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Old 04-23-2019, 10:48 AM #1
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Default Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

Responses to another poster’s thread got me thinking about a question, and I didn’t want to hijack so thought to start a separate place for this question.

What do you believe are appropriate expressions of feelings and emotions in therapy? What are your therapist’s boundaries? I am particularly interested in the negatives.

How does or would your therapist respond to expressing anger towards them?

Have or could you tell your therapist you hate them?

Is raising your voice in session acceptable?

Do they allow angry phone calls between sessions? Angry emails?

Have you ever accused your therapist of hurting you? Or not caring? Or not being competent? Could you?

Since ending therapy on a sour note, I have fantasies of all the angry things I wish I could go back and say to my therapist and the way I’d like to say them. Basically going nuclear. My EMDR therapist who was helping me through therapy trauma post-termination said the ‘corrective experience’ my therapist should have given me was permission to be angry at her, let it out, and have everything still be okay. Perhaps things wouldn't have boiled over as they did.

Thoughts?
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Old 04-23-2019, 11:03 AM #2
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

I have never hollered in therapy. I have written a fairly long letter to EMDR T expressing frustration about something she said. By the end of the letter I pointed put that I realized while some of it was frustration with her I also recognized a lot of it had to do with my situation. We discussed everything and it worked out okay. One day we were discussing acoustics and privacy when Ts share walls. She thought I was asking because I could hear the person before me. She said the person tends to holler a lot which she is fine with but worries about confidentiality.

T I had a couple times where she said something I email that bothered me and I responded without thinking. She handled it well. Again we worked it out.
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Old 04-23-2019, 11:12 AM #3
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

A few times I have felt hurt by something my T said or did and have told him so. He has always been receptive and we have talked it out. Sometimes he agrees he made a mistake, other times what he said brings up old hurt that isn't really about him.

My T says that all emotions are welcome in therapy, positive or negative. But I can't really imagine raising my voice or telling him I hate him. I don't think he's uncaring or incompetent so I wouldn't say that either.

We don't do out of session contact, angry or otherwise. Sometimes it is hard to be angry and have to wait a few days to express that, but I do better hashing things out in person.
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Old 04-23-2019, 11:36 AM #4
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

I questioned the woman's competency all the time. I question the competency of that entire job force. I don't think clients can abuse therapists (other than perhaps trying to physically assault them). I think they are set up as an act - they are other when acting as a therapist. I don't think clients can be mean to therapists or hurt them- they set the game up so that they are other - they are not real. I believe if a therapist tells a client the client hurt them - the therapist is acting or lying or needs to go get their own therapist.
I don't see it as whether the therapist allows or does not allow something - I would not hire one who thought in allowing or not allowing anything. But I also would not hire one who thought they were in a position to tell me how and what I could express anything.
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Last edited by stopdog; 04-23-2019 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 04-23-2019, 11:59 AM #5
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

I don't tend to take my anger out on people. Generally, if I am so angry that I want to lash out, it really isn't about that person, it is about my own stuff; therefore, it would seem wrong of me to take my own stuff out on another person, even a therapist. And when my anger really is because of something someone has directly done or said to me, I am a talker not a fighter. It's just not my nature to yell at people, call them names, attack their character, etc. Right or wrong. That's who I am.

However, my therapist would have had no problem with me discussing problems in our therapy or relationship so long as it was a conversation, not an attack. We had many such conversations which were productive and resulted in positive outcomes for my therapy. I think because he was so open to those kinds of frank discussions, problems about my therapy never rose to the level of serious conflict or rupture.

My therapist would have had no problem with me expressing anger about a situation, about my therapy, about him, about my history, about my emotions, about other people not in the room, but he would have drawn the line at speaking to him in a way that would be deliberately and intentionally hurtful and/or abusive. He has a boundary that he does not accept abuse -- a boundary I fully agree with and it serves well as a model for my own boundaries. I learned a great deal about healthy, proactive boundaries from him. If I had deliberately been abusive toward him, he would have stopped me, expressed his boundary without anger - simply as a matter of fact --, and would have insisted we talk about why I was lashing out and what was really going on there. I think knowing that the conversation was welcomed, inevitable, and not judged negatively helped me be able to express my feelings in the form of true dialogue and in the spirit of resolution.
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Old 04-23-2019, 12:03 PM #6
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

R taught me that negative feelings are not always bad and I think the hallmark of a real T is accepting the good with the bad. I used to never show negative emotions even with my best friends and he remarked once at the start that when I had the opportunity to tell him that I was angry with him I didn't.

He always handled it well and he let me rage and get it all out.I didn't stamp around his office or throw things around or raise my voice, but I was mean. I have told him that i hated him, and sent him angry emails. And done all of the last three things because I felt safe enough to do so.
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Old 04-23-2019, 12:49 PM #7
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

I don't usually have issues being assertive when necessary so did not have a need to express raw anger to a T that I could not vent anywhere else. But I told one of mine many critical things, both in person and via email. I personally prefer to be direct and express what exactly I am angry about instead of just putting feelings into words. For example, I told my first T that he was unprofessional, manipulative, projecting things onto me that had nothing to do with me, and that it is unacceptable that he couldn't fill a simple insurance form properly multiple times and can't keep track of my in-advance cancellations that were clearly made in writing. I usually find this type of expression more useful with anyone when there are repetitive issues, simply saying that I am angry or hate them is not so productive IMO. I also personally would not say that I hate them to anyone or swear at them, that's beyond what I consider acceptable communication on my end. But apparently many people find it helpful to be able to say such things. My incompetent therapist always preaches how a T should be able take anger from a client but he could definitely not handle my criticisms well. He often reacted very emotionally, more like a hurt kid than a civil adult, and it really shocked me at first as I had never seen similar from other people. Kinda roles reversed, but I think it was really inappropriate from a T. I speculated that he perhaps reacted so strongly because I very directly expressed real things about his incompetency, not just some transference type anger that he is probably more used to. But I think it is acceptable to express dissatisfaction with a service I am paying high $ for. I was never angry (or otherwise negative) with my second T, he did not do anything to make me feel that way, just concluded in the end that therapy was not useful so I left.
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Old 04-23-2019, 12:57 PM #8
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

I never expressed anger in therapy with my former T. Nor have I with this T. Mostly because I haven't been angry. I was baffled once when former T was angry with me. I couldn't understand why. I think I grew up with the expectation that I wasn't allowed to express angry or negative feelings (hmmm, probably part of why I SH) so doing so, even in therapy seems taboo.
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Old 04-23-2019, 01:12 PM #9
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

Quote:
How does or would your therapist respond to expressing anger towards them?
Curious, receptive and accepting of me and/or my anger.

Quote:
Have or could you tell your therapist you hate them?
No, as hate is a strong word and I do not feel thus. I did not even hate my T from hell.

Quote:
Is raising your voice in session acceptable?
No. I am not one for yelling or screaming and most certainly would not appreciate, nor tolerate, a T behaving this way towards me either.

Quote:
Have you ever accused your therapist of hurting you? Or not caring? Or not being competent? Could you?
Again, accusation is a strong, rather inflammatory, word. I have not accused T but have told them that what they said was hurtful. This led to a fruitful discussion.


I believe in respectful communication from both parties. I don't condone screaming matches or disrespect. There is a way to convey information - both from T to me and vice versa - that is both respectful and kind. This is what is most effective for me.
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Old 04-23-2019, 02:08 PM #10
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Default Re: Acceptable Expressions of Negative Feelings in Therapy

This is all really interesting and helpful!

My anger towards my therapist came out in really passive-aggressive ways. Silence, refusing to share things and the like. Aside from the final explosion, our conflicts were back and forths in sarcastic and condescending tones. Childish, I guess.

My anger points were almost always about things that happened in therapy vs character attacks. Many incidents I was upset about would fit on internet 'red flag' signs of a bad therapist lists. Low likelihood of being transference based, which I think went over much worse than if it was “old stuff” resurfacing.

There’s a gap in what I hoped for vs how things played out in my own sessions around anger. I would have loved to have a therapist to just let it out with. I’m sure they exist. Unfortunately such characteristics aren’t disclosed a head of time so there’s no way to tell how anger is received until you’re ‘in it’.

Last edited by PurpleMirrors3; 04-23-2019 at 03:49 PM.
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