Thoughts for Therapists: 3 ways to offer therapeutic containment

“In my early professional years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?” Carl Jung

It’s a big step qualifying as a therapist. During your training you’ve learned theory and practice – and importantly how to make links between them. You’ve done your placements, had lots of supervision, juggled work and study, and completed your learning journals, case studies, essays and assignments. As you prepare to make the move into seeing clients privately, you may be considering how to shape your practice, and how to make it work.

As Jung says in the above quote, becoming a counsellor or psychotherapist is not just about the 50 minutes an hour you offer your clients. It’s not about curing or fixing. Nor is it about changing them. It’s about being in relationship with your clients in a way that is holding and healing. It’s offering a space that is safe, secure and contained, so your clients can explore ways they can reach understanding, insight and possible change in their lives – on their own terms, and in their own timeframe.

Here are three things, in my experience, you can prioritise to offer therapeutic containment for you and your clients:

Holding boundaries: The idea behind boundaries is not to appear rule-bound and inflexible. Boundaries for therapy can include time, space, contact between sessions, confidentiality and payment. All things to include in your contract. Boundaries are there to be transparent, and to show that the client is in a containing relationship. Explain these to your clients and why they are there to support the work you’ll do together.

Making the space your own: One of the most important decisions you’ll make is where to have your practice. The room you practise from needs to feel like yours – whether you rent a space, or create a room of your own from home. The room needs to be comfortable and confidential. You need to ensure you and your client won’t be disturbed. The ambience needs to reflect who you are as a therapist and how you practise. How will your client feel when entering your space? You need to feel contained so that your clients feel contained.

Self-care: How can we offer support to clients if we don’t offer support to ourselves? As a therapist it’s vital that we take care of ourselves mentally, emotionally and spiritually – in ways that are meaningful for you. Our emotional resilience can be gained through taking regular breaks, as well as engaging in relaxing and/or energetic activities that bring us peace and joy. If, as Jung says, we need to provide a relationship that provides growth for the client, then we first need to be able to create an environment that provides growth for ourselves – both personally and professionally.

If you’re a qualifying or recently qualified therapist, you may be interested in attending a workshop on 30th March in central London that can support you with the tools and mindset to help you set up in private practice. Click here to book. Or call 07956 823501 for more information.