29 thoughts on “Do You Have a Photo of Your Therapist?

  • May 20, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Hi Sonia– this was a lovely post. Most people don’t write about, or think much about these small sharings that can be the glue of the treatment—
    thanks–
    Robin

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  • May 20, 2011 at 3:27 am

    Hi Robin,
    I believe that having something symbolic to focus on between sessions can be most soothing. Transitional objects lower the sadness and pain felt between sessions, not unlike a two year old’s blanket. And that is not to sound patronising either. When you are attached to your therapist how different is it to someone who has a photo of their loved one on their work desk?

    Although a photo is somewhere between concrete and symbolic, it serves to function as a reminder of what the therapist looks like. Between sessions trying to picture her face can be stressful and difficult to conjure up. A photo on a business card can give the client something to hold onto so that separation is not so desperate.

    Eventually though, it’s not needed because the therapist’s words and therapy overtake the need for something tangible. This can take a considerable amount of time though.

    Sonia

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  • May 20, 2011 at 6:15 am

    Very compassionate article.
    When I first started working with my T around CSA issues, he gave me a stone that he was given from his own CSA healing journey. Words can never say how much peace and comfort my “HOPE” stone brought me. There were times flashbacks would happen at 1AM. I was in agony. They were time when I could have justified calling him on the phone as trauma healing of that level can take one into very dark thoughts. But I was able to get out my T stone and just hold onto it so tightly my hand would pulse.

    Therapy is sometimes about growing up all over again. And sometimes we NEED that connection reminder from our pseudo-parent in order for that healing to transpire.

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  • May 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for this post. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had a photo of my therapist. I’m also glad to know that other people use their therapist’s voice on the office answering machine for comfort. I’ve done that, too. Alas, my current therapist has a receptionist so there is very little reward to that strategy. This makes me feel a little more bold about looking for something from her to use as a concrete reminder. Again, thank you for this post.

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  • May 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Yes I do have a photo of my therapist- or should I say ex therapist (I was discharged after the allotted time allowed for my CBT) I had/have transference. I found the photo on their Facebook page which is fairly locked down but the picture is the profile picture. I have it saved to my phone and at times of distress both whilst in therapy and now 8 weeks out I will seek out the face as a source of comfort. I received a humorous but lovely note from them thanking me for the parting gift and letter- it was sent alongside the copy of the letter to my GP (the only conflict we had had in therapy was about a letter that had gone to my GP about 3 months in telling them I had started treatment- but I didnt know what it said- I saw reference to the letter and the timing was after some particular hard disclosure so was paranoid and angry).
    I have also phoned a mobile number for the private practice that they have- but felt really grubby after that and beat my self up mentally for days.

    Do I think its a good idea- yes I would have loved it however I would wonder whether it would fan the fire of transference- and whilst I know transference can be beneficial- its hard for the client to see it at the time but I can certainly appreciate the soothing benefits.

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  • May 21, 2011 at 12:52 am

    i’ve never been given a photo of my therapist, but i have looked one up. i have done that many, many times. she has also given me a few objects here and there that are very dear to me – a stone, a stuffed animal. i find these really helpful. i love it when she calls me and leaves a message on my phone – i can listen to it over and over if i need to. and finally, i have every single email she has ever sent me and i have sent her saved in a special folder. and i re-read them as often as i need to.

    all this might make her sound like she has really bad boundaries. she doesn’t. at all. in fact she has the most strong sense of her boundaries of any caring professional i have ever known (i work in the field as well so i have known quite a few). i think it’s a combination of many years of experience, lots of training, and an extraordinary innate ability to do what she does.

    she is very very good at recognizing that i have some major trust/attachment issues, and that i need all this reassurance/contact in order to feel safe enough with her to move forward in my healing process. i guess it’s what you have written about before, sonia, about needing to merge with your therapist before feeling strong enough to be on your own.

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  • May 21, 2011 at 2:52 am

    It was nice to read this post. Thank you. You dare to say things that need to be said. I always seem to come across your blog when I’m surfing the net on my favorite search terms. I don’t know if a photo of my therapist would be a good idea. My favorite search terms are “how to terminate therapy”, “unhealthy attachment to therapist”, “how to get over transference”, etc. I am terribly attached to my therapist and I can’t stand it. I’m finding it the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I’ve been through a lot. So a photo? Well, not too long ago when my therapist asked me what I missed when I didn’t see her, I said her face. I can’t seem to keep an image of her face in my mind. Between sessions she sometimes turns into this malevolent and terrifying person which prompts me to try to cancel sessions, terminate therapy and generally plan riding my bike off to Kazahkstan. (I live in France) But I’m so attached to her that the pain of not seeing her is worse than the fear of seeing her. It is quite the dilemma really. So a photo? Yes, perhaps it would be helpful, but the other side of me, the side that wants a life of MY own, not a life that revolves around therapy and my therapist, says enough is enough! You see, I often ask myself: if you have survived severe childhood trauma, and survived well, as I have, what good is it if you spend the rest of your life talking about it? In essence not only is your childhood destroyed by what happened, but you waste the rest of your life trying to deal with it. If therapy and the therapist could stay in their place, in the session once or twice a week, then no life would be lost or wasted. Dedicating two hours a week to feeling better is not extravagant. Most of us watch far more television. But when the transference gets strong, the attachment overwhelming, we’re not talking about two hours a week now are we? We’re talking every waking moment (or almost), we’re talking about a life that belongs to the therapist and is no longer your own. This I find very distressing and unhealthy. Thus, I continue my google searching “how to get over transference”. I suppose this is my problem. Should I let myself go to this attachment? I don’t seem to have a choice and it drives me literally crazy! Because I just don’t think it is right. Is a life lived in the parallel space to life, the limited space between us and reality, is that where we want to spend the precious time we have on this Earth? Rubbing my hand up against tree bark, or smelling honeysuckles must have more meaning than the layer of thought that separates me from the here and now. A photo? Would love one. But I frankly don’t think it will get me any closer to being able to live MY life, and fill myself with the beauty that makes up every instant we breathe.

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  • May 21, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Julie, It was a big momentous decision for me when I bulk deleted all my therapists emails to me. I rarely went back and read them though. I did keep one email that was very precious to me 🙂 I have cards, books, gemstones and yes I do have a photo of her, one she allowed me to take of her when I gave her a bunch of flowers from my garden. On two occasions it has been my screensaver for the day when I was feeling lonely, but only when all family members were out the house for the day.

    Wilhemina,
    I fought the transference for many years asking myself questions. Then I let myself surrender and revelled and immersed myself in it, till slowly I was able to move on. I didn’t starve it, I fed it well until it decided it had lived its life and then it slowly died of natural causes. It had a good life and died peacefully.

    Sonia

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  • May 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    It’s reassuring to know that a peaceful death is possible. And it is good to know your experience was so positive. It helps. The idea of surrendering terrifies me. I wouldn’t know where it would go. I wonder what the therapist’s role is in this transference dance. It takes two to tango. What if my therapist turns out to be a bad dancer, steps on my toes all the time, leaving them black and blue… And then again, I realize I have no real choice in the matter. The dance has begun, and as often as I try to leave the floor, I can’t. It leaves me feeling trapped and very unhappy. Perhaps it’s just a question of changing the music… in my mind. We’ll see. Thanks for your words.

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  • May 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Remember always that you are taking dancing lessons so that you can learn how to dance properly at a professional level. If you leave the dance floor you may never learn how to dance.

    Your therapist does not have two left feet, she will not step on your toes and she will teach you to be the dancer at the end of time.

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  • May 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    sonia that is a really great way to think about transference. i also fight it, a lot. perhaps i will stop doing that and just be ok with it. what is that saying? ‘what we resist, persists’. probably applies here too.

    Reply
    • May 22, 2011 at 6:40 pm

      Freud called it “the return of the repressed.”

      Reply
  • May 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    My therapist finally is on Facebook so now I can look at her profile pic, and yes, she has everything else blocked. I do get a lot of comfort by looking at it.
    I also text her and I keep all of her replies. I find that I don’t look at them as often now, but I’m certainly not in a place where I’m ready to delete them. Some day……maybe

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  • May 24, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Sonia,

    Thank you for the lovely article. You brought up several issues that I had not considered from those angles. I do have my picture on my website, as well as on my business Facebook page, my blog, etc. But I have not moved to business cards with my picture because they felt very self-promoting. I also use business cards as appointment reminders, so it might feel like overkill. After reading your post, I think I would consider a smaller run of cards with pictures. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

    Warmly,
    Ann

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  • May 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

    At times children want or need something to use as a comfort and reminder they are working hard in therapy. I have small items in my toy area that can be borrowed between sessions. I keep gift giving and accepting to a MINIMUM per my ethical boundaries. At or near graduation from therapy, I often give a small item like a stone or inexpensive book as a tangible representation of the hard work that is ongoing and led to mental strength. I do not provide photos, will have to consider this when I begin my DBT group next fall. I usually do not friend current patients on facebook etc. though i may accept friend requests from former patients. This is a case-by-case decision and intended to build self sufficiency while limiting dependency.

    Warm regards,
    V

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  • May 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Great article-thanks. These are things I have never admitted to-keeping a letter from my therapist of years ago, calling my therapist just to hear her voice on the recording, saving messages from my therapist and yes the tokens she gave me when either of us were traveling. I am much stronger now thanks to the work we did together. She closed her practice last year to start a new adventure. While working with her for about 6 years-I finished my MA in Counseling Psychology and started my own private practice. I will take some of these suggestions to heart. I already have rocks and stones for clients to take, I have a Facebook “like” page so they can befriend me there but it is strictly professional. I also have a website and blog that I can update more often. I also like the business card idea with the photo-good for clients and people you meet who will remember your face much easier than your name.

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  • May 25, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I had a card from my therapist and kept it for a few years. I ripped it up and burned it one day when I got angry with her. I wish I hadn’t now. Since then I have received more cards form her and I keep them in a pencil case in a drawer in the back of my wardrobe.

    Dear Verline, Congratulations on doing DBT with clients. If you get a nice professional generic photo of you on your business card then your borderline clients will be able to recall your face in between sessions. This way, I believe, would not be too anxiety producing in yourself as well.

    This I did not have for many years and I would get quite anxious when I could not recall her face.

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  • May 29, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    This is a great article!

    I don’t have photos on my professional website or my cards, though people could easily find mugshots from various columns I’ve written by googling my first and last name.

    I do have artwork on my cards and website that I’ve made clear was done by me (some are paintings/drawings, others are closeup photographs of things found while walking), for this very sort of reason. Artwork can be a way of “giving” a great deal of oneself and letting people in without actually disclosing anything that’s the wrong kind of personal to be disclosing to clients.

    If anyone’s interested, I got my cards from moo.com. They let you do as many different images as you want, up to a different one on each card, without an additional fee. (I’m not affiliated with moo.com in any way other than being a customer and loving the products.)

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  • June 5, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I have my photo on my business card. I’m a child therapist and when I first meet with parents, prior to meeting with their child, I give them one of my cards to give to their child. Children are very visual and it’s a great way to begin building a therapeutic relationship. I also have photos of myself and my play therapy room, including a video tour, on my web site and I encourage parents to share those with their child prior to their first session with me. I often have parents tell me that those photos have been very helpful to their child.

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  • June 11, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Sonia,

    thank you for this. I had to laugh when I read, “Perhaps it would be a good idea, especially for therapists who conduct Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to have a business card with a photo – a professional one not a personal family photo.”

    What is it with these DBT therapists?

    I finally found an image of mine online doing a Google search (she is VERY hard to find doing any search — it took me three days). I enlarged the photo — it is a psychotherapy group and guess who is in the back row, although she is only about 5 feet tall, standing so that her body and face are obscured by the person standing next to her?

    How did she know not to ever ever put herself up on the internet, even in college?

    And I did choose her exactly because she is so very skilled…

    I am considering printing out this blog post and giving it to her.

    Thank you for all of your insights — I love reading your posts!

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  • July 10, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Hey Sonia,

    another fantastic blog. I have a picture of my therapist which I found after searching online. I have never told her I have it, as I am pretty sure she wouldn’t be too thrilled. However I do not feel guilty for it as it was a picture available to anyone online. It’s not like I intend to do anything deviant with the picture lol. I don’t really look at it very often but it is still nice to have.
    I did tell my therapist once about reading a study or something on transference objects from therapy before and how comforting it can be for clients to have an object from the therapy room or a photo of their therapist but she did not like that idea and said she would not do that as she thought it created dependancy in a sense. I don’t really agree with her but she is free to have her own opinion.

    Thanks for another great blog!

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  • August 29, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I have several photographs of my therapist. It took me many years to get the nerve up to ask if I could take her picture. She was very gracious and willing to be photographed. She has also given to me letters at various times throughout our therapy relationship to help me to cope with issues I am dealing with between sessions. It helps to have them to read when I need to connect with her. They are handwritten by her and are written to encourage and support me. I also have several rcordings from her reading some of my favorite children’s stories. I have been dealing with major attachment issues as well as PTSD and depression. These transitional objects are comforting. I have been with her for many, many years.

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  • October 31, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    I do admit that I have a photo of my counselor. She has many accomplishments and participates in many activities besides her career so I have found articles in newspapers, blogs she’s posted on, Facebook accounts, etc with pictures of her… I’m not her “friend” on Facebook because she would’t let me because of privacy and ethics. I do agree with her and totally respect that decision.

    I am experiencing alot of transference-more than what I think she realizes lol… I was the one that brought it to her attention. She don’t ever say much so I don’t know if she suspected it or if she thinks that I don’t know what I’m talking about. But her and counseling is almost always on my mind and it drives me crazy. I can’t even sleep at night lol. I definately think that something like a stone or card would be beneficial to me between weekly sessions.

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  • April 15, 2012 at 3:57 am

    I don’t have a picture of my therapist, but I have one of my psychiatrist. The clinic she works at has a website with professional photos of all their doctors and nurse practicioners.I copied her photo to my desktop and keep it there.

    I don’t need one of my therapist because I see her every week or every other week for an hour. My psychiatrist is see for ten or 15 minutes, scheduled every 3 months with emergency visits when necessary. It makes me feel safer to look at her photo when I am not doing well.

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  • June 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Yes a photo is appropiate in my opinion. I had this intense experience with my first therapist in my twenties but could never bring myself to ask for a photo. So many years later, when facebook came about I found her on fb, and verified information she had shared with me during the sessions. My trust of people deepened. And yes I experienced guilt by searching her out yet I also understood why I did.
    Now most therapist have a website. I hope that therapist understand a clients need for a photo. Also the healing of a meditation tape is priceless.
    Honoring the process of our healing and all people involved is important!

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  • June 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Whilst I completely understand that having a business card with you’re therapists face on would be of huge comfort when you feel that you are missing your connection with her, as a therapist myself it would not be something that I would consider doing. there are several reasons for this. transference, or an intense attachment to you’re therapist is something that really needs to be discussed in the room as it can get in the way of the work you are there to do, you did not enter into therapy to develop that kind of attachment, you have suggested in your article that you felt guilt and shame for this dependancy and i wonder if those feelings would have surfaced if you had had the image readily available to you. transference is when feelings you have for someone or something else are transfered onto your therapist, by opening this up with her it gives you the opportunity to gain awareness into where these feelings belong. Also i feel that it would be unethical on the part of the therapist to encourage such attachment by having their photo on their business card. however objects like stones, shells or painings that have been created or used during the session may be offered as a symbol of the work you are doing together but not her as a person. i hope this helps.

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    • February 26, 2019 at 10:06 am

      And you’re a therapist? Seriously need to re-evaluate your line of thinking. If course this should be discussed with the therapist, but I believe it is a positive transference that will gradually become less important over time. If my therapist thought as you do, I would terminate therapy. What do they call a therapist who graduated at the bottom of their class? A therapist….. Buyer Beware

      Reply
 

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