Do therapists get attached to their clients? Do they feel a bond that can’t be broken? These are the questions that many people who have been looking for treatment for years have asked. The good news is that therapists do get attached to some clients and others don’t but you need to understand that there is a difference between having an emotional attachment versus being overly attached.
In my experience, I have noticed that therapists who are highly skilled at working with a wide variety of people in a variety of settings will have a very strong emotional connection. They will have feelings for each client that are completely genuine. They truly will feel the person as if they were a loved one or a best friend. In other words, they have a genuine affection for the person and a desire to really help them in any way that they can.
However, therapists who are not skilled at working with diverse clients and who have a great deal of difficulty developing personal relationships may have a harder time being emotionally connected to each client. In other words, it’s not always easy for them to feel the empathy or the interest that they need to have in order to be able to connect with clients. Some therapists get overly attached to their clients and will tell them almost anything without considering whether it is the right thing to do. They may try to talk them into things that they may not truly want to do. They may use their rapport skills (i.e., they “talk” to them like they would to a friend) to get them to agree to things that are not necessarily in their best interests. When this happens, the client feels taken advantage of and may even blame the therapist for not doing a good enough job with them.
Another possible reason why some therapists don’t have a good therapeutic relationship with their clients is because of their substance use history. Substance use affects people in different ways, and many therapists are not skilled at treating people with varying emotional needs. This can lead them to prescribe medications for their clients that may not be healthy for them or that are really not suitable for their clients’ substance use situation. The result could be that the client becomes so angry and upset that the therapist realizes that he/she just doesn’t have the necessary skills to help the person.
It is important for you as a client to find therapists who are well-trained and who are able to work with your particular substance use issue. You also want to make sure that you are working with a therapist who has your best interests in mind and who is honest with you. If you go with someone who is not well-trained and who doesn’t have your best interests in mind, you might not get the help you need. Therefore, you want to make sure that you are working with well-trained therapists who are able to get attached to their patients and who are willing to make an honest effort to work with the clients they have.
A therapist who works with patients who are having suicidal thoughts often will have to work with them on a one-on-one basis. Because suicidal thoughts are a common part of the grief process, therapists who deal with suicidal thoughts will need to be responsive and compassionate. In addition, they will have to be open to assisting their client’s suicidal thoughts by letting them know that there is no ‘wrong’ reason for their suicidal thoughts and that they are just being influenced by their emotions. In other words, a therapist who facilitates therapy with suicidal thoughts clients will need to be able to recognize the client’s problem and then work with the client so that the client can recognize when it is time for therapy as opposed to when they feel like killing themselves.
The third question to answer when you want to ask your therapist questions about whether he/she feels you make a good fit is how comfortable he/she is with meeting people and with allowing you to do so. Many therapists work very closely with individuals, because it is important for them to maintain a sense of privacy in order to help them work through their issues. Asking this question to your therapist is a way for you to get a sense of whether or not you are a good fit, because you need to feel comfortable talking to this person and sharing your concerns. If your therapist does not feel comfortable allowing you to meet people in private and/or does not allow you to share information about your concerns in a group setting, he/she may not be the best therapist for you.
When you want to ask your therapist questions about whether or not he/she feels you make a good fit, you should ask these four questions: how many times he/she has worked with individuals with suicidal thoughts? How many times he/she has allowed you to talk about your concerns without prompting from him? What is his/her approach to substance abuse and eating disorders? And lastly, is your therapist open to receiving more information from you about your problem?