Knowing Your Rights as a Client
The first step to being empowered during therapy is knowing your rights as a client and what you can expect from your therapist. There are a lot of misconceptions about what therapy is and is not, so let’s start with your basic rights as a client seeking psychotherapy.
You consent to treatment. Going to therapy is totally voluntary (unless you have been court-ordered and are required to receive treatment). You also get to choose when (depending on your therapist’s office hours) and how often you see your therapist. Although your therapist may recommend how frequently you meet, it is ultimately your decision.
You have a right to privacy. Confidentiality between a client and therapist is one of the most important elements of therapy. Effective therapeutic treatment requires trust in the relationship between the client and the therapist. Your therapy sessions are confidential and will not be shared with anyone else, unless you give written consent. There are a few exceptions to this rule that you should be aware of due to state laws and professional ethics, such as court orders and other legal issues, child or elder abuse, or the threat of serious bodily harm to yourself or others.
You choose what to talk about. Whether you are just starting out or have been going to therapy for years, you get to decide what your goals are and set the agenda. Of course your therapist might suggest a topic that’s helpful, but if it is uncomfortable to discuss or you don’t find it relevant, you don’t have to talk about it. Your therapist should never set the agenda or make you discuss things you don’t feel comfortable discussing.
You have the right to end treatment. If you feel that your therapy isn’t going as well as you wanted, or you have to terminate treatment for another reason, you have every right to stop going. As I said before, therapy is totally voluntary (with some exceptions). That means if you want to stop, you can. As a courtesy to your therapist, let them know why you’ve decided to end treatment. Therapists are trained to not take it personally, so telling them will help them grow professionally. If you talk about it, it may help them become a better therapist in the future for other clients. It’s also helpful to you as a client to deal with the issue, working through emotions, and practice confronting someone in a safe, nonjudgmental environment where they won’t take it personally.
You can ask for another referral. If you have decided to end treatment with your current therapist, you are not being disloyal or hurting their feelings by asking for a referral for another therapist. Like I said before, it’s helpful to discuss why you aren’t benefitting or comfortable with your current therapist. Your therapist is growing with clients and learning. Every client brings in a totally brand new experience and perspective, which helps the therapist grow. Share what’s working and what’s not.
Being Empowered in Therapy Goes Beyond Knowing Your Rights
Now that you know your rights as a client heading into therapy, it’s important that your therapist also works to empower you as a client. Empowerment is having self-awareness, a deep understanding of your dreams and desires, and being able to act on it in order to achieve your goals and improve yourself and overall well-being. When you learn how to be empowered during sessions, you can use that knowledge and skill set to be empowered in all areas of your life.
You have a voice. The purpose of therapy is for you to say things that you may not be able to say to others. Nothing you say will offend or upset your therapist – it is a safe space for you to speak your mind and voice your opinion.
You won’t be judged. A lot of people think that the role of the therapist is to judge you and figure out what’s wrong with you. That misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is therapy is a nonjudgmental and safe space for you to be yourself.
Be yourself. A good therapist-client relationship depends on honesty and genuineness. You don’t have to act a certain way or pretend to be someone you’re not. You won’t be judged for being who you are, so just be you.
You have the right to question your therapist. If there’s something they’re doing that makes you feel uncomfortable or nervous, speak up. If something isn’t working for you, it’s important to discuss it with your therapist. Perhaps you didn’t understand something they said – ask for clarification. Successful therapy requires both parties to be present and engaged. Whatever isn’t working during the session could be resolved with a simple fix, or if it’s a larger issue that can’t be worked out, you can ask for a referral. It’s important for you, the client, to understand that the session is all about you and your needs.
Feel free to disagree with your therapist. If there is something that your therapist said that you disagree with, you are allowed to say so. Therapists are experts in the field of mental health, but you know yourself better than anyone. Have a discussion about what was said, and don’t be afraid to voice your own opinion. As long as you are respectful to each other, there’s no reason you can’t disagree with one another on certain issues.
You have to be safe. The most important way to be empowered is to feel safe. If you have a therapist that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way, talk about it with them. If you feel threatened or that you can’t discuss this with your therapist, find another therapist with whom you feel safe and discuss the issue with them. Therapy is intended to be a safe, nonjudgmental environment for clients where you can heal and grow.
Embark on a Journey Towards Emotional Wellness
If you are ready to start therapy and live in the Fort Lauderdale area, reach out to Dr. Heather Violante for a free consultation. She is a licensed psychologist and certified in using therapeutic yoga to help improve your emotional wellness. Contact her online or call (954) 391-5305 (ext. 8) today and be empowered to change your life.