You can have a bachelors degree, masters degree, PhD; you can be a CAC, LPC, NCC, MD, or any of the other letters that define us clinicians, however if you can’t create a genuine relationship with a patient/client (human being) you will not be an effective therapist. If we as clinicians do not genuinely care about our clients, our clients will not learn to genuinely care about themselves. The addictions field has been a blessing in my life and I have been rather successful due to my ability to form a strong therapeutic bond with each and every person I have worked with. I truly care for and want to help every individual I work with develop a better life and they know it. I’m a real person with feelings, flaws, and difficulties in life and they also know this. If I am going to act as if I am superior to my patients I will never be able to form the bond necessary for effective treatment and recovery. I am most importantly a human being with the goal of helping another human being.
So many times I have worked with colleagues who felt and acted as if they were superior or better than the patient population. I have also observed patients reactions to these counselors and I must say that they were not positive or healthy responses. I never understood the reason for this behavior, however I suppose it is the clinicians own “stuff” that they have not effectively worked on. I often confront this behavior and attempt to change it, although many times I fail. As clinicians, I believe we need to look inside and gain insight into our behaviors with our clients and reexamine our reason for working in this field. We need to ask ourselves why we have the need to feel better than, why we need to be rigid and control our clients, why we need to demand things of our clients, and most importantly do we genuinely care for the person’s well being. We must reexamine our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors often in order to be the best helpers we can be. After all there are many other jobs out there if you truly do not have your heart in this profession. It’s perfectly fine to move on and in fact it is more respectful than working in this field without the passion for the patient.
There is so much research out there that tells us that the therapeutic relationship is vital in treatment outcomes and I continue to see counselors treating clients in the absence of a strong therapeutic alliance. You can be an expert in theory, technique, research, and whatever else you choose, however if you cannot develop a strong therapeutic bond the clinical effectiveness of your treatment is at best questionable. The foundation of therapy or counseling is a strong therapeutic working alliance. There is plenty of research out there that confirms this.
My recommendations to address this issue that I have discussed are as follows:
1. Continue to monitor your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding the therapeutic relationship.
2. Continue to work on your own personal growth through a daily recovery program, personal therapy, retreats etc.
3. Review and continue to practice the basics of therapy, such as rapport, trust, empathy, positive regard, etc.
4. Examine your true reason for being in the addictions field. Do you care? Are you non judgmental in your approach? Are you in it to feel powerful, controlling, superior?
5. Be a real human being with your patients!
You may or may not agree with the issues I have just discussed, however I am passionate about my career and get extremely frustrated with clinicians and staff that are inconsiderate, act superior, and demoralize patients. I have entered this field because I am a recovering alcoholic and addict that has a sincere desire to help others to enjoy a better way of life. My one and only priority is the patient. I hope that all clinicians reading this will take an in depth look at themselves as well as share this with other counselors. After all, our purpose is to help other human beings just like ourselves to enter the exciting journey of recovery and leave behind the destruction and despair of addiction. Please be honest with yourself and your clients and best of luck and continued success in transforming and recreating lives that were once hopeless and torn to pieces.
*For those individuals who are in therapy or counseling, remember you are the customer and deserve respect and the absolute best service. You choose who you work with and choose carefully. Never allow a therapist or counselor to disrespect you or demoralize you.