Unlocking the True Magic of Therapy

This might be an unpopular opinion, but it has been my guiding philosophy for my therapy practice for the last four years.  It is the best guiding principle that I can offer therapists-in-training and new therapists trying to find their voice and build confidence.  All psychotherapy is bullshit.  I am quoting a psychologist, Donald Meichenbaum, who has been in the field for over fifty years.  He is known for his research on psychotherapy, and I had the pleasure to see him speak in very early 2020.  His comment was to a room full of therapists and therapy students.  It almost sounds like he is being critical of our chosen professions, but listen closely, friends, because there is more. 

He talked about his years and years of research, looking for the modality or method that showed the most change, and had the best outcome.  In more than forty years, no one therapy has emerged as better over another.  What has shown the difference?  The therapeutic alliance is four to five times more effective than any modality at predicting outcomes.  Simply said, it is the relationship between the therapist and the client that creates change, healing, and transformation.   

So often I see students or those I am supervising, mentoring, or consulting, who are terrified of not knowing enough or not doing the right intervention or technique.  If you hear the words of Meichenbaum, you can relax.  The secret is in the relationship.  Spend the bulk of your time building rapport and relationship with your client.  Work with them to find the solution that is individual and right for them.  Once you know that is the priority, find the modality or theoretical orientation that appeals to you.  Those choices are for you, the therapist, to feel more confident in your skills.  And honestly, I love the “tricks in my tool bag,” but I know where the true magic lies.