Do therapists pretend to care about their clients?

Some people don’t want to try therapy because they believe they are paying someone to pretend to care about them. They think therapy is a fake relationship. I disagree.

The therapist is paid for her skill, experience and knowledge, not to pretend they care..You can’t pay him/her to actually care about you. As a therapist, if I really don’t find something to like about a person, I won’t work with them; people can tell if feelings are sincere.

Frankly, I don’t know any therapists who pretend to care and I’ve been doing this for over 40 years. Therapists usually do care about their clients. They got into the profession to be of use to people, because they want to help others. With that as their motivation, they are for the most part caring people. If you’ve not experienced this then either you have met the wrong therapist(s), or you are convinced that people, when they get to know you, won’t care about you.

Another way to look at the therapeutic relationship is that it is a special relationship, i.e. unusual for many reasons and different from relationships you make outside of therapy for those same reasons: You hire a therapist for their skills at working with people to guide you to a more fulfilling life. You only see these therapists when they are at work, at their best, and entirely focused on you. The good ones don’t see clients when they are tired or sick, so they can be at their best and be entirely focused on the client. When do you ever get that from other relationships? Friends, family and lovers all have their ups and downs that the therapist also has, but the therapist doesn’t bring that to the session with you. She/he takes care of all their personal stuff away from the session, and are therefore able to focus entirely on you. That takes work, and professionalism.

If you are in therapy and are reading this because you think your therapist is pretending to care about you, I suggest you bring it up and have a frank discussion with your therapist. The relationship itself is the most important part of your therapy’s success.

Transference and Countertransference in Psychotherapy

Transference and counter transference are natural and common occurences in therapy. The knowledgeable therapist uses his/her awareness of these parts of the therapy relationship to make the therapy process even more productive. If the therapist doesn’t know how to work in the transference much can be missed and the therapy may not be as successful. There is no reason to refer a client if either of these natural relational issues are occuring; there is nothing wrong happening.

Transference is an experience of the other person being “like” someone else in your life, and also, an unconscious transfering of attributes of the original known person onto the new relational person. When a client has positive transference with the therapist, the therapists seems to the client to be like a good parent figure who is probably going to be helpful to the client. Associated with this is sometimes an unrealistic hope of being entirely rescused without much effort on the client’s part, and this, because it isn’t true, usually becomes a disappointment that has to be contended with. A healthier positive transference is more of a openness to the words and caring of the therapist, which has a very positive affect. Positive transference allows the therapist deep access to the client and their unconscious, and in this way provides an opportunity for a very strong healing to occur.

Negative transference implies that the therapist seems as if they are going to be hurtful in some way, probably like a parent or parent figure already has been in the client’s life. Since people are always transfering what they learned in thier families onto others in their world ( not only onto their therapists) they often wind up making incorrect assumptions about other people. It is very useful to correct negative transferencial assumptions in the therapeutic relationship as this can then generalize to other people in the client’s life. At the same time, working through a negaitive transfence is also corrective of the client’s defensive posture toward the therapist,

Counter transference often arrises in the therapist when the client reminds the therapist of themselves or another significant person in their life. It is important that the therapist keeps this in their conscious awareness so that they continue to view the client accurately and do not start treating the client as if they were someone else. If the therapsit is not aware of thier own counter transference, the therapy can be a waste of time for client, or worse, it can be destructive.

Psychotherapy and Energy Work

The advantage of doing energy work with psychotherapy is doing so gives access to your soul and letting the soul tell you what you need to work on and to direct the work itself. I use the word soul here to mean that part of each of us that lives beyond our bodies and our personalities. You could call it the part of you that is one with God, or call it your higher self. It doesn’t matter what word you use, it’s the same part of each of us.

When I do energy work with my clients, I prefer to ask the client’s soul to direct the light to create and maintain the highest good and greatest growth available to the client at that time. That is exactly what happens, and it is immensely valuable to be able to access that – regardless of what the original goals were for the person. I have never had anything but helpful, positive results from this work with my clients.

I prefer to combine this kind of energy work with traditional psychotherapy. This is because the person will utilize the energy work best when they have their mind and emotions in line with what is best for them; when their resources are set up to work with and for themselves, not against themselves.

Some people do spiritual work without doing their own personal work and I find that doing that leaves us humans kind of lop-sided….making sometimes serious mistakes and not adding good to the world and the people around us despite our spiritual sophistication. I don’t want to add to that. I what I do to assist people in being more able to do their spiritual / cosmic work to make our world better for everyone.

I think of our spiritual jobs as the task of cleaning up the piece of humanity’s mess that we were handed down from our less than perfect parents. That means doing your own personal therapy work. When I was well on my way to doing the most of that for myself, I experienced a celebration in my spiritual home. The celebration wasn’t for me, personally, it was for the whole group of us. Some work had been done, or was at least a chuck of humanity’s mess (my mess) was well on it’s way to being cleaned up. Now I get to try to help others accomplish the same in their lives. What a worthwhile, joyful thing to pursue. I do so with great humility as I stumble across my limitations and foibles every day.

How a Therapist Should Respond to a Client Who Feels Attracted to Them

What I tell my clients if they feel romantic about me, and tell me so, is that those feelings are normal and OK to feel. I assure them that I will never take advantage of their feelings and will always only have a therapeutic relationship with them, and always in the office.

Depending on the client’s response, I might encourage them to talk more about how they feel. I tell them that they are only seeing the very best of me when I am totally focused on their needs and how to be of use to them, and that they may never have had something like that before. I emphasize how they are only seeing me for an hour a week ( or whatever it is) and I am careful to meet with them when I am fully able to be present to them and helpful. If I am tired or sick I cancel the appointment. In this way I am purposely telling them this is not a normal relationship, but a very special one that often includes the person who is the client developing strong feelings for the therapist.

Clients usually find the romantic feelings for the therapist dissipate as they outgrow the need for therapy. They may always feel a fondness for this person who helped them, but the intensity goes away.

How Therapists Reparent

I think therapists are re-parenting all the time they are in session with a client, and being keenly aware of that is part of using transference. Recognizing that transference is going on all the time in therapy allows the better therapists to be most effective. This is what is meant by “ It’s the relationship that heals,” not the particular therapeutic approach utilized.

It’s the therapists respect, interest, affection, and effort put out to help; all of this and more is apparent to the client consciously or unconsciously. All of this is saying “you are worthy, you are of great value as a person. Your thoughts are interesting, your feelings matter, ” etc. etc. These messages are the ones the person should have gotten as a child and are now being expressed by the therapist, overtly and not so overtly, verbally and non-verbally. That’s re- parenting, and is the most important job of the therapist.

When I am meeting a client for the first time, I look to see what I label to myself as the beauty of this person. If I don’t see it right away, I consciously wait, because I know I will see it soon. If I can tell I am never going to like a person, for whatever reason, I don’t work with them. It happens very rarely. I know that every person who comes to therapy deserves to be liked and cared about by their therapist.

Energy Healing

I combine energy healing and psychotherapy. I have been a psychotherapist for over 40 years and a a practicing energy healer for 30 years. I’m a Reiki Master and have had training in Shamanic Healing. I’ve been mentored by several spiritual teachers over the years.

I believe I am unique in combining psychotherapy and energy work, which has contributed to my success with a wide range of clients.

Some of my clients use me for straight psychotherapy and some just for energy work. I have a strong intuitive facility that informs all my work with clients.

You are welcome to consult with me and we can discuss your individual situation and how I can best be of use to you. See my Contact Me page for details on how to get in touch with me.

Video Conferencing Therapy Sessions

I have switched all my sessions to video conferencing sessions, and they are going very well. I have been pleasantly surprised that these distant connections with my clients are working just as well as in person, face to face therapy. I use a HIPPA Compliant System so your privacy is ensured.
I encourage anyone seeking therapy to try this out with me. I am seeing both individual people and couples and am pleased with both.

Couple Counseling: What is the Most Common Problem?

Couples Therapy

The problems couples face are often caused by what is actually normal growth in their relationship. Couples grow through stages in a relationship, and when it happens that each partner is at a different stage, the result is often pain and confusion.  It is at these times that couples most often come to therapy, and it is often the biggest problem for couples. Couples therapy can help by guiding both partners to an understanding of what is going on between them and helping them both grow together.

I am certified by the Couples Institute in California in couples therapy. I use the Developmental Model of Couples Therapy to help many of my clients. This is an approach to relationship counseling and therapy developed in the 1980s by Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, of the Couples Institute in California.

This approach focuses on the development and growth of each partner individually in addition to the development and growth of the relationship. It identifies a number of stages in the evolution of every couple’s relationship. The first two stages of couple growth are Symbiosis and Differentiation.

Symbiosis – The Initial Stage

All couples start out here – feeling romantic, delighting in their newfound similarities, wanting to spend all their time together. This brings about important bonding, your becoming a couple.

Differentiation – The Second Stage

As time goes on, usually within the first two years, Differentiation begins: one person, or both, need to identify themselves as who they are as an individual person. Now is when you recognize that you have differences in feelings and thoughts than your partner, that you don’t always agree.  You may want to go out and explore their world, have time with old friends or start a new hobby.

When Stages Happen at Different Times

If this isn’t happening at the same for both people, the one not moving into this second stage often feels hurt or abandoned. “Why am I not enough for you anymore? Why can’t we be together all the time like we were when we were so happy?”  The resulting confusion, unhappiness, and stress is the most common time for couples to seek couple counseling.

A Real Problem Caused by Normal Growth

There’s that common problem I was talking about: the normal growth of one person moving to the second stage of the relationship while the other is still in the first stage. The person feeling left and hurt is in the first stage, Symbiosis, and the other has moved into the second stage, Differentiation. It would be so much easier if both people moved from the first stage to the next, but it often doesn’t always happen that way. So they show up in a therapist office, wondering what went “wrong.” Actually, nothing went wrong, they are growing as a couple, but unevenly.

Understanding What is Happening

Learning about these normal stages of growth helps enormously in understanding and normalizing what is happening for both people, and these are taught without judging either person.  There are lots of reasons why people go through these stages at different times, and that can be understood by looking at their relationships with their important childhood caregivers, usually their parents. For our purposes here, suffice it to say it is normal, but when one person is at one stage and the other moving into another, it’s a stressful time for the couple. There are more stages to normal couple growth which I can explain elsewhere.

Learning the Skills

In couple therapy, you both can learn the skills of the second stage: Differentiation.  These skills include you each acknowledging and stating your own feelings, needs, thoughts, and preferences even when they are not the same as your partner’s.  You learn you can maintain your own perspective and not attempt to change your partner’s to match your own. You can agree that as a couple you really are two different people. Being heard and being understood as a separate but still loved and accepted person is a wonderful experience, different than the first stage, but equally bonding.  It brings you two together in a new way, with new respect and clarity of who your partner really is and being seen as you really are. It can be exciting and enhance intimacy.

Of course, there can be conflict, and learning how to deal with conflict rather than being afraid to face it is another skill of living in an honest and vibrant relationship.

What does the therapist do in couple therapy?

  • Provide a safe environment where both people are able to speak  and be heard, and  where both sides come to  be understood and validated
  • Show how your backgrounds  (yes, your baggage) are being triggered and affecting the present, and what to do about it.
  • Help each person explore their feelings and thoughts without being blocked by taking their partners’ opinions. Learn to do this at home without the therapist being present.
  • Get clarity about what is going on so the couple can understand themselves and progress.
  • Discover patterns that are destructive or at least not productive.
  • Provide ideas about what to focus on between sessions.
  • Specific advice and guidance for your particular relationship

Do therapists ever get annoyed at or tired of their clients?

Yes, I think so.

The job of the therapist is to use yourself as an instrument, and be aware of how you ( your instrument) reacts. If you feel angry, irritated or bored with a client, very likely other people would also. So you use the information you’ve received, by your own reaction, in some manner that would be helpful to the client. The trick here is note your feelings to yourself, think about why the client is probably acting the way he is, and not express them as they are felt, for example – not speak angrily. The therapist’s job is to find a way to explain to the the client, so he can understand, how he is creating this reaction in another person without sounding critical. Then it’s the therapist’s job to help the client understand what is going on within himself.

Similarly, if, as therapist, you are “tiring” of your client, or getting bored, it is a signal (to me anyway) that the client is not being authentic, or is not going anywhere useful, i.e. being repetitive. This too can be communicated to the client without judgement and in a clarifying way to help the client in self awareness.

This takes skill, more than simple self control, because you as therapist have to know how to reach that particular client.

What you say may be experienced by the client as a confrontation but one that includes having the therapist’s arm around you, metaphorically.

Transpersonal Psychotherapy

I have been a psychotherapist for 40 years and have done energy work for most of that time. Now, as a Holy Fire III Reiki Master, I am letting the Madison community  know that I enjoy combining Reiki healing work with psychotherapy for many of my clients who are open and interested in both.

Usually people are happy to put forth “to my highest good” as their intention in their energy work, and therefore the energy work expands on the psychotherapy they are presently involved in and enhances their growth. Because the source of the information that is made available is beyond what I or my clients consciously are aware of, these sessions can be especially provocative and useful.

I have also been helpful for people have difficulties with illnesses, injuries and ongoing health problems.  I am happy to accept clients who are only looking for energy healing and not interested in taking on a  course of psychotherapy.