As part of an ongoing series, the staff at Union Square Practice will be sharing their thoughts on an important question: “What makes therapy work?” This week, Jamye Shelton Pelosi shares her thoughts.
What makes therapy work?
I believe there are two components of particular importance that makes therapy work — the relationship between the therapist and the client and flexibility within the treatment approach. These emphasized factors are mostly derived from my experience with clinical psychology and sport psychology.
I think a therapeutic relationship with trust, collaboration, and transparency is one that is more likely to succeed. Trust and collaboration allow goals to be set that are realistic, relevant, and useful. Additionally, transparency ensures that everyone in the room knows how the goals are to be addressed and reached. Therapy can often be viewed as a mysterious process. However, a little openness, reflection, and some hard work between the therapist and client can make therapy much more approachable and functional.
When I think about working towards therapeutic goals, I think that flexibility is really the key. I primarily utilize CBT techniques, and really value the idea of cognitive flexibility, or being able to change the way you think about things to have your experience of the world be accurate and helpful. For example, you might know that a mug can hold a cup of coffee, but without some flexibility in the way you see the mug you could miss seeing how it could be used in other ways — like as a paperweight, pen holder, etc.
In addition to fostering flexibility in thinking, I think that the therapeutic relationship itself has to embody an element of plasticity. We need to accommodate for when the work might not be an exact fit — not everyone has the same experience and therefore therapy really works best when the details and interventions fit your life. With this approach it is possible to create a plan for treatment that is focused, flexible, and able to help identify problems that you want addressed. All of these things together can help create a therapeutic alliance that allows for the most beneficial change.
If you have any questions about how therapy works, get in touch with me on Twitter @DrSheltonPelosi!