- Pamela Newman, LCSW-C
Your Therapist Wants Your Feedback, Too
Congratulations! You’ve started going to therapy. For those of you who are just attempting the therapy process for the first time, it can be extremely awkward. We are not used to telling a total stranger our life story. Many of us are raised to keep things private and not discuss feelings or not talk about ourselves too much. In going to therapy, we have the opportunity to talk about ourselves for an entire hour! As much as a relief it can be, it can also be extremely uncomfortable.
In therapy, there is a balance between experiencing discomfort and relief; we have to examine difficult scenarios and past experiences that our brains have made a huge effort to forget! We get to look closely at our behaviors and interactions with others in an effort to make changes and improvements in our lives. This is hard. In an ideal world, we feel comfortable opening up to our therapist and working through these concerns.
Sometimes though, people feel as if they are not “getting enough” out of therapy or making enough progress. In these cases, people may stop going to therapy or continue to go feeling as if they are possibly wasting their time. Clients may feel guilt or resentment regarding their therapy and unsure of how to handle it.
The beauty of the therapist-client relationship is that most therapists actually WANT you to tell them if you feel as though therapy isn’t as effective as you would like it to be, or if what the therapist says doesn’t make sense to you, or if the therapist isn’t focusing on what you want to focus on.
The therapist-client relationship gives the client the chance to practice giving feedback as well as receiving it. It is a safe space to practice confronting someone (appropriately) and ask for what you need. We don’t often get this opportunity in other places in our lives.
So, before you “ghost” your therapist, here are some things you can try.
How to give feedback to your therapist:
Consider what would be helpful for you. If you are able to identify it, write it down and bring that to your next session. Think of phrases like: “Could we focus more on…” or “I think I would like to work on… today” or “It might help me if we discuss…”
If you aren’t able to identify what you need, try saying things like: “I feel like things aren’t improving and I’m not sure why…” or “Is there something I could be working on between sessions more?” or “Do you ever give homework? I think that’s something that would help me” or, “It might benefit me to establish goals for therapy.”
If your child is in therapy and you don’t see progress, set up a session to chat with them. Ask them things like “what can we be doing to support our child in using the skills they are learning in therapy while at home?” Or, “how can we help our child to achieve their therapeutic goals?” Or “Could we work on a formal treatment plan together?”
Most therapists welcome the feedback. As therapists, we often assume that if clients are coming back and their symptoms are generally improving, then they are feeling as if they are getting something out of the process. If the client is not feeling the same, it’s important that they let the therapist know so that changes can be made. It’s the client’s time and we want them to make the most of it.
If you are terrified to give this feedback to your therapist, consider why this is. Ask yourself, is this therapist the best fit for me? Do I feel comfortable working with them? What am I feeling that prevents me from saying something? It might be useful to try and process your hesitation to confront people in general. Therapists are professionals. If they are not able to accept the feedback graciously, perhaps it’s time for a change.
What happens if you say all these things to your therapist and nothing changes? First, ask yourself if you are “doing the work” outside of sessions. Therapy is only one hour in the week and it’s important to practice and implement the skills outside of session to ensure that you will benefit the most from the process. Assuming you are utilizing the skills you have learned in session daily, then attempt to reiterate your concerns to the therapist; then if you still see no change, communicate that with your therapist and consider terminating and switching to someone new.
As therapists, we know that the relationship and fit between therapist and client is key. The process of therapy is challenging. Therapists are humans too, we strive to learn, grow and hone our skills each day. Ultimately, our goal is to work ourselves out of a job. We are grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with you along your journey.