When you’re new to psychotherapy, sometimes it is difficult to judge whether your therapist’s actions are ethical and gage what to expect from the therapeutic relationship. So, let’s discuss what psychotherapy is not, so you can adjust your expectations. 

·      Therapeutic relationship is not a friendship. Although therapists are frequently compassionate and friendly, the professional boundary in this relationship is very important. The boundary in the therapeutic relationship is very important and your sense of safety and comfort in the therapeutic environment will largely depend on your therapist’s ability to act as a professional rather than a friend or a peer.

·      Despite the fact that the therapist’s responsibility is to help you heal, your success in moving towards your goal depends mostly on you. Can you implement the lessons from your therapy sessions in your daily life and learn to adjust the behaviors that need adjustment?

·      Your therapist may not be able to provide you with any help outside of the therapeutic setting, such as connecting you with other agencies and professionals etc. The truth is – therapists’ schedules are usually so packed that they have only about 15 minutes in between the sessions, which wouldn’t be enough to help you resolve your problems. Besides, this is a job of a case manager. So, if you need one – ask your therapist for a recommendation. 

·      Although it might seem like a nice fantasy to imagine your therapist being able to read your mind, the reality is - mind reading exists only in fiction. Even though your therapist might be very attuned to your emotional state, it still isn’t humanly possible to read thoughts. So, you shouldn’t expect the therapeutic relationship to work if you do not provide your therapist with necessary feedback on the job he or she is doing. In fact, your feedback is absolutely necessary for your progress in treatment.

·      Do not expect the therapy to work instantly. While short term therapy could be helpful for some people, most people need longer time to get better. This isn’t because one somehow isn’t good enough or the therapist isn’t doing a good job, but because it usually takes equally long to treat the problem as it took for the problem to develop.  

·     Finally, therapy is NOT a good setting for a romantic relationship. Many clients at times experience attraction to their therapists, triggered by the intimacy of the therapeutic setting. However, a therapist who crosses the boundary of the therapeutic relationship in a way abuses the client’s vulnerability and undermines any progress made in treatment. In fact, such an act is so damaging to the client that we would recommend reporting such professional to his/her licensing agency.

Elizaveta Gaglio