That’s a loaded question I know. But liking your therapist is key to whether or not you find healing. It’s been shown that the success rate of a client’s therapy has less to do with the techniques the therapist uses, and more to do with the relationship between the therapist and the client. Simply said, if you aren’t connecting with your therapist, chances are no technique in the world is going to help you get better. Wow, no pressure there, huh?

When a client comes in to see me, I know am being judged as to whether he or she can trust me enough to tell me her story. Do I look experienced? Trustworthy? Is there a connection between us? With vets, my own veteran status plays a role. Even though I’m not a combat vet, we’re part of the same brotherhood, and that holds weight in our relationship. Know though, that it may take several sessions for you as the client, and me the therapist (or any therapist), to click and even more sessions for you to begin to open up. Try not to decide after the first session whether it’s going to work or not. Give the relationship a couple sessions at least before making any decisions.

So what is your role in therapy? Well, that’s pretty simple. You have to be willing to open up to your therapist, tell your story, and to fully participate in your therapy. Okay, so maybe that’s not so simple to do, and frankly it’s a bit frightening to think about. I know that. Clients will tell me, “I don’t want to go there yet.” That’s okay. You don’t have to give every little detail of your life or relive frame-by-frame the trauma you experienced. And if your therapist asks you to do that and you can’t, it’s okay to say, I can’t go there. A therapist might push you to tell that part of your story as that often helps with your therapy, but you should do so only when you are ready to and feel safe to do so.

Here’s a little secret about therapy. You drive the therapeutic process. Yes, the therapist is the professional and has a plan, but this is your therapy session, not your therapist’s. However, you also have to be a full participant in therapy. That means talking to your therapist, doing homework that might be assigned or practicing techniques your therapist shows you. You and your therapist are a team in this, but in the end your therapist is only the coach; you’re the one in the game doing the work.

Here’s something else you should know about therapists. We’ve all worked through a lot of our own “stuff” before even sitting down with you. In fact, most of us became therapists because we first sat in the chair you’re in. Having been in your place, I know it is scary and intimidating to bare your soul to a stranger. I continue to be amazed and honored that anyone would trust me with his hurts and allow me into his life like this. It’s not something that I take lightly. I’ve wanted to cry with those I’ve worked with when they are crying and hurting so much, and I’ll admit, that there are times after working with someone I have shed tears as I’ve tried to process everything that was shared with me. I know I am not alone in having done this. But I, and the other therapists I work with, would have it no other way.

Jane McGill, MA, LPCC, NCC, Clinical Counseling 720-707-9119

(This post was written by me a couple years ago and first published on the Battle in Distress website. )