My therapist is a lovely woman except she has on numerous occasions started to cry during my sessions (not sobbing, but tears). She is very professional in every other sense, although this to me is inappropriate and very unprofessional, obviously leaving me feeling very uncomfortable! I would be interested to know if this has happened to anyone else? I have stopped my therapy with her, it got to be too much. - Tears for Fears
I appreciate your comment about therapists who cry, and I understand that it makes you uncomfortable. From the outside, I can’t know the exact cause of your therapist’s tears, but there are several possibilities.
Had your therapist been sobbing uncontrollably, the issues you shared may well have triggered something personal within her—a sign that she could benefit from doing her own therapy and is probably not fit to help you. Most experienced therapists who have done their own therapy have become comfortable with painful places most would rather avoid and, as a result, are well equipped to embody a state of compassion and to not feel overwhelmed or triggered by their clients’ issues. These therapists are particularly adept at guiding people through the therapeutic process. But therapists who haven’t addressed certain personal wounds or issues in their own therapy, are usually limited in helping clients with similar wounds or issues.
That said, tears are more often a sign of empathy—a normal, healthy and sincere human process of relating emotionally to the experience of another. Receiving empathy can help us feel safe and understood, strengthening the bond of trust between therapist and client. Sometimes one of the explicit goals of therapy is for clients to become comfortable with vulnerable feelings. And often, a therapist transparently displaying empathy for a client helps that client foster self-compassion. I say ‘often’ because for some, and perhaps for you, the experience instead feels uncomfortable. So, therapists cry when a client’s experiences reflect their own
One thing is clear: your therapist’s emotions make you feel uncomfortable. So before stopping therapy, perhaps you can take this opportunity to explore why you feel this way. Are you uncomfortable with vulnerability? Is it difficult for you to receive empathy? Do you expect therapists to be superhuman and detached? Could this be an excuse to avoid therapy because it’s difficult to explore your wounds?
I highly encourage you to talk with your therapist about how her crying made you uncomfortable. Finding a therapist who is less triggering may feel easier, but it could be less productive if it
avoids a deeper issue. Of course, if your therapist starts crying when you tell her this, then yeah, don’t feel bad about finding another.