Therapy relationship

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

I have been in therapy for 1 1/2 years with a really wonderful therapist. She has helped me immensely. For the last couple of months, however, things took a sudden change. She became short with me, sometimes cutting in her remarks. I actually took a short break from therapy for a few weeks. She went on vacation. I thought she would feel better after the break. But since going back, the tension remains. I know in this short question that it is difficult to explain all the details. But, I am certain that I did not cause this change with her. I am uncomfortable returning to see her. I feel as if the therapeutic relationship is damaged for me somehow. Not sure how it got off track. I want to talk about it with her, find out what’s going on, but not sure how to approach it with her. Maybe therapy has run its course. Not sure how to proceed.

A: You are doing the right thing by asking how to proceed with this situation. Although it sounds very complex and uncomfortable, I have a recommendation for you that I hope will help.

My strong encouragement is to plan an outline for your next session. I would explain exactly what you did here and give details such as what was said and how you heard it. I would try to explain this in a way that is not accusatory, but clear and direct. “I” statements rather than “you” statements tend to work best.

Talk about the fact that therapy has become unproductive because of these feelings, and that you wanted to bring this to her attention.

This gives the therapist a chance to hear the problem and try to either account for what has happened and correct it, share a different perspective of those encounters with you, or perhaps work with you to move to a deeper level with therapy. I cannot know what direction it will take, but talking to her about your feelings is essential for either working through the issues with her, or providing some degree of closure so you can successfully end the relationship and move on.

Finally I encourage you, if you do leave, to try new therapists and explain your experience to them. This gives you the opportunity to identify your needs while deciding who best to go with.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 19 Jan 2011

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2011). Therapy relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/01/19/therapy-relationship/