Providing feedback in counselling

This is now a large body of research that indicates that the relationship between client and therapist is a significant contributor to change in counselling and psychotherapy. With this in mind, it is crucial that you feel comfortable giving feedback about what is and isn’t working for you along your counselling journey. This will enable the counsellor to tailor their approach to best suit your needs and continue developing their skills as a professional.

How to give feedback in counselling

Ideally, your counsellor should be providing multiple avenues for giving feedback. This might include asking directly at the end of sessions, having check-in sessions at specific points throughout the counselling process, and formal feedback and complaints procedures. It is beneficial if the feedback can be provided directly in the moment. However, there are also times when that might not feel safe and taking a formal route of giving feedback in writing or via a formal complaints procedure may be the most appropriate course of action.

What kind of feedback?

Things you might want to give feedback on include the techniques or interventions that the therapist uses or the environment in which the therapy is conducted. There may also have been things that the therapist has said or done that didn’t sit right with you or made you feel misunderstood. Your therapist will be doing their best to notice these things, but we are humans and sometimes make mistakes. A good practitioner should always be open to hearing when they have made a mistake and will often be grateful to have the opportunity to resolve the issue and to learn.

Challenges of providing feedback

It’s important to acknowledge that providing feedback can be very difficult. No one enjoys having challenging conversations, and it can be tempting to terminate therapy rather than have an uncomfortable conversation about what isn’t working for you. For those of us who were raised in families where there was conflict, speaking up can feel terrifying. Hopefully, your counsellor will have established enough safety in the relationship that it doesn’t feel threatening to speak up about what is and isn’t working for you. There is a lot of healing potential in being supported to speak up for yourself, and the therapeutic relationship can be a great place to develop these communication skills.

Is it worth it?

Providing feedback can be beneficial for the counselling process as it can strengthen the relationship between you and your counsellor if handled well. This process is known as rupture and repair, and if the conflict or difficulty is worked through, it can result in greater trust between you and your counsellor. Knowing that things might be difficult in counselling but that you and your counsellor can work through the difficult times can result in a greater sense of trust and safety, enabling you to be more vulnerable in therapy.

Although counselling can be challenging, it should also be rewarding and enjoyable. Please don’t ignore it if something isn’t sitting right with you. If it doesn’t feel safe to give feedback, if the therapist has not provided opportunities to provide feedback comfortably, or there have been things that have occurred that felt inappropriate, you have every right to end the counselling and find someone new. You deserve to have a therapist that is the right fit for you.

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