Finding the right therapeutic relationship is important. If it is clear from the start that there is not going to be a good connection, it may be appropriate to try someone new. Experienced counselors realize that not every potential counselor-client relationship is the right fit and don’t take offense. I personally think it’s worth giving any counselor you see a couple of sessions to see how things go unless it is clear that things won’t work. This can be especially true in couples counseling, where it takes time to get to know you, your partner, and your concerns.
I’m a strong proponent of the value of feedback. Feedback in counseling can be particularly helpful because you are the expert on your own life. Wanting constructive feedback is a common quality of effective workers and leaders. The best leaders can take feedback with appreciation and see it as a gift. If you have been working with a therapist for a few sessions, the chances are that some things are going well, and perhaps others are just not working for you. At this point, you could choose to try someone new, but there will be a repeat of the intake process, time to get to know a new therapist, and hopefully, the next choice is better for you, but maybe not. But if things are generally going well, a better option may be to provide some feedback on what is not working for you. If you are fortunate, your therapist will let you know they are open to feedback and periodically check-in. Perhaps your counselor is using CBT, and CBT isn’t adequate for you. You and your therapist may want to at least have a discussion about some of the feedback, as your counselor may also have an expert perspective that for instance, CBT or DBT almost always takes much longer than the time already spent. A simple change to a different approach to CBT or trying a new technique may be the solution.
It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally therapy seems to be progressing well, but the client suddenly stops going without communication as to why. Of course, a client does not owe an explanation if they wish to discontinue therapy for many reasons (it could be that it worked and is no longer needed). Still, most counselors I know would appreciate some communication either way. Looking at the frequently asked questions in advance can help you see how things are often done and advocate for yourself if you’d like something done differently. If something isn’t working, most would also prefer to be told so they can attempt to fix the issue. A termination appointment can also be very helpful for the client. While widely recognized as a best practice, few clients have a final appointment to wrap up. This appointment can help reinforce learned skills, document if and when it could make sense to return to therapy and provide the client with a document that will help them adjust to life without counseling.
Cardinal Point Counseling recently started sending feedback surveys once a client stops therapy. These surveys can be anonymous and are, of course, optional. By completing these surveys, clients have the opportunity to identify if anything about the experience was not as expected. We are fortunate to get many positive comments and don’t mind those either (as long as they are honest). Feedback is important whether you are meeting as a couple or working on your relationship by yourself.
If something isn’t working, you have given your therapist feedback, and things do not change, that may be a sign to try someone new. If your counselor is offended that you might challenge their expertise, it is probably time for someone else. Some therapists get really good at doing a couple of things a certain way, and when that works, it is excellent, but when it doesn’t work, they may not know what to do. Counselors are human too, and the job is not easy, so an occasional mistake may show that your counselor is not perfect either.
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