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Do Therapists Cry in Therapy?

The Role of Experience and Other Factors in Therapists’ Tears

Abstract

The subject of therapist’s crying in therapy (TCIT) has been virtually ignored in the literature, with only 1 qualitative dissertation and 3 case studies devoted to the topic. This mixed-method survey study explored therapists’ experiences with and attitude toward TCIT. Six hundred eighty-four U.S. psychol- ogists and trainees filled out the survey online, revealing that 72% of therapists report having cried in therapy in their role as therapist. Data analysis indicated that the act of crying in therapy has less to do with personality or demographic factors (i.e., Big Five traits, empathy, sex) and more to do with the unique aspects of the therapy itself and the therapist’s identity in the therapeutic context (theoretical orientation, clinical experience, affective tone of the session). Clinicians with more experience, who are older, cried more in therapy than novice clinicians, despite lower crying frequency in daily life, suggesting that more experienced therapists feel more comfortable allowing themselves to experience and/or express such emotions in therapy sessions. Psychodynamic therapists reported slightly higher rates of TCIT than cognitive–behavioral therapists despite no differences in crying in daily life. Despite significant differences in crying rates in daily life, male and female clinicians report similar rates of TCIT. Data regarding the relationship between TCIT and Big Five personality traits, empathy, and perceived consequences of TCIT are reported.

Keywords: therapist crying, tears, emotional expressions, crying in therapy

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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. Psychotherapy50(2), 224-234. doi: 10.1037/a0031384

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