How to Give Your Therapist Feedback
As with any relationship, patient and therapist unions aren’t immune to misunderstandings. When conflict appears, addressing it early on can help you determine if the therapy and I are right for you at this time. We often think of therapists and psychotherapists as “all-knowing,” which can make client’s feel that complaining about the therapy or the therapist is not allowed, ‘it is’ and can bolster the “therapeutic alliance.” Developing openness, trust, and collaboration which is essential to meeting outcome goals. Unrealistic expectations about treatment, compatibility issues with the therapist along with fear of facing painful experiences can cause patients to stop therapy prematurely, often without telling their therapists why.
Be Direct About Your Concerns
From talking too much or not enough to mislabelling feelings and offering unsolicited advice, therapists may unintentionally upset their client’s in various ways. When this happens, broaching the topic by saying, “I’d like to discuss how I feel about coming to therapy,” or “Your recommendations aren’t helpful — here’s why,” are two ways to begin the conversation. This can be challenging for clients to be upfront about their therapy concerns when bringing up sensitive topics. In therapy these white lies can rupture treatment because it means the client’s needs aren’t being met. This is why it’s crucial for patients to discuss any negative or unsettling feelings that ensue during therapy.
As your therapist I am receptive to feedback as well as exploring what it’s like for the patient to speak up and commend your courage for doing so. I see feedback as an opportunity to strengthen our patient-therapist alliance. “If I do or say anything that makes you uncomfortable, I want you to let me know.” Once grievances are aired the stage is set to work toward a possible solution, which may be informed by the type of treatment.
The goal of treatment is for clients to feel that their needs have been met, or are being met and that continuing treatment is worthwhile.
Unlike fixing a broken bone, healing a client’s emotional pain isn’t always straightforward, which means client’s may feel ambivalent about treatment (even after giving feedback) or become anxious when sharing vulnerable details about childhood abuse, grief, severe depression, sexual or intimacy issues. While numerous psychological interventions can teach patients how to alter their behaviours and face their fears, fundamental to change is ultimately ‘the emotional communication between patient and therapist that’s curative’. Feedback offers an opportunity for realness and deeper intimacy with one’s therapist. When this happens, patients can feel seen and heard, which can be a turning point in treatment, as well as in life.
Adapted from; Juli Fraga, Psychologist, San Francisco.