There is a saying that goes “you don’t need to be liked but you need to be respected”. All psychologists should operate by this mantra. In practice it is extremely difficult to do. Over time we develop very close relationships with our clients and it is only natural to want to be liked by them and not to want to “rock the boat” too much. However, this is definitely not what our client’s need.
It starts from the moment that a client walks into the therapy room. As a human being and a psychologist you are naturally going to have a reaction to them. Our training as psychologists teaches us to control that reaction and to treat everyone as pretty much the same. Everything that is said is “neither good nor bad but just is so.” When our society is often based around judgements of good and bad – the psychologist’s office is a refuge.
During the process, conflict will exist. Often the psychologist will choose to challenge you on a point or you will have a reaction to something they they have said. Often this occurs after you have had time to think about what was spoken about in the previous session. It is very good to bring this source of conflict up with your psychologist the next time that you speak with them. It really does turbo charge the change process.
One of the major things that you will learn in therapy is to be ok with conflict and criticism. Very rarely in life will people take the time to point out our hidden faults. As a result we develop a very strong ego that is easily hurt by criticism. This is why soo many people leave therapy early. They feel that the psychologist isn’t stroking their ego or their isn’t a strong interpersonal connection.
Some therapy styles (e.g., psychodynamic) actively discourages the therapist from having any personality at all. Instead, the therapist is to be more like a mirror, to reflect whatever you are saying. For some people this is exactly what they need, especially if they are used to going through life charming people and getting their own way.
This is another skill that you will develop in the therapy room – to actually be comfortable being yourself, separate from other people. We call this individuation. For a lot of people, they won’t have completed the emotional and physical separation from their parents, which has a huge bearing on their entire life. To some extent they will spend their life consistently looking for reassurance from others.
A psychologist who actually engages in constructive conflict with you, is someone who is engaged in your problems. Fight the tendency to run away, you may just find yourself in the process. Real psychological change takes time and often requires an experienced guide. If you want a short term fix to feel better about yourself, go and get a massage, watch a movie or go to an Anthony Robbin’s seminar. If you want lasting change, consult an experienced psychologist who doesn’t mind engaging in constructive conflict with you.