First contact

Guiding principles for therapy

1. Feeling OK about the work of therapy

I found it unhelpful to me because the therapist just wanted to follow her own agenda and not talk much about the things I felt I needed to talk about.

A guiding principle for any client or patient is that you should feel the therapist is listening to you and that you understand the goals and tasks of therapy and how the session relates to them. You should feel safe, even though you might be upset or emotional about things you are talking about.

2. ‘Working together’?

There is a common view that the therapist and client work together – that is, the work is a process of collaboration between both people. This collaboration should occur in the following ways:

  • There should be agreement between the client and therapist as to the area or topic they are going to work on. This is not necessarily to say that the client always chooses the area. It may be that the therapist feels that talking about one issue is a useful way forward even if the client finds it difficult. However, the client needs to understand why this area, rather than any other, needs to be addressed now. That is, the therapist should explain why they are working in the way they are.
  • When talking about a particular issue, the therapist needs to be responsive to what the client is saying and working with the material they provide. That is, there will always be a connection of some form between what the therapist is saying and the expressed concerns of the client.

3. Attending regularly and on time

Everyone wants their therapy to be successful in the sense that they want to experience improvement in how they feel. What can a patient do to help the process?

  • Therapy is a process and involves a commitment of time and effort. Therapy often involves dealing with difficult issues and there will be times when a person feels like missing a session. However, it is probably more helpful to attend than not to attend.
  • It will also help being on time. Sessions usually start and end on time, and having your full session is important.

4. Being open and honest with your therapist

It may sound easy to say, but being as open about your feelings as you can is likely to work best. A therapist will work with what you tell them and they will often try and see what might be ‘unsaid’. But therapists are not telepathic. On the other hand, you are unlikely to talk about areas of concern unless you are ready and feel safe enough to do so.
Some issues may only come to the fore after a number of sessions – as you and the therapist develop a working relationship and as a fuller picture emerges of the issues and how they relate to each other, you may become aware of other related points that were not previously in your mind.