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30/30/30/10: The Relationship

The last of the three major factors that promote change is the relationship between you and your counselor. Some people conceptualize the relationship as being helpful because it paves the way for "the important work." For example, if you like your counselor enough to trust him/her, then you can begin the important work of saying things that you would be uncomfortable saying to someone else.

For others, the relationship is the curative factor, not merely something that promotes it. According to this philosophy, the process of establishing a relationship contains, somewhere along the way, certain negotiations that in themselves will help you grow. For example, let's say you are a shy person who has a hard time standing up for yourself. One day, your counselor is ten minutes late for your session, but does not make up the lost time at the end. According to some practitioners, confronting your therapist about your disappointment is what the therapist is there for.

In my experience, I have found both conceptualizations to be true. Establishing a good rapport with someone absolutely makes the difficult work of therapy easier. In fact, depending on your relationship with your counselor, sometimes the hard work does not even feel hard. But I also think that much can be gained when some friction arises. That is when you can negotiate those aspects of forming a relationship that maybe you have been unsuccessful with in the past—whether it means opening up more than you are used to, standing up for yourself, or even trying a sense of humor.

The counselor must use his or her training in these moments, too. It is important to realize that experimentation is the goal of this type of interaction. The purpose is to help the client explore, not defend the therapist's ego.

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