What is a therapeutic relationship?
"Therapy is two real human beings, in a room together, focusing on one." (Mick Cooper)
I loved this quotation written by a fellow therapist when I heard it. It so simply describes the core of what I aim to do when I work with clients. Counselling is a relationship that aims to be as genuine as possible and with the focus always on the person who's in that room to get their needs met (the client).
When I work, I don't put on my counsellor clothes (what would those be? Cardigans and scarves maybe?!). I don't arm myself with a list of techniques and advice to then apply to the people I work with. Instead I go to a session with an eagerness to listen carefully to what's being said and what's just underneath so that I can understand what the person I'm talking with is experiencing. I'm wondering what thoughts and feelings we might uncover together about what might ease their discomfort. I go in expecting to learn from them far more than I go in expecting to teach them something.
However, if I do this with a blank face and a totally neutral demeanour I wouldn't gain anybody's trust - that would probably even make me a little scary to sit with. I need to be there as another genuine and open person. I try to be as open to learning from and being changed by meeting with my clients as much as they might be changed by our time together. I try to be open to anything and everything that they might share. And I try to be open enough to also share my experience of our time together (without taking over the sessions with my stuff).
So what might this mean for you as a client? Hopefully it means that you can find a place where you can explore thoughts, feelings and experiences that are difficult to share elsewhere where well-meaning friends and relatives might offer advice and tell you about their similar experiences. Hopefully it means you feel a freedom to have your own insights, make connections and find meanings about the things that have been causing you distress. And hopefully we can both feel a deep connection as two human beings briefly sharing some time together to work through those things in this big, big universe we both live in.