Can Therapy Promote Authenticity?

What to look for in your therapist.

Posted Jul 19, 2020

Being true to yourself is important. It is so valuable to know yourself, to be able to take responsibility for your choices in life, and to be able to stand your ground for what you believe in.

But surprisingly, authenticity is a topic that psychologists haven’t paid much attention to. 

Authenticity is now attracting interest from positive psychologists, concerned to find out what factors lead to it, and most importantly, how to promote it. Can therapy promote authenticity?

That was the question asked in two recent studies. Specifically, the researchers thought that what's important is likely to be how a therapist relates to their client as a person. It's going to be about the quality of the relationship that is formed. In a good therapeutic relationship, people have the nutrients to grow, to flourish, and to become themselves.

The researchers were interested in testing whether therapy in which clients who feel most valued, understood, and accepted, would be most likely to report becoming more authentic.

The first study was published in the journal Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies by Jiyea Kim and her colleagues. They found that in an internet sample of individuals who were in therapy, that higher scores on a test to measure authenticity was associated with higher scores on a measure of the relational depth experienced by the client in therapy. Relational depth is defined as when a client has a feeling of profound contact and engagement in therapy. This study suggests that the deeper the therapeutic relationship, the more it is associated with authenticity.

The second study was published in the journal British Journal of Guidance & Counselling by Cecelia Bayliss-Conway and her colleagues. They provided further and more convincing evidence because they investigated individuals over ten sessions of therapy. This allowed them to test whether those clients who reported becoming more authentic by the tenth session also had a stronger and deeper therapeutic relationships in the previous sessions. It was found that increases in authenticity at the end of therapy, were associated with feeling valued, understood, and accepted during therapy.

The results of these two studies show that relational factors present in therapy are associated with increased authenticity. Specifically, they suggest that it is important that you feel valued, understood, and accepted by your therapist. 

The results give an indication of what’s important to look for in a therapist.

Ask yourself, is my therapist really listening to me? Is my therapist trying to see things from my point of view? Do you feel you could say anything, no matter how shocking, and it wouldn’t make a difference to how your therapist feels towards you?  Do you feel they care for you as a person?  Do you feel understood by them?  Valued?  Accepted for who you are?  

If you can answer yes to these questions, then it sounds like you may be in the type of therapy relationship that allows you be yourself.


Bayliss-Conway, C., Price, S., Murphy, D., & Joseph, S. (2020). Client-centred therapeutic relationship conditions and authenticity: a prospective study. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 1-11.

Kim, J., Joseph, S., & Price, S. (2020). The positive psychology of relational depth and its association with unconditional positive self-regard and authenticity. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 19(1), 12-21.