Which Therapy Technique Is the Most Effective?

Because There IS a Concrete Answer to That Question.

If you’ve spent any time on the internet lately, you’ve noticed a fair bit of chatter about the wide (WIDE) variety of therapeutic techniques out there. There’s cognitive-behavioral therapy and exposure therapy, EMDR and somatic experiencing…to name just a few. 

It might surprise you to hear this from a specialist in both ketamine-assisted therapy and bioenergetic therapy, but—I don’t think techniques are actually the most important part of therapy.

cartoon face with short hair

So… What IS The Most Important Part of Therapy? 

At the end of the day, therapy is all about the relationship. And it’s whether and how the therapist uses the relationship dynamics to understand and help the patient that determines a patient’s results.

Fun fact: The way that we as therapists think, feel, and react to our patients can and should be used to help us understand our patients better.

That’s right. Therapy isn’t fundamentally about tools and advice. That’s coaching. And you can get that from a book or podcast.

Long story short: Therapy gives you something that, as an adult, you can’t get anywhere else–from anyone else–in quite the same way. It gives you a sense of belonging; a feeling of being accepted.

We all need to be accepted and belong. Even for all the ways we’re “different” from others.

Especially for all the ways we feel we’re not supposed to “be.” 

For a lot of patients, their quest for belonging might mean seeking out a therapist with whom they have complete demographic alignment. Example: You two are about the same age, the same gender, same sexual orientation, same race, etc.

If that’s what you want, good on ya. 

But I would be remiss not to add that you can get the very same essential sense of belonging from a therapist who doesn’t check any of the same boxes as you do when filling out official forms. 

In fact, depending on a patient’s particular goals and challenges, it might actually be more productive for them to feel that acceptance from a therapist who’s not one of “their people.” 

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A Blank Slate, Not a Mirror

Take for instance a Black female client working with a white male therapist. Let’s just say there is an unspoken question for her about whether he has implicit bias against Black people. Part of whether this therapeutic relationship can work for her depends on him acknowledging this fact of her reality and his part in it. If he does, their relationship is likely to deepen. This might give her an experience (albeit tiny) of “belonging” in a “white world,” and might be an absolutely crucial piece of her growth process.

“Acceptance” isn’t actually predicated on being exactly the same.  

Getting what you need out of therapy doesn’t come from being able to relate socially to your therapist. 

In fact, for many reasons, it’s ideal for your therapist to be that proverbial “blank slate.” That’s because, relevant to this discussion, the “blank slate” provides the space for discussion about anything. It is also the foundation upon which some things that never get discussed anywhere else can be discussed. It is what allows a patient to come to a point where their thoughts about their therapist go a little something like this: 

“It doesn’t matter whether we’re having the same experience. It doesn’t matter whether they agree with me. All that matters is that I know, without question, that discussing what’s on my mind, and expressing what I feel in my heart doesn’t end in rejection.”

It gives them an experience that they carry into the world as a self-loving confidence that practically nothing can shake.

And that right there is the result of the most important therapeutic technique of all: the one-to-one, human relationship between therapist and client.

The icon of Leah Benson, LMHC

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