“These are my confessions. You may not like what I have to say.”
You might’ve seen a therapist or psychologist in real life. Or maybe you’ve only seen them in the movies.
Either way, you probably get the drift of the therapist-client relationship: Basically, the client spills the details of their souls, while the therapist takes notes silently, keeping her thoughts to herself.
Until now, that is.
A therapist has started an anonymous blog, Therapist Confessions, to share the truth about her clients, her most awkward work-related encounters, and her own struggles with mental health. The candid confessions are a reminder not to “put your therapist on a pedestal,” the blog’s unnamed author writes.
“These are my confessions. You may not like what I have to say,” she warns. “We’re all human.”
Today, we bring you the most revealing, intriguing and downright strange responses from the blog.
Does being a therapist make your own relationship easier?
“Actually, therapists have a higher likelihood of divorce than non-therapists,” the US-based therapist writes. “While we can give people the tools to help themselves, that doesn’t necessarily mean we know what to do with the tools when it comes to ourselves.”
That said, she says: “In my case, the relationship I’m in now is fairly healthy.”
What do you do when a client cries?
“I don’t typically physically comfort a client,” she explains.
“Comforting clients sometimes sends them the message that we can’t handle their emotions or they’re overwhelming us. If a client is crying, I wouldn’t necessarily just say I wait, but I let them typically try to speak first.”
What should I do if my therapist flirts with me?
She says it makes her “angry” to hear of a fellow therapist crossing such a clear professional boundary.
“If you feel your therapist is being inappropriate with you, I would bring it up with them and their supervisor if they have one. Their supervisor should make the proper steps,” she says.
“It is never okay for a therapist to flirt or make a move on a client due to the nature of the relationship,” she adds. “As a client you put your trust and vulnerability into a professional, and them acting on that would be violating you and their ethics.”
She adds: “I would encourage you to look for a new therapist.”
Do you ever made friends with clients?
While she hasn’t yet befriended a client, she says she wouldn’t totally rule it out.
“I’ve given clients permission to look me up on Facebook or to email me after two years have passed from the point of last contact if they want to be my friend because [professional guidelines] spell out that we must wait two years before having any sort of personal relationship with clients,” she says.
But she adds that a friendship with a client would require “changing the dynamic of the relationship” in a big way.
“I’ve definitely seen myself being friends with some of my clients but I’m not sure it could ever work out that way,” she says. “With friendships, it’s about give and take. In a therapeutic relationship, we give and clients take. That’s how it should be, but it doesn’t make the relationship any less significant.”
Do you have favourite clients?
The short answer to this one is: Yes.
“My favourite clients are clients that I’ve had since I was an intern, which was quite some time ago,” she says.
“While I’ve watched them grow and change, I’ve also grown and changed with them. I get a bit sentimental thinking of my beginning days as a clinician and thinking of where they were when they first began treatment.”
What are your pet peeves?
“I think my biggest pet peeve is when parents come in to have us ‘fix’ their kid or couples come in expecting us to ‘fix’ their partners,” she says.
“It definitely makes me a little frustrated, especially when the person who wants the fixing done usually needs more therapy than the person they brought, or maybe even dragged, to therapy.”
Have you ever made fun of your clients?
She says she’s definitely discussed her clients and laughed about them, but mostly for professional reasons.
“I won’t necessarily say I’ve made fun of clients, but during rounds when we discuss cases we may get on the topic of discussing certain clients and some far-fetched things they tell us,” she says. “Most of the time, we’ll share stories to check in to make sure the story is plausible.”
Do your clients ever ask you personal questions, and do you answer them?
“Yes, clients do ask about my personal life,” she says. “Most of the time I don’t share, since it can be a form of deflection.”
Do you find it awkward seeing clients in public?
“I only find it awkward if they start asking me work-related questions while in public or just start spewing personal information, even if I’m with someone,” she says. “I often have to redirect the conversation and ask them to call me or make an appointment with me.”
She adds that for client confidentiality reasons, “unless they acknowledge me, I have to act as though they’re strangers.”
What should clients do if they develop feelings for their therapist?
“All I can say is that it’s very common to develop feelings for your therapist. There’s nothing to be ashamed of… [Your therapist] should be able to handle it appropriately and not make you feel ashamed or guilty,” she begins.
“I think a lot of the time clients develop feelings for us because we listen, are nurturing, challenging, and supportive,” she says. “Most people have never had that in their lives. So, when someone makes you feel safe when you’re vulnerable and they’re there for you, it can be easy to develop feelings and get attached.”
Do you ever form an attachment to one of your clients?
She says she “absolutely” gets attached to her clients — but not in a sexual way.
“I care about them and I want to see them get better. People often think we do this for money, but that’s really not the case,” she says.
“Although we don’t look at them as friends and family, we still have a special relationship with them and we get to see a side of them that not many people get to see.”
Would you ever hug one of your clients?
“Yes, I would hug my clients if it were a last session if they wanted a hug or leaned in for one.”
Do you use any tricks to make a client feel closer to you?
“Mirroring is when you copy someone’s behaviours – whether it be the gestures they make, how they sit, tone of voice, words, etc,” she says, adding that she was taught to mirror clients in grad school.
The idea behind mirroring, she says, is for the client to “see you as like them” and therefore “accept you”.
“It usually happens on a subconscious level with clients when we do this,” she explains.
Have you ever kept a big secret from a client at work? What would you tell your colleagues or clients if you could?