Your relationship with your therapist is likely to be different to your relationship with anyone else.
For a start, there are boundaries. This might feel strange at first but they are there to keep you and the relationship safe. Whilst being a close relationship, it is not a friendship. Boundaries are the “rules” of the relationship and will include things such as time of appointments, payment for sessions, contact between sessions, and social media interactions. These rules make sure that everyone knows where they stand in the relationship and therefore create a safe environment within which to explore difficult issues. Blurred boundaries can be confusing and result in lack of trust. If boundaries are maintained, you know that your therapist is there for you at an agreed time where you have undivided attention to talk about whatever you want.
A therapy relationship is unique in that it is unlikely you will get to know much about your therapist. This might feel a bit one sided and uncomfortable sometimes. The benefit of speaking to a therapist rather than a friend or family member however is that you don’t have to protect the therapist as you would with someone you know well. You are less likely to filter what you say for fear of saying the wrong thing if you don’t know much about your therapist’s personal life. Sometimes, knowing too much about someone can get in the way of you being completely authentic. Imagine for example you wanted to talk about religious or political issues you feel strongly about but you knew your therapist held different views. Imagine if you knew that your therapist was trying for a family but you were considering a pregnancy termination. Imagine if you knew that your therapist was going through a marriage breakup but you wanted to talk about the fact you were having an affair. The list of examples could go on and on.
Rather than being distant and withholding, a therapist is giving you the space to talk about whatever you want to bring to a session, without fear of upsetting him or her. One of my clients said to me that it was so liberating to know that he didn’t have to protect me and could speak openly.
Another thing which can be a little unusual and difficult to get used to is the fact that I won’t have an agenda. I won’t decide what we talk about each week. The reason for that is that if I have an agenda, the session becomes about me. You are the client and our time together is about YOU.
Whilst this relationship might initially feel unusual, it can grow to be a close, intimate and special relationship. It is an opportunity to test out being authentic and to get to know and grow to love and accept the real you. An inspirational lady Carolyn Spring, who does fantastic trauma training said “ The really fundamental work of recovery from trauma comes from this transformative relationship with another human being”. I believe this is true of all therapy, not just trauma therapy.