As a therapist, you sit there daily and open yourself up completely and fully for each client.
You throw all of yourself into each and every session. You’re fully invested physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can be a very intimate experience, especially when working with ongoing clients.
You love the bonds and relationships you’ve been able to build with your clients. You wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. That being said, you’re still feeling like you’re missing out. The emotions, connection, and intimacy you’re feeling in each session don’t really replace the true 2-way intimacy you would receive from a romantic partner.
Here’s what to keep in mind as a therapist when one-way intimacy falls short.
What Is Countertransference?
Countertransference is when a therapist transfers feelings they have about someone in their lives onto their clients. This usually occurs if and when a client shares similar qualities or characteristics as the person in the therapist’s life.
Countertransference could be caused by a client’s own personal transference toward their therapist, but this can also occur without any transference being present.
Examples of Countertransference
If you’re still not sure what you may be experiencing is countertransference, let’s take a look at a few examples of it.
One example of countertransference is if a therapist starts to feel any negative emotions toward their client based on a difference of values or beliefs. A therapist should always be an outside third party who remains unbiased.
Another example of this happening is when a therapist starts to view their client as more than a client, even if it’s just on the level of a friend. A therapist should always keep a professional relationship with a client.
How to Deal With It
Therapists have the difficult role of always being there for others and not having anyone be there for them, especially if they don’t have a therapist on their own.
If you or another friend or colleague are experiencing countertransference, there are a few things you or they can do to help minimize the situation or to prevent the situation from getting worse.
Don’t Deny How You Feel
First things first: Don’t deny how you’re feeling. One of the best things you can do is to recognize how you’re feeling and admit it to yourself. The longer you try to bury or hide the feelings you’re experiencing, the worse things will get. The sooner you admit it to yourself, the sooner you will be able to put an action plan in place to prevent any further damage.
Countertransference can be caused by a therapist having too much on their plate. They may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Practicing self-care is a great way to put your wants and needs first again. You can expect to fill someone else’s cup if yours is completely empty. Focus on yourself so you can be fully present for each client.
Refer Your Client to a New Therapist
A therapist should always have the best interest in mind for each and every patient. Despite the relationship you’ve built, sometimes referring your client to a new therapist may be in their best interest. If you feel like your countertransference is getting in the way of your therapist-client relationship, you should refer your client to someone else who can help them.
Seek Advice From Colleagues
Don’t hesitate to reach out to your colleagues for support. There’s a good chance that they may have dealt with a similar situation in their past and may have some words of wisdom or advice on how you can and should move forward.
Therapists need therapists, too. If you’re interested in learning more about ways to cope as a therapist, reach out to me today to set up a consultation.
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