The impact of feedback on your therapy experience
If you’ve begun your talk therapy journey with a therapist, you’ve entered a trusted, working relationship with an important goal in mind: to improve your quality of life and overall mental health. This working relationship - called the therapeutic alliance - is based on many factors, and feedback can be regarded as a highly valuable aspect of this relationship. The role that both you and your therapist play in the therapeutic process is based on the mutual goal of better mental health for you, and as such, it’s important to understand that feedback from either side can both strengthen the working relationship as well as improve the actual outcome of your therapy sessions. Let’s take a closer look at the role and impact of feedback.
Have you ever had a situation in some other aspect of life - perhaps a teacher, a boss, a parent - in which something wasn’t quite working well for you, but you didn’t exactly speak up about it out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings or stepping out line? It happens. And often, when that does happen, the results aren’t great. Powering through it might have meant that the real issues weren’t being addressed, so any other efforts may have been missing the mark. Sure, feelings were spared, but that strategy turned what could’ve been a constructive, active participation into a passive suffering on your part.
We’ve all been there.
Even with the right therapist, feedback is essential and it’s possible to gracefully accept and deliver feedback in order to get the most out of the process. And since feedback is a two-way street, we’ll be taking a look at both feedback from you to your therapist, and feedback from your therapist to you. Each has its own role and impact on the experience, and when handled within the context of a positive therapeutic alliance, can add immense value to your therapy outcome.
Delivering feedback to your therapist
While your therapy sessions are yours and the time spent is for your own improvement, it helps to keep an eye on the analysis of your therapist’s services as it relates to how you are feeling during your time with them. Processing those observations - that is, evaluating how well you feel your therapist is helping you - is the first step to figuring out where feedback comes into play.
In your intro call and first session, you’ve likely covered and agreed upon a plan for treatment. How well the sessions adhere to that plan, and how well your therapist can guide the process towards your improvement, are important aspects for you to assess on a regular basis. If you’re feeling off-track, or that the therapist isn’t delivering what you need, your earnest feedback is needed.
Research has shown that client feedback improves the therapist’s ability to help their clients. Not a small amount, either, more like three to four times better treatment outcomes. Psychology Today explains that commenting on the work and taking practical steps to improve the level of care means that you become an empowered client, having a voice in therapy and actively improving the outcome. As a bonus, the therapist is learning their strengths and weaknesses and hopefully growing as a result. In this way, the therapeutic alliance becomes more finely tuned and the work done during your sessions is far more effective.
You’ll want to take a look at the depth of the therapy work itself. Is it too shallow, too intense, or just right? These issues are important to know and vocalize. A general feedback discussion can be as brief or as lengthy as you feel you need to deliver the exchange. A few points to consider: how are you feeling as the client? How are you feeling about your therapist’s efforts and delivery? How are you feeling about the working relationship? And lastly, how do you feel about what’s next, the progress of the strategy?
Feedback for your therapist improves your outcome. Your role in the therapeutic relationship is important, so how you feel about the therapy process is valid, relevant and important to your therapist. In fact, he or she might even check in with you about this. Although it can be awkward or difficult to evaluate a trained professional, your analysis and thoughts are needed. Without an earnest feedback moment, you might accidentally find yourself spending time and money on services that aren’t hitting the mark.
Feedback from your therapist
Have you ever heard someone discuss their therapy sessions and making the comment that their therapist just sat there silently, offering no guidance or response? Or the opposite - someone feeling a bit like their therapy sessions were too authoritative, when all the client wanted to do was safely vent about their issues? Both are valid. In previous blogs, we’ve addressed the activity level of a therapist - active, supportive, or a mix of both - as an important component to the therapeutic relationship.
Depending on your therapist’s orientation and activity level (which hopefully have been covered in the initial stages of your process), feedback is used in accordance to their style and strategy. Active feedback, in the form of professional guidance or responses that validate and constructively add value to your therapy discussions can be a very useful tool for clients who welcome that level of involvement. Passive feedback, such as holding a safe and supportive space to simply share painful thoughts and feelings without specific guidance is equally valid and useful for clients who need support. Knowing where you stand - and what you need - is essential. And the therapeutic alliance, which is built on professional expertise and your own earnest, active participation in the process, calls for both trusting the process and speaking up if it’s not quite right for you.
Feedback from your therapist can be a bit of a Goldilocks situation: too much, too little, or just right. And sometimes it’s a spectrum, because your needs can change from session to session. Just want to vent for today? Say so. Need help thinking through a particular trouble spot? Ask. Craving a great breathing technique to ramp down anxiety during a stressful situation? Speak up. A well-trained therapist can stay nimble and either provide or hold back feedback during the ebb and flow of life’s issues. And a strong therapeutic alliance built on mutually effective feedback can lead to highly effective therapy session. Quality feedback can allow both the therapist and the client to adjust accordingly and get the most out of the equation.
In the Bay Area and searching for a quality therapist? At reflect, we believe that everyone can benefit from talking to someone. All therapists are not the same, and going to one that’s a bad fit can cost valuable time and energy. We’re committed to simplifying the process of finding the right therapist for you - after all, we believe that the most important factor in predicting successful therapy is a good fit. Our data-driven algorithm and experienced team match you with the best therapists suited to your own unique needs. Look to reflect today; get started on your journey to improved quality of life and better mental health.