Five Therapist Habits That Could Undermine Client Relationships

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Written by Mikolaj Skubina

The bond between a therapist and their client is a unique one – it combines deep personal intimacy with an essential boundary of professionalism. This balance is not easy to achieve and maintain, and even the most experienced therapists may have quirks that, unbeknownst to them, may be causing damage to their client relationships. Let’s explore the top five habits that therapists should be aware of and how to avoid them.

The Importance of Respect for Time

In any professional setting, punctuality is a fundamental expression of respect for another person’s time. This concept is even more crucial in psychotherapy, where trust and respect are the pillars of a successful therapeutic relationship. A therapist who consistently arrives late can come across as indifferent or unprofessional. The solution? Effective time management and organization. Small steps such as using a calendar app or setting multiple alarms can go a long way in demonstrating to your clients that they are important to you.

Yawning: An Innocent, Yet Harmful Habit

Yawning is a natural bodily function that can sneak up on anyone, especially during early morning sessions. However, it can be perceived as disrespectful or cause clients to withdraw. Imagine sharing your deepest fears and worries, only to be met with a yawn. This can be particularly hurtful to clients with anxiety disorders or heightened emotional responses. To avoid this, try to arrive at the office fully awake. Morning workouts, a strong cup of coffee, or a refreshing breath mint can help you stay alert during sessions.

The Double-Edged Sword of Note-Taking

While note-taking is a valuable tool for therapists, excessive note-taking can be distracting and off-putting for clients. It can make a session feel less like a conversation and more like an interrogation, causing discomfort and stress. If you want to capture every word, consider audio recording instead. This allows you to maintain the conversational flow while still capturing all the necessary information.

Unwanted Intrusion of Personal Preferences

While sharing personal thoughts or experiences can humanize you as a therapist, doing it too often can be disruptive and even annoying. Constant interruptions or opposing perspectives can make a client feel less inclined to share their own thoughts. It’s essential to share your views in a balanced, tasteful manner. If you disagree with a client, try probing them about their choices instead of outright contradicting them. This approach can help them reflect on their actions without feeling judged or criticized.

The Subtle Art of Clock-Watching

At the end of the day, therapy is a paid service with schedules to keep. While it’s important to stay on track, constant glances at the clock can make clients nervous and less willing to open up. Consider using a distraction-free timer like a Timeqube Mind. This cube changes color as time runs out, allowing you to keep track of time without constant clock-watching. It’s a perfect way to manage time in a non-intrusive, polite manner.

In conclusion, these habits are not insurmountable obstacles. With mindfulness and self-awareness, you can address them and enhance your relationships with your clients.