What a Therapist Looks for in a Client, Part Two

This week on the Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender continues our series about what therapists look for in potential clients. (And in case you missed it, this is a follow-up to our series about How to Pick a Therapist.) Dan discusses the categories of openness, the humility to take ownership of one’s life and present situation, the ability to develop trust and receive the presence of the other, and the capacity to persevere even when the work is messy.

When he talks about openness, Dan reflects on the capacity to see that the presenting issue is never the end of the story. “Part of the task is not to make problems worse, but to in one sense deepen the experience of what needs to be addressed. […] This isn’t just a single issue, this is my heart, my life, that I am called at this season to address.” Openness also means the willingness to engage in self-awareness, to reflect on how one relates to others, and to read patterns and connections between our stories, our behaviors, and our situations.

Current patterns are always in some ways a refraction of patterns that existed long before you ever got into these particular relationships.

After talking about the humility and self-awareness required to be able to take ownership of your life, Dan reflects on the crucial category of trust, the willingness to engage the therapeutic relationship with curiosity and courage, not simply as a place where you talk about other relationships. “There has to be the ability to see what’s happening between the two of us as a microcosm of the reality of how you live your life in other worlds.”

Finally, Dan discusses the willingness to remain in the work even when it is messy and difficult. “Perseverance, resilience, is about the deep conviction that there are no easy fixes, and there are no perfect people, and there is nothing that’s going to ever take me back into Eden. If therapy is unrealistically viewed as the way my life is going to come to fullness and completion, no wonder you’ve left one therapist for another, because no one will be Jesus. No one will be the perfect parent that you seek and desire.”