Blume-Marcovici, A. C., Stolberg, R. A., & Khademi, M. (2013). Do therapists cry in therapy? The role of experience and other factors in therapists’ tears. Psychotherapy, 50(2), 224-234.
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An important aspect of psychotherapy is the therapist’s reactions to his or her client during session (Kahn & Fromm, 2001; Summers & Barber, 2010). One type of emotional expression that has garnered interest throughout the psychological literature is the phenomenon of therapists crying with their patients (McWilliams, 1994; Alden, 2001; Summers & Barber, 2010; Guntrip, 1975/1986). However, there is limited empirical research on therapists crying in therapy (TCIT).
Blume-Marcovici, Stolberg, and Khademi (2013) sought to examine TCIT and help therapists explore, predict, and prepare for their own likelihood of TCIT. In this study, crying was defined following the Adult Crying Inventory, “tears in one’s eyes due to emotional reasons” (Vingerhoets & Cornelius, 2001).
Using a sample of 684 psychologists, postdoctoral psychology fellows, and psychology graduate students, they found the following:
- Most clinicians reported having cried in therapy.
- Most clinicians did not report negative consequences of their tears.
- Almost half of clinicians reported that crying in therapy improved the therapeutic relationship.
- Personality traits and empathy do not seem to be highly influential in TCIT.
- Clinicians who reported more crying in daily life also tended to report more TCIT. However, there were differences between the motivations and trends for crying in daily life and in therapy. These are outlined below.
The results of the research suggest that:
- Therapists do cry in therapy.
- The variables used to predict tears in daily life are different than those that predict tears in therapy.
- Factors related to both the therapist as well as the therapy process seem to be influential for TCIT rates.
- TCIT can be a moment of positive emotional connection even within painful negative affect.
Cite This Article
Rodriguez, T., & Slavin-Mulford, J. (2018, January). The role of therapists crying in therapy: An article review [Web article] [Review of the article Do therapists cry in therapy? The role of experience and other factors in therapists’ tears, by A.C. Blume-Marcovici, R.A. Stolberg, & M. Khademi]. Retrieved from https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/role-therapists-crying-in-therapy
Alden, P. A. (2001). Gently wiping her tears away. In S. Kahn & E. Fromm (Eds.) Changes in the therapist (pp. 117-131). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Publishers.
Blume-Marcovici, A., Stolberg, R., & Khademi, M. (2013). Do therapists cry in therapy? The role of experience and other factors in therapists’ tears. Psychotherapy, 50(2), 224-234. Retrieved from https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/do-therapists-cry/
Guntrip, H. (1986). My experience of analysis with Fairbairn and Winnicott. In P. Buckley (Ed.), Essential papers on object relations (pp. 447-468) (Original work published in 1975). New York: New York University Press.
Kahn, S., & Fromm, E. (Eds.). (2001). Changes in the therapist. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
McWilliams, N. (1994). Psychoanalytic diagnosis. New York: Guilford Press.
Summers, R. F., & Barber, J. P. (2010). Psychodynamic therapy: A guide to evidence-based practice. New York: The Guilford Press.
Vingerhoets, A. J., & Cornelius, R. R. (2001). Adult crying: A biopsychosocial approach. Hove, UK: Brunner-Routledge.