I've long believed that what makes or breaks therapy is the bond between the therapist and the client. This bond is often called the "therapeutic alliance." More so than the therapist's education or training or the client's level of skill or self-awareness, I've been taught that the relationship between the therapist and the client is "the thing" at the crux of a successful experience in therapy. Basically, do the client and therapist have a connection? Is there chemistry? Do they regard one another with positivity?
Last week, I learned this might be wrong.
I was raking leaves in my backyard and listening to Dr. David Burns's podcast (David Burns is the author of The Feeling Good Handbook, and renowned psychologist at Stanford University). Based upon research evidence, Dr. Burns claims the #1 factor in therapeutic change isn't the therapeutic alliance, as many therapists believe. Rather, it's the client's willingness to change. Resistance on behalf of the client will trump a strong bond between therapist and client any day. Therapy is an investment. It requires time, money, vulnerability. Resistance to change, however, will render all those resources wasted. So, don't rush it. If you're experiencing resistance to the therapeutic process, maybe take the time to explore that with your therapist. Or, wait to start therapy until you're more open and able to fully engage in the possibilities that await you. No need to start before you're ready; in fact, starting without being ready and willing could just lead to frustration. So, the question is: are you willing? Are you ready to change? Are you ready to endure what might be challenging therapy, even if it means a more fulfilling life? Is now the time? Turns out, therapists have far less power than we thought. It's you, really, who holds the key.