This blog won’t be long. I don’t have a lot to say on this topic, simply that I think there should be space for love in therapy. I know that’s taboo. That’s why we have empathy and unconditional positive regard. I get how therapists have worked really hard to protect the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship, to create this petri dish of a holding space. It’s all skillfully crafted to avoid messy emotional entanglements with the client. Because, presumably, that would be detrimental to the client’s therapeutic process.
But, I call bull shit. If so many of our wounds come from how we were or were not loved in infancy and childhood, then would it not make sense to heal those wounds through love also? Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean “in love.” I mean, an innocent, nurturing love. A love devoid of sensuality. One that is uniquely therapeutic.
I just feel like therapists often get so hung up on ethical standards for touch and accepting gifts and self-disclosure and outside contact and maintaining a professional relationship that they sometimes forget how to be a humble, loving human being in the presence of another human being. It is okay to love your clients. In fact, I would venture to say your clients need your love. They need someone to love them without expectation. They need to know that they can be loved just as they are without having to do or say the right things. They need to know they are worthy and good enough. And, your love can help them reach that realization.
I know, I’m trampling all over the coveted code of ethics. Because love involves intimacy and closeness and maybe that’s going to need some touch and outside contact. I’m sure you think that isn’t your job, to love your client so that he/she can learn how to love himself/herself. Maybe you think your job is to guide your client to these revelations by pointing out their cognitive distortions. Maybe you think your job is to help them see the holes in their thinking. Maybe you genuinely believe talking alone, once a week for 50 minutes will help your client become the self-actualized individual you know he/she is capable of becoming. Maybe you’re right. I don’t know. I’m not that individual. I’m messy and I’m broken. And damn it, I need to be loved. I need to be loved by someone who doesn’t think my moods are too much. I need to be loved by someone who isn’t scared off by my freakish attunement. I need to be loved when I’m angry and sad and frustrated and happy and content. I need to be loved when I’ve failed and loved when I’ve reached my goals. I need to be shown how to love myself.
The job of a therapist is to model for the client what a healthy attachment looks like; part of healthy attachment is reciprocal love. We don’t attach to what we don’t love. It requires an opening of both hearts, a meeting of those hearts. It requires mutual vulnerability. It involves a whole lot more than just empathy, attunement, and unconditional positive regard. Those are just starting points. Clients need more. Maybe not all clients but some of us. Some of us have deep wells of sadness within us which can only be lit and traversed when love is shown. Love is the light.