The Therapeutic Alliance Remains the Key to Successful Therapy

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As therapists, we are required to stay on top of the latest research regarding new techniques that can be used to help our clients. Some of these techniques, like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or, EMDR, even require additional training in order for us to utilize them. While we are ALL for learning new things, we find it fascinating that, regardless of which new methods arise, the research describing therapeutic effectiveness is always the same:

The key factor predicting therapeutic success is the strength of the therapeutic alliance between client and therapist.

Given the nature of our work, this makes sense. Clients come to us with extremely sensitive information, and trust us to: 1) keep this information confidential, 2) refrain from judgment, and 3) help form some kind of solution to the problem.

Regardless of how seasoned we are as therapists, we can always benefit from refining our ability to connect with our clients. While there are tons of books on the subject, one of our favorite psychotherapist/authors is, Dr. Irvin Yalom. Dr. Yalom is probably best known for his widely used textbook, “The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy,” but he has also written a number of books, like “Love’s Executioner,” and “Momma and The Meaning of Life,” about his therapy cases.

Reading Yalom’s works is almost like having him as a supervisor. It allows us to peer into the workings of his mind, and see what his experience of being a therapist is like. His writings are probably the most honest accounts of how it feels to be on our side of the couch that we’ve ever seen.

In a 2013 interview, Dr. Yalom was asked what we are failing to teach our psychology graduate students. He answered: “We’re not teaching our students the importance of relationships with other people: how you work with them, what the relational pathology consists of, how you examine your own conscience, how you examine the inner world, how you examine your dreams. All this, all the psychodynamics are just not getting to them. It’s just too hard to teach. It’s so much simpler to teach CBT. And then the absolute maniacal need to empirically validate everything you do.”

In Yalom’s writing, it’s easy to see his focus on his relationships with his clients. For example, in “Creatures of a Day,” Dr. Yalom speaks of an interesting case in his story titled, “Don’t Fence Me In.” Basically, he was asked to consult on a case because the patient’s regular therapist felt that they were stuck. Dr. Yalom describes his thought processes during the session. For example, he tried, and then regretted, sharing a personal story. At the end of the session, he describes feeling tired, and recognizing that although the client had made a great effort to see him, the client had also resisted every intervention he tried. It’s honest writing like this, that can remind us as therapists that: 1) we are not alone, and 2) our work is harder than it looks!

P.S. The client in the aforementioned case wrote to Dr. Yalom four months after that session, admitting that their consultation had actually been the catalyst for a wonderful breakthrough in his regular therapy.

Here at Therapy Hive, we want to help you help your clients! Contact us for more information on becoming a member of our group.

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