Therapist Confesses: How I Really Feel About My Clients
I have favorite clients. People are people and I experience a stronger connection with some clients than with others. For example, one population that I’m really drawn to is complex trauma. Individuals with a history of complex trauma can have attachment problems that show up as difficulty with trust and boundaries. The result is that some clients that I particularly enjoy working with accuse me of not caring about them at all because I’m not available to them 24/7 or because of boundaries I’ve set. Also, I’ve had plenty of clients that I still remember fondly that didn’t have complex trauma, so that isn’t really a prerequisite.
Every therapist I’ve ever talked to has had different connections with different clients and the awesome thing is that we’re all really different. Many clinicians who have a specialty, whether it’s by population, like couples or kids, or by issue, such as eating disorders or OCD, and they arrived there when they noticed which clients were a particularly good fit for their skills. So the point is that while your therapist probably looks forward to some sessions more than others, hopefully he or she has specialized so that you’re naturally a pretty good fit. Also, every client deserves same positive regard and consistent boundaries, so the care you get is consistent with everyone else’s regardless of any personal preference. See below.
I can find reasons to like and respect any client. It’s immaterial if I’m more drawn to some clients than others. One foundational value of social work is that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect and I’ve never failed to find things in my clients to admire. If you’re not sure what your therapist sees in you, I encourage you to ask. Without having met you, if you’re wanting an answer to this question, I can already tell that you want to connect with someone and you want to be respected, which is really important and shouldn’t be underrated. If you’re in therapy voluntarily, then kudos for taking a really brave, and possibly costly step to get support, and if you’re there involuntarily then the fact that you’re wanting to know if your therapist likes you shows vulnerability, which is really admirable.
My boundaries are the same for everyone. I would totally want to be friends with some of my clients and I really wish I could ask business advice of others. I’ve had clients that I’ve wanted to take home to give them more care and others I’ve wanted to give a few extra chances even after they’ve missed a bunch of sessions. But every good therapist will have consistent boundaries with their clients, and once a therapeutic relationship is established, most professions ethics guidelines agree that the power differential is set.
I feel the same reaction to you that other people in your life do. This is really key to your improvement. The thing that prevents you from connecting to others and getting your needs met will also show up in our relationship. And I really have no agenda other than wanting to connect with you and helping you realize your goals, which can make it easier to hear me when I tell you what’s not working for you.
I absolutely respect and empathize how difficult it is to be vulnerable with me. Like any decent therapist, I’ve been in therapy and know how counterintuitive it can be to open up to someone that you just met. I know it can feel weird to trust someone who is being paid to be available to you, and that can feel like the caring isn’t real. But the caring is real and I’m still going to ask you to do it, at your own pace.
I really do care. No dark secrets around this one. I’m underpaid and I love my work. I hurt when you hurt and when you feel better I feel better. We’re in this together.
Staggs, S. (2014). Therapist Confesses: How I Really Feel About My Clients. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 18, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/after-trauma/2014/01/therapist-confesses-how-i-really-feel-about-my-clients/