How to select a therapist who will help and not hurt. A project of Metanoia Communications


5 - How a Good Therapist Makes You Feel Safe

As I stated before, in psychotherapy, you make yourself deeply vulnerable to another human being, and allow many disturbing feelings and thoughts to be expressed. This is absolutely necessary to your healing. But to allow yourself to do it, you will need to have a strong feeling of trust in your therapist; you will need to feel safe.

The process of creating a safe space in which therapy can take place is referred to as building a secure frame, and it is a very important aspect of therapy.

The "frame" is the environment of your therapy. It includes the physical surroundings, the emotional environment, the psychotherapeutic structure, and the relationship between you and your therapist.

A secure frame is a private psychic space in which you feel safe, "held" and supported. A secure frame is an environment in which every detail reflects structure, containment, safety, and support. Psychodynamic therapists believe that the secure frame is a vital element of the therapy. Others disagree about its place in the scheme, but certainly if the frame is not secure, you will find it difficult to accomplish much that is meaningful, whatever type of therapy you pursue.

From what I have seen, I believe that the secure frame is the element of therapy that is most frequently abused by poor therapists, and frame deviations are too often tolerated by unknowing clients. Consciously, you may dismiss most frame deviations as unimportant. However, your unconscious mind pretty much requires a secure frame, if your therapy is to have any lasting effect.

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Table of Contents


  1. Why I wrote this article
  2. How to tell if a therapist is competent, or not
  3. What psychotherapy isand why you need to know
  4. The secret that you already know
  5. How a good therapist makes you feel safe
  6. The perfect therapist
  7. Privacy: the essential ingredient
  8. Non-judgmental acceptance: you deserve it
  9. How to choose a therapist to call
  10. How you find out about the therapist
  11. Therapist credentials: the truth revealed
  12. First contact. Watch out for these red flags!
  13. Your first session: what should happen
  14. Safety is in the details
  15. Now what?

Copyright 1991,1996, 1999 Martha Ainsworth. All rights reserved. Please refer to reprint information before reprinting or distributing all or any part of this text.


This resource is hosted by mental health information at Psych Central.