Building Strong Therapeutic Relationships with Elisabeth Morray | POP 924

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What do you do to create successful and strong therapeutic relationships with your clients? How do you build psychological flexibility in your clients as a skill? How can therapists work on and build psychological flexibility within themselves?

In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about building strong therapeutic relationships with Elisabeth Morray.

Podcast Sponsor: Therapy Notes

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Meet Elisabeth Morray

A photo of Dr. Elisabeth Morray is captured. She is a licensed psychologist and serves as VP of Clinical Operations for Alma. Dr. Morray is featured on the Practice of the Practice, a therapist podcast.

Dr. Elisabeth Morray is a licensed psychologist and serves as VP of Clinical Operations for Alma. She also maintains an active clinical practice and teaches for the doctoral program in Counseling Psychology program at Boston College. Elisabeth’s career has been grounded in her commitment to behavioral health practice, training, and leadership, along with the application of clinical skills and theories to the needs of diverse industries and populations. Trained in evidence-based therapeutic modalities, specifically Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Process-Based Therapy (PBT), she has practiced in medical, agency, and educational settings, where she has also held senior clinical leadership roles.

Visit Alma and connect with Elisabeth on LinkedIn.

In this Podcast

  • Historic therapeutic alliance
  • Laying out the terminology
  • The importance of doing your own work first
  • How to build psychological flexibility within yourself
  • Testing the strength of a therapeutic alliance
  • Elisabeth’s advice to private practitioners

Historic therapeutic alliance

Historically, the therapeutic alliance has been defined as the relationship between the client and the therapist that is founded on a sense of safety and trust, and mutual agreement on the goals of the therapy as well as the goals for the client. These qualities are vital to bringing about a successful therapeutic outcome for both the client and the therapist.

However, there has been some more modern research done on the therapeutic alliance that takes it a little deeper and looks at what lies beneath those collaborating relationships.

Therapeutic relationships that are supported by psychological flexibility are ones in which people can learn to be more open, aware, and more actively engaged in their lives. And, maybe even more importantly, people particularly benefit from working with a therapist who practices that exact same psychological flexibility … in their own lives, and in their therapy sessions. (Elisabeth Morray)

Laying out the terminology

1 – Psychological flexibility: being able to be in contact with the present moment, while remaining present with the external, physical world.

Doing that will allow us to identify the kinds of behaviors that will move us in the direction of the values we choose. (Elisabeth Morray)

This can be broken down into these core processes:

  • Acceptance: willingness to be present with unwanted feelings
  • Relationship with our minds: the language inside our heads is sometimes more real to us and impacts our behavior more than things that are in front of us physically at the moment
Our relationship with our mind and changing that through a process of an act we call “defusion” allows us to look at our thoughts and see them as they are, and [to] not look at what they say they are, right? [To] not take them so literally or hold them so tightly, and that gives us more freedom in how we choose to respond to them. (Elisabeth Morray)
  • Mindfulness: being able to contact the here and now
  • Who you are: learning to discern the stories that the ego or mind creates about who we are
We all have lots of stories about who and what we are and we tend to get really invested in those stories. So part of what we teach people … is that they’re not their thoughts, they are ultimately the consciousness that is able to notice this everchanging stream of thoughts, feelings, events. And when they change their relationship with those thoughts about who they are, ultimately they get to become more flexible in choosing how they respond. (Elisabeth Morray)
  • Intentional value work: choosing behaviors that place you closer and into the direction of what you value and how you act upon them in your life

The importance of doing your own work first

In the relationship of the therapeutic alliance, it is made stronger and more successful when both people can show up, and this is especially important for the therapist so that they can guide the client wherever needed.

It is less about having mastered psychological flexibility and more about mastering the art of recognizing the moments in which your behavior as a therapist has become rigid or inflexible.

How to build psychological flexibility within yourself

  • Being mindful of any changes, and separating the thought from the self
  • Intentionally practice a certain type of attention, like through meditation
[I’m practicing] really paying attention to where I am more caught up in my head and in what is going on in my mind than what is happening right in front of me. I mean, this is the beauty of being a therapist, I have the opportunity to practice that kind of skill multiple times in every single therapy session. (Elisabeth Morray)
  • Practice bringing yourself back into the present moment whenever your focus strays

Testing the strength of a therapeutic alliance

For both new and seasoned therapists, use the hour or the length of the therapy session to create moments of learning for both you and the client.

How can you use this time to create conditions where the client can learn new and flexible techniques to practice with you, the therapist, before taking them out into the world?

You know that your therapeutic relationship is improving and the alliance is strong when you have to guide the client in this way less and less over time.

Elisabeth’s advice to private practitioners

See the person for who they are. Pay attention to exactly what happens in each moment, and dedicate yourself to promoting a space where the client can experience and partake in change.

Sponsors Mentioned in this episode:

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

  • Visit Alma and connect with Elisabeth on LinkedIn.
  • Email Joe at [email protected] to suggest guests for the show
  • 40 Days to Full free course: text #40 to 231 422 0677

Check out these additional resources:

Your Financial Picture and Why Private Equity Firms Want to Buy Your Practice with Tim Hwang | POP 923

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Meet Joe Sanok

A photo of Joe Sanok is displayed. Joe, private practice consultant, offers helpful advice for group practice owners to grow their private practice. His therapist podcast, Practice of the Practice, offers this advice.

Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners who are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.

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