It is common for therapy clients to be concerned regarding significant differences in his or her background and that of the therapist. The client may feel, for instance, that he or she maintains a strong belief in religion, philosophy, etc., that is not shared by the therapist. Similarly, differences in age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and overall life stage, can cause the client to wonder how the therapist could possibly relate to him or her. A trained therapist usually works with all kinds of individuals from widely varying backgrounds. The sharing of specific beliefs or circumstances is not nearly so important as an understanding of how those background factors directly and indirectly impact the happiness and satisfaction of the client. At the same time, the therapist strives to understand the unique “worldview” of each client, and is sensitive to the enormous influence of culture and related life factors and experiences.
The therapist, it could be said, functions as a kind of mirror. Rather than working to “fix” the client by directly steering him or her toward the “right” belief or behavior, a good therapist simply reflects the obstacles that client is encountering from some new perspective. The client is the only absolute authority when it comes to his or her own life. Although the therapist may offer opinions and viewpoints from time to time, it is always up to the client to decide what is truly best for him or her.