Every therapist has their own style to practice therapy, which doesn’t make it easy to know what a therapy session will be like.

An easy distinction is whether the therapist adheres to a structured program or detailed methodology. Your therapist may guide you through a step-by-step process such as the Gottman Method of Relational Therapy or Dr. Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy. Choosing a therapist with this approach takes a certain level of guesswork out of your session as your therapist will provide you with the tasks they think you should be working on according to their model of choice.

In contrast, many therapists utilize an eclectic or collaborative style. These therapists combine elements and concepts from different theoretical therapy styles that they have learned and make a discernment about what tools and techniques you may benefit from based on your unique situation. This style will involve you telling the therapist what you are looking for in therapy, your likes and dislikes, so that they can curate their approach to meet your needs.

Many people think therapists just smile and nod in the therapy room, or worse, they have experienced that kind of therapist. Therapists definitely listen sympathetically and want to create a safe space for you to feel uncomfortable feelings. However, they can also teach you techniques that you can employ in the future to manage your emotions better.

There is a back-and-forth to therapy. Therapists try their best to give you the treatment that they think will be most effective, but they don’t know how well it is working unless you tell them. If you are seeking something in your therapy, whether it be more responsivity or a different approach, I definitely think you should let your therapist know. That way, the therapist can try to accommodate your needs.

What to expect? Expect to get uncomfortable with your feelings but expect to learn tools to grow and manage those feelings better. Expect to have a conversation with your therapist, instead of a monologue. Expect that your therapist will try to provide you a with a good experience, and let them know if you’re not getting it.

Me personally, I have an eclectic and collaborative style. I assess, based on what you’re telling me in session, what approaches may resonate with you better. I try to adjust when something doesn’t resonate with a client, but sometimes I may hold firm on a point if helping a client face an uncomfortable feeling will lead to growth. I believe the therapist is a practitioner that has many tools, but must be responsive to the person sitting in front of them to provide a tailored experience.

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