Some of the deepest opportunities in my therapy office as a San Diego Therapist involve a duplication of unhealthy dynamics which occur in the client’s personal life. As the therapy relationship deepens, a client will undoubtedly be triggered by the therapist at some point and will be angered, annoyed or saddened. This is a pivotal moment in therapy and an opportunity to deepen the therapeutic process. What usually happens is the client will react in habitual ways. This reaction may be in the form of shutting down, crying or getting angry at the counselor. Or the client may not say a word and simply not return to therapy after feeling upset by something the therapist said. The most important thing to remember is to use this moment!
Dynamics Between Client and Counselor Usually Mirror Client Relationship Dynamics
Almost all issues discussed in counseling are related to interpersonal relationships and people want to improve their relationships and improve their part in them. When a client becomes upset at their counselor, this is a golden opportunity. It’s simple to talk about conflict, relationship dynamics or upsets by discussing third parties, but it gives the therapist a unique perspective to observe the client’s reactions firsthand if allowed to unfold. It allows the therapist to see defenses and possibly some unhealthy behavioral reactions in the moment instead of hearing what is usually a biased perspective while only talking about themselves in past situations.
Sometimes it’s easy for counselors to observe reactions because some clients become openly and visibly upset or angered. But, many people construct walls, feign a politeness or posture a defense with the therapist and sit silently with their emotions. For the first group of people who react openly, an open mind is needed to hear the counselor’s perspective about the behavior and how this may be effecting the client and their relationships. For the second group of people who hide emotions, vulnerability is needed to openly share with the therapist feelings that emerge. This is difficult but a great therapeutic opportunity. If the client can share with the therapist what feelings and thoughts arise and that is explored in session, a great deal of insight and learning can take place.
Bottom Line – Get Vulnerable!! It’s the Only Way to Change
So, the next time you get upset with your therapist, try not to button up your feelings and just go home with them. Look at the situation as a great chance to deepen your work in therapy and learn more about yourself and how you may react in relationships. And, if you openly get upset at your therapist, try and be open to your counselor’s feedback and put the defenses down. It’s an opportunity to understand your own needs better, express those needs more effectively and forge better relationship and communications skills. Just trust the process and get a little vulnerable.