Skip to content

The 5 elements of effective supportive therapy

What is supportive therapy?

Simply, supportive therapy is a type of talk therapy that give clients the time and space in session to vent and discuss problems. In essence, it can be what many people expect when they reach out to helping professionals. By the therapist creating this space and using active listening and responding in real-time helps their clients to navigate issues with comfort, empathy, and compassion.

By leaving an environment that is open and non-judgemental the therapist is prioritizing creating a safe therapeutic alliance and relationship. This is why supportive therapy is so important because the relationship between therapist and client is the most important indicator of success.

If you don’t feel safe with your therapist, you won’t be able to tell them the issues, emotions, or experiences that are distressing. Supportive therapists have an understanding of how important it is to build a good relationship with the people they work with to help them to grow and to heal. 

5 Key Elements

Adopt a conversational style

Essential for the therapist to develop a positive relationship with their clients is to use a conversational approach. This approach includes asking direct questions, having inflection in the voice to convey meaning, making gestures, and having space to discuss opinions.

Nurture positive relationship

The positive relationship between therapist and client is essential and happens over time through repeated empathetic exchanges. Generally, when the relationship is positive it is not brought up, however, if a client is feeling anger or conflict with their therapist it is important to address this before continuing on in the therapeutic alliance.

Reduce anxiety

The general goal of supportive therapy is to reduce a client’s suffering. This can be done through the therapist making it easier for their clients to talk about the circumstances causing stress and pain. It is important to know this also includes knowing when to let the client not discuss topics that are in that moment uncomfortable which they may decide to return to later when in better head space or more secure relationship with the therapist.

Enhance self-esteem

For supportive therapy to work, it is important that clients feel good about themselves, which is not usually the case when beginning treatment. The therapist can take the role of being actively engaged in helping their clients navigate this through positive comments, compliments where appropriate, and self-soothing techniques including moving past shame.

Strengthen coping mechanisms

Therapist work with clients to give suggestions on coping mechanisms and often homework will reflect the practicing of these strategies.

Is supportive therapy the right approach for me?

Supportive therapy has evidence that it can help to reduce anxiety, create positive interactions, enhance self-esteem, and strengthen healthy coping mechanisms. The less structured environment allows for creativity and authenticity to be yourself. This approach can help you to talk about the challenges you are having and to get insights, feedback, and advice in handling the situations and developing a healthy sense of self.

As a practitioner offering this, please reach out if you have any questions or are ready to start. Book an appointment and learn more here

Psychology therapy vector illustration. Cartoon psychologist man couch character meeting with woman patient, talking about problem. Psychotherapy session, flat mental health support isolated on white