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Therapeutic alliance is important, especially when it comes to individuals who suffer from traumatic experiences. These traumatic experiences can include PTSD from combat, sexual assault, or abuse. Working together with a therapist building a strong bond with the individual and the family can greatly benefit the helpee. Alliance between the client and therapist, therapist and family, client and family, and all three combined are equally important. The core conditions when building the alliance could include empathy, respect, geniuses, and warmth. Building a bond, practically becoming part of the family as a helper will make a huge impact on therapy success. Understanding what the individual and their families are going through and ensuring they are aware of your perception is a key component. Presenting respect in all areas regarding the incident is important. The whole family will be affected and presenting a safe and welcoming atmosphere while receiving help can make all the difference in the world. Although there can be many steps to getting better from a traumatic experience building a strong bond between the client and the therapist can make bring tremendous results in the end.
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The idea of therapeutic alliance is something that will allow those with PTSD such as combat veterans, sexual assault and abuse victims, and others that suffer from traumatic life altering experiences to build a strong bond with their therapist. After going through traumatic experiences like the ones listed it can be difficult to trust in someone to talk to. As a helper using empathy, respect, warmth, and genuine intentions can help you gain the client and their families trust. The families have to also be very understanding of the client’s situation and emotions they may be experiencing. When a person goes through something so intense in can be very hard to talk about even to their closest friends and family. There can be many different ideas and steps put into place in order for a client to heal from their experiences. In order to get there you can work on building a strong bond between the therapist, the client, and family.
Kilpatrick, A. C., & Holland mentions “They assert that adding the alliance concept to the theoretical base of family therapy illuminates and brings into focus a critical aspect of therapy that has existed in a theoretical twilight (p. 138). Pinsof (1994) builds on previous definitions to define the alliance, noting that it “consists of those aspects of the relationship between and within the therapist and patient systems that pertain to their capacity to mutually invest in and collaborate on the tasks and goals of therapy” (Kilpatrick, A. C., & Holland, 2019, pg. 35). If the therapist, the client and their support systems are truly invested in the time and effort it will take to get better then things will get better. The therapist will have to take the time to learn about the client and what it is they could possibly be going through. Although no one will ever possibly understand if you were to ask the client, showing you care enough to try is special.
According to Kilpatrick, A. C., and Holland “In working with families, the therapeutic alliance exists on at least three levels: (1) the individual alliance with each family member; (2) the subsystem alliance with each of the multiperson subsystems such as parents and children; (3) and the whole family sys- tem (Pinsof, 1995; Pinsof & Catherall, 1986; also see Mandin, 2007), (Kilpatrick, A. C., & Holland, 2019, pg. 35). This is an important aspect of therapeutic alliance for the family members to be engaged. Every relationship built will feed over to other family members. PTSD and other traumatic events will cause great sadness, anger, anxiety, and many more emotions in the family and the client. As a family member you have to be patient, understanding, and knowledgeable about what is at stake concerning the incident. As a family member and the therapist it is vital to remember the client is the main focus. Their progress will depend on your willingness as a helper to go at their pace. It is not ideal to pressure them into speaking on specifics they don’t feel comfortable with. If they are seeking help there already on a good path, it isn’t a good idea to rush the process. Results sometimes take time, and that is okay.
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For some individuals early therapeutic alliance after a traumatic experience can be overwhelming. According to Cronin, E., Brand, B. L., & Mattanah, J. F., “Individuals who have been subjected to ongoing physi- cal and sexual abuse are likely to encounter difficulties in forming trusting relationships later in life (Cronin, E., Brand, B. L., & Mattanah, J. F., 2014, pg. 2). Every client will vary because of their unique situation. Some such as a sexual assault vitctim may not handle building a relationship with the therapist well. If a client had grown up with a lack of social interaction or skills it can be difficult to build trusting relationships with a loved one let alone with a stranger. Although having a non judgemental attitude and a warm approach it can greatly increase the chances of success in the treatment. Therapeutic alliance is a very crucial part of getting better but it will take more than that. Like Keller, S. M., Zoellner, L. A., & Feeny, N. C. mentioned “Clinicians may also want to focus on helping clients with PTSD develop stronger support networks, particularly in relation to their traumatic experience, outside of the therapeutic environ- ment” (Keller, S. M., Zoellner, L. A., & Feeny, N. C., 2010, pg. 978). Understanding and expressing the importance of outside resources for the clients and families to lean on for support is crucial. Encouraging a healthy lifestyle and daily schedule to keep busy and focused can help the process too.
Overall all the importance of therapeutic alliance between a therapist, their client, and their family is one of, if not the most important part of therapy. Although alliance might not always come easy it has to become strong or a successful outcome isn’t in the future. Not only does the helper and client need a strong alliance, the family members do as well. It will take a whole support system to make big changes, changes for the better. Traumatic experiences come in all shapes and sizes and no one experience will be completely the same as the next. It will effect everyone differently. The one struggling can only be as strong as the ones supporting them. It is a big step for a client to come into therapy so they helper should be prepared. Some clients have felt alone and misunderstood. If the therapist was to do there homework and be as ready as they could be, gain understanding and knowledge, all the negative emotions will hopefully take a holt and the client will feel safe. To feel safe and secure while talking about something so powerful could be the first step in building a strong bond. No client will unfold there private matters that hurt them so dearly to someone who doesn’t make them feel welcome or show them respect. No true progress will be made without therapeutic alliance.
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