Finding a good therapist for me was frustrating. I found that while there are about 3000 therapists in Los Angeles-all of them licensed, educated and well intentioned-not all of them are right for me. This frustration led me to believe that there had to be a better way to find a therapist. I came up with the idea that by leveraging technology and psychology, a website could match people with therapists based on personality and the probability for a good ‘fit’, which was the genesis for MyTherapistMatch.com (MTM) and MyCoachMatch.com (MCM).
Through the launch and growth of MTM and subsequently MCM, I have spent a great deal of time researching and learning about the world of therapy and what goes into creating a positive therapeutic outcome.
The research is clear: when there is a sense of safety and trust between the client and the therapist, there is a greater chance for therapeutic change and a mutually positive experience. Trust and rapport do not guarantee therapeutic change, but they are prerequisites. However, without a deep sense of safety, trust and familiarity, change cannot and will not happen. Period.
This is the most profound discovery I have made through this leraning process. It has reinforced the idea behind MTM and MCM and even strengthened it.
The concept behind the importance of trust and rapport in therapy is not new. It has been around for a while, and was substantiated by Dr. Carl Rogers’ work in the 1960’s. Carl Rogers is one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology. He noted at the time that the three most important elements in creating real therapeutic change are authenticity, acceptance and empathy:
“The first element could be called genuineness, realness, or congruence. The more the therapist is himself or herself in the relationship, putting up no professional front or personal facade, the greater is the likelihood that the client will change and grow in a constructive manner.
The second attitude of importance in creating a climate for change is acceptance, or caring, or prizing–what I have called ‘unconditional positive regard.’ When the therapist is experiencing a positive, acceptant attitude toward whatever the client is at that moment, therapeutic movement or change is more likely to occur.
The third facilitative aspect of the relationship is empathic understanding. This means that the therapist senses accurately the feelings and personal meanings that the client is experiencing and communicates this understanding to the client. When functioning best, the therapist is so much inside the private world of the other that he or she can clarify not only the meanings of which the client is aware but even those just below the level of awareness. This kind of sensitive, active listening is exceedingly rare in our lives. We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.”
I would argue that subconscious rapport is the most important factor that leads to the level of comfort and safety that is required to create openness and authenticity by the client, leading to change, led by the therapist. Subconscious rapport is a survival mechanism built to ensure our safety. Our safety is largely governed by the ‘old’ or ‘reptilian’ brain. Way back when us humans lived in small groups on the plains, we heavily relied on our senses to help keep us safe from danger. Not only were humans hunted by animals, but also by feuding tribes. Our visual acuity evolved to allow us to pick up on subtle queues that indicated whether another human was a friend or foe. Is he one of ‘us’, or is he potentially going to hurt me, my family, my children.
It turns out that people who spend a lot of time together tend to act in similar ways. We pick up similar movements, similar ways of speaking and a whole host of subconscious movements, tones, looks, etc. from those who we spend most of our time with. These subconscious behaviors are considered normal, familiar and accepted ways of being. Those in the tribe (all behaving in similar ways) can be trusted because there is no risk of danger. These people are familiar. (The definition of “familiar” is: of a household or domestic). Your family is not going to hurt you, but a stranger might.
Dr. Carl Rogers said:
“Any experience which is inconsistent with the organization of the structure of the self may be perceived as a threat.”
Someone from outside the tribe will not know these subtle queues, movements, tonalities, sayings. He or she is not familiar and not from within the family. In a world where unfamiliar people are a potential threat, the evolved ability for humans to pick up on these queues is an important survival trait.
In today’s modern society, these hard wired traits still help guide us and let us know who is friend and who is foe.
The premise for MyTherapistMatch.com and MyCoachMatch.com is that we can improve the probability that you’ll find a therapist or coach who you will have immediate subconscious rapport with, so that you can have an opportunity to feel open and comfortable with the therapist. They will be familiar and therefore you can trust them, leading to the real possibility of therapeutic change.