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Friday, March 8, 2013

A Therapy Client to Her Boyfriend, "My therapist said you're completely wrong"

It's always interesting to hear from clients what they told their significant others that I said in our therapy sessions---including things I never said.

It's Not Unusual For Psychotherapy Clients to Use the Perceived Power of the Therapist to Exert Influence in Their Personal Relationships
It's not unusual for clients to tell their significant others that their therapist said what they're not comfortable saying, hoping to use the perceived power of the therapist to influence the situation.  I've heard many examples of this over the years in therapy sessions with clients.  And, I suspect, there are many more examples that clients haven't told me about.

"My therapist said you're completely wrong about this."

Helping Clients to Feel More Empowered in Their Relationships
I usually explore with clients what this means in the context of their relationship as well as how they can feel more empowered to speak up for themselves rather than using me to exert influence.  Then, I work with them on developing the skills and confidence to be more assertive in their relationships.  We also discuss what it means in the context of our therapeutic relationship.  

I know some people would say that clients who use the therapist in this way are being manipulative, and the therapist should "call" them on it.  My feeling about this is that while it's true that clients who do this are trying to manipulate the situation with their significant other, I see little value in "calling" them on it in a punitive way.  

In my work with clients, it's more important to first explore what was going on for them in that moment with their significant other rather than "calling" clients on the manipulation involved in the situation.  If we started with me "calling" them on it, such a punitive stance would create a lot of shame in many clients and foreclose any possibility of exploration and change.  

On the Way to the Client Developing More Self Confidence:  Internalizing the Therapist
Often, initially, as clients are in the process of developing self confidence, they might think to themselves, "What would my therapist do in this situation?," which is progress.  This usually means that they've internalized our work enough to be able to use me as an internal "resource" to call on when they're in a situation that would normally be uncomfortable for them.  Of course, it's really just another way for them to access their own feelings about it because in asking what I might do, they're using their imagination about they think I would do.  

The Goal is For the Client to Develop Awareness, Self Confidence and the Communication Skills to Be Assertive
Ultimately, the goal is for them to bypass the "What would my therapist do?" step, develop self awareness about their own feelings, and the self confidence and communication skills to express it.  

After they've developed self awareness, confidence and the necessary communication skills, there's no need to say, "My therapist said..." because they can speak for themselves.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me:

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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