Can therapist hug client a common scenario that therapists experience quite often? Sometimes when I give workshops, I talk about how clients can experience the power of touch. Touch is one of the most powerful ways of getting into a person’s mind. In fact, many therapists feel that when they embrace the body language and the expressions that their clients show them, that they are able to identify with their clients even more.
There is a bit of psychology behind this. The client is not experiencing the client’s suffering as the therapist. This may sound crazy, but it is the clinical psychologist’s belief that there is a certain amount of countertransference, or the re-affirmation that occurs when the client interacts with a therapist in a certain situation that gives the client a certain amount of insight into their own experience.
One example of this phenomenon is with the American Psychological Association (APA). A research study done by the APA on its website demonstrated that therapists give their clients tasks to complete. They then give the same tasks to different clients. One group of clients saw that their therapist gave them the same tasks again; another group saw that their therapist showed them the same tasks but with slight variations; yet another group saw their therapist do the same task but show slight variation on it. The result was that all three groups had the same experience of having their therapist give the same instructions.
This was fascinating to the researchers, because therapists are great at emotional intelligence and know how to pick up on the cues that help them understand their clients’ thoughts. For example, if their client is giving them an instruction such as “you are too quiet,” the therapists know that this is a cue that tells them that the client needs attention and they know exactly how to make sure that they are giving the instruction appropriately. However, for some reason, when the same instructions are given differently, different people experience different things. In other words, one person may get angry with the client, and another may be happy with this result. So the conclusion is that it is not the person giving the instructions that gives an individual experience the results; it is the variations in the way that the instructions are given. And this is exactly what most psychologists study when studying psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is a very subjective experience. One psychologist may think that the client needs to be more open and vulnerable, while another thinks that they need to be guarded and more closed. Even though I work in a highly structured setting, sometimes my patients come in with problems that are so complicated that we can never figure out how they should be facing them. Sometimes I work with a family member who has experienced some tragedy in their life; in this situation, I have to find ways to work within the structure that they have established and work with them on a daily basis.
This brings up an important point. Psychotherapists are much more experienced than psychologists. Psychologists can only diagnose; therapists can help patients change their behavior and increase their effectiveness at work or in their relationships. A good example of this is when many American psychologists are able to work with patients who have bipolar disorder, because they are trained to recognize patterns and to provide a structured way of dealing with these individuals.
So, what does this all mean? It means that when you go to a psychologist, the therapist will likely do much more for you than you can ever imagine. I’ve worked with many people who say that the therapist really didn’t help them; instead, they realized how much the therapist helped them, and helped them solve some of their own problems. Many therapists never talk about these things with their clients.
When clients ask me the question Can therapist hug client?, it means that they are interested in a completely different approach than most therapists practice. When most psychodynamic therapists practice their style of therapy, they tend to keep their distance and they don’t really get involved in their clients lives. When clients approach unique therapy, they’re interested in finding someone who will listen, understand them, and provide them with a structure outside of therapy.