Everybody needs validation. We all need someone else to recognize and accept our internal experiences as valid, no matter how different they are. This happens when the other person you speak with listens without judgment to your story.
Psychotherapy is where most people find validation. This piece will focus on validation in psychotherapy and how it can change your life.
Is Psychotherapy Helpful?
A paper published in the early 1990s stated they could find no difference between subjects who received treatment and those who did not. Ever since, much
research in response to that paper has shown that 75% of those who receive therapy show some benefit, with 91% stating they are satisfied with the quality of therapy they received, with 84% saying they are satisfied with their progress.
However, after having said all of that, psychotherapy has its drawbacks. For one, it can dredge up long-forgotten memories that might not need to be unburied. The emotional turmoil that one goes through when reliving a fantom from the past is palpable.
Therapy helps to relieve the client’s symptoms and functioning, and studies have shown it can reduce disability and mortality and reduce the need for inpatient care. With psychotherapy, you might also experience decreased psychiatric relapse, leading to milder symptoms than just medication alone can treat.
Most people who enter therapy have no idea what a ride they are in for.
Many go seeking advice, which they will not find. That is not a function of psychotherapy. However, most seek to alleviate the pain and suffering they have lived with their entire lives.
Why is Validation Necessary?
When you enter therapy for any disorder, including complex post-traumatic stress disorder, you probably don’t know what to expect from your therapist. If you are looking for a therapist to tell you step-by-step how to heal, you will be waiting a long time. That is not what therapists do.
Instead of telling you what to do, which would be significantly harmful, a therapist will listen with empathy and watch and listen for the places you need healing. The therapist will be watching for body language and verbal words to measure how you feel about what you are speaking about.
The therapist reads verbal and body language to help them relate to you on your level and show that they believe in you and your healing. Even if the therapist disagrees with what you are saying, they will signify through their body language and words spoken back to their client that they have heard and understand where you are coming from.
Without validation, you cannot get anywhere on your healing journey because you need someone to understand and accept you unconditionally.
The Therapeutic Alliance
The therapeutic alliance, a term first used by Zetel in 1956, is an essential foundation for the relationship between therapist and client. The therapeutic alliance is a collaborative and trusting relationship also known as a working alliance.
The working alliance is a partnership between therapist and client that helps them to achieve agreed tasks.
The concept of the therapeutic alliance dates back to Freud’s day and is considered an essential component in psychotherapy. The therapeutic bond is strengthened by affective elements such as respect, liking, trust, and a sense of collaboration between the therapist and the client.
The therapeutic alliance depends on some elements much like those described below.
The transference/countertransference relationship. Transference occurs when a client subconsciously projects their feelings about someone onto the therapist, and countertransference is when the therapist subconsciously directs their feelings onto their client. Transference and countertransference involve both the client and the therapist. The patient draws their therapist into the role of someone in their internal world. To further complicate things, therapists have their pasts and lived experiences, which color their responses.
However, a good therapeutic alliance allows for these human responses and doesn’t normally interfere with therapy.
The developmentally needed/reparative relationship. This type of relationship is a corrective experience a therapist provides their client. This relationship is meant to help repair the client’s deficient parenting, the abuse they might have lived through, and if the parents were overprotective. Just about any subject can be broached in the therapeutic alliance.
The transpersonal relationship. This element describes a human-to-human relationship with one person affecting the other and can include healing or spiritual healing. The transpersonal relationship also refers to the feeling one gets after visiting your therapist. When you have formed this element of the therapeutic alliance, you have reached the point where you are familiar with your therapist and want to continue care.
How Does a Therapist Foster a Budding Therapeutic Relationship
Whether you go to treatment and try to improve your life, drop out, or do not go, you will always find validation in the therapist’s office. There are several components to the therapeutic relationship that are helpful to know when considering going into therapy.
Those components should be present after you give your new therapist time and may include the following.
- Unconditional acceptance as you are where you are in life.
- Mutual trust and respect
- Professional intimacy. This component is the therapeutic relationship between a therapist and a client. Professional intimacy fosters closeness and self-disclosure, such as telling your life story or telling the therapist about abuse you may have survived.
- Unconditional acceptance.
- Unconditional Positive Regard.
- Genuine interest.
- Attending and listening
- When necessary, silence.
The therapist takes all these tools and those they learn as they practice to help you feel validated.
How to Tell If Your Therapist is Validating
The first thing you will notice if you are not a good fit with a therapist is your lack of progress. You should not measure your progress by how you’ve healed by leaps and bounds. Instead, measure your progress by how you feel overall about your chances to reach the goals you and your therapist agreed upon.
Here are a few more questions you can ask yourself.
- Does my therapist listen with empathy? Or do they direct their attention away from you to do something else?
- Does my therapist accurately reflect and acknowledge what I am saying?
- Can my therapist state aloud what I am saying in nonverbal emotions?
- Does my therapist ask follow-up questions to confirm what I have just said or thought?
- Does my therapist use phrases that are easy to understand and show they comprehend what I am saying?
- Does my therapist seem genuine?
- Am I treated with dignity and respect?
When asking yourself these questions, remember that treatment, like anything good, takes time and effort on your part and your therapist’s. You may need to seek someone else if neither of you meets the other’s expectations.
However, if you find a helpful and highly validating therapist, you should consider keeping them because therapists are in short supply in the United States.
Ending Our Time Together
Feeling validated is critical for all humanity, and psychotherapy is one way to gain it. When I entered therapy, I had no idea what my journey would be or how long a road I was about to embark upon.
My first therapist, Paula, was great at forming a therapeutic alliance with me. She took over teaching me what my mother did not, which changed my life. For me, psychotherapy brought enormous validation, first that I was not crazy, and second that I could stop all the flashbacks and learn tools to cope.
Armed with unconditional personal regard and a strong belief that I would get well, Paula never gave up on me, validating my reality and lead me to discover a new way of thinking and living.
If you are considering psychotherapy, I strongly encourage you to do it now that you know what to expect. Go in with an open mind, willing to discuss your history without reservation or fear. The therapeutic alliance that will form will change your life forever.
If you are a therapist reading this piece, remember that if you do not believe your client will get well, they won’t. Your body language and demeanor will tell on you.
Either way, attending psychotherapy with a good therapist can help you to find the answer to the question you seek and aid you in living and living well.
“The most important progress and success can’t be seen. If you can validate yourself internally, then external validation becomes a byproduct.”
– Brittany Burgunder
“Trauma is personal. It does not disappear if it is not validated. When it is ignored or invalidated the silent screams continue internally heard only by the one held captive. When someone enters the pain and hears the screams healing can begin.”
– Danielle Bernock
My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to communicate with the world. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me.