My therapist had an off day .... should I have said something?
July 24, 2019 5:27 PM   Subscribe

My therapist is usually great, but yesterday she seemed flustered and distracted by something else. Wondering if I handled it correctly as a patient...

Typically, my therapist is wonderful. Engaged, compassionate, thorough, with just the right amount of challenging. We have a very good rapport. Yesterday when I showed up for my weekly therapy appointment I got the vibe that something personal had happened right before - she was flustered, darted out of the room to the bathroom before the appointment, and looked like she may have been crying. She also seemed "off" during the appointment, as if she didn't have the emotional energy to be as present as usual.

As a human being, I felt weird letting this go without verbal acknowledgement, as I care about her and want to show compassion. I also was tempted to acknowledge out loud to her that I was feeling pressure during my appointment not to overload her with *my* emotions seeing that she already seemed to be emotionally drained.

However, I decided to not say anything to keep the interaction professional and not cross any boundaries. Should I have said something, or did I do right to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business?
posted by stella1 to Human Relations (12 answers total)
 
I don't think that you did anything wrong at all. The fact that you're thinking about it could be a good indication that it might be a thing to explore with your therapist in your next session. One thing that's useful about therapy is that it is an interaction. Working through these kinds of questions and talking them out together can be a very useful tool for enacting some of the things that we may be in therapy for. When I find myself wondering over an interaction with my therapist, I usually find that a conversation with them about it is very useful for me in a therapeutic sense. I think that you could probably say exactly what you said here and go from there.
posted by sockermom at 5:35 PM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking you made the right call in this case. The stress of broaching a converation about something uncomfortable (and that is out of her control) would perhals not be worth it in a one-off situation

If this were a pattern it might be worth bringing up, however, particularly if it were affecting your ability to be open and candid with her.
posted by shaademaan at 5:38 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don’t think it would have been wrong to say something, but it is probably more fruitful to bring it up in your next session, when you’re both emotionally removed from the interaction (she’s not upset and you’re not confused in the moment).
posted by sallybrown at 5:38 PM on July 24, 2019 [6 favorites]


I wouldn't have said anything. I'm a client, not a friend, and honestly I don't want to know about my therapist's personal life. We get along really well but it's definitely a one-way street as far as emotional support.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:28 PM on July 24, 2019 [2 favorites]


It was awkward to not mention it, but likely the easiest of the paths open to the two of you. Definitely bring it up next time, both as one human to another and as grist for the therapy mill.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:12 PM on July 24, 2019


I don't think you did anything wrong, but I also don't think you would have been out of line to say "I feel like it's not a good time to continue our session right now, let's talk tomorrow about reacheduling".

One time, after I'd been with my therapist for a while, I told her that I didn't know anything about her, I didn't even know if she was married or had kids. She shut me down quick, telling me that she does not share personal information with her clients, because it can cause them to feel like they are being judged and therefore that they can't shate freely. That was an incredible gift btw.

So I would say don't feel guilty if you don't want to follow up by asking your therapist if she's okay, or what happened, or whatever. You could let her know that you would have been okay with her cancelling the appt if she'd needed to. Everybody needs to take personal time off once in a while.
posted by vignettist at 7:23 PM on July 24, 2019 [1 favorite]


I would absolutely NOT mention it during your next session and especially not in a "let's discuss my feelings about it" way. What happened was not about you and her one-off distracted behavior and your feelings about it are not therapy fodder.

I agree that it would have been fine to suggest rescheduling.
posted by M. at 1:35 AM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Therapists learn that they are in a relationship with clients and that this relationship, and the interactions within, are definitely "therapy fodder". Anything can be therapy fodder. As a new therapist, I absolutely would want a client to feel comfortable with bringing up my behavior or reactions if it is something they were worried about or wanted to discuss.

Most modern-day therapists are at least somewhat relational in nature and Freud's model of "therapist as blank-slate" is not something that is generally practiced these days. Therapists and clients are both human beings who bring themselves into the therapy office, and neither has to pretend otherwise.

So, I don't think you have to bring it up. But I think if you would like to, you absolutely can.
posted by bearette at 5:50 AM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


And to add, I think your reactions and feelings are why you might want to bring this up. It's not an issue of trying to get her to discuss her personal life, but of acknowledging that you noticed her change in tone in the last session, and that it made you worry about her. As a therapist, I would want to be aware if something like this was making my client worry.

But also, therapist are trained to handle it if clients ask about their personal lives.
posted by bearette at 5:55 AM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


You did fine. It would also not have been awful if you had brought it up, but what you did was fine.

If you get to your next appointment and you're finding that you're still thinking about it, or your own reaction in the moment bothered you, then sure, bring it up, working through those places where your brain gets stuck on a certain thing is part of what therapy's for. But otherwise I don't think there's any pressing need to bring it up in the future. Your therapist had an off day. It happens. If you don't feel it impacted significantly on your quality of therapy such that you want a refund or it's something you find yourself continuing to think about more than you'd like to, chalk it up to a weird session and move on, worry-free.
posted by Stacey at 6:26 AM on July 25, 2019


Thank you all! I really appreciate the feedback and thoughtful answers. <3
posted by stella1 at 9:08 AM on July 25, 2019


You can talk about anything that affects you in a session. In fact you can ask about anything...it’s not your job to decide if it’s appropriate. In this case, you felt you weren’t getting the benefit of her full attention; I would certainly bring that up, telling the therapist what MY experience was like.

If you were to ask something personal about her, it would be normal for her to ask you why you were asking, and go from there. She might not answer the specific thing you asked, but would talk with you about what that particular info meant to you.
posted by wryly at 1:59 PM on July 25, 2019


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