“When, as a therapist, do clients’ feelings of attachment become concerning to you?”

Author’s Note: When I saw this question posted elsewhere on the web, I felt like it was important to pipe up and offer a non-shaming, non-judgmental perspective. So many things that come up in therapy end up being seen through the lens of concern and pathology instead of curiosity and engagement. It doesn’t have to be that way. Anyway, I wanted to repost it here because it seemed to resonate and it might be helpful to others in this space.

Free use. Credit to Tim Mossholder on Upsplash.
  1. Has the attachment to the therapist had a negative impact on any relationships the client has in their life outside of therapy, like friends or partners or family? A therapist might assess the answer to this by asking the client about relationships they haven’t spoken of in a while, or going deeper in talking about relationships or people who come up often.
  2. Has the client’s level of functioning over the course of therapy improved, declined or been neutral? This is something that should be assessed regularly anyway, but is a big part of this question especially.
  3. Very Important: Has the therapist noticed any feelings arise in themselves, like flattery, annoyance, self-importance, etc. that could be leaving them less able to assess the situation objectively or treat the client? These feelings can feel positive, negative, neutral or mixed. It’s not anything a therapist should be ashamed of, but it absolutely needs to be managed by the therapist, typically in consultation with peers or someone they pay for this kind of support.
  4. Most importantly, has the client named their attachment to the therapist in any way? After all, if the client is feeling, noticing and naming it, then it means that the client is in tune with their own experiences and perceptions and that needs to be held space for in the sessions.

Therapist. Explorer. Anthro Nerd. Meaning-Maker. PhD student in Counselor Education & Supervision. halinabrooke.com & recoursecounseling.com