Emotional Intimacy/ closeness in therapy

Dreamer146

New Here
How exactly or specifically does therapeutic emotional intimacy / closeness between the patient and Therapist look like and feel like?

And how to know if a therapist might be overly distant, more than the required professional distance?
 

Friday

Moderator
To me? Clicking with a therapist, is like clicking with a colleague, or a professor. We’re not friends. Even if we like the hell out of each other. We MIGHT be, under different circumstances. But as things stand? Our relationship is professional. THAT is the part of their heart/mind that I’m engaging, and there are strict codes of conduct governing those behaviors/interactions. That’s not intimacy. No more so than getting naked with my surgeon is intimate. REMOVE the strict codes of conduct? And the intimacy is possible. But just because I’m discussing intimate things, or getting naked, doesn’t actually create any more REAL intimacy, any more than walking topless down Bourbon Street. I can value their counsel. I can like them as a person. I can discuss highly intimate things with them… but not actually BE intimate with them, at all. Because I’m engaging them professionally.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
For me it's totally different to @Friday. But maybe that's because our histories are different and/or that @Friday is further along healing or sees things differently. I have no idea.

For me there is a lot of intimacy. There has to be for me to share such private and intimate things of not only the traumas but the impact of the traumas. I find it all really really personal.
And my T talks about that intimacy.

But I do also find times when it feels more distant. Like last week, I said how hard it had been between the sessions. She didn't seem overly distant but she didn't suggest contacting her. I understand why: boundaires and helping me be able to see I can manage without her. But previously, sometimes she has suggested this. So it felt a little 'ouch'.

And other times she has felt distant. But then those have been ruptures or misunderstandings.

I have no idea how to explain what it all feels like. Because what I might feel is more than distance, it actually isn't but I'm bringing transference into it. So it's all very confusing.
But also: I do think I have a good T and we connect well. So when I bring things up she hears. She will apologise if she has made a mistake and we work through it all. The only things stopping me from bringing things up is me, rather than my perception of her and what she night do or say.

No idea if that answers your question or not!
 

barefoot

Sponsor
We likely have different levels of emotional intimacy in different relationships, including in therapy.

Emotional intimacy just means things like being willing to be vulnerable with another person, feeling safe enough to openly and honestly share difficult experiences and feelings - even when they are difficult and uncomfortable.

So, I have a different take than @Friday - for me, emotional intimacy can definitely exist in a therapeutic relationship in a very real, authentic way. Emotional intimacy isn’t about friendship so, in my view, it can absolutely occur and be real in a professional relationship such as in therapy.

Since the therapeutic relationship is a professional relationship, a big difference from intimacy in our personal relationships is that it is largely one-way. The therapist doesn’t generally sit there being all vulnerable with us, disclosing difficult things about their experiences and being open with us about their uncomfortable emotions. (There may be occasions when they do this if it’s in service to us but that would be minimal and they certainly should never use the therapeutic relationship to get emotional support from us)

This can sometimes feel that things are off-balance or that there isn’t real intimacy because they don’t share as much about themselves as we do. But, if they did, that would be problematic!

In terms of how the emotional intimacy feels for me: sometimes, if I can really feel her care and support, that can feel really nice - comforting and calming. Sometimes though, it feels anywhere on a scale from mildly uncomfortable to unbearably excruciating! If emotional intimacy is difficult for a client in the first place, I guess it may be more difficult/unlikely to achieve it in a therapeutic relationship and/or if it’s there, it may not always feel positive, easy or welcome.

Different modalities may have more or less emphasis on the therapeutic relationship and individual therapists may be more or less relational in their approach. And, as clients, we will also have different things that we look for, are more or less comfortable with or that help us or not in our therapist. It’s then about trying to find a good match.

What are you looking for from your therapist? It sounds like you feel they’re too emotional distant/cool? What would you like more/less of from your therapist?
 

grit

Not Active
My point of view about therapy is the perspective of a mother about the person who is taking care of her child in the daycare. The mother wishes, that person loves the child and takes care of the child like the child's real mother BUT we all know of course...it may be close but never the same.

Therapy is a process of "as if"...and the more you are closer to healing or actually being in the present at the moment, the more, it is clear you are with equal but assymetical relationship to deal with emotional stuff. It's intimacy is unique and different from a partner and closer to a parental...or authority...etc.

I will ask you back: what is intimacy between you and a real partner? Now subtract something from that and you get the therapy intimacy.

That something, only you know and we are all different how we see it.
 

Dreamer146

New Here
My point of view about therapy is the perspective of a mother about the person who is taking care of her child in the daycare. The mother wishes, that person loves the child and takes care of the child like the child's real mother BUT we all know of course...it may be close but never the same.

Therapy is a process of "as if"...and the more you are closer to healing or actually being in the present at the moment, the more, it is clear you are with equal but assymetical relationship to deal with emotional stuff. It's intimacy is unique and different from a partner and closer to a parental...or authority...etc.

I will ask you back: what is intimacy between you and a real partner? Now subtract something from that and you get the therapy intimacy.

That something, only you know and we are all different how we see it.
Thank you for the great comment. So basically if I substract the physical aspects from a real partner I get to my answer regarding therapy, right?
 

grit

Not Active
Thank you for the great comment. So basically if I substract the physical aspects from a real partner I get to my answer regarding therapy, right?
It is extremely unfair and impossible for me to determine this for you but what I am feeling or understanding is that you may be looking for deep understanding, support and holding space in therapy. It is challenging truly to get one that understands us uniquely but possible to a point.

At the end, every human will fail us at some point as we do also, and we are resilient enough to keep going and accepting our own limitations and same for others.

I think though your question was deep and I was giving you my own answer of the overview of therapy from my perspective and what I learned from others.

Hope this long winded response is useful.
 

barefoot

Sponsor
So basically if I substract the physical aspects from a real partner I get to my answer regarding therapy, right?

Are you meaning, if you take a romantic partner type relationship and just remove the sex, would that be like a relationship with a therapist?

If so, I would say not. For starters, because the role of the therapist and their emotional investment in the relationship isn’t the same as a romantic partner/life partner’s would be. A therapist isn’t trying to build a life/future with you, but supporting emotionally to help you have the life/future/relationships/whatever you want and are currently challenged by. And in a personal intimate relationship, you provide support, care, help etc to your partner in a way that you don’t with a therapist so that aspect of the dynamic is very different.

If I have misunderstood what you meant about ‘physical aspects’, apologies, and disregard the above! :)
 

Dreamer146

New Here
Are you meaning, if you take a romantic partner type relationship and just remove the sex, would that be like a relationship with a therapist?

If so, I would say not. For starters, because the role of the therapist and their emotional investment in the relationship isn’t the same as a romantic partner/life partner’s would be. A therapist isn’t trying to build a life/future with you, but supporting emotionally to help you have the life/future/relationships/whatever you want and are currently challenged by. And in a personal intimate relationship, you provide support, care, help etc to your partner in a way that you don’t with a therapist so that aspect of the dynamic is very different.

If I have misunderstood what you meant about ‘physical aspects’, apologies, and disregard the above! :)
That's what I meant but also substract the cudelling etc . Everything physical. I honestly don't get it what you said so in what way is a therapeutic RL so different when it comes to care, help etc? Not sure I got you right, if not feel free to tell
 

barefoot

Sponsor
Well at the most fundamental level, I guess you and your therapist aren’t in love with each other?! So, taking that element (being in love/loving each other) away, that is a different dynamic and feeling when it comes to what that care and support means and feels like.

I believe therapists can care a lot about their clients. Some will care more than others. And some may care more about some clients than others. My therapist says she ‘loves’ all her clients. And I definitely feel that she genuinely cares. But of course she doesn’t feel about me the same way she feels about her boyfriend. And he will therefore experience being in relationship with her and her care and support differently than I do.

If my wife and I had everything else in our relationship and our feelings in that relationship stay the same as now, and we just stopped all physical contact, it wouldn’t feel the same as my relationship with my therapist.

You mentioned in your original post about how to know if a therapist is overly distant. Is that question related to an experience you’re having with a therapist?

Still curious about the question I asked you earlier - what are you particularly looking for (or not) from your therapist, if you have one?
 

Dreamer146

New Here
Well at the most fundamental level, I guess you and your therapist aren’t in love with each other?! So, taking that element (being in love/loving each other) away, that is a different dynamic and feeling when it comes to what that care and support means and feels like.

I believe therapists can care a lot about their clients. Some will care more than others. And some may care more about some clients than others. My therapist says she ‘loves’ all her clients. And I definitely feel that she genuinely cares. But of course she doesn’t feel about me the same way she feels about her boyfriend. And he will therefore experience being in relationship with her and her care and support differently than I do.

If my wife and I had everything else in our relationship and our feelings in that relationship stay the same as now, and we just stopped all physical contact, it wouldn’t feel the same as my relationship with my therapist.

You mentioned in your original post about how to know if a therapist is overly distant. Is that question related to an experience you’re having with a therapist?

Still curious about the question I asked you earlier - what are you particularly looking for (or not) from your therapist, if you have one?
Well , quite honestly I really want and crave to be really emotionally close to her, want her to like me more than her other patients, basically I'm looking for a strong (therapeutical) bond between her and me, like really close (her checking up on me in-between sessions & being allowed to even text her positive things in-between sessions for example), having a good emotional connection to her that is consistent and doesn't go away once I left the office.

Although I know the first two things won't happen the way I'd crave/desire it..
I mean she's great, I know she's always there for me when I need assistance in-between sessions, she said I'm important to her as a patient and she finds me really sympathetic as human being and as patient so she likes me I guess, but nevertheless she said she doesn't want this to get too close (therapeutically) because it would be harder to say goodbye when treatment will end... But will definitely talk about what she exactly meant by "too close" as I have no real idea..

@barefoot regarding the overly distant question, yes I had the impression that she is especially when I expressed my feelings (that I wish she was my mom etc) that she didn't really say anything or let me put it this way: I don't have the full impression she's very experienced in handling strong transference and for some reason we get in "arguments" quite frequently (at least I start these and the feelings towards her are always changing between "I really like her and want her so badly to be more than only my therapist" & "I hate her, I hope she gets run over by a bus and I want another therapist"...
 

grit

Not Active
Can you differentiate transference in the past and the dynamic of here and now with her?

I think most therapists have hard time differentiating because they may get lost mystifying the process.

Can you entertain the idea as close as you can get, there is a limitation physically and emotionally on both parts you and her?

If you want her to act and feel like a mother, it is ethically wrong for her to pursue that intentionally. One recovery of abandonment is allowing the pain in you so you can move through rather than attempt to make the reality to fit in with your internal experience.
 
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