Optimising the therapy experience

What is the role of a therapist?

Clients can come into psychological therapy with a whole range of assumptions or beliefs about the role of the person they are going to be seeing. However, it is not only clients who may have unexamined assumptions about the role of the therapist. Alongside thinking about the elements of a ‘good’ therapy, it’s worth considering how you see your role – and communicating this explicitly to your clients. How far you adopt some of these roles will depend upon your training, orientation, experience, agency, setting and so on. To what extent do you function as:

  • An advisor – offering suggestions to clients about what they should or should not do.
  • An advocate – speaking out on a clients’ behalf to other professionals, agencies, etc.
  • A subject expert – sharing the knowledge and experience you have gained from working with other clients with a client who may feel very alone in their experience.
  • A social policeman – moderating your client’s needs and priorities in the light of the needs of others (particularly those in a dependent position on your client).
  • A technician – with knowledge of some specific techniques and procedures that you can apply.
  • An enabler – providing the conditions necessary for a client to make their own decisions and take their own actions.

The relative importance of some of these roles may wax and wane. Some may be complementary while others are almost in opposition. But it’s worth being clear for yourself and your clients where you stand on these and other roles you might end up playing.