What is “The therapeutic relationship?”

So, what is ” the therapeutic relationship “?

What does it mean?

How far should it go?

Is it real? Can it be real with the limitations of the artificial boundaries put in place?

Is it a personal relationship despite the clinical construct?

Answers on a postcard.


22 thoughts on “What is “The therapeutic relationship?”

  1. becomingme967 says:

    This is something im really struggling with. My therapist is going away for a week in a weeks time. I domt get how a real relationship can just be put on hold for someone to have a break. That said i like to think that the relationship is as real as it can be and it gives me a insight into what a natural positive relationship will be like when i am ready for one

    • Sirena says:

      I know what I think about these questions but I’m questioning myself today since my session yesterday the issue of boundaries and client/therapist relationship came up.

  2. all the little parts says:

    I would say no it isn’t a personal relationship and no therapist on this earth would or should tell you otherwise. I would say it is an intimate professional one which feels personal because of the personal nature of the disclosures and the trust which builds. I wouldn’t say though that it has any less VALUE than a personal one. No, they can’t be around 100% of the time for you but then they can’t be around 100% of the time for anyone. I take comfort from the knowledge that I see Claire (who I have sisterly transference with) more than I see my actual sisters and I bet she sees me more than she sees some of the people she knows personally. There’s no less value. From both sides we get something that we don’t elsewhere. Therapists LOVE what they do for a reason, they get to care and listen and help people change and grow. They get to witness that and they are honoured to take that journey with us. They don’t get that with their personal relationships. It’s just a different type of highly valuable relationship.

  3. behindapaintedsmile30 says:

    I think it’s the strangest relationship that I’ll ever have. It’s incredibly intimate in some ways and the boundaries are in place to protect the client mainly. The boundaries suck though particularly when they are used in a negative way. It’s difficult to tell your deepest, darkest secrets to someone that you have to be so separate from. There is a certain where, to me, that separation is almost impossible.
    I have been very naive and didn’t think that it would require so much of a connection and trust. It also requires far more discussion about the actual relationship to navigate it. My therapist says that there ‘unconditional acceptance’ from her to me which is what I try to remind myself of when I have my doubts.
    I hope you’re able to resolve the issue around the breaks with Sienna. x

    • Sirena says:

      Yeah I struggle with separation a lot too. I hear you about it being an incredibly intimate relationship. That makes the boundaries all the more confusing sometimes.

  4. sadtherapist says:

    The good ones care. It’s a real relationship, despite having some professional constraints. As a therapist, I can honestly say that I love and care about all of my long-term clients. Seeing them grow is the best feeling in the world. When they complete therapy, I feel the same emotions as a parent whose child is going off to college or moving across the country. There is a degree of sadness, but also enormous pride and excitement. It’s bittersweet.

  5. gerihend1 says:

    As you know Sirena, I wrote a book with my former therapist. It was an experience of incredible growth–for both of us–and our therapeutic relationship had ended. To tell the truth, I’d rather have had the relationship than the book! We had so many long (and painful) discussions about being honest while writing. She wrote things I didn’t like and I’m sure I did the same! I have informed my new therapist that I’m NEVER starting over with anyone else…ever! It is so difficult and the issue of boundaries is so painful (I feel rejected, I think. At least, that’s what I told her.) that we now only refer to is as the “B” issue. We will have to deal with it because it’s a huge issue for me and my own boundaries and for everyone else around me. UGH! Transference is important to allow the work to go forward but the idea that it’s a personal relationship is false, and difficult to swallow. I like what *All The Little Parts* said. Geri H.

    • Sirena says:

      Why is it difficult to swallow? What do you mean?
      Boundaries are a pretty painful topic for people with attachment trauma. I never used to be able to say the word either because they were only even wielded in from of me as a defence and rejection. But Sienna’s has taught me about them being something positive and protective at times.

      • Sirena says:

        I feel like it is a personal relationship because it involves two people and is unique to only you both. The boundaries are professional ones however. So maybe it’s both personal and professional? No?

  6. findingmyway00 says:

    a therapist is there to guide you through things, to listen and give input, and to show you different perspectives on things and help you learn to help yourself. it’s a mix of professional and personal and not solely one or the other really.

    i think a therapeutic relationship needs a balance though. it can’t be where you solely rely on them because that isn’t realistic, but still being able to reach out when you need is also part of it, like during times of crisis or to check in if needed. but they still need to have their personal lives just as the client does.

    i have seen a person access their therapist via text and phone calls daily and therapy four times a week where they have very little separation and even have done things outside of sessions with the therapist, but in that situation, they haven’t had to learn how to cope with things because they always go to their therapist and can’t even figure out what they themselves should do or even think without having to have their therapist’s input on it. that is an example of a therapist who is too involved and hasn’t set the right boundaries which, in my opinion, can cause a client to become dependent on them which is not healthy. that is why appropriate boundaries are set; otherwise, a person can’t learn to help themselves.

    with the therapist going away though, i think it would be helpful if they allow emailing at least. i think mine does, but she isn’t good at replying in a timely manner or even saying much, so i didn’t try after two times. it just upset several of the others and confused me as to why she even said it was okay to email when it went how it did. but i think having that access at least can help keep things going until they are back for an actual session just for that peace of mind too if nothing else.

    • Sirena says:

      Balance Is a very good consideration. There does need to be a delicate balance between personal and professional and enmeshed/independent.

  7. dangerousvoyager says:

    It’s special and difficult compared with other relationships, in that there are several different relationships going on simultaneously and your therapist has to be able to switch between different roles according to what is happening and what you need at any one time. I feel as if I have a genuine and adult friendship with my T where we can discuss topics in which both have professional interest, but he needs to be very careful about the boundaries of that, because knowing too much about him in real life interferes with him being able to fill the role of fantasy parent for me. He also needs to maintain enough emotional distance to not feel personally hurt by my fearing him and hating him and casting him in the role of abuser and potential rapist sometimes. I don’t think he could do that if we allowed the purely “adult” relationship to dominate.

    • Sirena says:

      Yes! you are so right about them having to switch roles depending on what the need of the client is on any given day. That’s something I hadn’t thought about.

  8. twinkletoes2017 says:

    I struggle with this too lovely. We understand it all in one sense and then they use words like “boundaries”, they go on breaks and they say no to things that we might want or need and it’s sooooo very painful.

    When I read people saying it’s not a personal relationship, it actually does something to me, like it hurts my chest or something – even if that is the truth. I guess because we have transference caught up in it all…. so that clouds things doesn’t it. I dunno what I’m saying really, kinda just wanna say that the struggle is real and the therapeutic relationship probably won’t be what we want it to be (right now) but I live in hope that as we change, that will too. X

  9. manyofus1980 says:

    I think it all depends on the client and the therapist dynamic some therapists have more rigid boundaries some are more flexible, i think its important to have honesty in the relationship no matter what, makes it more real IMO. xx

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