How to handle when a therapist self-discloses suddenly?


I'm sincerely hoping that she realised she made a big mistake here. If she doesn't: she needs to have a big re-think.

Please do bring it up. However hard it is: you need to be able to talk about whatever you want. It was not theraputic for you for her to talk for 10 minutes about her personal stuff.

In 18 months of therapy all I know about my T is that she is a swimmer. And she shared that to help lift the mood in a session when I was talking about swimming. To strengthen the bond I assume.

I know you like here. But you're 4 months in and if she doesn't change her style: then maybe move on? Maybe your old T has an opening now?
However last week I guess I got too relaxed on her couch and mentioned ...
The relaxation is supposed to be a GOOD thing. "Too" relaxed is not a thing with good therapists. You should be able to talk about anything with your T without fear of judgment, anger, or inappropriate self-disclosure.

SMH at the therapist. You did nothing wrong. You did everything right, and she blew it.


Sounds like a young therapist, which you said she is. I see a t that is a supervisor and she has had her own moments, but you can tell she reevaluated it at the next appointment and it turns into a repair situation.

One time she had come back from a week off for a family members funeral. I told her I was struggling with the fact that when we eventually terminate she would be completely out of my life. We kind of got in an argument over it and she even let her frustration show. It broke me down internally. We have a system where I only call her if I’m really struggling (the rest is me sending emails without expected response). I called her the next day and she actually answered right away. We had a touching conversation about our therapy relationship. She even told me that she was glad I called because that she was unhappy with her responses in the meeting.

If you like this therapist, I suggest you talk to her about what happened and how you feel. If you can’t do that or her responses are bad fir you, there is no point in staying with this T.


I would go with your first thought of the email.
It’s not as ‘assertive’ as a conversation but it gives you time to say what you need and gives her material with your direct quotes and no misinterpretation, to take to her supervisor to help all involved .

this might irreparably damage a relationship for me as some have said but I’m not CERTAIN it would. I think I’d be quite likely to want to try and work through this but only from where I am now. A few years ago I would not and maybe in the future I would not. What I’m saying is - you know where you are and whether you can move forward if this is addressed well .
I was reading some of these posts, and I agree, though my perspective as someone who's struggled with SI is a little different- I actually think it's good to not whitewash the effects. Or rather, to speak so often and minimize it so much that it becomes seemingly not as bad or dangerous or damaging than it is. However, that being said, from a friend or family is ok, a T not so much. Or more specifically, with terms such as ~'when they did that (to us/ them)", since it's rarely an intentional act of harm to another.

I also think the shame is true, and palpable, and can lead to self-censoring and not feeling at all welcome, which is the end.

I think it's odd how the T-arrangement is to only concentrate on yourself, but it is, and one pays a lot of dollars for it.

Just as equally, there were other ways she could have self-disclosed and still built rapport, by saying she was familiar, but empathetic.

Yikes. 😞

ETA. I also don't think the dtr/ guilt button is helpful. To say your dtr will need you therein the future is preferable to more guilt. Guilt feeds Si along with shame and feeling like a burden. JMHO.

Good luck.
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This is when I'd find another therapist! Or be brutally honest and set boundaries.

Boundaries in therapy are so crucial for that therapist relationship for me. He has many and they were set the moment I walked into the door due to what I was doing but I have some of my own. And he always asks if he can approach a boundary and/or cross it. Always. And if I say no, he respects that, always. It helps me SO, SO, SO much with trust building, and even learning how to set boundaries and what to do if they are crossed without permission.

My therapist talks about his family with me a lot. But it is always to illustrate a point. The only time he has spoken about his family that didn't loop right back into me is when his sister died suddenly and he was working like the day after and he was off and wanted to explain that. Otherwise, he is always making a point about me, my mental health, or my life in some way.

But aside from that, trying to make you feel guilty for suicidal thoughts is so very wrong. You need to be able to trust your therapist with any feelings you have and they are supposed to be trained on how to handle the feelings and how to help a person move forward from there. This doesn't look like that to me at all. I wouldn't be able to trust a therapist who said a statement like that. Or it would take sooooooo long to build trust when all along I couldn't of been seeing someone else and building trust with them.

Just my 2 cents.


I owed it to ya'll good people to give some follow-up to this. Today I did bring it up first thing with the therapist. Said I had been ruminating on a couple of things since last week. That last week I felt a little too comfortable on the couch and felt I said something I felt elicited her to give a self-disclosure when she probably wouldn't have otherwise.

I apologized for it again, said this kinda touched on a big deal I got that I don't wanna give someone else my nightmares. She seemed pretty surprised, asked if I had been thinking on this all week (yes) because she hadn't thought much about it; in a good way she added. She said her disclosure was a good thing, that it was a part of her history, that it was a part of what made her her, had become a part of who she is, and she purposely was trying to build rapport in sharing. That she had found meaning in what happened, and that it didn't hurt her anymore; just her family. And that her sharing with me was very intentional.

I emphasized that I felt like she was mad at me by the tone of her words. But she said she was just trying to get through to me how much it would affect my family, not to show any anger. She used the word "stern." I ran out of words to convey my thoughts and wasn't smart enough to fight her on it... so I just said that I'm not gonna get too comfortable and sit back on the couch and say things I shouldn't again. She said that she noticed that, and that was fair.

I also brought up setting an alarm on my fitbit for the end of session so I don't say something that will cause time to run over, because, well, boundries. And that she didn't know what door-knob confessional I was gonna spill at the end of time, so I'd set an alarm to censor myself. She told me to stop reading things online about how therapy is supposed to go (quit reading about how the therapy-sausage is made). Asked me if I was okay running over from time to time if the work needed it, that she'd respect my time just as I respect hers. But sometimes, stuff will run over. And am I cool with that? I kinda wasn't, because I don't wanna screw this up, but said yes anyway.

Then she asked my permission in making today a "hard-therapy-day" and dug pretty deep into some stuff -- how would Present-Me be empathetic to Younger-Me kinda stuff. Instructed me to dig into my brain's mission control center and physically mime "pulling out the wires" outta my nose or head connecting the compartments and dropping them into a make-believe hole in the floor. This sounds so nutso, but it really made my head hurt. And hurts still.

I fought really hard today to stay present. Didn't tell her that. You guys might be right... this might just not be a good fit. All I can think of right now is SI'ing. We ran over time yet again because I went and checked out right at the end, and I feel so awful about that. This was totally on me today. I stayed in the parking lot checked-out for a few hours. When she left, she walked over to my parking spot and asked me if I liked the color of her non-existent hat (I get it, I know therapists do that to assess someone's level of presentness). I convinced her I was fine. But I'm not. When I started therapy with her, she gave me one of those smooth rocks with words on them; mine said 'Remember.'

Yeah, I don't think I wanna do this no more. I kept that rock in my pocket during each session. But today just before I left, I went over and left it by their door. I'm so tired; I just want those wires back in my head. I don't wanna upset the therapist. Or anybody.

Thank you guys for the advice; it was very much needed and appreciated.


Jeez, not exactly the most insightful (let alone helpful) response you could have gotten.

Yes building rapport is good. No, that ain't the way to do it. Sounds like good intentions but lack of experience. I'm sorry she didn't register that things really aren't okay, because based on what you've written, you actually made that pretty clear (it's very common to try and convey "really not okay" in a vague and roundabout sort of way - you've actually been very clear in a pressure-cooker situation).

So, where do you sit with the clinic? Is there a more qualified and experienced person that you can make an appointment with in the near future to help you with this? Because it seems to me that you need help, are keen to get help, and the right help could make things a lot easier for you...

I'm in Australia, so our mental health system and qualifications are different. Someone may be able to chime in with some more local tips based on what you've shared above.

In the meantime, be gentle with yourself. You don't need to dig deep into stuff right now. All those wires are still in your head. You are still in one piece. Maybe allot some time to doing something gentle for yourself. Perhaps reach out to other supports, even if it's just to catch up, if that would help.


I'm in Australia, so our mental health system and qualifications are different. Someone may be able to chime in with some more local tips based on what you've shared above.
Texas, USA. I actually spent my teen years in Kingscote, KI. Lovely place -- thank you for the memory trip, that helps! :-)

How today's session officially started out was when I walked in the front door, my other therapist from 7 years ago was talking to my current therapist in the waiting area; hadn't seen her in over a year. She said hi to me, made eye contact. I did the chin-crinkle thingy and head-bob, like I was trying to convey: "hi there, it's great to see you, I have no idea what to say because I know you're no longer my therapist and I'm right in front of my new therapist and she's your employee" kinda thing. She nodded back and said: "We'll, I'll let you two get to it. Great seeing you!"

Dang, I don't wanna ask to go back to the other therapist, or even another one there, because that would just mess up everyone's relationship. So I guess I need to either take some time that I don't wanna take and look for someone else to start over with. Or else, just push through this with the current therapist. She really is nice, ya' know. This is on me. I think I'm just not doing this right. Therapy for 7 years and still can't figure it all out. I really thought I was ready for this.

But for now, I just wanna get through tonight. Thank you for saying the wiring is still up there. I KNOW that, of course, but it felt so visual today... ya' know?


I don't wanna ask to go back to the other therapist, or even another one there, because that would just mess up everyone's relationship.
A happy middle ground, if your original T was a good fit? Is ask her for a referral or recommendation. That can be done by email so it's less awkward. It's a very common thing to do, and a T that already knows you and your background, and is given a vague understanding of why this one "isn't a good fit" is often a perfect place for a good referral.

Because yeah, that's a daunting thing to have to do from the patient's perspective.

Be reassured that it's pretty common. Happens all the time. I've worked my way through plenty of Ts over the years. No hard feelings, a lot of them helped with what they could, and I moved on when I needed to move on.

Take care of you in the meantime.


I'm sorry.

A(nother) red flag is her asking if that session could be a heavy one, right after you spoke about how you found her intervention re the SI, and the fact you are having SI.
And that you felt unable to tell her how you feel. You have to now censor yourself in therapy. Therapy is not going to work if you censor yourself because your therapist can't hear you.

I'm sorry.
How is the SI now? Are you safe?