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Do I need to like my therapist?

By Annmarie O'Connell, LPC, CADC

When clients inquire about starting therapy, we always refer them to read our biographies and browse our website. We want clients to find a therapist that you think you’ll get along with! Having a therapist that you mesh with is more important than you may think. The relationship between a therapist and client is often referred to as a therapeutic alliance. In fact, research suggests that the therapeutic alliance between a client and therapist is one of the most important components of treatment outcomes, regardless of the modality the therapist uses.

The relationship between a clinician and a client is what produces growth and healing in therapy. A clinician must build trust with the client and foster a space of openness and safety. This is not always the easiest of tasks. We strive to do this authentically and lovingly, with both arms open. Our clients may come to us willing to do the work of self transformation; however, they may feel terrified to trust us. We are familiar with the resistance and fear of vulnerability that clients often present early on in therapy. We get it, too! We do not expect all clients to trust us right away. We just ask that you be open to.

Clinicians are like travelers going on the vulnerable journey of healing with their clients. As clinicians, at times we walk beside you in the journey, at other times, we may hold your hand and guide you through a more rocky path. Sometimes while clients process difficult areas of their lives they may perceive their clinicians as too challenging. Clients may see the clinician as an intruder, as someone who could not possibly understand where they have been or where they would like to go. Clinicians want to show this client unconditional positive regard, so that they feel completely safe in this therapeutic relationship.

The client and therapist become a Johari window. In Johari’s window the quadrants are split into four: known to myself and to others is the public self, unknown to self and known by others is the blind self, known to self and unknown to others is the secret self, and unknown to self and and to others is the unconscious self. These vary by individual. Some cells of the window are larger than others and some are shrunken. In therapy, we attempt to change the size of these four quadrants. We hope the client’s secret self will shrink and begin opening up to us. We hope that after a client feels comfortable sharing with us, they will begin to do that with the safe, appropriate people in their own lives. Of course it is the blind self quadrant that we try and target most. A goal of therapy is to challenge the client to see what they do not see. Perhaps this quadrant demands a solid therapeutic alliance the most. It is through this relationship that the blind self becomes the seeing, powerful self.

If you would like to browse our clinicians' biographies and see if any of our clinicians would be a good fit for you, click here. When you’re ready to give therapy a shot and meet, please contact us to schedule your first appointment!

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