“Does that make sense?”

One of the points I make in my introductory materials is that “I talk with you and not at you.” One of the manifestations of talking with you is to share with you what I see going on in your relationship. The latter may involve identifying repetitive patterns, talking about indicators of how your rearing or other relational experiences may have a negative impact on the current relationship, noticing recurrent themes that run through the discussions between you and your partner that detract from the quality of your emotional intimacy, and other important features of your relationship.

However, the goal of the current blog is not to share with you what I think are important elements in your relationship. My purpose in this piece to let you know one of the ways in which I develop a collaborative relationship with you is that I come into the therapeutic relationship from a position of “not knowing.”

The above bit of jargon means that I will notice things about you as an individual or about you as a couple if we are engaged in couples therapy. I will then construct a therapeutically meaningful summary about what I observe, but these observations are frequently accompanied by the phrase, “Does that make sense?”

The latter statement is not a reflection of my doubts regarding your ability to understand but an inquiry regarding whether my observations have been accurate. Coming from a position of “not knowing” means I respect your perceptions of how you see yourself and/or your relationship and acknowledge that I may or may not have focused in on what seems important to you. Moreover, I am asking for validation of the conclusions and/or interpretations of what I have presented to you.

All of the above stated, I do believe that a strength that I have as a therapist is the ability to take what I learn from our interactions and give you feedback that is meaningful and helpful. However, as suggested above, it has to be accepted by you as being valid or all the insights I have to offer will not help you to resolve your concerns. Just as importantly, if I impose my views on you, you will not feel safe, and no change can happen if you do not feel as if you’re in a “safe space for growth.” If you do feel safe then what have seen, whether it is accurate or not, can be the beginning of a dialogue between us. Such conversations can be a model for interchanges that you may have with your significant other or with those people who are important to you in your life.

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