"How can I get back my connection and trust with my therapist? She made a mistake in our last session and I feel really let down and disconnected from her very suddenly."
This is a very insightful question! I am both a therapist and a client, and have experienced both sides of the situation.
A few years ago I was seeing an older female therapist who self-disclosed a lot. She commonly talked about her son who she said was very successful (knowing part of my need for therapy was because of problems in my romantic relationship), and sometimes I felt as if she was telling me what to do. I often noticed in session that she talked more than I did and found myself just keeping quiet, nodding my head yes. I was starting to feel like she was not understanding me at all. I contemplated quitting, canceling our appointments, or not showing up at all because I didn’t want to be perceived as “rude” or “attention seeking” if I confronted her.
After thinking about it for a while, and telling myself “a therapist would want you to be confident enough to speak up for yourself,” I decided to confront her. A few sessions later, despite my anxiety about the situation, I calmly shared with her that “I didn’t feel heard and noticed that” she focused more on some aspects of my life than others and “it made me realize that I need something different.”
Looking back, confronting my therapist was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Now, almost 10 years later I see the benefit of being vulnerable with my therapist and asserting myself. This experience gave me the confidence to confront my abusive relationship and leave the person I was with. Sharing my thoughts, feelings, and needs in this experience was an opportunity to practice healthy relationship skills that would prepare me for similar situations in the future.
From the other side of the situation, I as a therapist would want my clients to do the same if they are experiencing a similar situation. Often times people may find themselves interacting with their therapist in the same problematic way that they interact with others in their personal life (for me, I was a people pleaser and confronting my therapist showed me that saying “no” isn’t all that bad).
When situations like this come up between my clients and I, I always assure them that they did the right thing and ask them if they are willing to “repair the relationship.” In repairing the therapeutic relationship a therapist will discuss all of the thoughts and feelings involved in the situation, the implied messages within the experience, what the client notices, what the client needs, and how the client and therapist can interact in the future to avoid a similar problem from occurring. Conversations surrounding the issue should be restorative and the client should feel “at least a little bit better” after confronting the issue. However, repairing an injury within the therapeutic relationship may take some time and regaining a sense of trust can only happen over the course of several sessions.
Raquel Buchanan is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Palm Springs, Ca. Raquel specializes in building self confidence and self esteem in people who have experienced childhood abuse. Raquel offers client-centered therapy and values authentic human connection, her therapy style is a reflection of that. Raquel is a content creator on quora.com and is a featured writer in the Quora Daily Digest. This featured blog post was originally published in November 2020 as a part of Raquel’s participation on quora.com.
Raquel Buchanan is a mental health profession in southern California who blogs about life and relationships. Raquel is on a mission to spread awareness about the impact of violence, abuse, and trauma. The information contained on this site is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional assistance. Contents contained in these blogs are based on true stories or the experiences of several several people and are fictional. Identifying information has been changed to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of therapy patients.