What your therapist wishes they could tell you

Dr. Samantha Morel April 24th, 2023

I recently took some personal time away from the office. Nothing major, but certainly more than my clients are used to. The reactions from my clients I saw kind of startled me. They were both like “What? You won’t be here that week?” and also “Oh, that’s good. You deserve a vacation from this stuff.” What I found myself telling them, and what they probably don’t fully understand, is that I know I can take breaks and holidays! However, I am very thoughtful about them for a few reasons. One, I know my being here matters. And if I am out, it’s not that the world will crash, but that it matters to many people who count on me being consistent. And two, I enjoy being here! I’ve worked a long time to be in this place and I genuinely am happy to come to work most days. 

But it got me thinking…. What else don’t they know, that I might wish I could tell them. In being in this field for years, I know I’m not the only provider who feels this way, so dare I say this could apply to other therapists too. So here are some thoughts that nobody asked for, but that may be interesting for some! 

1. We think about you for way more than the 50 minutes you are in the office. It’s often we find ourselves thinking about you on the day of something important going on, or when you’re in a hard time and we send you good mental vibes. It comes from the genuine care that we feel in the therapeutic relationship.

2. No, we don’t write everything down, yet most of the time we remember very small details of what you share. It’s kinda trippy at times, but it’s really true.  We remember because we care, and because we were really really listening to you. 

3. Sometimes we see patterns or themes that may not be helpful to share yet. We try to gauge when the therapy is ready for this insight. It’s not about withholding, it’s about timing. Too soon, it may be too hard to take or integrate into yourself. Too late, it may feel like a withholding that is frustrating. “I come here every week and NOOOOW you tell me this!”

4. We hate the late cancellation/no show fee too! Probably more than you! We’d rather have you in session as scheduled. The late cancellation fee is a necessary part of running a business, but mostly about being fair to all clients in the practice. If you cancel an appointment, I can pretty much guarantee you that someone else would like the chance to use that time. And if we don’t cancel early enough, everyone loses that opportunity. 

5. We imagine and make mental images of the people in your life. Not in a creepy way, just because we hear so much about them, we make a mental schema (fancy word for framework) to help us. 

6. Yes, it’s really confidential. Our partners, family, etc. know limited information and they are actually pretty cool with it. When we get home at the end of the day, we talk about how we are doing, how our day was… and actually, that’s often different from the specific content of our sessions. I might say something like “Lots of good sessions today. I’m feeling really happy about that!” or “Today was kinda tough; I just felt really tired, and I was battling that all day.” 

7. We sometimes feel stuck in the therapy process, just like you. However, we know the importance of persisting even when it feels hard. We are constantly learning new things to improve our work, especially when it comes to being stuck.

8. We go to therapy too. It’s kinda funny, but people joke that one of the first questions you ask your therapist when assessing the fit is, “What is your therapist’s first name?” We may not be in therapy all the time, but a good therapist at some point or another has sat on your side of the couch and done this hard stuff too. We often have a lot of empathy for the personal work that therapy is.

9. We’re just regular people that struggle too. Never be fooled by us or the “Bed Bath and Beyond” towel display! I love this analogy. Those are not dozens of towels stacked perfectly. It’s one towel, on top of some foam. Like the towels, you see what we show you, and you see/believe in what you want to see in us, which is OK! That’s actually called a process called projection, and can sometimes even be helpful! 🙂 

10. We don’t talk about ourselves not to be secretive, but to keep the focus where it should be. You! This is the only relationship in your life where you don’t have to play a reciprocal part, and that’s actually a really important thing that we like to protect. That being said, you do know us! When I work with clients for a long time, they may not know what my family is like, or what my favorite tv show is, or what I struggle with in my relationships, but they know me! My personality, my reactions, how I do things…. It is not all that different from what they see from me in the therapy room. This is human work, and I do my best just to be human in the room with my clients. That means they get to know me too! 

I hope this gives a glimpse into what is a very personal part of our work, and that can help you understand some of the more nuanced aspects of it from our side.

Stay well.

-Dr. M  

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Samantha Morel, Ph.D.

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