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Shouldn't I feel more empathy & understanding from my therapist?

  • anonymous Asks ...

    Should I be looking to my therapist for emotional support? I feel like I am floundering with a lot of things after a divorce and I am feeling very alone. I have been trying therapy for the first time. I guess I was hoping that I would feel some sort of emotional connection or like that I had a friend in my corner but to be honest after the first 4 sessions so far I really don’t feel like that. My therapist seems very nice and he came highly recommended and it was hard to get in to see him but I just don’t feel like he actually cares about me or my problems. Am I expecting too much from my therapist or am I just not getting what I should from him? I am confused and if I had anyone else to talk about this with I don’t think I would need the therapy quite so much…

  • Art Matthews Says ...
    Art Matthews

    The therapeutic relationship is key to anyone's progress. We have an old saying in the counseling field, "Good rapport is necessary, but not sufficient for a client to change." If you aren't feeling a connection, there is likely a huge limitation on what you will be able to accomplish in your work with this therapist. Some forms of therapy rely less on the "unconditional positive regard" and empathy that many therapists were trained to develop and communicate with clients. Many Cognitive models downplay the need for affinity between client and counselor, but what's important is what you want and feel you need in order to do the work. Clients will sometimes blame themselves and not bring it to the attention of the counselor that something seems to be missing. They will continue on with therapy and eventually leave sometimes thinking that therapy wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

    My recommendation is to bring this up in your next session and see where that conversation goes. If you were my client and you told me this, I would try to explore it with you and see what it is about my interaction that I'm not transmitting that warm, empathetic feeling. And I would explore with you what your expectations are of the counseling relationship and what you need. If I didn't feel that we were a match in style and philosophy, I would make a referral to a therapist who might be a better match for you. No harm, no foul.

    I expect it will feel uncomfortbale for you to do that but you aren't really blaming the counselor, you just want to resolve this issue so that you can move on. As the consumer of a service, you have a perfect right to do that. This is YOUR healthcare.

    If you have a good counselor, s/he will not be offended but will work with you to help you get what you need. And counselors are people too, sometimes we get overextended or absent minded and forget to show that we are listening and understanding your situation to the best of our ability. Give it a chance. Either way that conversation goes, you should be better off in the end.

    Your other option would be to look for someone else, which may be the better option for you. A counselor that doesn't have the ability to build rapport with a client in four sessions may not have the capacity to understand what he's doing wrong.


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