Today we have another question and answer episode featuring some super interesting questions, including what to do when you start developing feelings for your therapist. Also, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to get the free resources mentioned in the episode!
Questions for this week:
- What happens when you have feelings for your therapist?
- How can journaling help anxiety?
- How can I help a friend with major depression?
Read more about these questions below!
My therapist is so empathetic and compassionate that I find myself developing feelings for him. Should I discuss this or would he have to terminate our sessions?
First of all, it’s not weird to have feelings for your therapist. It happens to a lot of people. When you think about it, the qualities of a therapist are definitely attractive qualities in a romantic relationship. You are paying someone to be open, empathetic, to hear you out, take you seriously… it’s called unconditional positive regard. It’s what you hope to have in a familial or romantic relationship. Someone who doesn’t always agree with you, but they are always on your side and they don’t think your actions always reflect on your character.
There are TONS of stories of clients falling in love with their therapists. Sometimes it happens the other way around, but that’s something that is most often never shared with the client because that’s something that a good therapist is trained to work with. If it’s something that could impair their ability to provide care, they are expected to get consultation or work through it in their own therapy.
It’s important to remember that the therapeutic relationship is different than a friendship or a romantic relationship. It is inherently one sided. They are engaging and do care about you as a person, but you are paying them for a service. That shouldn’t dilute the experience at all because it HAS to be different from a friendship or relationship – that’s one of the main reasons that they can help you when your family can’t. There are no feelings attached to complaining or unloading on them.
You also only see one side of your therapist – you don’t see their flaws or normal things that might make you less enamored with a person. It seems like they have their shit together and they also know how to handle your shit, which can obviously seem awesome and attractive.
Now what to do about it.
Sometimes you don’t have to do anything about it. If you were in a committed relationship, but had a professor that you found very charismatic and super attractive, what would you do about it? Probably nothing. It’s something that you may not even struggle with much because it’s a foregone conclusion that nothing will happen.
Sometimes, it may be something that you want to address. Especially if you think it may be representing something else from your life. For instance if it relates to a desire for things that are logically unattainable or if there are aspects of the therapeutic relationship that you crave in your everyday life – those might be rich and valuable topics to discuss and work through in therapy.
In general a therapist is not going to criticize you or be mad if you bring it up. They may react a little awkwardly if you catch them off guard because they are human, but they will hear you out and will likely want to explore a bit. They might say that they are flattered or they might just turn it right back to focus on you. Everybody is a bit different.
I would say that if you wanted to bring it up you probably shouldn’t say “hey so I think you’re hot.” Instead you might say…
Hey, I wanted to bring something up. I’ve been having feeling of attraction toward you. I’m well aware that this isn’t a romantic relationship – but I was wondering if we could explore that a bit.
Overall, just don’t think you’re weird or that this is an indicator that you’re a bad client. Now if it’s something that’s overwhelmingly distracting – you may consider switching, but that doesn’t need to happen in a lot of situations.
I’ve been reading a lot about journaling (including your article!) and was wondering if you could discuss journaling in relation to anxiety on your podcast.
Good question! This is actually something that I will focusing on in my course that I’m currently working on. Journaling is a big part of the course – still in development, but go sign up here if you want more information!
I am a huge fan of journaling – I talk about it all the time. But this question is interesting because it’s asking how in particular to use journaling in relation to anxiety.
One great thing that you can do with a journal is to track your anxiety. This is especially helpful if you have a difficult time understanding why it comes out of nowhere. For instance, if you make a point to check in 3 times a day (meals) and rate your overall level of anxiety 0-10 and write a quick note about what’s going on at the time that can really help you start to identify some of your personal patterns. If it’s more specific like panic attacks or some sort of OCD symptom, you can track that particular behavior – write down every instance of panic that happens throughout the day an a few notes about the circumstances surrounding it.
The other great way that you can use your journal is to break down your thinking patterns. The basic format would be to write down the event that happened and made you feel anxious and then try to identify the beliefs/assumptions that you had about the situation that made you feel anxious. From there you want to try to find another explanation or another way of thinking about the situation that could possible lead you to a better emotional reaction. You’d be amazed at how just downloading your worries and fears onto paper can really help as well. For instance, journaling about your concerns and worries an hour or two before bed can help you to not bring it with you into the bedroom when you try to sleep.
You want to treat your journal like a reference text- when you come to some realization or work through a situation you can come back to that another time when you are feeling less clear to remind yourself of how you got through it or what you learned.
If you want to know more about my approach to journaling, check out this post (with a printable) here.
My friend is suicidal and depressed. I want him to know that I’m here for him without being pushy. Any advice?
I have a friend who recently got diagnosed with depression. The outcome was very heartbreaking it lead to him crying out for attention by almost attempting suicide. He got the help he needed somewhat, and he is now home with his loving fiance and children, but from what she is telling me he is shutting himself out, and he doesn’t want negativity around him, he’s not motivated to cook anymore, or even stepping outside. I’m not sure if he’s going for therapy, and I think the medicine he’s taking hasn’t kicked in yet, and I’ve read that antidepressants can take a long time to see if it works or not.I want to be supportive, and I have been worrying about him ever since the incident, but he doesn’t want to see me right now. I texted him stating that I am here for him if he needs someone to talk to, however his response was “Nah, I’m good.” I’m really concerned, worried, and I want to help as much as possible. I know I can’t “fix” him, but I just want to know he is going to be okay. I want him to know that I’m here for him, but I also don’t want to feel like I’m being annoying/pushy that would get him upset.
I’m so sorry to hear that your friend is going through that, but very happy to hear that he is alive. I want to say that you’ve done the right thing by saying I’m here if you need me or someone to talk to. You are right that you can’t fix him for him. Nobody can. Even if he doesn’t take you up on it – he hears you and he is better off knowing that than otherwise.
You have to recognize that he has the right to not take you up on your help right now. You can only make assumptions about what is going on in the little world inside his head. There may be some reason that he needs space. Of course you can’t know that for sure, but that’s just the nature of things. You can’t know. All you can do is remain open and tell him that you are there and check in every so often.
You had a question about medicine: The main class of medications that are used are SSRIS, which do take up to a month to really start working effectively.
The good thing is that it sounds like he is getting support of some kind and he does have a family that cares about it. This answer might have been a bit different if you were his only support and he was isolated with nobody around him. I’m assuming he lives with his children and fiance – you might focus more on her and have her let you know if she thinks that you could help in some way since she probably sees him everyday.
Some of this will be something that you need to learn how to deal with for yourself. You will need to find a way to carry on without the knowledge of exactly how he is doing. I can relate to the feeling as a therapist – it’s something that I’ve had to get used to.
You’re not a bad friend for backing off. If you’re worried about him thinking that you’re abandoning him, I would suggest being 100% clear about it. Maybe write him a note to remind him that you’re here.
Hey, I’m really glad that you’re still alive. I know things have been crazy and scary for you lately. I wanted to remind you again that I’m here if I can help in anyway, but I also know that you might need some space and I don’t want to be overbearing. I’ll try not to bug you with asking all the time, but just please know that you’re on my mind I care.
It may also help to suggest some specific ways that you can help. Like if you ever want to go to the gym together or go play golf or something – I’m always in. I’ll even make the plans if you want.
I talk about how to help a suicidal friend in episode 49 as well, which you can find here.
Thanks so much for listening this week!