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Cultivating Connection With Your Therapist

Just as attachment theory was cultivated from studies around infant and parent attachment bonds, we have the sole responsibility of cultivating a safe haven for our clients.


Starting from birth, we start to internalize and understand what's happening around us. In a similar sense, we begin to see just how our primary caregivers show up for us emotionally and physically from infanthood onward. As adults working through developing safety and security with a therapist, we notice it can evoke parts of ourselves that regress back to resistance or reluctance we felt towards our caregiver(s).

Oftentimes, someone considering, and pursuing, counseling for the very first time isn't sure what to expect from the experience. We provide a general expectation for what to expect while working through relationship stress with Emotionally Focused Therapy here ( Overall, this encompasses experiences with anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD, motivation, or suicidal ideation, to name a few presenting issues that may send someone to therapy for the first time. On the other hand, there are also an array of counseling approaches that can target these particular areas (i.e. Gestalt, Cognitive Behavioral, Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Rogerian, etc.). The reason we center our practice on EFT is because it targets a universal emotional experience that, as humans, we all experience.

We know that tied to our own thoughts are also emotional experiences, and underneath our secondary reactions (anger, resentment, irritation, annoyance), are vulnerable emotions with specific attachment needs. We work with couples, individuals and families to target these emotional experiences, and the reason we do so is because we recognize that, based on background experiences, the way we share, experience or express our emotions may be different. Because you may be interested in pursuing counseling, my hope for this particular blogpost is to address the very important pieces of a therapeutic bond with a counselor that you can consider.

We've worked with clients who come into their first session, or even a few, and begin to wrap their minds around the model the therapist is pursuing, but they feel more resistance or reluctance as the journey moves further ahead. This is such a valid experience, because even for myself, I've pursued various therapists trying to assess if I was fully processing my own experiences. In these cases, there are various things a counselor could be missing, but today, I'd like to focus on the core elements I believe are valuable to a counselor-client relationship.

Just as attachment theory was cultivated from studies around infant and parent attachment bonds, we have the sole responsibility of cultivating a safe haven for our clients.

At times, this is the first, or more consistent, space a client has felt safe in. And the journey of processing our vulnerable experiences can be so scary, even terrifying.

What should you consider when addressing if you'll feel safe opening up to your counselor?

  1. Trust - If your counselor can meet you we're at, and establish a safety first, you can develop a secure attachment in the space. You must feel that you can truly trust this individual in order to see change; we should validate resistance or reluctance and help understand what you need in this space.

  2. Understanding - Does it feel like the therapist is truly understanding your emotional experiences? Sincerity must feel consistent in order to feel safe processing in session with your therapist. Like in EFT, the counselor holds the responsibility of engaging with the clients experience.

  3. Goals - While counselors may serve a role in helping clients identify their goals, it should feel that you've resonated and been able to identify what you want from this experience. Conflict can subside if the counselor and client are on the same page about what the client needs.

  4. Personality - Even for myself, I prefer a therapist that can feel free to bring parts of themselves into session. Where it's relevant to the discussion, humor, analogy, relatability, are so valuable when it comes to feeling safe in session. We can build a warmth and comfort when we're not solely looking at the individual, couple, or family as patients needing a diagnosis.

  5. Accessibility - Like in secure attachments with our parents or loved ones, we need a therapist that will provide an opportunity to resolve emotional struggles when needed. While boundaries may be relevant as therapists, you want to feel that your therapist is making space if there's a crisis, for example. Consistency comes with accessibility.

  6. Empathy, Unconditional Positive Regard - It's important that your therapist consider your experiences as a part of how you see relationships and the world. Even when there is a great sense of shame or guilt, and although we can reshape our experiences, a therapist must remain attuned to what your experiences are and how they've affected you.

  7. Expertise - It's true, if the client cannot trust their counselor, they will also struggle to believe what they're suggesting is effective. It's important to feel safe and secure with the counselor, but you also want to make sure the counselor is competent with issues presented; if there are issues with incompetency, you can expect the counselor will address it.

In retrospect of what is addressed in the following post, I am super ecstatic about continuing to share with you, the reader (or future clients), important aspects and conversations that are valuable to personal and relational growth. Like in your own attachments, I hope you can continue to build that safety and trust with your partner or loved ones.

If you've had "bad" experiences with counselors in the past, and you felt that it hindered you in some way afterwards, we want to make space to listen and understand what the needs were that were missed or unaddressed. Please feel free to reach out for emotional support -- you can schedule an appointment or email us.

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