What Is Therapy Like? (With an Analogy from My Training Group)

Posted By: on March 08, 2015
Healing Therapy

One of the common questions people have about therapy is simply, “What’s it like?”

It can be a difficult question to answer, so I’m always looking for new analogies to help people feel at ease about the process.

Today I was reviewing the material for a therapist training group I run and it struck me that the approach I take with these trainees is very similar to the approach I use with my clients.

And since almost everyone has been through some kind of training program, I think it might be helpful to walk you through how the process works, and how it relates to the work I do with my clients.

Stage One: Confidence Building

In stage one of working with a therapist, the trainer (me) has to be extremely aware that the new therapist is very vulnerable to shame.

There’s a wide gap of power between the trainer and the therapist, so it’s easy for the trainee to become afraid that he or she will be found out to be “wrong.”

It’s very important that the trainer do a lot of confidence building, helping the therapist realize what he or she already knows, and reinforcing the skills the therapist already has.

This is exactly the same process I go through with a new client. In the beginning, a new client is often afraid of being “found out.” They sometimes feel like they have to hold back for fear of being judged or rejected.

So in the first few sessions, the work we do together is designed to help the client begin to believe in their ability to heal, to believe in how strong and capable they are, and how much their therapist believes in them.

Stage Two: Gaining Trust and New Skills

In stage two of training, both the trainer and the trainee deepen their trust in each other, developing a clear understanding of what the trainee knows, and what would be helpful for them to learn.

It’s my job to support them in the learning process, helping them acquire the knowledge and skills they don’t yet have.

It’s exactly the same with a client.

As we move into a place where we trust each other more, it becomes much clearer to me what skills the client most needs to learn to succeed. And just like with my trainees, it’s my job to create a safe, supportive environment where the client can learn these new skills and apply them to their lives.

Stage Three: Taking Ownership

For both my trainees and my clients, stage three is all about taking ownership.

I hear it first in the language they start using. For trainees, they begin to put their own words to what’s happening, instead of just repeating the language that comes from me. They understand things from a multi-theroritical framework. They can look at their work from different angles, which helps keep them from getting stuck on any one issue.

It’s the same with my clients. They understand themselves so well, they can now describe their work and experiences back to me, using their own words to describe the process. Like my trainees, they see things from more than one angle, and it’s much easier to keep from getting stuck.


At the end of the day, training a therapist and supporting a client are very much the same process.

In both contexts, my job is to build an engaging, supporting, and non-shaming relationship. Then I work hard to help the person become aware of their blind spots, the gaps in their knowledge they’ll need to fill in order to move forward.

And then, best of all, I help the person learn and grow, giving them the language they need to communicate what happened to them, listening for issues that come up along the way, and helping them get past them.

If you live in the Fort Collins area and this sounds like a process you’d like to try, it’s easy to get started. Just give us a call at (970) 498-0709, or send us an email at help@heartcenteredcounselors.com. All calls and emails are kept strictly confidential, and the initial consult is always free.

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