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22nd Apr


Occasionally, someone will come into my office and we begin our chit-chat about whatever has been going on his/her life since the last time we met.  And then, the client says “well, I shouldn’t feel that way,” or asks “Am I too sensitive?  Maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up about this!”  I have found this to be quite a loaded question.  I once spent an entire session dealing this this one comment/feeling.

My response is multi-pronged.  Firstly, I suggest that it is an ethical question:  Is it the therapist’s job to inform what the client should or shouldn’t feel?  I believe that it is not my role to inform him/her what to feel.  He/she must decide for him/herself what he/she is comfortable with (what is his/her level of comfort).  It’s an ethical question as it addresses what is the scope of practice for a therapist.

Secondly, it is a request for judgement by the client to the therapist.  Once there is a question of “should I…” that is the expectation of an imposition of my values on his/her.  Play the scenario out – if I judge my client – he/she will realize that.  Will he/she trust me?  If I judge my client, I have automatically violated the contract with my client.  I have failed him/her to be the support system that I agreed to be.

And that leads to point number three.  It is boundary issue because once I say what my feelings are, I am now the client, not the therapist.  I may live my life vicariously through the client.  It is now about me, not about the client.  That too, come to think of it, is not just a boundary issue, but an ethical one also.

Finally, as a therapist, I don’t think it is the right of anyone to tell someone else how they feel.  Feelings are not based in logic, they are based in the heart.  How could someone tell another how to feel?  They could guide how to deal with those feelings – internally and externally, as we therapists do.

I hope you agree – whether you are the therapist OR the client (or client to be).

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