The Importance of the Connection Between Therapist and Patient

Does good communication happen when you don’t like someone? Is there trust in what a colleague says when you notice him “zone out” during a meeting? Will you eagerly attend a meeting that is

hosted by someone you dislike? None of these scenarios are conducive to fostering a good relationship, be it personal or professional. Without a good relationship, communication, respect, trust, and a meaningful connection cannot take place. This especially applies to the relationship between a therapist and patient. Without these elements, the proper environment for connection, growth, and deliverance from maladies cannot occur.

Mutual respect between client and therapist is extremely important. Certainly, rapport facilitates growth and success, and fosters recognition to the human value of participants. In the course of therapy, the word relationship is used in the benign. “Relationship” brings to mind an emotional bond that is not appropriate or productive. In other words, boundaries must be established and maintained on an emotional level but as far as all other aspects of relationship, the therapist and patient foster one of mutual trust and respect.

The counseling relationship can best be characterized as a working partnership involving goal-directed interaction. Again, mutual respect is critical, even with diverse beliefs and values. Thus, the client-counselor relationship is dynamic and need not follow any prescribed template.

Therapists must examine their values and respond ethically and therapeutically to needs of their patients. A therapist’s values are also important in determining the character and direction of a counseling practice. Strong values help to guide the development of a practice by maintaining ethical standards and a commitment to honorable goals in working with and caring for patients.

Therapist must create an atmosphere in which patients can discover, process and synthesize their own set of values. A part of this process includes clarifying their values over time by conversing with the therapist and establishing rapport. This requires applying complex communication techniques and innovative approaches to questions concerning life goals and ideals.

A therapist’s personal values have a special purpose and meaning as he or she develops interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships with patients. These relationships can include a connection or caring based on shared experience, appropriate intimacy, and a therapist’s self-investment in his or her practice.

Authenticity is another important element to the client/therapist relationship. However, genuineness does not mean that you share every feeling or thought. Some are best held privately. To paraphrase an old Jewish proverb, the truth does not have to be spoken. The counselor can still offer a client positive regard and respect while having unspoken reservations about that client’s behavior or values. Immediacy might seem to prescribe spontaneity, but there are certainly

times when the counselor must stop, look, listen – and think – before deciding to share or respond to the patient.

An effective therapeutic relationship has certain elements in common with a satisfying interpersonal relationship. Both involve mutual respect and both require effective communication. Therapy undertaken with the eventual goal of discontinuation. There are goals to be met and work to be done. Satisfying interpersonal relationships may involve working toward shared goals as well, but the main purpose is emotional and social. Comfort, support, and affiliation – all these and more characterize a satisfying working relationship.

Additionally, therapist/patient relationships function as expert-apprentice in nature. Rogerians certainly believe that the patient has the capability of solving his or her own problems if given a safe place to do so. Even they, however,

view the therapist as the “expert” who keeps the process flowing through reflection, clarification, and the like. The important function of the therapist is to guide the patient down the path towards mental health and inform on the tools required to maintain that state long into the future.

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