For decades psychotherapists were trained to try to be objective observers without personal reactions because their reactions were believed to interfere with the treatment. Of course, that totally objective viewpoint proved to be untenable. Actually Freud himself recognized that he was moved by his patients. His followers misunderstood. In more recent decades, this error has been corrected. The therapist's inevitable humanity has been recognized and even included as a valuable therapeutic tool. The therapist's responsiveness has been seen as a potentially valuable contributor to the work when used by the therapist with primary regard for the patient's needs. A therapist can use authentic personal reactions to enrich the treatment and genuinely connect (Stark, 1999).
An article in Psychology Today by several contributors confirmed the personal engagement and caring of therapists. It asserted that a patient was not just someone to fill an appointment slot. Instead a therapist and a patient are seen to care about each other. Some therapists wrote about how they were deeply influenced by particular patients. Jonathan Shedler, PhD remarked, " It is impossible for two people to meet and discuss the most private details of one of their lives, week after week, without stirring up strong feelings -- in both people " (p. 37). He went on to describe the therapist's role as one within a "frame" with limits set in place not because of coldness but because they support the therapeutic process. There will only be therapist-patient encounters. "They will not see you socially or become your friend, lover, or business partner " (p. 37). The frame is confined to regularly scheduled appointments that will start and stop on time to help make the sessions safe places where patients can securely express themselves.
The Psychology Today (2023) article depicted the therapist realistically as a genuinely responsive and caring member of the therapist-patient partnership. Both therapist and patient care about each other. Rick Miller, LICSW, recognized that although the relationship is not an equal one, "this relationship, however uneven, is as real, vibrant, and meaningful for us as it is for you" (p. 41).
Psychology Today contributors. An unspoken bond. Psychology Today, 56(6). 34-41.
Stark, M. (1999). Modes of therapeutic action. Aronson.