Therapists Reveal How They Keep Their Emotions In Check With Their Worst Clients
Believe it or not, I have a psychology degree. My initial intent was to go into counseling but I figured out pretty quickly that I have no emotional off switch. Empathy is an important part of being a therapist, but you need the ability to put it down sometimes. Apparently I'm not the only person who hasn't quite mastered that skill.
One Reddit user asked:
Therapists of reddit, how do you keep your emotions in check while attempting to counsel the most vile of your clients? Surely you have some sessions that just rock your core, or have you really "heard it all"?
Here are some of the more insightful answers...
Not My Time
Regardless of what the person in front of me has experienced, they survived and are seeking help in the here and now. I've found that, as a new therapist, nothing is about me when i'm interacting with a client. It's not my time, it's theirs, so even if I feel a strong reaction in the moment, I give myself permission to set it aside until i am able to take my own time to process. I've definitely cried in the bathroom after rough sessions though.
When I was a caseworker, I used to find it easier to observe professional boundaries and ensure I provided good counselling, etc., with clients I didn't like, compared to clients I did like.
In the case of the former, I always had the mindset of "OK, I don't like this person, so I need to be careful to ensure I conduct myself professionally at all times".
With people I liked, there was always a greater risk of slipping into interpersonal dynamics more akin to friendship, which can be harder to detect (as a degree of friendliness is generally required to provide good counselling and therapeutic support. Characteristics of appropriate conduct, in that respect, can be a much fuzzier line than the professional requirement to not rip into someone for being reprehensible twat).
Like A Wind Tunnel
Honestly, one of the ways I feel most differently from most people is in my level of empathy. I think I'm unusual in this regard, even compared to most other psychologists. I tend to think that if someone really wants to change, they deserve help in making that change. One of the things I find most frustrating about reddit is how quickly people will dismiss other humans as trash. Even those who do the most vile things are human, and they often (although admittedly not all) hate themselves as much, if not more, than others do for doing those things. It's a bit cliche, but people aren't vile, actions are.
Having said that, there are clients who manage to push my buttons, but in general they've not been therapy clients. People in therapy usually want change, and if they don't (for example, they're there because they're forced to be there), I won't continue therapy with them. It's a waste of time. Other clients who do bother me (that I'm evaluating), I try to be aware of my reaction and look at it objectively, in terms of having a job to do, to understand what it is about their behavior that's pushing my buttons because in almost all cases its the same thing that's pushing others' buttons as well. I think of myself as a social psychological testing equipment in that case, sort of like a wind tunnel or something.
Covered In Crap
I'm not a therapist yet, but it's what I want to do and I'm studying to become one. One of the things were taught is unconditional positive regard, and one of the "tricks" we were taught to help us with it is to think of every person being inherently a good person, with it being their experiences that shape who they have become. A good example is the fact that abusers have often been abused themselves.
I don't normally believe in souls, but I find it helps to conceptualize everyone as having a pure soul that gets covered in crap due to what happens in their life. But most of that crap isn't their fault, so you can try to look past it to the good soul underneath. Obviously this doesn't mean you excuse or condone the horrible things people do, it just lets you understand it, at least a little, which does a lot to look past the bad.
In all honesty I think this is probably the best thing I've learned in my entire degree, and I've tried to apply it to anyone in my life who annoys or irritates me. I have found that it increases my tolerance and patience for the little things when I look beyond the thing and think about why they might be doing it.
I sometimes think I must be close to having heard it all but after 20 years, yes, I still get surprises and hear new things from clients.
I can honestly say that there have been very, very few 'vile' clients. I love my work and have a lot of respect for people who are brave enough to come to therapy - its hard work to go through therapy. Its OK as a therapist to have emotional responses to our clients, in fact if you're not then I'd be a bit worried about the therapist. But its being able to recognise what emotions are about my 'stuff' and what emotions are about the clients 'stuff' and dealing with it appropriately. my 'stuff' get set aside for my own therapy & supervision sessions. you learn how and when to identify your own emotions and work with them or set them aside in your training.
Sometimes it is very therapeutic for the client to see my emotional response. Getting sad about a clients abuse can help them to see that what happened to them was not OK when working with abuse clients. Many clients don't have a good connection to their emotions so they learn by seeing my reactions.
I've only had a few clients that might be considered 'vile' - I noticed my emotional response and then set it aside for later and get back to the clients responses. in these cases showing emotions would have been dangerous as they were both sex offenders. Afterwards, yes I did feel 'rocked to the core' and talked about it in supervision, did lots of self care.
There are some stories I've heard that give me nightmares. having a good supervisor/therapist is critical in doing lots of trauma/abuse work as is having done your own therapy, though this is less common these days.
Don't Get Involved
I was a therapist in a forensic facility. I treated serial killers, stalkers, arsonists, etc.
Some of my colleagues had to do a lot of self-care stuff, but honestly I never brought it home with me. Maybe I have a dark streak myself or maybe it's just that at the end of the day it's a job. You get used to the clients. I actually really enjoyed it.
People are people. I remember sitting in a transport bus with a mass shooter in the back in shackles just shooting the shit and cracking jokes. People aren't 100% the worst thing they ever did 100% of the time.
Also, in therapist school (usually a master's or PhD in social work, psychology, or counseling) they spend years teaching you how to treat people without getting personally involved. It's like a muscle you train. You can care about someone and have empathy for them without getting emotionally tangled up in their experience, it just takes practice and direction.
I'm trying to remember if I ever heard anything that "rocked me to my core". I heard stuff that was absolutely mind-bendingly crazy, but...idk...I never heard anything that kept me up at night.
Oooof there are people you come across that make your stomach turn (cue to a pretty serious personality disorder.) One tool I use to muster up empathy and positive regard is imagining what life would be like to be them. Picturing the world through their eyes and how people respond to them daily. Even though their response is different then my imagination it usually is sad, lonely and gives me motivation to help them. That's a simpler one. There are also tools we are trained to use to figure out what it is about someone that is bothersome and how to respond to them in a way that promotes growth. The thought here is that if it's bothersome to a therapist- it's bothersome and negatively impacted interpersonal relationships outside of the therapy session. Our job is to help a client learn and change these things to improve relationships (assuming they want that.)
Sense Of Community
I am mostly desensitized to it all. It doesn't mean I don't have emotions or don't care but my focus is to always validate and explore solutions rather than wallow in the trauma i am hearing. When you are in the mind set of helping the person in front of you, the context of what they are actually saying makes it manageable because you feel useful.
But of course, there are days where I hear a story and hits my heart and I can't shake it for days. During those times I have really practice self care. It's helpful to talk to others in the profession too. There's a sense of community there for sure.
Not a therapist, but I had a friend who was an LCSW (licensed social worker, aka a shrink ) for 30 years.
She would not accept narcissists for treatment.
She said they were incurable, as a group tended to like to play mind games with the therapist, and she had personal issues with narcissist relatives in her childhood.
I imagine other therapists simply do the same, they just don't accept clients who make them extremely uncomfortable.
Value Of Life
I honestly feel like I've heard it all. I'll acknowledge that my experience is atypical, as I work night shift in a level 1 trauma center ER downtown in a major US city. I do crisis counseling, psychiatric assessments, and brief clinical interventions to people experiencing their first psychiatric crisis. Our ER gets all kinds - murderers, child abusers, people with major personality disorders, etc. At the end of the day they are just as human as I am, and while their life experience is different from mine, they deserve the same empathy and respect that I deserve. Part of the reason why I became a counselor is that I have a deep respect for the dignity and value of life. Even if that life is calling me "f*cking ugly" or sh!tting into their own hand, rolling it into a ball, and using it like a bowling ball in our hallways...
One of the hardest things in the world is being able to afford life's necessities. We all work and make money (or have parents that do), but having money and being able to afford what you need are two different things.
I'm not just talking about the latest gadgets, either.
Not having a fancy knife set or the newest Apple Watch won't destroy your life.
I'm talking about the things so vital to our survival that they should be cheap, but are actually near impossible to afford.
Redditors know this to be true and are ready to share what some of those vital things are.
It all started when Redditor vashisthaa asked:
"What should be cheap and affordable but is not?"
Money Doesn't Account For Taste
"Caviar. It tastes awful, and comes in mass quantities, and costs $50 for a small tin. Idk why."
"I don't understand how something whose patent was given away for dirt can become so expensive."
"45 years ago, my sister went into diabetic coma, nearly died. My parents, of meager means, were able to get her insulin for free. What's going on now is unacceptable."
"Anything mental health related, really."
"My psychiatrist reluctantly prescribed me meds with the intention I seek therapy. I keep telling him I’m too poor and “maybe this summer”. But I’ll never be able to afford 200$ a session to talk to someone."
A Monthly Expense
"Tampons, pads, birth control. Any product that is needed for women that is considered a ‘Luxury’ in todays standards"
"As someone with a uterus I agree."
"They should be free. Bleeding is involuntary. Plenty of Dr's offices and clinics give out free condoms. They should do the same with period products."
What Came First?
"Seriously, what exactly happened in the last two years? Did the hens unionize?"
We Need More Apples A Day
"I would assume, for Americans, health care."
"Health care...f*cking 'Murica"
Secondary Health Care
"Including eyes and teeth, for those out there who (like me) aren't American."
"Yeah, a visit to the ER doesn't cost me a cent and my meds are very affordable, but the optometrist and the dentist still cost me a lot, even if they're partially covered by insurance and the parts that aren't covered can be deducted from my income tax. I shouldn't have to reconfigure my whole budget every time I have a cavity or need a new pair of glasses."
"As a fellow new yorker"
"Montrealer chiming in. Hear-hear! Yeah, our rents are far more affordable, but then our salaries are proportionally lower, so if you're unwilling to have roommates or are unlucky in love, good luck to ya!"
"My older sister is currently renting an apartment in a somewhat cheap neighborhood and she works as a waitress. She says that the rent is very expensive even though they are 3 roommates."
"(I don't pay the rent since I am a school student and I live with my family)"
"Baby formula. It’s required in order to feed an infant if breastfeeding isn’t an option (and yes, there are absolutely many valid reasons why it might not be possible to breastfeed. Lack of milk supply, baby has an intolerance to it, mother is taking certain medications, mother’s mental health prevents it, adoption, and that’s just what comes to mind off the top of my head). You literally cannot feed an infant anything other than milk until at least 6 months, and it’s not always an option to rely entirely on donated breastmilk. I’m sure in many locations, donated milk isn’t even a thing!"
"For children old enough for solid food, it’s possible to choose budget-friendly options just like for adults’ food, but there’s no alternative for little infants. Milk (breast or formula) is the only option, and the companies know that so they know they can charge a premium and still sell their product. This leads to families trying to stretch their supply of formula in unhealthy ways like watering it down (babies can’t regulate their electrolytes well, it can be very harmful) or adding fillers like rice (doesn’t have the required nutrition, again babies that young can’t adapt to macro/micronutrient imbalances the same way older children can)"
Insult To Injury
"I agree! It should be very expensive to get a marriage license and very cheap to get a divorce decree."
Sounds About Right
"Electricity. When you provide something in such quantities as to turn it into an everyday commodity, you don't get to charge double fees to sustain everyday life."
"Like increasing rent because you live on a higher floor."
Free For All
"Fruits. God allows these to grow without human interference mostly. They should be everywhere like hand sanitizer. Take some if you are hungry .. just not the entire Container"
A Girl's Best Friend
"Diamonds. They are one of the most common stones in precious gemstones, and yet -- thanks to De Beers Corporation marketing them for the last century and gaining a monopoly world wide on their mining, they are super high priced. Fake diamonds can be made for 50-100 dollars per carrot that other than a specific frequency of light passing through them slightly differently are unrecognizably different in every way (they literally are diamonds just made faster). Given that and a lot of non-diamond look a-likes you would think it would be less valuable, but nope... they're still crazy expensive for no reason other than monopoly. Ruby's and Emeralds (even more so) are actual rare stones unlike diamonds (common)."
Living. Just Livin
"living (your life)"
"No kidding. Brought here against my will and then have to work my a** off to just keep my head a little above the water."
"I only stick around out of pure f*cking spite."
"If living was cheap, everybody would do it."
The sad thing is, this is all true.
Do you have anything you'd like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.
Oh, the things we do for love...
Are we stupid, crazy, naive, or merely desperate?
Or all of the above?
Love looks like such a good time.
So of course everyone is on the hunt for it.
And sometimes we fall into people who don't love us, but we try to make it work.
This can lead us to do some incredibly questionable things when we look back.
One Redditor wanted to hear about all the things people have done for the ones that didn't love them them back, so they asked:
"What's the stupidest thing you ever did for a guy/girl?"
I can't tell you my secrets.
I am the epitome of foolish.
Us FirstBreathe Mtv GIF by INTO ACTIONGiphy
"Put them before my mental health, we’re all responsible for taking care of ourselves."
Young & Stupid
"When I was younger I was awarded a settlement from a motorcycle crash; at the time, I was with my ex. I bought and repaired a car for her bday and paid off half her student loans. She was not a nice person, and I ended the relationship. Damn being young and naive."
"Fly to another state to meet up with someone from online. We met on discord and video'ed a lot for 7 months before deciding to meet irl. We texted and talked all the way to boarding. When I landed, I texted her no response. I called, straight to voice mail."
"Went on discord, she deleted her account. Instead of flying back, I spent the weekend exploring a new city. Wasn't going to pass up going to the Smithsonian Museum and seeing the landmarks. To this day, I have no clue as to why she ghosted me."
"Baked cookies and created this '100 things I love about you' jar with small bits of paper to open everyday for a new reason so my ex could see the amazing traits he had and what I admired. This was supposed to be a V-day gift, but he cancelled plans to see friends instead lol."
"Valentines Day, notorious for being a day to skip the partner and hang with the bros."
Nevadajimmy fallon wow GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonGiphy
"Gave up a position with the Secret Service for a woman I thought I was going to marry. A year later she was living in Nevada with her soon-to-be husband."
Maybe you can go back? We need security.
DuhBehind The Scenes GIF by BET AwardsGiphy
"My 17-year-old brother told me he bought a girl a $350 bracelet for Christmas AFTER she already told him she 'didn't like him like that.' We all let him know how dumb that was."
"My high school sweetheart and I ended up going to different colleges. I went to a pretty cheap state school, she went to a very expensive private university in a big city. Sent her a check for something like $10K since my tuition was basically zero and she needed it way more. Same day the check cleared she texted me to say that she'd been seeing someone else and it was over between us."
Bad for Business
"I built a catering business from the ground up because my friend said she wanted to stop stripping since she would cry about the bad treatment all the time. After the business was fully operational and I even got the first couple gigs, all she had to do was pass out business cards and talk to potential clients at an expensive charity dinner and she bailed so she could hang out at home. I already had a well paying job so didn't really need a side business. I bet she is still stripping now coming up on 40."
"Walked 9 miles in tornado weather with freezing cold rain just to see her. Thought she was worth it. We were together for 4 years and then I found out she had been cheating on me with her blood brother for the past 2 years. I found out because I got the clap from her and she let slip that her brother also had the clap."
No ExcusesPhaedra Parks Bye Felicia GIFGiphy
"Forgave him for cheating. Caught him cheating again a few months later."
"Same. I stayed with him, he continued to cheat. I finally cut him loose when the other girl became pregnant."
"That's why I have a 0 tolerance for cheating. 1 time is enough to end the relationship or even a marriage. No excuses. No forgiveness. No ok let's try it for the kids."
Oh my word. Humans make some questionable choices when our brains are flooded with love hormones.
Do you have any crazy love confessions for us? Let us know in the comments below.
Kids don't say the darndest things.
They say the craziest things.
I feel like some kids are dark psychics here to throw us off our game.
But I dislike children so I could be exaggerating.
Some of the phrases and prophecies I've heard children espousing have left my head spinning.
Where do they learn this stuff?
Redditor Eli_JMI wanted to hear about the things children have said aloud that left people SHOOKETH, so they asked:
"Parents of reddit, what is the creepiest thing your child has said to you?"
I once had a kid, stop me in the mall and just point at my head and go... "BOOM! HEAD!"
Over HimBig Brother Reaction GIF by Big Brother After DarkGiphy
"My then 2 year old accidentally locked himself in a room and was crying hysterically while I tried in vain to coach him through unlocking the door. My then 5-year-old pulled me aside and said, in perfect seriousness, 'Forget about him, Mom. He's dead to us.' I'm a little worried about that kid."
In the Fire
"Not my child but my grandchild. She was about 3 years old when her parents were expecting another baby. She kept talking about how she was so happy she'll have her sister back once the baby was born. The sister that 'died in a fire before.' At the time she only had an older brother and had never had a sister, let alone one that passed away in a fire."
"My youngest daughter has always had a fear of the water that’s gotten better as she’s gotten older. But when she was a toddler, it would have been easier to baptize a rabid cat than try to get give her a bath. One night at around age 3, I was doing my routine of trying to get her in the tub to wash off when she said to me 'I scared of the water. It’s how I died before.' Yeah, the bath definitely didn’t happen that night."
"My grandma used to tell this story all of the time! Apparently when I was a young kid, I saw a big blue lifted truck and began talking about how I used to drive one like that, and I had gotten into a car crash and died at a young age and talked about missing my life. Kids either have wild imaginations, or they remember some stuff from an alternate timeline."
Bye DaddyExcuse Me No GIF by Late Night with Seth MeyersGiphy
"As I was leaving for work, my daughter said 'bye daddy, have a good day. I hope you don't get shot' and then went back to playing with her toys."
Kids know jobs are dangerous.
ThinkOkaay What GIF by ABC NetworkGiphy
"Woke one morning before my alarm went off to my three year old son standing next to my bed. He then says, 'Go back to sleep and think about your life.'"
"My son used to say when he was younger that he used to fly around at night. Jumping from lamppost to lamppost in the neighborhood. That it was hard to get there because of the connection to his body through the belly button."
"I would have considered imagination if it weren’t that my dad told me he had the same type of dream when he was little as did I."
"Not my kids but I used to work with toddlers."
"We had one girl who got so upset at changing time. She would cry and say 'No, the man is watching!' When she was on the changing table. She would point to the ceiling tiles (sometimes the wind from the garden door knocked one out of place) and say he was watching."
"Freaked all of us staff out, we all looked but there was definitely no one there. We had to change her on a mat on the floor inside of a stall because she was so upset. We did that for the rest of the year."
"The next years class starts... A little boy (these kids did not know each other at all!) starts crying on the changing table. 'No! The man is watching!' Pointing at the ceiling tiles again. Same situation for the rest of the year. Had to change him in a stall on the floor."
"There was never anyone in the ceiling but it freaked us all out constantly!"
"We were living overseas and the area we lived in had been an old Chinese fishing village. Locals were superstitious about the area because the village had been removed to replace with modern housing and it was supposed to have made the spirits angry. My 5 year old son had an imaginary friend named Timmy but he didn't actually like Timmy. He complained about him so much it got creepy."
"For instance, Timmy didn't like certain people... Timmy told him to misbehave... anything that was misplaced was lost because Timmy took it, etc. I joked that at least we knew Timmy wasn't a ghost because a Chinese kid would not be named Timmy. One day my son drew a picture of Timmy to show me. He labeled it 'Tai Mei.'"
Stick with ChickenWait What Sudden Realization GIF by Nick JonasGiphy
"Went to check on my five year old daughter who was asleep. She rolled on her back, still asleep, and said, 'I must not eat humans, humans aren't food.' Before rolling back over."
Kids are crazy. Thank the Lord I don't have any of my own to terrorize me like this.
Do you have any crazy kid-related stories? Let us know in the comments below.
Do you notice how food courts in shopping malls have different types of cuisine–most of which are very westernized interpretations of food from various cultures?
Panda Express, for instance, is supposedly Chinese food, while Sbarro claims to serve Italian food.
While mall food is not fancy–and it's okay if you thought they were–it's not necessarily everyone's cup of tea.
Yet, some of these walk-up establishments have huge lines because shoppers either don't know any better and think the offerings are authentic, or it's just a matter of convenience for them to look for a quick bite.
Curious to know about the types of food that are given more hype than they deserve, Redditor Faihus asked:
"What cuisine do you find highly overrated?"
Unfortunately, many Redditors misunderstood the assignment and named examples that were not a style or method of cooking that represents different countries or establishments.
Nevertheless, here we go.
It's crazy how marketing adds crazy value to edibles that are nothing out of the ordinary.
"Yeah. I would have to agree with that. It may be an unpopular opinion but I still love the Duncan Heinz or Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffin mix. Grew up on that stuff."
Store-Bought Reigns Supreme
"I fail to see what's wrong with a normal cupcake. Hell, even boxed cupcakes are super good. I would rather have 10 delicious boxes cupcakes than one mediocre, overpriced one."
Some people use condiments to enhance a flavor. Others prefer methods that induce an eye-roll.
"Gold leaf on food is bullsh*t. It does not add flavour, only makes it look gold and increases the price. If you want to sh*t good like a Lannister, it’s good for that. The instagram food trend is all about looks not taste."
"Social media-oriented cuisine, like those milkshakes where they spread chocolate outside the glass. The only point of doing that is looking better on Instagram since it objectively worsens the product"
Some establishments would do well serving just alcohol.
That, or patrons shouldn't expect much fro the menu at their local watering hole.
"As an American, any 'American' restaurant eatery without a speciality. It’s all bar food that’s SLIGHTLY better than actual stereotypical bar food (Chili’s, Cheddars, Logan’s etc) Hell, actual bar food is probably better honestly."
"You don’t want an 18 dollar cheeseburger with onion rings and 'our house made barbecue sauce' that you have to unhinge your jaw to eat?"
Sticking To The Basics Is A +
"There’s so many 'brew houses' and 'bistros' where you cant get just a regular cheeseburger. They’ll have a first time chef trying to be fancy but if you can’t make a plain cheeseburger made with upscale ingredients taste really f'king good I guarantee you your bacon jam’d, house made ketchup’d, unripe off season tomato, 3/4 lb patty on a brioche that doesn’t hold together just doesn’t taste that good. And what do you mean you don’t have pickles? The acid is there for a reason. As a veteran of the business it drives me insane."
Finally, we were going somewhere with the assignment in reference to naming a cuisine.
"I want to say Italian, but sometimes my italian friend will make something for me and I will eat myself stupid so I think it's probably just americanized italian that I'm not into."
We Need A Re-Introduction
"I told my Italian friend I didn't like Italian food and she almost fell off her chair. I think I've eaten too much domesticated Italian and need some re-centering...for her sake."
I can't say with absolute certainty which particular cuisine is overrated, but I can say which type of food is overrated.
Under that scenario, I can say smoothies sold in chain restaurants like Jamba Juice are overrated.
People seem to think that just because they're having a fruit smoothie, it does their bodies good.
Most smoothies are pretty much fruit juices, not actual fruit with fiber, and are loaded with tons of sugar.
They may taste delicious, but that's because all of the added sugars tantalize repeat customers.
Seeing so many locations selling smoothies, in general, makes me question the nutritional value of many of their menu options. But, that's just me.