What kind of confidence do your clients need from you?

Many therapists dream of feeling confident. To sit in a room with a client feeling in control and knowing exactly what to do.

The problem is the job isn’t really built on all knowingness. Therapy is often unpredictable. Clients are many layered and can take a long time to get to know. Things happen spontaneously and without warning in their lives that have nothing to do with the initial therapy goals.

Good therapy involves curious exploration and checking in with clients. Good therapy involves riding waves of attunement and misattunement between client and therapist.

For these reasons, being all knowing, despite its delicious sense of certainty, should not be the end point goal for therapists.

What is the sort of confidence that our clients need?

My personal experience of attempting therapy has involved sessions with therapists who were visibly nervous to spend time with me. I’m sure this is mostly because I’m a clinical psychologist and they badly wanted to do a good job and be recognised by me as competent.

But in my role as client, it left me feeling like I had to take care of the therapist in some way. To provide reassurance and behave in a way that indicated that I trusted their competence.

What did I need most? I needed a space in which I could feel heard and seen and comfortable to explore my pain points. 

I needed a therapist to hold the space for me.

I didn’t need someone who knew everything or who was a world expert in a therapy model, or someone who could perfectly execute a technique.

I needed someone who could work with me to explore my concerns and gently challenge the ways I had learned to be in the world that no longer served me.

And I think this is where most therapists who worry about confidence go wrong. Instead of building confidence in holding the space, expecting to ride waves of now knowing, and being comfortable to experiment with what works, therapists think they have to be expert in their knowledge or technique level in order to feel confident.

I believe most therapists can hold the space for their clients. That they can harness curiosity and exploration. That they can ride the waves of attunement and misattunement that inevitably happen between client and therapist as therapy unfolds.

So next time you feel you lack confidence as a therapist ask yourself – what am I focusing on here? Am I focusing on holding the space or am I focusing on how knowledgeable and competent I appear to the client?

Repeat after me.

Being a confident therapist is :

  • Holding the space
  • Being curious and explorative
  • Riding waves of attunement and misattunement
  • using your knowledge and skills to the best of your ability in any session with any client

I believe you can do that for your clients.

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