Dayna Sharp, LCSW
Giving Your Therapist Feedback
Much of our healthcare system is based on a model of "Expert" and "Patient", where treatment is most effective when patients are compliant with their medical treatment. As they say "the patient patiently waits". There is a power differential, and most of us wouldn't consider giving a doctor feedback.
When you enter into a therapeutic relationship, you might feel the same way. You might also really value the support you receive from your therapist, and worry that sharing feedback could offend them, or push them away.
Let me assure you--there's nothing that could be further from the truth. Therapy is most effective when you feel a strong therapeutic alliance (safe and supportive relationship) with your therapist. If you are feeling uncomfortable about yourself in the context of therapy, about your therapist, or about the relationship between the two of you, it's really important to protect your relationship--and your therapy--by speaking up!
Plus, when you feel safe enough to navigate those "here and now" moments in the therapy office, you grow the confidence and learn the skills to practice healthy communication and relationship repair with your friends and family outside of the therapy room!
When to Give Feedback
Just like any relationship, there will sometimes be disruptions in your relationship with your therapist. No one is perfect, and you will likely experience a miscommunication, misunderstanding. Other times, you may find yourself experiencing an intense feeling toward your therapist, either positive or negative.
How to Give Feedback
Speak up. Honestly tell your therapist what you are thinking and feeling.
Express anger appropriately. Talk about your feelings, how and why you are experiencing them, and what you need from your therapist. Usually there are feelings of hurt or fear underneath anger. Be open to exploring them.
Remember the difference between thoughts and feelings. While feelings are "real" and "valid", the thoughts behind them may not be true or rational. Your therapist may challenge those thoughts. Understand that your therapist is attempting to help you understand your experience.
Be open to exploring related patterns. Your therapist may explore previous relationships where there were disruptions and similar feelings. Recognizing and learning to cope with maladaptive relational patterns can be life changing and an important part of therapy!
Work with your therapist to try to understand your experience and to find a solution.
What to Expect From Your Therapist
Your therapist should welcome such discussions about here and now experiences, without becoming defensive. If they do respond in a self-protective manner, you should expect them to own their behavior, apologize and welcome an exploration of what happened in your therapeutic relationship.
Your therapist should validate your feelings, while challenging any irrational thoughts.
Your therapist should accept responsibility for their part in the interaction.
Your therapist should work with you to repair the relationship and make changes, as needed.
At Creating Space Counseling and Wellness, I don't work in the "patients patiently wait" model. While I do have extensive training and areas of expertise, my clients are the true experts of themselves. It is through our work together, through our relationship, that healing and recovery happens. "Here and now moments" can strengthen our therapeutic relationship and help you to learn about yourself and relationship patterns more deeply. My office is a safe place where you are welcome to share your thoughts, feelings and general experience, in the spirit of connecting with your best self!
Call today to see if Creating Space Counseling and Wellness could be a good match for you! 856-281-1664