The importance of the therapeutic relationship

Just like all the relationships in our lives, the one we have with our therapist takes time to build and to blossom. But before we know it, that relationship proves to be an essential part of our therapy experience. Whether you’re an avid therapy service user or you’re looking to try something new, I’m here to tell you why your relationship with your therapist is so vital to your own therapeutic journey and wellbeing.

Therapy comes in all forms, but here at Insight Wellness, our focus is psychotherapy, which works right alongside our numerous integrative and alternative therapies (check out our Alternative Therapies tab, if you don’t believe me). From traditional psychotherapy to our BrainTap services to CBD massage, our therapists and clinicians work hard to provide you with a comforting, trusting, and safe space for you to unload, destress, or simply relax. This can only happen, though, with a satisfactory therapeutic relationship.

So what is the therapeutic relationship? It’s just as it sounds– it’s your professional relationship with your therapist or clinician. Some even refer to this relationship as an alliance, the therapeutic alliance. Psychology professors John Norcross and Michael Lambert (2011) define the therapeutic relationship as feelings that the client and clinician have for one another and the associated expression of those feelings. Edward Bordin (1976) explains that this relationship is a “collaboration between client and therapist” which is inarguably true. The system of therapy is inherently the cooperative journey of the client and therapist to achieve a certain goal. Bordin (1976) continues and suggests that there are 3 components when it comes to the therapeutic alliance: (1) agreement when it comes to tasks, (2) a positive bond between client and clinician, and (3) agreement of client goals. These components are crucial for building and maintaining a successful therapeutic relationship.

Alright. So we know what the therapeutic relationship is, but why should this matter to you? If you’re in therapy already or considering therapy for the future, I’d like to assume you’re doing so to improve your own wellbeing or mental health. And I’d also like to assume that you’d like to be successful in doing so. To be successful– however you may define it– you’ll need to have a positive bond with your therapist, as they are your guide through this journey. Research has shown that positive therapeutic relationships correlate positively with positive therapeutic outcomes. The therapeutic relationship plays an important part in the success and progress of any given treatment. Weak therapeutic relationships will often lead to cessation of therapy, due to unmet or unclear goals, lack of communication, etc. So your relationship with your therapist should definitely matter to you.

Just as I first said, relationships take time, and the one you have with your therapist is no exception to this. Lester Luborsky (1976) explains that therapeutic alliance comes in two forms based on the stage of therapy. The first form of the relationship is during the initial first stages of therapy where the client is beginning to understand the support and assistance the clinician offers. The second form occurs during the later phases of therapy that consists of the joint effort of both the client and clinician towards successfully reaching the client’s goal(s). I note this explanation here to remind you that your relationship with your therapist is most certainly important and it won’t build itself overnight. You and they both need to work together on your therapeutic journey to success. Your therapist will be there to support you with guidance, empathy, trustworthiness, and respect. As your relationship develops, so will your journey to wellbeing.

Lauren Tortolero, MSc

Psychotherapy Intern at IWC

For more information please call us at Insight Wellness Center (925) 216-3510.
Or visit our website


  • Bordin, E. S. (1976). The generalization of the psychoanalytic concept of the working alliance. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 16, 252-260.
  • Luborsky, L. (1976). Helping alliances in psychotherapy. In J. L. Cleghorn (Ed.), Successful psychotherapy (pp. 92-116). New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  • Norcross, J. C., & Lambert, M. J. (2011). Psychotherapy relationships that work II. Psychotherapy,48(1), 4-8. doi:10.1037/a0022180



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