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What Does Safety in a Therapy Room Mean?

The notion of safety in the therapy room is like a thread that weaves through my journey as a therapist. It all began with my introspection on what makes me feel safe as a client in front of my therapist. Gradually, as I stepped into the profession, this introspection led me to contemplate how to extend this sense of safety to create a nurturing environment for my clients.


But what does safety really mean? It's a concept that carries various meanings for different individuals. On a personal note, safety for me is very similar to being tucked up in a warm blanket with a comforting cup of chai or sharing laughter with a friend. It's also about being vulnerable, allowing tears to flow without resistance. It’s safe to know that I am capable of doing that, of being there for myself when things don’t really feel right.


Safety in the therapy room is a lot like learning to ride a bike for the first time. You're gripped by the fear of falling or scraping your knee, but you find solace in knowing that there's someone right behind you, holding on tight. That's what safety feels like in therapy—creating and holding a supportive space for exploring vulnerabilities, not necessarily solving everything all at once. 


We all enter the therapy room with some or other inhibitions. I certainly did when I first started with my therapist. Can I say anything and everything that is on my mind? Will I be perceived in a certain way or even understood? It is a genuine fear of letting your guard down and allowing a stranger to step in. This fear underscores the importance of safety in the therapy room. The client and the therapist attempt to cultivate that safety together, much like tending to a garden and nurturing trust and understanding with each interaction.


Safety extends beyond just the physical space; it encompasses the emotional space as well.  It's found in the quiet moments, where words aren't necessary, where we can sit with their thoughts and emotions, knowing they're held in a space of compassion and acceptance.


I also think that it’s not just about creating that safe space for the client but about how to create that space of safety for both the therapist and the client together, where both of them exist safely together. As a therapist, often how I feel safe with my clients is in silence. And I often wonder if my clients also perceive safety similarly. Do they, too, find solace in the space created by these pauses? 


In therapy, we can shed the need to perform or conform. It's a sanctuary where we can authentically be ourselves, assured of encountering empathy and understanding. It's a space where we can delve into our innermost selves, unburdened by societal expectations or external pressures. For that one hour, the psychological and emotional weight that we carry becomes shared and, in turn, lighter. That may also be where the safety lies. 


Building safety in therapy is a gradual process. It takes time and practice, with each session propelling us forward. Instead of reaching one big milestone and calling it done, safety builds over time. It's about showing up each time and working together, little by little, to create a space where you can open up and heal.

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