Research shows that the therapeutic alliance — the bond between therapist and client — is a strong predictor of how successful therapy will be. The stronger the therapeutic alliance, the more likely the client is to accomplish their therapy goals. However, in order to reach this level of success, a firm foundation of trust is essential.
The importance of building trust
It is understandable why a client would have hesitations when approaching counseling. The topics that people attend counseling to address are often those of a vulnerable nature, perhaps even causing shame or embarrassment in the individual. Clients may additionally feel skeptical towards the process of mental health counseling and therefore disinclined to share intimate, personal details.
It might be helpful to know that counselors go through a great deal of training in order to provide a non-judgmental, safe and even comfortable experience. Therapy will move at the pace you are comfortable with, and you should never be pushed to open up about issues you don’t feel ready to discuss.
Just as your counselor works to provide you with a comfortable and supportive atmosphere, you should strive to bring a sense of trust to your sessions – while it can feel incredibly vulnerable to trust another person with your personal story and experience, the only way your counselor can truly help is if you authentically tell them what is going on.
Without trust in your counselor, the root of the problem may never be fully addressed, leaving you dissatisfied with the counseling process overall.
How to build trust with your counselor
There are numerous benefits of trust, including a more open, honest and free conversation with your therapist, increased success in therapy and improved mental health over time. However, in order to experience these benefits, you need to first build trust in your counselor.
Understand that it may take time
Walking into your therapist’s office can feel very overwhelming the first time, and meeting your therapist initially can be a stressful experience in and of itself. Your counselor isn’t going to expect you to begin telling them every last detail on the first day, so be at peace knowing that.
The initial meeting is much more simple, and your counselor will work to put you at ease simply by asking you about yourself and what you hope to gain from therapy. Know that you don’t need to give your entire life story the first day, but be open to the fact that this person is willing to help you get there over time.
Tell them your hesitations
If you have a difficult time trusting people, have had a negative experience with therapy in the past or aren’t confident you’ll be willing to trust your therapist right away, let them know. It’s better for your therapist to know where you are coming from than to pretend that you’re totally at ease with the situation.
By telling your therapist your hesitations, they can understand the pace at which you move and the topics you do or do not approach more easily. This allows them to better help you reach your treatment goals and provide you with a more personalized, intentional treatment plan.
Know that they want to make you feel safe
If your “normal” has been in a constant state of danger or feeling unsafe, you might not be able to recognize what a safe situation feels or looks like. The safe environment of therapy might feel completely abnormal to you, therefore causing you to put up walls against what your therapist has to offer.
Be patient with yourself and tell yourself that the normal you are used to might not, in fact, be normal at all. Recognize that the safe environment your therapist is trying to create isn’t one of false security, but rather, one meant to help you feel safe and secure in the long run. The more you tell yourself that therapy is safe, the more you will trust yourself, your decision and your therapist in turn.
Building trust in therapy
Knowing that counselors are trained in using an empathetic and non-judgmental approach and have to abide by confidentiality laws will hopefully ease some of the hesitancies you may have against opening up to your therapist. If you are still wary of the counseling process, don’t be afraid of letting your therapist know.
If you are in need of a therapist, consider reaching out to The Light Program to begin your mental health journey today. Call us anytime at 610-644-6464 or contact us via our website to learn more.