What is ” the therapeutic relationship” Part 2.

So, in my last post I asked these questions;

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?


You would think after 5 therapists over 7 years, that I would know the answer to that question. If you’d asked me at the beginning of my venture into therapy-world, my answers would be very different to what they are now.

I do have a very clear answer to all those questions, but really I was interested to see everyone else’s interpretation of this weird magical, painful, profoundly healing and frustratingly complex relationship we have with our therapist’s.

And the reason I wanted to hear everyone else’s opinion or understand of it, is because what happened in my session on Monday and as a wider issue how my therapist experiences me, my level of need, and how her countertransference seems to influence how close or apart we are. The things she said in session made me question whether how I was viewing our relationship was somehow wrong. Was I seeing it as something more than what it is?

I liked the replies I got to my questions. Most were on par with what I think which helped me realise that the way I view my relationship with Sienna is fairly accurate, that I am not too out the realms of normality. I was starting to really question whether I do expect too much of Sienna, whether I expect the relationship to be something it is not.

I am going to be writing quite a lot this week because once again it seems like we are at a sticking place. I wouldn’t call it a rupture exactly but it’s certainly not too pleasant for me and maybe not for her either and we are slowly trying to pick our way through it.

And to counteract the amount of confusion I am feeling, I need to write this out. Step by step.

The next few blog posts will probably be heavily transference and counter-transferencial and that can feel intense to read and you might even get a sense as you read of the foggy dissociation that seems to follow these transferential issues, and it might be triggering. So be aware of that and ensure you feel okay to read.

But this post will be okay and not too deep.

My answer to the question “ What is the therapeutic relationship” is this ;

I can only talk about what I think my relationship is, because each therapy relationship is defined by the two unique human beings in it. It is a co-creation between therapist and client. It can’t and shouldn’t be defined by arbitrary rules set by some philosopher/psychologist 100 years ago. (Cough *Freud*)

I have worked with Sienna for 2 years and 3 months so far. She is the best therapist I’ve had and the one who’s yielded the most results in me. She’s also the longest serving therapist I’ve had since the rest couldn’t handle the heavy work-load and counter-transference that I seem to come with/induce.

For me our relationship is real. It is really important to me and to her, so she says. We are important to each other. I love her. She might love me but I’m not sure. But I guess I know she cares.

Even though we are most definitely Client and Therapist, and there are boundaries to ensure that we remember that, I feel like that’s almost in the background and the relationship, the real feelings and real dynamics that happen in that microcosm are about me primarily but also about “ Us”.

I think it’s a relationship like no other, there’s no other template in life that I can refer to. It can be very parental, Sienna taking the mother role. But the professional boundaries ensure that it isn’t taken too literally, that we don’t become enmeshed or blurred.

While Sienna takes a parental role in my life, we both know she isn’t and will never be my mother and that there’s limitations to how much she can give. And sometimes that fact frustrates me and hurts me, but I accept it. And I’m glad she keeps the boundaries because I need her as my therapist and it keeps her as a safe person.

Our relationship is real, but it’s boundaries are professional ones. And it’s hard to knock against them sometimes. It’s hard to feel the limitations of these boundaries which seem so cold in comparison to the emotional intimacy we share.

The boundaries are weird and are talked about a lot more than any other relationship. It’s weird to feel so close to someone, to be so emotionally intimate and sometimes dependent of this mother-figure who soothes, and calms, and diffuses anger and who teaches me so much. And yet despite all those things, we’ll almost definitely never go out for lunch together, we’ll never go clothes shopping or go get our nails done or go to the movies. I will never truly know Sienna in the way her friends or family do. Our relationship exists only in that room. It’s hard to share so much yet so little with this person who is one of your closest allies.

But as weird as the boundaries feel sometimes, I accept them as they are. I see that every relationship has its own boundaries so having those boundaries with Sienna doesn’t make it a fake relationship, just a different one.

I feel like I am talking shit. I can’t seem to really say concisely what I want to. So I’ll end here.





19 thoughts on “What is ” the therapeutic relationship” Part 2.

  1. alicewithptsd says:

    This all does make sense. Therapy relationships are so difficult to define. I like how you ended this, with the belief that boundaries don’t make it a fake relationship, just a very different one. I think that’s very true.

  2. Blooming Lily says:

    I think you’ve expressed yourself very clearly here – in a way a lot of us can relate to. At the same time I know that “I can’t express what I want to feel adequately” feeling and it sucks. You will write more in the coming days ❤️
    I’m not sure how much I will read right away, because I am working through some similar issues with T (you read my post about love in therapy – and I sent it to her and she responded – and that’s brought up a whole other wave of transference) and it hurts, but I will read it eventually – and until then you’re in my heart – because this shit sucks to go through. Love to you 💜

      • Blooming Lily says:

        Thanks. In response to the post T said “I DO love you, of course in a specific way, that is different than other ways that I love other people, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as important.” And 1% young part heard “Oh she loves me!!!” And the other 99% all I heard was “I don’t love you like I love other people”
        And I know you can imagine how that feels. Ughhhhhhh

      • Sirena says:

        Ugh. Why do they do that? She shoulda stopped while she was ahead. I think they’re scared to just declare their love in case of lawsuits or in case they can be accused of stepping boundaries. Love is love. How many other ways is there?

      • Blooming Lily says:

        Well, actually according to her, more than one…. “I wish our language was like other languages around the world that have more than one word for the concept of ‘love’. Different words to describe different types of love, because there are so many.”
        That’s what she wrote right before.
        It feels like she specifically has shoved it in my face that she loves me in a lesser way than everyone else. Like she wishes there was a word to express that kind of lesser love that can’t possibly be on par with the other people she loves. I MAYBE get what she means, but that fucking sting is so raw and intense and just FUCK
        If she was going to say that, she might as well have not said it at all. And been better off in doing so.

      • Sirena says:

        Tell her that! Yeah I guess there is different types of love so I retract my previous statement. Lol.
        But I suppose for me love IS love.. if I love someone it’s not necessarily different in volume, like I don’t love my pet less than I love my family. It’s just a different kind of love. I love my pets like companions/children and I love my family for the history we share and the bonded memories and I love my friends on a more equal level. Different love but same volume of love…

      • Blooming Lily says:

        I will but she already said she doesn’t have much time to write this week (that bodes well huh?) and its going to be so charged and difficult and I’m so swamped with work that I may wait until session on Thursday even though I don’t want to but then I might combust in person and then she’s going on fucking vacation, leaving me for two weeks – the whole thing is so bad. I can’t even handle it. I don’t even know what to do.
        As far as what you’re saying about the volume of love – yes, me too! Although, amongst my friends, there are certainly some I feel closer to and more affectionate towards than others. Maybe that makes me a bad person. And maybe that makes me a hypocrite for being upset that T loves me in a lesser way.

      • Sirena says:

        You may have more of an affinity with some friends than others, and you may be more comfortable and openly affectionate with others but if you love them, isn’t the love the same love? I don’t know the answer, maybe I’m thinking too philosophically.
        I understand your dilemma between trying to safely contain your emotions until it can be safely unpacked and also feeling like you’ll burst if you don’t say something now. Feels impossible either way.

      • Blooming Lily says:

        Yes, it’s the same love, but I feel like the love is more intense with an intimate friend than with an acquaintance from class, for example. Not that there’s anything wrong with the acquaintance – we just aren’t as close. And maybe that’s perfectly okay – we can’t be intimate with everyone. I just hate the idea of how T thinks of me as an acquaintance from work essentially; while I spend so much of my life wishing (and pretending) with everything in me that she was my mom. The discrepancy just reeks impossible to accept.
        And yes, there’s never a good time for transference (or addressing it) is there? 😂😉

      • Sirena says:

        But presumably you don’t love an acquaintance? So you would feel differently. I get what you’re saying though… only way to find out is to ask. But I highly doubt she loves you like an acquaintance.

  3. dangerousvoyager says:

    I am also very interested in what you have to write, especially anything that relates to negative transference/countertransference because that seems to be swept under the carpet a bit when therapists write articles.

    • Sirena says:

      I know, right??? Let’s face it we can piss them off as much as the next person. Let’s not pretend they don’t feel like telling us to fuck off when we push their buttons!

  4. all the little parts says:

    I struggled with this question which is why I didn’t bother responding to it but it does strike a cord with me. Can I just respond to something you did say that made me pull up slightly and think ‘is that actually true?’

    You said ‘I will never truly know Sienna in the way her friends or family do. Our relationship exists only in that room.’

    I thought ‘That’s true you won’t ever know Sienna like her friends and family do… but then they won’t ever know her like you do. She won’t play therapist for them that would be unprofessional. Likewise your friends and family won’t know you the way she does. Therapeutic me is very different to the mother/wife/friend me. I am much more vulnerable with Claire than anyone else. It is an honour for me to know I see a side of her that nobody else does, that is unique to our relationship. Just as she is honoured to know a side of me nobody else gets.

    Then the bit about the relationship existing only in the room… not sure I agree with that either. Part of being in a relationship is carrying that person with you when you are not around them. I have had 25 sessions with Claire. Round the 50 mins up to 1 hr for the sake of maths and I have known her for just over a day. 1 day. If the relationship only lasts for the duration of the time we are together, I have had one night stands which last longer! I have known her and been in a relationship with her for almost 7 months. Whether we are together or not is irrelevant. It works the same for her too. I’m not forgotten, I’m thought about and cares for outside session (she told me that).

    I think it’s fair to say that THE WORK should be confined to the room. I know Claire always responds to my desperate emails with minimal reassurance to make sure the work happens INSIDE the room where I can properly see and feel her care so that I don’t become reliant on emails but the actual relationship exists within the people in it, not in a room.

    Nobody can confine a relationship like the therapeutic one to just a room and nobody will know Sienna the way you do because as you say, different people bring out different sides of us.

    Does this help a little?

    • Sirena says:

      Yes, you are right about knowing her in a way other won’t. I just meant by that that I’ll never know her quirks or what she’s like as a person, a friend or a sister or something. I’ll never know the little things about her. But I do acknowledge I get a part of her that not even her own children will get much of- if at all.
      And you’re right too about the relationship being outwith the therapy room somewhat. But I still feel a bit sad for all the limitations it has. Maybe it would be nice to spend time with her doing not therapy things, you know?

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