Advice from Claire: How to Know What Your Therapist Thinks of You
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Do you wonder what your therapist thinks of you? Claire gives you some tips on ways to dig a little deeper into the relationship you have with your therapist. Plus, she answers a question from a listener interested in starting therapy for his compulsive sexual behavior.
Check out Claire’s recommendations for resources on sex addiction:
- Sex Addiction 101 by Robert Weiss
- Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and Sexaholics Anonymous
- Center for Healthy Sex
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Claire Bidwell-Smith 00:46
Have you ever wondered what your therapist thinks about you? You should ask them. I’m Claire Bidwell Smith. And that’s what we’re talking about today on NEW DAY. This may come as a surprise, but you’re allowed to talk to your therapist about how things are going in therapy, you’re allowed to ask them anything you want, including what they think of you. I’m not saying they’re always gonna give you the kind of answer you want to hear. But you can still ask, in fact, asking questions about them, or what they think of you or about your therapeutic relationship can actually be helpful to the work you’re doing in therapy. It’s a really common misconception that in therapy, clients are supposed to do all the talking and refrain from engaging the therapists in a personal way. And boundaries are important in this relationship. But here’s the thing, the relationship you have with your therapist is a mirror into how you interact with the rest of the world. And the way you feel about your therapist and your relationship with them can provide all kinds of insights into certain facets of your personality and behavior. So for one, it’s important to check in with your therapist here and there about how their relationship is going for you. Here are some things you might be feeling or thinking that are not uncommon. I really liked you, I feel like we could be friends. And sometimes that feels confusing. Or I feel guilty being the only one in here who talks I don’t know anything about you. Or I find myself worried about what you think of me. Or I’m not sure why but I find myself holding back in our sessions. Or last week when you said that thing, it made me mad. Or I find myself attracted to you. Or last week, when I told you my big secret, I noticed that your hand twitched and I’m worried about what you were thinking. All of these things are normal, and they’re all things that can and should be addressed in therapy. A good therapist is prepared to address this stuff, and not just address it, but figure out how to use these insights to make your relationship and the work you’re doing together even better. A lot of the time, we have a natural reaction to wanting to please our therapists kind of in a teacher’s pet way, we can be afraid to go into tricky conversations about how that therapy is going or let them know if we feel let down by their reaction or something they said. But when you bring up this awkward stuff, it really helps deepen the relationship and the work you’re doing. So give it a try. You might be surprised by the interesting results that come. For instance, if you ask your therapist if they like you, they’ll probably answer by asking you why it’s important to know that. But that’s interesting. Why is it important to you? Is it because you’re a people pleaser and uncomfortable with not being liked? Maybe knowing this and working on it with your therapist can be helpful in other relationships in your life. Or you asking if they like you, because you’re wanting to tell them something you’re ashamed of, and you’re worried about how they’ll react? Well, now you have the opportunity to explore what it will be like to let the curtain down a bit more and address your fears. Or maybe you’re asking if they like you because you’re just not feeling a lot of warmth and compassion from them. And it’s not feeling like a good fit. That’s important to talk about too. Look, the therapeutic relationship is a really strange one. It’s transactional on one level, you’re literally paying a person to listen to your shit, which can feel really weird. You’re also divulging details about your personal life without knowing anything about them. That can also feel weird. Old school models of therapy really encourage the therapist to remain as blank and anonymous as possible, and to reveal nothing about their personal lives or background other than their degree and credentials. But things have shifted in recent years. And more and more therapists are finding that it’s okay and often even helpful to be a little more human in the room. I’m more than happy to tell a client that I’m also a mom, or to share a little about my personal losses. Or tell them I’m divorced if that’s something they’re going through. For a client knowing these things about your therapist can help you feel like they really understand your experience. It can help you feel able to press them and really open up with them. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask them how they think your therapy is going. Sometimes they’ll just turn it around on you and ask you how you think it’s going. So you should take this opportunity to be as honest as you can let them know what’s working and not working for you. Tell them about times you feel like you’re bored or feeling resistant. And times when you feel really supported by them. They’re likely to provide some useful insights about what they’re seeing on their end, too. When I’ve been asked this question by clients on occasion, I’ve been able to tell them where I think we could be going deeper, or how I think the fact that they come in 10 minutes late every week is making me wonder if they’re feeling avoidant about our sessions. Whatever the topic is, I just really think there’s a lot of value in talking to your therapist about them and your relationship with them. Don’t be afraid to venture into these conversations. I mean, after all, this is your time and money.
Claire Bidwell-Smith 05:55
Today’s question is from someone interested in starting therapy, whatever is on your mind, I’d love to hear from you. Send your questions in via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on our online form at bit.ly/newdayask, you can find the link in the show notes. This email came from Gage. Hello, Claire, your podcast episode about finding the right therapist appeared completely by accident. So I took it as a sign that you might be able to help me. I’m a 26 year old guy who has suffered from what I call compulsive sexual behavior disorder for many years now. It has been a massive drain on my vitality and integrity as a man, my inclination to begin therapy is long standing. But I’ve struggled to find a therapist I jive with. As I renewed my search and old question pops back up, which I’ve had difficulty finding feedback for. I can’t make up my mind whether a male or female therapist would be ideal for this type of healing. Any input you may have on that, as well as perhaps types of therapy to seek out would be immensely appreciated, seems like a man would have an easier time understanding my perspective. But maybe working through it with a woman could be more relevant as a means to have a wholesome non-sexual relationship with a woman. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy strikes me as most relevant as well. Hi, Gage, thank you so much for writing and being open about what you’re going through. I think to start sexual compulsion is way more common than most people think. And that’s mainly because people are afraid to talk about it openly. So I would imagine you’re feeling pretty isolated in what you’re going through. And you’re right that finding the right therapist is really important. And not only finding the right therapist, but finding a really good long term therapists will be important for you. Working through this issue is not a quick and easy one. But it really is possible to heal and grow with the right work. Before I get into which gender therapist I think would be best for you, I want to stay with something you said first, which is that in your long standing intention to find a therapist you haven’t found when you jive with. Now it’s possible that you truly haven’t found a good fit. But I’d urge you to examine the times you’ve met with various therapists and consider whether you felt truly up for doing the work at the time you saw them. Sometimes when we aren’t ready to do the work, we find all sorts of reasons not to like the therapist. The good news is that it sounds like you’re ready to do the work now. So here’s some more things to consider. I think the gender difference could go either way. What most matters is finding someone you really feel comfortable with. When you’re working on sexual compulsion, you really need to feel like you can be completely honest about your behavior. And doing that requires someone that you feel really good opening up around, I would limit your search to therapists who specialize in sex addiction, a regular therapist is not going to cut it. You need someone who really understands this realm, and it’s up to date on the latest treatment methods. You could just do a simple Google search for sex addiction therapists or try looking on Psychology Today. I’m not sure where you live. But if you’re not near a major metropolitan area, then you might have trouble finding options for this kind of specialty. So I would stay open to seeing someone on Zoom if there’s not someone good in your area. But back to gender. I think you’re right that a man might make you feel more understood, and that a female therapist might provide opportunity for a reparative relationship. But again, I would still go with expertise over gender and your gut reaction and meeting somebody before you really decide. So I would interview a couple of male therapists and a couple of female therapists and just kind of gauge how you feel. Literally gauge, but also aside from one on one therapy, there’s a lot of other support and resources out there for you. There’s a ton of books like sex addiction 101 that you could download and start reading right now. There’s also organizations like sexual compulsives anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics anonymous, all of which offer online and in person support groups. I also really recommend looking at the Center for Healthy sex in LA, we had their clinical director Dr. Alex […] on as a guest last fall and she’s brilliant. Her Center offers tons of resources including a two week intensive outpatient sex addiction therapy program. I hope all of this is helpful. I hope it just makes you feel not so alone in your experience. There are so many people out there struggling with this. Gage, I’m really glad you wrote in about this. I hope you give yourself some big love and compassion for being willing to ask for help. I just think being a human being in the world is not easy. We’re all struggling with something or another. And there really is help and healing available out there.
Today’s episode was the first in a series about therapy. Make sure you come back on Wednesday where I’ll talk about what to do if you have a crush on your therapist. Make sure you subscribe to NEW DAY wherever you’re listening so you never miss an episode.
NEW DAY is a Lemonada Media Original. The show was produced by Kryssy Pease and Erianna Jiles. Kat Yore is our engineer. Music is by Hannis Brown. New Day is produced in partnership with the well-being trust the Jed foundation and Education Development Center. Thanks for listening.