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Ever wondered if therapists enjoy the presence of some of their clients more than others? If so, does that mean that the “favorites” get better treatment than others? These are critical questions because the consensus is that a licensed therapist is supposed to be one of the most unbiased professionals, and having favorites might compromise that.
Most therapists have favorite clients, even if few practitioners will admit it. A therapist, counselor, psychotherapist, or clinical psychologist may gravitate more towards a particular client or patient because they have a special appreciation for their personality. The patient is a better fit for their skill set or only due to their unique moments.
Read on for details on whether it’s ethical for a therapist to have favorite clients, why most therapists do, and whether that means better treatment for such patients.
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Is It Ethical for a Therapist To Have a Favorite Client?
This question stems from the fact that dual relationships amount to ethical violations in the mental health community. In therapy, a dual relationship exists when your therapist is also your friend or sex partner and is recognized by the American Psychological Association as one of the many potential ethical violations practitioners must avoid.
Being friends with your therapist can harm your progress for a pretty simple reason: psychotherapy is inherently an imbalanced relationship, and it must remain that way to be effective. The client opens up, and the therapist doesn’t.
Such an arrangement is necessary because it allows sessions to be exclusively focused on the client’s issues, not those of the therapist. The rationale for this is that when the therapist doesn’t reveal much, it allows the client to view them as a trustworthy, caring listener who’s exclusively devoted to helping them figure out their issues.
When friendship enters the client-therapy relationship, it becomes two-sided. In simpler terms, it becomes a two-way street as far as sharing is concerned, meaning you’re not the only one who’s opening up: your therapist does, too. That would compromise the therapist’s professional performance or negatively affect you, the client.
To revisit our ethical question, whether it’s unethical to be your therapist’s favorite hinges on why they view you that way. If it’s because you two share a two-way connection that’s deep enough to amount to friendship, then it’s unethical to be your client’s favorite.
An easy way to know if your therapist views you as a friend is to track how much they share about themselves outside of-and-during sessions. If they share a lot, they view you as both a friend and a client, which implies a professional relationship breakdown.
Do Therapists Have Favorites?
Most therapists do have favorite clients, but few would dare to admit it because it’s generally frowned upon in the mental health community. However, it’s more about enjoying working with a particular client than it is about favoritism because being a therapist’s “favorite” doesn’t always mean that you’ll get better treatment than other clients.
So why do therapists enjoy working with some clients more than others?
Let’s take a look at the three most common answers to that question in the next section.
The Client/Therapist Fit
Several factors may contribute to a therapist gravitating more to a given client, but the client/therapist fit is probably the most common explanation. Like other medical practitioners, many therapists have a specialty, and they arrive at that by examining the types of clients that fit their skills exceptionally well.
Understand that having a specialty doesn’t necessarily mean that a therapist exclusively treats one specific condition. Take a counseling psychologist, for example. On a typical day, they may work with patients with a range of problems that include:
- School/career adjustment issues
- work/school retirement transition concerns
- Family and marital issues
- Stress management and handling adverse life events
- Identity development, and many more
With such a diverse group of patients, a counseling therapist may look forward to some sessions more than others because they align more with their skillset. That’s why finding the right client/therapy fit is so important. This isn’t a problem in a therapy room setting because the practitioner can determine whether you two are an ideal fit.
But when seeking counseling through online platforms, you need to screen your options to ensure that they have a client/therapist matching mechanism. Blahtherapy is one such platform. Anyone seeking counseling through the platform is asked to fill a questionnaire, and the responses to the provided questions help match clients to the right therapist.
Patients Have Varying Personality Traits
A therapist may also favor a particular client due to the sheer fact that it’s in their (and everyone’s) nature to gravitate more to certain personalities than others. After all, therapists are still human, with likes/dislikes like everyone else.
There’s also the fact that their profession typically involves engaging one on one with people. Naturally, this creates an “attraction” to some clients because therapy, in many ways, is all about forming fruitful relationships. The way a therapist relates with client A can’t be the same as how they connect with client B because the individuals involved in each relationship are different.
Thus, it’s not uncommon for therapists to develop a special appreciation for a particular patient’s personality as reflected by things like intellect, communication style, sense of humor, and so on. That’s people with varying personality traits will elicit different feelings in a therapist.
Depending on the potential client, some sessions may feel joyful, relaxed, tense, or sad. Some patients may elicit more of one or a combination of these feelings, leading the therapist to look forward to some sessions more than others.
Some Therapists Value Moments With Some Clients More Than Others
Instead of having favorite clients, some therapists treasure the moments they share with particular patients more than others. But since this distinction isn’t always clear, the clients they share such moments with can sometimes be viewed as the therapist’s favorites.
Typically, therapy sessions are filled with moments. There are moments of triumph, vulnerability, laughter, love, breakthrough, and so on. Throughout his/her career, a therapist will share a variety of these moments with different people.
Therapists, being among the most self-conscious professionals on the planet, will know the kinds of moments they enjoy more and may gravitate more to the types of patients whose presence elicits such moments.
That’s why it’s not uncommon for a given patient to spring to a therapist’s mind more quickly because of a specific moment they shared. In such a case, would that patient qualify as the therapist’s favorite? Probably.
Does Being a Therapist’s Favorite Get You Better Treatment Than Other Clients?
The short answer is no. Part of a therapist’s training is knowing how to handle different clients, including those they don’t like. It’s their job to find a way to put all their feelings aside and administer the most effective treatment for each client regardless of how much they like or dislike them.
Also, part of being a professional therapist is resisting the urge to show familiarity and strong feelings based on a special connection they share with the client. In simpler terms, this means acting with professional boundaries, such that none of the clients know who you enjoy working with more, including the favorites. Doing this helps keep the client/therapist relationship purely professional and therapeutic.
That’s it for today’s discussion. In a nutshell, we’ve established that while it’s true that most therapists have favorites, few would care to openly admit it because it’s generally frowned upon in the mental health community.
A therapist may have a favorite client due to a better client/therapist fit or a special appreciation for their personality traits. Other times, favorites can emerge due to shared moments between the client and the therapist. However, being a therapist’s favorite doesn’t earn you better treatment than other clients.
- Reddit: Question for therapists… Do you have favorite clients? : TalkTherapy
- Psychcentral: Therapist Confesses: How I Really Feel About My Clients
- Verywell Mind: Can Clients and Therapists Be Friends?
- Quora: Does a therapist have favorite clients? If so, does that affect the work that they do with their clients?
- Tamara Suttle: The Secret That You Absolutely Must Tell
- American Psychological Association: Potential ethical violations
- Safe Sleep Systems: BlahTherapy: An Honest Review (Cost, Effectiveness, Safety)