experience. This allows one person to put themselves in the place of another human to better understand their difficulties. Empathy often gets confused with sympathy, but there are important differences between the two. To have sympathy is when one person feels pity for another without really understanding what the other person is feeling.
Empathy is an essential element of any therapeutic relationship. It allows the therapist to comprehend things from the client’s perspective. This improved understanding will help to ensure that therapy moves in the most productive direction. The client will be more willing to comply with any guidance because they really feel that the therapist understands their needs.
Trust and Confidentiality in a Therapeutic Relationship
If there is no trust there can be no therapeutic relationship. Trust is as important to the therapist as the scalpel is to the surgeon. In order to benefit from therapy the client has to be willing to share their biggest concerns and secrets. They will only do this if they feel certain that it is safe to do so. Building trust usually takes time, and it has to be earned. Part of the process of creating trust will be respecting confidentiality. The client needs to feel assured that any information they provide will not be used in any way that could harm them. Another important aspect of building trust is acceptance. If the client feels that they are being judged negatively in any way then they will not be willing to be more open about themselves.
Professionalism and Boundaries in Therapeutic Relationships
In order for a therapeutic relationship to develop there needs to be clear boundaries and the therapist needs to act in professional manner at all times. This does not mean that being cold and clinical. The therapist should be friendly, but keep in mind they are not the client’s friend. It is not a relationship of equals because the therapist is in a position of power where they could take advantage of the other person. If the boundaries between the two break down it can be very damaging. The client will be in a vulnerable position, and they will be depending on the therapist to always act in a professional manner. The therapist is encouraged to empathize, but they also need to maintain the ability to be objective.
Therapeutic Relationships and Addiction Recovery
Those individuals who are dealing with addiction problems can benefit greatly from a therapeutic relationship. Addicts can find it difficult to trust professionals because they may feel that they are being judged negatively. This may be due to bad experiences in the past. Once they recognize that the therapist is genuinely trying to help them, and shows signs of understanding them, they will be more willing to allow a therapeutic relationship to blossom.