We are wired to learn and grow through positive relationships; so, it would make sense that we experience positive outcomes in therapy when we find a therapeutic environment that allows us to build a strong relationship with our therapist, who then serves as our model and our guide. The research backs this up. Study 1 after study 2 show that people enjoy the best therapeutic outcomes when they are free to tap in to the neurobiological networks that facilitate human growth and change. Said plainly, those who enjoy the best results from therapy:
- believe that therapy can work
- find the right therapist
- build a strong relationship with our therapist
- receive the right interventions at the right time during treatment
- see, feel and celebrate the benefits of our accomplishments
Great clinics with effective clinicians are great at translating these elements of effective therapy in to a therapeutic journey that allows us to learn, grow and change as humans. Sounds great, right? So how do you get started?
Step 1: Build faith in the process.
Humans have an innate drive to learn, grow and change in order to conquer the obstacles that threaten our vitality. To experience change and growth through therapy, someone has to show you that it is possible to change the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that are causing you psychic pain, just as novice skiers needs to have faith that they can acquire the tools and learn the skills necessary to get down the mountain.
Step 2: Find a great instructor, for you.
When was the last time you wanted to show vulnerability or risk failure in front of someone you didn’t trust? Processing psychic distress is a lot like pointing your skis downhill — you need a therapist who knows where you’re at and can encourage you to face all of the scary and uncomfortable elements of growth and change. The pitch shouldn’t be too steep, the path down should be clear, and your guide should be right there with you, providing advice and support, every step of the way.
Step 3: Put the right tools to use.
It doesn’t matter how close the bond is between you and your instructor; if you don’t have the right equipment, you literally can’t ski. Once you’ve got the tools you need, the best way to learn is by observing and following your instructor. In therapy, the interventions are the gear and your therapist is your coach, guiding you down the mountain.
4. Learn and practice in a safe environment.
How will you become an expert skier if you only take a few lessons before giving up? You’ll never venture past the bunny slopes if you are afraid of failure or have a painful fall. In sport as in therapy, mastery requires a positive and safe learning environment, filled with the space and time to try, fail, get up, try again and succeed.
5. Track (and celebrate) your hard-earned progress.
Personal growth takes a lot of courage and energy. It certainly isn’t worth it if you don’t get rewarded for your hard work. Luckily, we are motivated to keep trying because we feel amazing things like pride, self confidence and purpose when our efforts pay off. Whether you’re a competitive skier, or a brave and committed client, it is important to track progress, celebrate successes, and recognize it when you reach a goal.
When we improve as skiers, our progress is evident on the slopes. Thanks to modern neuroimaging, we can observe how the brain wires itself to support the needs of a competitive ski racer:
Historically, the benefits that we enjoy from therapy have been harder to observe. In most cases, the way a client feels or behaves is our only guidepost. Fortunately, thanks to that same neuroimaging, we can now see how the therapeutic journey changes the brain.
Now that we know that therapy can literally change your brain, why don’t more people seek it and stick with it? Knowing how people heal through therapy is one thing, delivering a mental healthcare solution that allows the therapeutic process to unfold is quite another. If you’re intrigued and you want to learn more about how Kip is working to build a clinic that delivers effective mental healthcare to bay area clients, check out what we’re up to at Kip.
- Hill, C. Therapist Techniques, Client Involvement, and the Therapeutic Relationship: Inextricably Intertwined in the Therapy Process. University of Maryland. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training Copyright 2005 by the Educational Publishing Foundation 2005, Vol. 42, №4, 431– 442
- Norcoss, J., Wampold, B. Evidence-Based Therapy Relationships: Research Conclusions and Clinical Practices. Psychotherapy © 2011 American Psychological Association 2011, Vol. 48, №1, 98 –102