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Your Therapist’s Therapy Style

Matthew Cuddeback LCSW

When someone makes a decision to meet with a therapist to work on things, they are struggling with it can be uncomfortable and highly vulnerable. This is why it’s so important to discuss the things that are important to you as a client, and why your therapist should be bringing these topics up early. Like clients, individual therapists do things in a way that are specific to them, making sure your styles are compatible is crucial to making progress and feeling better in therapy. Below are a few key areas that help you understand your therapist’s style, and key areas to discuss:

  • Directive vs. Conversational – One area that is important to consider when beginning a new therapy relationship is how the therapist manages the balance of back-and-forth and being more directive. What do you prefer, a therapist who will say something along the lines of “What you are doing is unhealthy,” or a therapist that explores what you are doing without putting such a fine point on it? Too much of either can be unhelpful, being told what to do is not what therapists are there for, nor is completely refusing to engage in problem-solving. It’s important to consider where on this spectrum your therapist falls and where on this spectrum you think would be most beneficial for you.
  • Evidence-Based or Evidence-Informed – Therapists use tools, models, and techniques that are backed by research and evidence. We have identified what model is most helpful for what you may be struggling with. However, some therapists will strictly stick to the manual on how to, for example, use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to treat anxiety. This is typically very structured and heavily emphasizes worksheets and homework. Another way therapists may do this, is to be more evidence-informed. That means they understand the model that is most helpful, but they are going to use the pieces that are most applicable for each client and will adapt them more fluidly. Both styles are useful, but if you are looking for concrete information, worksheets, and processes you would want the therapist that is evidence-based. If you want something a little looser, then Evidence-informed styles would likely be a better fit.
  • Divulgence of Personal Information – Some therapists refuse to divulge any information about themselves and others are very comfortable sharing this information. It is important to note that any time a therapist is divulging information that is not relevant to the client it is not appropriate. However, some sharing can help people feel more connected to their therapists. It is okay to ask your therapist personal questions, but it is also okay if they feel it is not appropriate or helpful to answer.
  • Therapeutic Models – Each therapist approaches therapeutic models in different ways. As mentioned above some may strictly adhere to certain models, others may mix and match. What’s important is to feel confident that your therapist has many different tools that will be of help to you. However, they may pull from a few different therapeutic models if it seems a combination of treatments would be most helpful. This raises the question of how a therapist communicates what they are doing. For example, some clients want to know exactly what the therapist is doing and what model they are utilizing. Others may not want to engage much in discussions about the model and why it may be helpful. Again, either approach can be useful, but it is important to know what works for you.

As a client you should always feel comfortable exploring these areas with your therapist. Your therapist should already be preparing for and having these conversations. Research shows us the most helpful factor for success in therapy is how well they connect with their therapist, so discuss these areas and you will be setting yourself up for more success and your therapist will also have a better handle on what you are looking for. Contact Symmetry Counseling to arrange an appointment with a Chicago therapist today.

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