Working in private practice means never knowing what people are going to present with which is one of the reasons I enjoy working for myself. I am still constantly amazed by people’s bravery when coming to therapy initially and talking about something in their lives which has caused them pain or how they have caused others pain, for example. However, the relationship between therapist and client is paramount whatever is being looked at therapeutically. This might sound too simplistic but it can be quite tricky if we are faced with someone who has done something which we find difficult to make sense of. This, of course, is different for everyone. What I find hard to comprehend might seem obvious and less offensive to another. However, when I stay focused on the therapeutic relationship and not the behaviour of the person, I can find a way to engage us both in the work.
Often, relationship issues are present for the client externally as people try to come to terms with whatever has happened so a good therapist needs to be able to offer their client good role modelling of behaviour in relationships. The quality of this relationship is vital and of course it includes all the lovely therapeutic words such as trust, respect, empathy and understanding hopefully the foundations of all relationships not specifically therapeutic. I think genuine care about this person’s life is incredibly important but this care has to be boundaried which sounds like a contradiction in terms. It is indeed a thin wire to walk across, for another human to feel cared about and thought about but not in any way intrusive or invasive. I’m not sure if these are skills which can be taught on courses or if they are intrinsic or become developed over years experiencing different humans.
This can be highlighted when working in couples counselling as the relationship is the focus of both people in the relationship and as a therapist, mediating between two people whilst remaining neutral is vital for successful outcomes. This type of work often raises anxiety in one or both of the people involved as it can be an exposing experience to have someone witness what is often played out behind closed doors. The therapist is really asking both parties to engage in the therapeutic relationship whilst they are trying to figure out what has happened in their own relationship. This all sounds quite difficult and I think it is but the results can be so worthwhile and the quality of relationships can be enhanced by therapeutic intervention.
I hope that reading this will encourage people to engage in the potentially life-changing experience of relating with another human being therapeutically, up close and personal.