Signs That Say Your Therapist Sucks Part 2: Rescuing


        I wanted to start this blog by addressing a point that I did not discuss in Part 1 of this series. Therapists make mistakes which is different from a therapist being bad at their craft. No therapist is perfect and mistakes will be made regardless of experience. The key difference between a therapist making mistakes and being bad at the craft of therapy is consistently making the same mistakes. 

        I will start by describing what rescuing is and the reason why this occurs during sessions. When a therapist rescues a client they are disrupting a process a client is going through. The goal of the therapist is to save the client from themselves and stop the emotions the client is experiencing. More often than not the therapist is trying to rescue themselves from the situation. The therapist will become uncomfortable to the point of wanting to escape and instead of leaving the client, they will interrupt what is currently happening. One way a therapist will intervene is by changing the topic of discussion when the client is experiencing difficult emotions. There are many different ways a therapist can rescue a client but the end goal is the same, to stop what is happening in front of them.

Why Rescue?

        There are various reasons why therapists rescue clients. One is a lack of confidence the therapist is experiencing. The therapist can lack confidence that he/she can help the client in the current situation or that the client has the tools and skills necessary to find a solution to their troubles. I have engaged in rescuing clients during the early stages of my career due to a lack of confidence in my ability to help clients. I would intentionally avoid certain topics of discussion or interrupt the client’s experience of certain emotions. This came from my issues in my perception of how capable I am and being able to address my own emotions. If a therapist struggles with allowing sadness to be acknowledged, then they will avoid having the client experience sadness to avoid their own sadness. Rescuing is not always about saving the client from themselves, it often is a way for the therapist to save themselves during a session.

        Another reason therapist rescue clients is to avoid situations that the therapist lacks training or education in. If a client is struggling with more than one issue, which is often the case, the therapist will need to employ various techniques to help the client address their issues to eventually discover solutions. If the therapist is lacking in education, training, or confidence when addressing certain issues, the therapist might rescue the client and interrupt the process so that the therapist can avoid going into uncomfortable situations. The best solution for this for a therapist is to consult other professionals, attend training sessions, and read books on specific topics to fight off the discomfort and minimize rescuing. Granted, not all therapists react to discomfort by rescuing the client, this is merely another example as to why a therapist might rescue a client. 

Negative Impact of being Rescued

        Rescuing interrupts a client’s process and therapy in itself is a process of growth and healing. In order to go through this process, clients often have to process uncomfortable memories, thoughts, and emotions. When a therapist rescues a client, they interrupt the therapeutic process. For example, if a client struggles with anger and wishes to be less angry throughout the week, this topic will come up in session and the client will eventually express anger during the session. Should the therapist rescue the client every time anger comes up, the client will not be allowed to process their anger. Without the space to process the anger, the client will not be able to find a solution that will work long term. This will lead to the client feeling stuck and feeling frustrated with the therapeutic process. Over time, the client will stop going to sessions because therapy is not working. However unsettling it can be to experience the therapeutic process, clients must process their thoughts and emotions to allow space for discovering solutions to their problems. 

When to Rescue?

        Rescuing has a time and a place on when it should be engaged with. Crisis counselors are trained for crises such as natural disasters or situations when a person has become an immediate physical threat to themselves or others such as a person calling a suicide hotline. There are various other specific techniques aside from rescuing in these dire situations, however; rescuing can be appropriate during emergencies. One example is people who are survivors of a disaster such as a fire spreading throughout a housing development and people being displaced from their homes. Crisis response counselors are often called in to help people handle any pre-existing mental health conditions but also to mitigate further mental damage and help with starting the recovery process. Some experiences are not always beneficial such as someone in shock after a disaster. Crisis counselors are trained to help people come out of shock so they can return to normal functioning as this will help them process what has happened but also be able to communicate as a person who is currently in shock will have a difficult time answering important questions with clear and coherent answers. 



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