Misconception of expectations & the power of therapeutic alliance

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Misconceptions of expectations & the power of therapeutic alliance


Dear Supervisees,


For those of you just starting practicum or who have recently begun, I would like to put your mind at ease; you are not expected to be an expert or know how to utilize any particular model within the first term or two. I have noticed many students have some misconceptions of the expectation of their work as beginning clinicians, which may raise some anxiety/stressors. It’s great to see students vested in their training and profession, as they take seriously and are concerned of how they may be affecting their clients; worried they might not be doing a “good job.” Yes, you should be concerned that your work is ethical, appropriate, and effective; however, you shouldn’t get stuck on the particulars like a model, at least not initially. Clients don’t know if you are using a model correctly. The key to “successful” work with clients begins with the therapeutic alliance. Note, the therapeutic alliance should not be confused with simply being friendly or having pleasant sessions. Your clients can think you are caring and appreciate you; however, that will not necessarily equate to change or at least the one that makes a difference. So, what’s the first step, get out of your head and be present to be respectfully curious! As you engage, you will be able to tune in and learn from the client to identify and process things accordingly. The basic principles of effective therapeutic work are what typically helps clients, creating a safe space that allows clients to be vulnerable to work on change. With time, research, and clinical practice, you will develop the necessary insight and skills to use models effectively, feeling more comfortable and confident accordingly. But know this right now, the small things make a big difference. Don’t sell yourself short, just because you are just starting; you don’t need to know it all to make a difference. You will soon see that therapy is a craft of art and science, which takes time to mold, as you become mindful of yourself and your clients in the therapeutic relationship and collaborate with them to create change.


Keep growing and empowering

Dr. Arias Shah



Feel free to leave a comment below. Don't forget to check in weekly for more blogs. 

Melissa Arias Shah, Ph.D., LMFT, AAMFT Supervisor
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