Speaking through tears…

Lately, I have been having a lot of clients crying during the session. And not just the teenagers. Several times, the parents break down too. The box of tissues that we have in all our therapy rooms at work has certainly been more than handy. It has made me think though — here are people talking to strangers about their fears and worries and hopelessness — how hard must that be?Think about it — when we meet people in social situations, we don’t tell them our deepest and darkest secrets the very first time we meet, do we? We get to know them a bit more and then only if we trust them, do we share our secrets.

And yet, pretty much in the first couple of sessions conducting the assessment, as a psychologist I expect my clients to disclose all.

Most individuals who are ready to seek help, do disclose. But of course, this brings along with it a lot of pain. In some cases, young people have not disclosed their thoughts to anyone prior to the session with the psychologist. And we happen to be the first. Just hearing their thoughts out loud opens the floodgates. Some of the parents have held negative beliefs about themselves as parents for years. And it doesn’t come out until they speak about it individually in session. For the ones not ready to disclose, when they eventually do, there can be tears. It is overwhelming I suppose to finally come to terms that you may have a problem.

I still remember in my third year B.A. when I had chosen psychology as my major, one of my biggest concerns was dealing with clients who cry. Given that I can cry very easily myself, I wasn’t sure how I would react to clients crying in session. Would I cry too? If so, I’d be an awful therapist! Unfortunately, there was no way of knowing because I wouldn’t be seeing any clients until my second semester in Masters. Almost 2 years away.

I can happily say that I don’t cry when my clients break down. I’ve probably come close only once [Transference-countertransference issues]. After all, the clients who cry in front of their therapist don’t want their therapist to cry — they’ll probably end up feeling guilty! Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m unemotional and their stories don’t affect me. Some stories do. In fact, a large majority does. But that’s why I get supervision. That’s why all psychologists here get supervision.

The reason for this post though was mainly because I found myself thinking how privileged I am that teenagers, kids and their parents trust me enough to share their fears and their sorrows. It is a privilege I don’t take lightly. It is an honour to be that person they choose to talk to [And yes, it is a choice because some people will choose to not talk if they don’t feel comfortable].

And all this again reminds me that despite the difficult times and the difficult clients and sometimes feeling hopeless, I still love the job I do.

Until next time,


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  • Comfy
    21 April 2011 at 9:57 pm

    From what little I see of your working life from this blog, I think you do an amazing job. Helps lots of people and made a difference. And that in my mind is what give one the satisfaction of a job well done.

  • Psych Babbler
    21 April 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Aw thanks Comfy! Most times I admit I don’t see much change as we deal with
    very entrenched mental health problems that run through the family. But I am
    now telling myself that even small changes are good…and even if these kids
    and teens remember something from their sessions with me in future, it’ll be
    worth it.

  • Jake George
    21 April 2011 at 11:13 pm

    I think all of us are afraid of being judged and its probably what holds us back from opening up to people be it when socializing with colleagues or talking to close friends. And since they are part of our daily lives theres always that human tendency to want to control the way you are perceived.

    I think you are incredibly lucky, not just cuz you get to be the shade for a lot burnt souls out there but cuz you love what you do, thats one of the only two things you need to be content in life …

  • rohini
    22 April 2011 at 12:08 am

    yes! I agree with comfy. You must be an awesome psychologist. I
    think if you could let the person unburden his mind, give him a listening ear and few kind words, that itself makes all the difference.
    It is not easy to open up your thoughts and emotions to a stranger, esp when seeing into their eyes. are they judging you? are they mentally mocking you? are they replaying the images? what will their response be!!
    you are making a difference in their lives. never doubt that.

  • Psych Babbler
    22 April 2011 at 12:33 am

    I do recognise I am lucky Jake in that I love what I do. And yeah, it’s that
    fear of being judged by people that definitely holds us back …I think all
    of us for instance have a mask at work…we may show bits of our real self
    but there’s other things that we are not going to show our colleagues
    including some fears and anxieties…

  • Psych Babbler
    22 April 2011 at 12:36 am

    Thanks Rohini…I don’t think I’m an awesome psych by any means. I do think
    it’s important to be non-judgemental and create a safe environment for them
    in order to be able to open up. After all, that’s when we disclose our
    secrets to friends…once we feel like we are not going to be judged and
    feel safe to talk.

  • Emily Rose
    22 April 2011 at 2:52 am

    As a nurse, I sometimes feel like a psychologist, and I too am always amazed at how freely people open up and share their whole selves with me. But a listening ear is all you need sometimes! Thankfully I can cry with my patients, cause I’m a big baby when I see someone cry!
    I like your blog a lot- gives me some food for thought…


  • starry eyed
    22 April 2011 at 3:07 am

    Loved this post. I somehow feel it’s easier to open up to a stranger (a counselor or therapist, I mean) than someone familiar! Maybe because the familiar people already know us and have judged us as this and that, and it might shock them to know underlying feelings and old experiences?

  • Psych Babbler
    22 April 2011 at 5:27 am

    I’m sure you are like a psych too Emily…after all, listening to people is something done by a few health professionals. I didn’t realise you could cry with your patients! πŸ™‚ Psychs can’t do that. And thanks for the lovely comment about the blog. Do keep visiting. I must say, I love your idea for your blog…we aren’t grateful enough!

  • Psych Babbler
    22 April 2011 at 5:29 am

    Thanks Starry! I do agree that it is sometimes easier to talk to a stranger as long as the person doesn’t feel like they are being judged.

  • Bikram
    22 April 2011 at 12:44 pm

    You doing a lovely job, it indeed is sometimes to control yourself but then one has to be strong and be professional, Indeed I too sometimes face a situation where ANGER comes and all you want to do is BEAT THE ____ out of a person, imagine a dingy room the mum and dad sitting in there own pee, and all the drug peraphernalia lying around and in a corner a small baby is crying for lack of attention….

    Or you have jsut taken a person and they do nothing but swear at you all the time the choices swear words …

    Yes its is awful and i have come pretty close where i have lost my cool lucky my collegues are there to take over…

    You indeed doing a lovely job well done πŸ™‚


  • Titaxy
    22 April 2011 at 1:47 pm

    If I haven’t told you already, then let me tell you that I admire you immensely for what you do. It takes a lot of patience, even courage to be on your shoes. You make a difference and I can’t help but look at you with awe for that!

  • Little Finger
    22 April 2011 at 11:48 pm

    What ever you said is so true. I once met a psychologist and I cried more than I spoke, it was my first meet and that one visit changed my life for ever. I can’t thank enough all you wonderful people who change ppl like me in one session. You guys are doing a great job you should be proud of..

  • Psych Babbler
    23 April 2011 at 2:45 am

    Thanks for that Bikram. Can I ask — what is your profession? Are you a cop? I’ve heard of things cops see and it’s like what you described. And it’s a zillion times worse than what I probably see and hear. I hear the aftermath from the baby (who is a child/teen) that you are talking about — you probably see it first hand.

  • Psych Babbler
    23 April 2011 at 2:45 am

    Aw thanks T! You can’t see but I’m blushing πŸ˜›

  • Psych Babbler
    23 April 2011 at 2:53 am

    I’m glad you found the psych helpful Little Finger! And thanks for the lovely comment… πŸ™‚

  • Prateek
    23 April 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I’ve never thought of it but since you raised this point; I am thinking it’s strange how people open up to a psychologist.

  • Psych Babbler
    24 April 2011 at 5:03 am

    I think Prateek as someone else mentioned (I think it was Starry) you feel
    more comfortable with a stranger who is non-judgemental and doesn’t know you
    compared to someone who already knows you and may be surprised at your
    thoughts and feelings. I know several teens think they will be disappointing
    their parents if they let them know they are depressed.

  • komal bhatia
    28 April 2011 at 4:32 pm

    From my personal experience , i would say sometimes its easier to break down in front of a psychologist and speak with an open heart because you know he/she is not their to judge you!! And crying definately helps!!
    And even i cant see people cry in frnt of me.. even my friends!!
    But you seem to be doing a really gud job!!

  • Psych Babbler
    29 April 2011 at 1:25 am

    Yeah Komal, I guess it’s the non-judgemental attitude that helps people open
    up a lot more easily. And true, I haven’t seen friends crying in front of me
    although I’ve seen clients! Funny that… πŸ™‚