Therapy is weird
February 8, 2019 6:47 PM   Subscribe

I've been seeing my therapist for about a year. We have a great rapport, but something is bothering me about seeing her. I feel like she's my friend even though she's not and I don't want her to be. Or maybe I just feel like therapy is weird because it is weird?

I'm twenty something and she looks like she is. Being around the same ageish so we have similarities. She talks her about her life in a way that's useful to me, like "I journal to keep track of my days, would you ever think about doing that?" Since I started therapy a looong time ago this is the first time I ever really connected with a therapist. I feel extremely awkward bringing this up, and it's funny because that's one of the things I'm working on. I don't want her to think I want to be friends with her and weird our relationship up. I also feel anxious during therapy maybe because of discussing hard things. I also feel self concious being the center of attention, even though the therapy is specifically for me. So I'm trying to process this, and obviously she'd be the one to process this with me. So how can I bring this up? It just feels weird. But she's the best therapist I've ever had!
posted by starlybri to Human Relations (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I think you can honestly just kind of dump this on her during a therapy session, much like you've done with us here. This kind of weirdness is common in therapy and therapists get trained in handling it. It's normal and helping you get past it is 100% part of her job, and if there's ever a context in which it's cool to just kind of bleargh about some weird feelings you're having, it's therapy.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:54 PM on February 8, 2019 [12 favorites]

Right on through it. It’s her job to help contain and help manage the feelings you have from bringing up something you feel awkward about. Grain of salt: my outlook tends toward the analytic but this is exactly the kind of thing where “bring it into the room” is important.
posted by Smearcase at 7:06 PM on February 8, 2019

I'm a therapist, and I'd be totally up for that discussion if a client said exactly what you said in your post.

Therapy *is* weird. As both a therapist and a therapy client, I always think of the relationship between the two as rehearsal for relationships in real life. In therapy, it's like you can stop and yell out "LINE!" when you need a bit of help. This kind of meta-discussion should be normal, though (in my experience) not enough clients are willing to engage with it. But I think it's often where the most meaningful change can happen, when you're analyzing the relationship that's in the room.

Also, I've definitely had clients about whom I thought, "If we had met in different circumstances, I would have loved to hang out." I can't and wouldn't pursue that with them, obviously, but I don't think clients should feel weird for thinking the same thing.
posted by lazuli at 8:01 PM on February 8, 2019 [32 favorites]

One of the things that came up in therapy was my constant concern that I annoy people and that my friends secretly don't like me. My therapist pointed out that we could not be friends because that is not how that relationship is allowed to work but that she personally liked me and found me interesting and felt she would enjoy being my friend if we had met socially rather than professionally.

So, I think your feelings are normal, that conversation is one you can have if you want, and therapy is weird but your therapist will understand that you are not trying to be social friends.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:08 PM on February 8, 2019 [11 favorites]

I think your feelings are natural and healthy, and you could even see it as a sign of a positive therapist-client relationship. I can see how it's uncomfortable for you but also not something bad or harmful. For example, having a crush on a therapist is also something relatively common and not "bad" but potentially more complicated than this. So, no worries! (Easier said than done, right?)

My two favorite therapists are both people whom I could totally see myself having been friends with were the situation different. I knew we weren't friends but that the relationship was cordial and genuine: a therapist-client relationship built on mutual respect and appreciation. Like you, I have always been respectful of boundaries and also wasn't secretly hoping for a friendship to evolve. In other words, no problem! I've tried previous therapists who whom I did not feel comfortable with and/or felt they were getting too personal in an improper way. What I felt with the good matches was more of what you are describing here.

Perhaps you could think back to your school days. Another way to look at it is that we like some teachers more than others because we simply connect better. And while we can learn from all sorts of teachers, we tend to learn best with teachers we like and respect (as human beings) and sense the feeling is mutual. We still understand the boundaries and feel comfortable with them but there are also genuinely positive vibes all around. You phrase everything so well here. I'd bring it up with your therapist if you feel ready next time. Lazuli described it so well as a therapist herself and then jacquilynne, too, as a client!
posted by smorgasbord at 8:18 PM on February 8, 2019

I'm wondering if there is a bit of bleed in to the friend aspect because she's relatively young and therefore relatively inexperienced in her job. Perhaps she enjoys your company too, and is finding it hard to walk that line between empathy for a client and empathy for a friend. Therapy is hard. Being is good therapist is hard, and therapists who are friends of mine that have been doing the job for years have commented to me that it's tricky to sometimes find that line with certain people. More anecdata on that is that I also had a therapist when I was much much younger than I am now, and she was also my age and just starting out. We met outside of the office and had lunch and talked. We mutually decided that we had too much in common to really keep the patient-therapist dynamic balanced where it needed to be.

Talk about it.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:04 PM on February 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe what you'd like is for her to be more "authoritative" so you can feel taken care of. Maybe what you need therapeutically is to feel more authoritative yourself. Like everyone else in this thread, I say talk about it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:21 AM on February 9, 2019

I think this is as simple as: you are struggling with the fact that someone you perceive as a social peer is the person you currently look to for leadership and pay for support.

And that's fine. Sometimes you just need to recognise and acknowledge the weird bits of therapy so you can get on with the rest of it.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:44 AM on February 9, 2019 [3 favorites]

It's also worth considering that a lot of times we get into therapy because it's challenging to negotiate appropriate boundaries in our private lives. It might be that you're trying to understand and establish appropriate boundaries with your therapist and it's triggering for you. My therapist helped me with this by modeling a healthy boundary for me within our first few sessions. Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 11:58 AM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

My current therapist and I are actually pretty close in age and outlook, we're both in our late 20s. She has an energy and outlook that I vibe a lot with, and I'm glad I can feel like she's my friend but I know she is my therapist professionally. I can make that distinction because I don't know any of my friends that I can literally just talk at for an hour and can stay focused and give so much good, well-trained, thoughtful advice, and it's because those friends are literally not my therapists. It's a good rapport, which is what happens in good friendships, so it can mean that she's a good fit. As long as she doesn't start making the sessions about her, or makes you really uncomfortable to fit an agenda of how she thinks therapy should be, then it's not too weird at all. I would tell her and see how she explains the difference between therapy and friendships :)
posted by yueliang at 2:49 PM on February 9, 2019 [1 favorite]

Good news! I talked to her and she was totally understanding! Thanks for the advice everyone. It helped me feel less anxious.
posted by starlybri at 6:56 AM on February 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

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