Therapists, do you like your clients on a personal level or is it part of the job so they trust and open up to you?

Interesting question, Hayden. At this point in my career, I only work with people I like. If in the initial contact I find an open dislike for a new client I work really hard in that initial session to understand the origin of my dislike. If I can’t do that I will suggest a second exploratory session with that new client. I would then talk with a trusted colleague about my reaction. If I’m still not able to at least understand what is causing my dislike, and it’s not terribly obvious what the client was or wasn’t doing to strike off my dislike, I would then refer the person on to someone else.

It is impossible to fake liking or disliking a client as they rather quickly sense my true feelings. Once long ago I worked with a young woman who after a month or so into our work together I developed a real dislike for her. In consultation, I couldn’t think of any buried reason for my dislike other than when complaining about others, which she did in every session without developing insight into her feelings, she would screw her face into such a mask of hatred I began to feel a real dislike for her. She confronted me about not liking her and after several sessions of being unable to resolve or understand my reaction, with her approval I referred her on to other therapists.

What I soon realized after terminating with her was that she needed me to feel my dislike for her—which matched her own feeling about herself—and hold onto the feeling while also trying to help her confront and maybe change the hatred that poured from her. My countertransference trapped me as her hatred pushed against and made me aware of the hatred living in me that at the time I didn’t want to deal with. But I got into therapy and resolved that nasty little trap.

By the way, there is a wonderful paper by the great British pediatrician and psychoanalyst called “Hate in the Countertransference.” Should be required reading by all therapist, not just we psychoanalytic types.

Interesting question, Hayden. At this point in my career, I only work with people I like. If in the initial contact I find an open dislike for a new client I work really hard in that initial session to understand the origin of my dislike. If I can’t do that I will suggest a second exploratory session with that new client. I would then talk with a trusted colleague about my reaction. If I’m still not able to at least understand what is causing my dislike, and it’s not terribly obvious what the client was or wasn’t doing to strike off my dislike, I would then refer the person on to someone else.

It is impossible to fake liking or disliking a client as they rather quickly sense my true feelings. Once long ago I worked with a young woman who after a month or so into our work together I developed a real dislike for her. In consultation, I couldn’t think of any buried reason for my dislike other than when complaining about others, which she did in every session without developing insight into her feelings, she would screw her face into such a mask of hatred I began to feel a real dislike for her. She confronted me about not liking her and after several sessions of being unable to resolve or understand my reaction, with her approval I referred her on to other therapists.

What I soon realized after terminating with her was that she needed me to feel my dislike for her—which matched her own feeling about herself—and hold onto the feeling while also trying to help her confront and maybe change the hatred that poured from her. My countertransference trapped me as her hatred pushed against and made me aware of the hatred living in me that at the time I didn’t want to deal with. But I got into therapy and resolved that nasty little trap.

By the way, there is a wonderful paper by the great British pediatrician and psychoanalyst called “Hate in the Countertransference.” Should be required reading by all therapist, not just we psychoanalytic types.

About left0089

Columnist at American News Report. Pain care activist. Poet, memoirist.
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