What You Always Wanted to Know About Being a Great Therapist, but Were Afraid to Ask Part #2

Date Posted: June 16, 2014
What You Always Wanted to Know About Being a Great Therapist, but Were Afraid to Ask Part #2

How do you know when you are establishing rapport?
You don't have to mind read where you stand with a client, I can just ask him or her. Ask if the client is enjoying the therapy, if he or she feels you are being helpful, or if there is a way you are missing the picture. I call this a reality check. In thirty years of working with clients, I have never lost rapport as a result of checking if I have rapport.


Do you accept gifts?
It depends on the client and it depends on the gift. Refusing to take a gift that is not ridiculously extravagant is hurtful to your relationship with the client. People give each other gifts all the time; it is a sign of sentiment and appreciation. If you have a problem receiving gifts, you need to work that out with your own therapist. Obviously, if the client does it to buy power, favor, or position, that is a different story.


How do you terminate a client?
If you are working closely with your clients, termination should happen naturally. Once the goals you set with the client have been met, you have done your job. Goals that are defined by internal states such as self-confidence, self-love, or well-being need to have concretely defined external results the client can point to as representing those internal states.


What do you do if a client asks about things you don't have the answers to?
There's nothing worse than a therapist who bullshits. If you don't know the answer to a question, or you hit a place where you are unable to guide your client, say so. Just say, "I'm not exactly sure what to say at this moment, but I'm going to think long and hard about it before our next session." Then run back to supervision and work it out there so you have something to say when you go back the next week. Your client will not only appreciate you not trying to pull the wool over his or her eyes, but you will be modeling humility for them, as well. Saying "I don't know the answer to that question" doesn't make you an incompetent therapist, but trying to pretend you know when you don't does.


What if you have inappropriate feelings toward a client?
I'm not sure if there is such a thing as "inappropriate feelings" toward a client. You are in a relationship with your client, and having relationships with people brings up feelings. Hopefully you are engaged enough with your clients to have feelings come up toward them. You have to trust that you can control both sexual impulses and hostile impulses. If you can't trust that, then neither you nor your client is safe.


How does email fit into your practice?
Email can be a great resource for you and your clients or incredibly dangerous. You have to be prepared for spouses, friends, and other family members snooping in your clients' emails. Write only what you would be willing to have the world see. No one is invulnerable to being misunderstood through an email exchange.

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