Should a therapist be crying?

Is it unprofessional to be crying during a session?  It is quite normal for clients to cry. In fact I regard it as a help to diagnosis. It is a sign that the client's emotions must be near the surface. It makes it easier to find the right feeling to use when doing regression therapy. However therapists cry as well. A recent academic article has looked into the issue of therapists getting emotional during therapy. The article reported more than half the therapists in the study admitted becoming emotional with a client at some time in the previous four weeks. 

Is detachment good?

When I started out in this business I was as damaged as any of my clients. I frequently heard stuff that echoed my own upbringing. I could listen to it with detachment, but I think the similarity to my own experience helped me understand and empathize more.

Listening was no problem. Using  a script of mostly direct suggestion was no problem either. But when it came to delivering a metaphor for an individual client, the closer it was to my own issues the more it resonated with me. The result was that I found myself getting emotional along with the client.

Empathizing with your client

I was quite startled by this at first, but I later realized that it was doing me good. And it if was doing me good then it was probably doing good for the client as well. Then I deliberately started writing metaphors that would cause me to cry, because that way I knew they were good powerful metaphors. By listening to my own emotions I got better at dealing with other people's emotions.

As I got more experienced I realized that in order to get into the client's mind, I first had to imagine what they were feeling. To get real empathy, I had to generate that same feeling in myself.  Once I had the feeling I would allow my mind to open up to whatever visualizations I felt might work for me. As the session progressed, I turned those visualizations into a continuous metaphor.  I described the images I was experiencing internally and just allowed whatever actions and events that wanted to happen, to happen. The metaphor wrote itself. Since I had to imagine the images and actions in my mind first, of course my mind was being affected by them  at the same time as the client's mind was being affected. This set up a feedback loop. The more I got into the client's feeling, the more focused the metaphor became. The better the metaphor, the more emotion it generated and that changed the metaphor to fit better.

Crying develops empathy

As I progressed, by fixing other people's problems in this way, I fixed more and more of own problems. Nowadays I no longer feel that same raw emotion to the same extent. But I think that I do in fact come close to tears with more clients, rather than fewer. Healing myself has allowed me open up to other people, to get more empathy with them.   I now feel the sadness of an abusive childhood probably more keenly than I ever did years ago.

In the study, only one percent of therapists thought that they had disadvantaged their clients by showing emotion. In my case I only get emotional after the client is in trance, and so the client does not see me, since they have their eyes closed by that point.

But I often remark to them  afterwards that they were not the only ones crying during that session. I think that the client appreciates sincere emotional contact.

David Mason

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