NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, December 26, 2014

Asking For What You Need in Therapy

Many clients who are in therapy have difficulty asking for what they need from their therapists.  This is especially true for clients who have a history of being physically or emotionally abused.  Often, because of the abuse, they're out of tune with their needs and, as a result, they might not know what they need.

Asking For What You Need in Therapy
Even the most empathically-attuned psychotherapist might miss the fact that s/he isn't working in a way that meets the client's needs, which is why it's so important that, every so often, the therapist and client reevaluate their work together.

Usually, this discussion is initiated by the therapist, but a client, who feels s/he isn't getting what s/he needs, can also initiate this conversation.

Here are some tips that may be helpful in getting what you need in therapy:

Tips on How to Get What You Need in Your Therapy:
  • If your therapist doesn't take time periodically to review the work you're doing together, you can take time to reflect on your own how you're feeling about your therapist and your work and then tell your therapist that you would like to talk about this.  Most therapists will be open to this.
  • Don't assume that if your needs aren't being met that it's your fault.  This is an assumption that many clients, who have been abused, make in their therapy.
  • If you're unclear about the way your therapist is working, ask about it.  Your therapist should be able to give you an explanation in simple terms that you can understand.
  • If you feel the work is going too fast and you're having difficulty coping between sessions, talk to your therapist about this so the two of you can come up with ways that you can cope better between sessions.  It might also mean that you spend more time processing what's going on between you.
  • If you feel the work is going too slow, tell your therapist about this.  S/he will can explain the way the two of you are working together and, if needed, might make changes in the work.  Also, this can help to clarify whatever beliefs or misconceptions that either of you might have about the work.
  • If you feel you and your therapist haven't developed a rapport after working together for a while, it might be that the two of you aren't a good fit.  It might also mean that, due to your history, you might have problems trusting and it might take you a while to develop a therapeutic alliance with any therapist.
  • Be aware that, due to ethical boundaries, your therapist can't be your friend or have a personal relationship with you outside of your sessions, even after you complete therapy.  So, if part of what you think you need or would like is for your therapist to be your friend, this won't be possible.  At the same time, it's common for clients to develop these feelings, including sexual attractions, for their therapist (see my article:  Psychotherapy and the Erotic Transference).  Even though you might be disappointed at first that you can't have a personal relationship with your therapist, a discussion about your feelings can be helpful in highlighting what you need in your life and how you can go about creating it outside of the therapy room.
Too often clients abort therapy prematurely because they feel too vulnerable or ashamed to have these kinds of discussions with their therapist (see my article:  When Clients Leave Psychotherapy Prematurely).

But, usually, even though you might not be accustomed to talking about your needs and it might take courage on your part, being able to talk about what you need helps you to develop self confidence and often helps to improve the therapy.

Also, if part of the problem is that there has been a misunderstanding or rupture between you and your therapist, there is a chance for repairing this rupture, which can create a stronger therapeutic alliance between the two of you (see my article:  Psychotherapy: Ruptures and Repairs in Therapy).

Getting Help in Therapy
Asking for help isn't easy, especially if you've spent most of your life denying your needs or being unaware of your needs.

Asking For What You Need in Therapy

Rather than continuing to ignore your emotional needs, if you're concerned about your therapy, speak to your therapist.  Even if you're feelings are vague, a skilled, empathic therapist can help you to clarify and express your feelings.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.