Most professionals in the helping profession chose their job purposefully. We enjoy helping, listening, and problem solving. I found an online quiz that supposedly determines if one would make a good therapist. It asked questions about one’s understanding, ability to help others control emotions, make decisions, give feedback and read social cues. These are definitely telling questions, but is there more to it? Do therapists ever think of their clients as more than a job? Do clients feel that they are genuinely liked? I’ve written previously about the chemistry one must have with their therapist. That chemistry can go both ways.
Are there clients I particularly enjoy seeing? Yes. Is it because they are nice? Sure, they are nice. But it is more their motivation to work during our sessions. As a therapist, I am easy to please: Show up for our scheduled appointments, call if you can’t or are running late, and then use your time well. However, that doesn’t mean I “like” you any less if you don’t do these things. I care about my clients. I like them too. Some I can say I really like, especially after having known them for many years. But let’s be honest. It is a one-sided relationship. They may leave a session feeling better than ever, and I am fulfilled knowing together we worked hard, but while they may ponder our work well after the session is over, I am completely focused on my next client.
Many clients come into our session with a list of topics they want to discuss and work on. But what is he or she feeling when they leave? Some of my clients probably feel that I am proud of them based on our talk and the progress they have made, and that feeling may transfer to feeling like they pleased me and that they did well. They leave with a smiling “thank you so much” and will sometimes tell me they repeated some of our conversation with their loved ones. Feeling liked is part of that along with feeling accepted and cared for. I have never been asked the question during therapy “do you like me”, but I confidently believe my clients would all say that I genuinely do.
Sometimes a client’s issue might be insecurities and that will transfer over to our relationship as well. A client may leave wondering if he or she pleased me and answered “correctly” instead of processing situations through their own glasses (as opposed to mine). Once confidence is built, it is my hope that their habit of changing behaviors to please me will become pleasing to themselves.
Some therapists say it is too draining to think about work when not working. I can’t help but brainstorm and process throughout my days. Is it draining? Possibly. But again, doing a good job is fulfilling. I think 100% of my clients would tell you that not only do I like them, but that I like them best. And for that 45-50 minute session, I do.
Lynn R. Zakeri is a licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Northfield and Skolie, Illinois. For more information view Lynn's website at www.lynnzakeri.com.