The Therapeutic Relationship
In psychotherapy, the working alliance refers to the relationship between therapist and client. In this relationship both work together to achieve positive change for the client. This therapeutic relationship is arguably, and increasingly accepted as, the most important and powerful factor when it comes to making progress in therapy.
In order for a healthy therapeutic alliance to be established, the therapist must first and foremost create a safe and non-judgemental space. For, to achieve any goals in therapy, it is imperative that the client knows that they can share any of their thoughts, feelings or experiences without fear of being judged or shamed. It is the primary job of the therapist to establish trust by meeting the client where they are, not pushing before they are ready and going at the client’s pace.
Therapy is an important space to practice the communication skills that may be difficult in other relationships such as being assertive and giving feedback. Thus, in a healthy therapeutic relationship a client will feel safe and empowered enough to let the therapist know if and when they said something that was hurtful or did not sit well with them. This often takes courage but can yield important results, deepen the relationship and set the stage for changes in communication in relationships outside of therapy. Therapists are humans too, we make mistakes, and it is important that we are honest about this. A therapeutic relationship is collaborative and based on teamwork. The therapy belongs to the client, and the therapist is there to hold the space safely and provide guidance and feedback.