When It's OK To Take The Reins During A Counseling Session (& When To Let Your Therapist Know What's Not Working For You)

Photo: Jake Noren on Unsplash
therapist counselor patient relationship

Therapists are amazing people. They help you uncover your past issues, understand why you’re feeling the way the you do and simply feel appreciated and loved when you need to feel it the most.

But what a lot of people may not realize is that your therapist-patient relationship isn’t one-sided.

Not completely, anyway. You can’t expect to accomplish any of your mental health goals unless you let your therapist in — let them pick at your brain, your mannerisms and your speaking tone. This requires you to also invite your therapist’s thoughts, feelings and experiences into your head and heart.

In a way, you need to counsel them, too. 

 


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Your therapist is human, and that’s probably one of their best features. They can empathize with you and give you their advice just like any parent or friend would do. While they’ve studied coping techniques and different types of therapies for years, being honest and open with their clients is probably their most-used practice. Because it works, and because we like being told that our therapists even screw up sometimes. 

It’s reassuring. But there’s a downside to this, too. Having a therapist express their feelings about your situation by discussing a situation of their own can backfire. The conversation may seem like it’s diverting focus from actual issue (yours) to the therapist’s issue. This can make counseling sessions less productive, and even stressful.

As a patient myself, I know that I’ve felt my issues become belittled by some of the problems my therapists mentioned.

I knew they were only trying to relate to me, but I couldn’t shake the idea that I’d temporarily become the therapist in the relationship.


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However, sometimes, being the temporary therapist benefited me. 

I could objectively see the other side of an issue similar to the one I was struggling with. I could say things like, “You must have felt betrayed,” or “Oh, telling the truth is probably the best solution.” It was incredible; I was basically counseling myself by counseling my therapist. That all seemed to happen naturally, but I want to believe my therapist had something to do with it.

It’s important to remember that this doesn’t always occur. Unfortunately, some therapy sessions in which you become the therapist don’t pan out. You can’t always focus your attention on your therapist during your session, especially if you’re really concerned or anxious about an upcoming event. In these cases, you can’t see the big picture by counseling your therapist. You won’t be able to see past your own issues, and that’s OK. That’s normal. Heck, that’s why you’re there.

If you’re ever in a session with your therapist and notice that your therapist is talking about a different issue than the one you really want to discuss in the session, say something.

A good therapist never wants to make you uncomfortable and always wants to find the best way to help you overcome your struggles. Though, every therapists and counselors aren't always a great match for every patient.

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The therapist’s goal is to make their office a welcoming place where you feel appreciated, helped and heard. Even though you should be developing a relationship with your therapist during the process of counseling, you shouldn’t sacrifice your own progress to do so.


RELATED: 5 Reasons Therapy Isn't Working (That Have NOTHING To Do With You Being Broken)


 

Meaghan Summers is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.