People who need therapeutic help are often put off looking for it by fears of being locked into an endless process with a clinician they don’t like, or which is too expensive or ineffective. But what should you realistically expect from a clinician? This is something we are asked all the time, and something which we make a great effort to make clear to anyone seeking our help at Rafan House Harley Street. The relationship between client and clinician is somewhat different in the private sector, and our service reflects this. Here are our thoughts:
- Going privately, a clinician gets one chance to establish a meaningful relationship with a client. What do we mean by meaningful? There has to be a connection, a recognition if you will – that the therapist can help the client and the client can be helped by the therapist. That one chance happens in the first consultation, and if it doesn’t, the client will often not come back. So how do you know? A good yardstick is, at the end of the session, did you learn one thing that you didn’t already know, that ‘landed’ with you? Did you feel ‘seen’ and understood? Or did you feel judged? So much of the relationship between client and therapist is subjective – based on compassion and sympathy.
- It might be the case that your chosen therapist does not feel able to offer the kind of expertise you need. Therapists do specialize in different issues, and if they can’t help you themselves, they may well be able to offer the name of a more appropriate person. This move needs to happen quite early on in a therapeutic relationship, as the ‘empathetic connection’ between client and therapist establishes very quickly. So don’t be offended if your chosen therapist recommends someone else for you.
- If that first hurdle has been successfully negotiated, the next one is to establish a framework so that you know how many sessions you might reasonably need, and how much they will cost in total. This kind of agreement can include anything from a very short intervention to more long-term support. There should be no nasty financial surprises – that would be counter-productive, when the aim is to reduce stress rather than add to it.
- Your therapist is not just there to listen to you, they are also there to nudge you a little, to help you broach uncomfortable topics which are difficult to begin talking about. But primarily, they will listen. And then they might offer an alternative view of an issue, offer something for you to respond to, and take away to think about. It goes without saying that whatever is discussed, the conversations are ‘protected’ – entirely confidential and discreet.
- It is reasonable to expect a follow-up note, a friendly ‘opening’ to come back, if they think they can help. You will be made to feel welcome. It is also reasonable to expect to be welcomed at a clinic later, if you have left for any reason. Therapy is also about joining a ‘tribe’ or ‘family’, and family members should always be able to come back.
This, of course, is not a definitive guide to therapy, but it is what we aspire to at Rafan House, and it is what brings people back, and is why our name and number are passed on.
Dr Emma Loveridge