Collaborate Toward a Solution
Once grievances are aired, the stage is set to work toward a possible solution, which may be informed by the type of treatment.
Therapists viewing the therapeutic relationship as a focal point of treatment, known as client-centered, psychodynamic or attachment-oriented therapy, see feedback as an opportunity to strengthen the patient-therapist alliance.
To do this, they acknowledge the patient’s disappointment, anger and frustration. Curious to learn how therapy went off course, these therapists also invite their patients to share more. Because a person’s emotional reaction may offer clues about the nature of their suffering, client-centered therapists might also probe whether the patient’s negative feelings have roots in childhood experiences or traumas. To ease future treatment anxiety, these therapists often say, “If I do or say anything that makes you uncomfortable, I want you to let me know.”
On the other hand, behavioral therapists may meet patient feedback by introducing mental health questionnaires, as a way to collect data about treatment progress. They may also ask their patients to complete behavioral exercises outside of therapy. Doing so allows the therapist to see if the patient’s symptoms are improving and to make adjustments, as needed.
While solutions vary, patients should feel that their needs have been met, and that continuing treatment is worthwhile.
After establishing an open collaboration where feedback is welcome, checking in about the agreed-upon solution or the new treatment plan can help keep therapy on track. Saying, “I’d like to revisit my progress in a couple of weeks,” or “Can I let you know if I feel misunderstood in the future?” are useful questions and reminders.
Unlike fixing a broken bone, healing a patient’s emotional pain isn’t always straightforward, which means patients may feel ambivalent about treatment (even after giving feedback) or become anxious when sharing vulnerable details about childhood abuse, grief, severe depression or intimacy issues.