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This article has been reviewed for accuracy by John Cottrell, Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Medical Disclaimer: The information and recommendations on our site do not constitute a medical consultation. See a certified medical professional for diagnosis.
Whether you’re interested in getting the right education and becoming a therapist yourself or wondering whether the therapist you currently visit is getting attached to you, you may have thought about how therapists feel when their clients stop seeing them.
Therapists miss their clients and can get attached to them just like regular people. However, most professional therapists have learned to keep a certain professional distance that allows them to work with multiple patients without getting too invested in anyone personally.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the nature of relationship therapists have with their clients and why it is healthy to have a certain emotional distance. You will also learn about the top three myths about therapy and better understand what to expect from therapy by the end of this piece.
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Difference Between a Friend and a Therapist
People often assume a therapist is a friend for hire. That cannot be far from the truth. More importantly, seeing your therapist as a friend might mean you resort to the same patterns you do with friends. While that can be helpful if you’re honest and vulnerable with your friends, most people put on a front in the company of their friends.
When you’re with your therapist, you’re eventually going to be your most transparent self. It isn’t possible to have a friendship based on such non-diplomatic transparency. This makes your bond with your therapist different from the one you have with your friends.
A therapist knows you better than your friends because not only do you tell them more but also because they have enough understanding of the human psyche to glean insights about you that even you may not know. Another way your therapist is different from your friends is authority. A therapist has the better authority of counsel than your friends because of the therapist’s education, experience, and qualifications.
How Do Therapists Feel After Terminating Therapy?
If a therapist realizes that a patient is no longer in need of treatment, he will suggest a termination. In other instances, a patient might realize this themselves and request discontinuation. Whether it is for financial reasons or personal reasons, a therapy arrangement might eventually end.
When this happens, the professional therapist can understand this as an inevitability of practice. However, this doesn’t mean the therapist doesn’t care or think about the client. Therapists choose their field specifically because they care about people and have an optimistic mission to make life better for their clients.
Even though they may not form a traditional friendship with all their clients, they feel bittersweet about helping their clients reach emotional independence and resolve their issues to a degree where they no longer require therapy.
Even though hundreds of units scale most services to make more money, therapists can rarely scale their practice. They can only shift to more affluent niches and charge more to make their business more profitable.
The point is that whether a therapist has two years of experience or twenty, chances are they are working with a limited number of clients. It is only human to develop a bond and then miss the person you see as often.
Do Therapists Talk About Their Patients?
It is natural for people to wonder how their therapists feel about them. The optimists may ask whether their therapist thinks about them or misses them, but some might not have such positive expectations. Many people wonder whether their therapists are talking behind their backs.
People who have a tough time keeping things to themselves often wonder whether that’s also the case with their therapists. If you tell your spouse everything, you may wonder if your therapist does the same. This can interfere with your ability to trust your therapist because any time you want to tell them something you feel you’d be judged on, you might keep yourself from expressing out of the fear that they will laugh at you behind your back.
While no one can guarantee that therapists keep everything to themselves, one can be reasonably confident that a professional therapist doesn’t talk to anyone about their clients’ issues. That’s because they risk losing their license if they disregard confidentiality. They might even be legally liable if they discuss certain things outside therapy.
Above all, therapists don’t discuss their clients behind their backs because people don’t want them to. How often have your partner or friends asked you about the specifics of your job? People generally aren’t interested in the minutiae of their friends’ or partner’s work. A therapist’s partner isn’t as curious about their work life. And even if they were, who better to draw boundaries between the professional and the personal.
Introversion and Therapy: At Conflict?
Even upon knowing that therapists don’t talk about you behind your back, judge you, or get unhealthily attached to you, you may still hesitate. This can be because you’re introverted and aren’t comfortable with the idea of face-to-face therapy. Fortunately, there is a relatively new virtual therapy field that provides the support and counsel you need without the need to be physically present in the same room as your therapist.
Whether you want to reduce the cost of therapy, avoid commuting or just not be in the same room as a therapist, online therapy is for you. Checking out different apps and websites for virtual therapy might take you down a rabbit hole as there are many high-quality options available. Here’s a detailed comparison of Better Help and Talkspace, two of the leading online therapy solutions.
Regardless of the app you choose, you can avail the benefits of remote therapy, including text-messaging with your therapist. For an introvert, this might be a great way to open up without spending expensive sessions just breaking the ice. After all, there is research showing we are more likely to open up online than in person.
Top Three Myths About Therapy
You may prefer in-person therapy or remote sessions. But before you get into therapy, you must know what to expect from therapy. Here are the top three myths that create false expectations.
People Who Seek Therapy Are Mentally Ill
Since mentally ill people benefit from therapy, a logical fallacy occurs where people assume all people who seek therapy are mentally ill. That is not the case. CEOs, high-functioning executives, and star athletes have all used therapy to improve their decision-making, get objective feedback, and have a better life. The stigma surrounding therapy has lessened in recent years, but the myth still lurks in the public sphere.
You Lie on a Couch Talking to a Therapist
While television shows often depict a therapist seated with a notepad and the patient lying on a couch ranting, that is not a realistic depiction of therapy. Your therapist will likely be seated across you in a comfortable chair matching yours. The setting will be more like a living room than what you would see in a movie. The goal is to generate comfortable and open dialogue, not intimidate clients.
A Therapist Is a Shoulder to Cry On
Too many people pass the chance to get therapy because they think it’s just talking about their feelings. We have dedicated an entire section of this piece clarifying the difference between friends and therapists. You don’t just talk or get talked to in therapy. There are cutting-edge techniques backed by research and exercises that help you overcome the obstacles you seek to conquer.
Therapists care about their clients in a professional capacity. And even though they have the human bond and tendency to miss their favorite patients, the healthy distance they maintain from the beginning of the relationship helps them handle timely therapy termination once their client is no longer in need of their services.
John Cottrell, Ph.D., is a yoga instructor and certified yoga therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. He has been teaching yoga since 2000. John is originally from Oakland, California, earning his Master of Science and Ph.D. from Pacific Graduate School of Psychology in Palo Alto, California. His clinical practice led him to child and adolescent psychotherapy, drug and alcohol treatment, psychological and neuropsychological testing, and group/couples therapy. John continues his devotion to sharing health and well-being through his business, mbody. He offers private and group yoga classes, yoga therapy, workshops, retreats, written yoga articles, and a men’s yoga clothing line.