Therapy secrets revealed: What clients wonder and therapists don’t say

Woman sitting on couch

“What is most personal, is most universal”  
– Carl Rogers

As a practicing psychotherapist, I’ve spent years delving into the depths of the human psyche, offering a safe space for clients to explore their innermost secrets, shame, emotional pain, and deepest confusions. Yet, behind the curtains of confidentiality, ethics, empathy, positive regard, unconditional acceptance, and authenticity, there exists a realm of personal truths that many therapists choose to keep concealed—the secrets they seldom divulge to others. Today, I want to share a few of these with you.

We think about you

“Do you ever think about your clients?” 

This is a question that often tiptoes around the minds of those who find themselves in therapy. It is a question that not only probes into the essence of the strange nature of the therapeutic process but also tugs at the heartstrings of a deeper, unspoken yearning: “Do you ever think about me?”.

The therapeutic relationship is by its very nature a strange one, one that encapsulates togetherness but also separateness, openness but also concealment, autonomy yet also boundaries. A relationship in which the client will think more of their therapist than the therapist will think of them. However, even though this disparity in the therapeutic relationship may be irritating, confusing, and frustrating to clients at times, it is both a very important and necessary aspect of the therapeutic relationship.

Firstly, even though the therapeutic relationship is one of collaboration, the therapist can contaminate the relationship should he or she start to bring their own “stuff” (i.e., life circumstances, beliefs, grievances, triggers, concerns, etc.) into the therapeutic space. By doing so, it will divert the attention from the core focus of therapy – the client. Secondly, there is a very fine line between a therapist’s intentional self-disclosure and overshare. Therefore, if therapists were fully transparent and self-disclosing, they would fall into a trap of using the therapeutic space (meant for the client) for their own personal relief and emotional offloading. Thirdly, the safety of a therapeutic relationship is secured through its boundaries. As such, when these boundaries are overstepped or disregarded, it leaves the therapeutic relationship exposed to rupture and unintentional emotional harm. As a result, robbing the therapist of his or her most powerful asset within the therapeutic process – the therapeutic relationship itself. 

We care, very deeply

There often rests this unspoken assumption with clients that the therapist does not really care. That the therapist has many clients, and therefore, are forced to care because they get paid for it. However, contrary to this misconception, therapists are deeply invested in the well-being of their clients. Beyond the façade of their profession lies a beating heart that cares, deeply and sincerely.

As therapists, we are often the guardians of unspoken truths, silently bearing the weight of clients’ struggles. Yet, amidst this sacred therapeutic exchange, the genuine care that therapists harbour may go unnoticed. This care is often concealed by the constraints of our professional role. We do not just listen because it is our duty; we listen because we care – deeply – and want to see our clients heal and thrive.

Unfortunately, a therapist can often not disclose this care and will keep this vulnerability to themselves, for the fear that revealing it might disrupt the delicate balance of the therapeutic process. Consequently, we have to tread very carefully with how we show our care, knowing that revealing vulnerability must be shared judiciously. Nevertheless, when therapists do disclose their care, it isn’t just casual; it’s intentional, a deliberate choice to bridge the gap between professional detachment and genuine human connection. We will share our care as a means to provide reassurance amidst the storm of emotions, a silent pledge that says, “I am here for you, not just as your therapist, but as a fellow traveller on this journey towards healing and personal growth.”

We pay way more attention to the unspoken

Trained therapists will often be able to get to know a person more accurately by paying attention to the unspoken words within the therapeutic space. By paying attention to that which is not said, therapists are able to unravel the mysteries hidden within the intimate space of the therapeutic encounter. Every moment, every gesture, every tone of voice, paints a portrait of the person sitting in front of the therapist. The here-and-now of the therapeutic encounter is always filled with a richness of information. 

For example, let me use the humble tissue box. Its presence speaks volumes – does the person reach easily and effortlessly for its solace, or do they rely on their own private stash of tissues? Does the person apologise for their tears, a subtle admission of vulnerability, or do they accept the box with quiet resolve, a silent acknowledgement of their pain? Similarly, does the person notice when anything has been moved in the therapeutic space? If so, do they comment on it? These seemingly trivial details unveil profound truths, offering glimpses into the inner workings of the client’s psyche.

As therapists, we also pay attention to what is not being spoken about. It is not only what is present in the space that speaks volumes, but also what remains unspoken – who is not being spoken about? Which topics do the person keep deflecting from? Which questions tend to remain unanswered? These are the questions that often echo in the therapist’s mind, guiding their understanding of the person in front of them. I would also argue that it is this constant heightened awareness, the here-and-now of the therapeutic process, that forms the fountainhead of insight and understanding. It is a space where spontaneity reigns, where the script is unwritten, and every moment holds the potential for revelation. As such, therapy cannot be scripted, for relationships are built from the raw authenticity of being – well, that is any meaningful relationship. Hence, again, it takes a particular person to be able to tolerate the uncertainty that accompanies therapy

We don’t always have our s**t together

Contrary to popular belief, therapists do not always have their emotional lives in perfect order. In the whirlwind of life’s absurdity, we as therapists are not immune to the occasional emotional rollercoaster. Despite our best efforts to maintain an air of serene professionalism, we are just as likely to have our emotional socks knocked off as anyone else. And honestly, if your therapist were a stoic robot, devoid of feeling, I would be really worried, more worried than a cat in a room with rocking chairs – as it most likely means that you are sitting across from a psychopathic therapist (*a pretty hilarious thought me thinks! Ok, ok, maybe not so funny*). 

Life means suffering, as morbid as that may sound, which also means that life will continue to throw its fair share of curveballs your way. Therapists are not exempt from ducking and weaving these balls. Sure, we have got a lovely toolbox stocked with coping mechanisms and strategies, but that does not mean we are impervious to life’s sucker punches. We are not immune to snarky remarks, being rude, getting riled up, hitting a nerve, or feeling like we have stumbled into a pit of shame and guilt. We are often like emotional ninjas, trying to dodge the flying debris of our own neuroses whilst helping others trying to navigate theirs.

So, I too have learnt to just embrace the beautiful messy chaos of the human experience, where even we therapists are not afraid to admit that we are just winging life half the time. It is in this shared vulnerability, our willingness to laugh at ourselves and each other, that the real magic of life happens.

We treat our breaks like oxygen tanks in a submarine

Therapists have a lifeline that saves them from insanityYou know those last few minutes of a session, the 10 minutes to the hour? That! Unfortunately, clients often view this as the starting point of the sessional wrap-up, or view it as the moment to squeeze in those famous words, “just one more thing”? For any therapist, those few minutes between sessions are as valuable as WiFi would be to an investor in a remote cabin – essential for sanity, and if it were to disappear, then things are likely to get dicey real fast!

Even though it is generally only a few minutes, these precious moments allow us to gather our emotional and cognitive marbles, which tend to scatter like confetti during intense sessions. But it is not just an emotional and mental reset that is needed during this period, but also a physical one. We are not just floating heads bearing psychological knowledge; we are flesh-and-blood humans with needs. Ever sat on an 8- or 9-hour flight with minimal moving opportunities?Well, that is what therapy is like daily! As therapists, we only get to stand up for a few minutes between sessions. It really is very tough on our bodies – regardless of how comfy our chairs may seem. Also, we often need to make notes and jot down insights we have gleaned from our sessions, whilst also guggling down some form of hydration and shoving something that resembles food into our mouth. You will be astounded at how much therapists get to accomplish in a mere 5-10 minutes! 

Unfortunately, when clients politely extend their sessions, it is pressing against therapeutic boundaries, which then forces the therapist to end the session abruptly – which no therapist enjoys! It also leaves the client feeling “kicked out” whilst derailing the therapist’s ability to prepare themselves mentally and emotionally for their next client.

When you leave, it hurts

We do get attached – period. As psychologists, it’s both a professional reality and a deeply human experience to acknowledge that we do form attachments with our clients – again, we are not robots. Even though we can retain objectivity, it does not mean we remain detached. In fact, I would argue that an authentic therapeutic relationship cannot be established in the absence of an attachment to the other (i.e., experiencing a sense of connectedness).

These attachments we form with clients are not just theoretical constructs; they are woven into the fabric of our everyday interactions. Take, for instance, the case of a client who courageously opens up about their struggles with addiction and anxiety, gradually revealing layers of vulnerability, pain, and shame. Through the therapeutic journey, we as therapists get to witness their triumphs and setbacks, celebrating their victories whilst sitting compassionately with their pain. In these moments, the therapeutic bond establishes itself—a shared understanding that transcends the traditional roles of therapist and client.

This attachment is a testament to the power of human connection, reminding us that authenticity, relatedness, and unconditional positive regard are at the heart of effective therapy. So, yes, we do get attached, not as a sign of weakness, but as a testament to our capacity for genuine care, compassion, and understanding. Therefore, when clients end a therapeutic relationship prematurely, it really does hurt! It is almost akin to being left in the lurch or being “ghosted”. As psychologists, we invest not only our time but also our empathy and emotional energy into each client relationship. So, when a client decides to terminate the process prematurely, it can evoke feelings of abandonment or being not being “good enough”. It’s like the final chapter of a novel that is suddenly ripped out, leaving us hanging in suspense, wondering what could have been written and how the story would have ended. Similarly, when we terminate with longstanding patients, it is a bittersweet experience. We feel so honoured to have been part of their journey, going through the hills and valleys with them, that when it is time to say goodbye – albeit sometimes temporarily – we do experience some loss. We miss clients when they are gone. 

We doubt ourselves, a lot

No matter how seasoned a psychologist may be, self-doubt somehow always sneaks its way into the picture. It is something I have personally felt, heard about from my mentors, and seen echoed in the writings of leading figures within the field. Oddly enough, it seems like the more experienced a therapist is, the louder that voice of self-doubt becomes.

This doubt is not just a passing thought; it is a nagging presence that tends to rear its head at the worst times. Like when a client suddenly drops out of therapy or when setbacks hit, even if it has nothing to do with the therapist. It does not matter how many degrees we have or how many years we have been doing this, that pesky self-doubt can still creep in. 

Looking back, I really wish someone had given me a heads-up about the persistent self-doubt that comes with the territory of being a practicing psychologist. It can knock you off your feet sometimes. But I’ve come to accept that it’s okay to feel uncertain. It’s all part of the journey. So now, instead of letting it drag me down, I have learned to embrace it. I find solace in knowing that grappling with uncertainty is just another step in the process of helping others navigate life’s ups and downs.

We go to therapy too 

Show me a therapist, and I will show you their therapist (*ok, in my head that sounded better than what it reads*), but it is true. I would run faster than a cheetah on espresso if my therapist never saw their own therapist! As therapists, we do a lot of emotional containment, and that emotional absorption also needs to be dealt with in a healthy, cathartic way. Sometimes it is our space of solace, other times, it is a space to be held, understood, and comforted. 

As therapists, we are not immune to emotional triggers and personal challenges, so our therapy also acts as a space for self-growth, introspection, and accountability. Sometimes, we just need a safe space to unload the stuff we can’t share with anyone else – trust me, those things definitely exist. I’ve yet to meet a therapist who sees their own therapy as anything but a sanctuary for growth and understanding. In fact, most of us eagerly await our own therapy sessions like kids waiting for Christmas morning!

We often feel alone, very alone

Arguably, one of the biggest struggles of being a therapist is the lack of relatedness and profound sense of isolation that accompanies it. The closest comfort will be other psychologists, mentors, and supervisors who have a deep understanding of the inner workings of therapy – what it takes, its challenges, its sacrifices, its triumphs, its complexity, its intensity, and its deeply relational encounters. However, despite being able to share insights into the intricacies of therapy, these relationships still fall short of satiating the deeper hunger for genuine connection and belonging. 
The unspoken truth is that personal relationships often take a backseat in the therapist’s journey, sacrificed on the altar of professional duty. Balancing introspection with nurturing personal bonds becomes a relentless tug-of-war. Being a therapist means that our emotional capacity for those we love tends to be very limited or sometimes non-existent. Additionally, making time for social engagements can often feel more draining than running a marathon in flippers. Because we are confronted with the essence of human existence daily, we struggle to relate on a superficial level. We really struggle to enjoy interview-like conversations – how is work, the kids, what do you think of the new “X”, how is Betty, and Johnny, and and and… ? Our thoughts run deep and more often than not, our existential conversations can scare others off more than connect us to them! 

Yet, our yearning for authentic connections persists, leaving us adrift in a sea of guilt for not offering more to those we hold dear to us. I always say that only those with an unshakeable sense of self and a deep reservoir of compassion can weather the storm of loving a therapist! 


Being a therapist can be a profoundly fulfilling experience and one I deeply honour. However, it does come with a weighty price. Nevertheless, hopefully, this article helped to shed some light on the continuous delicate balance between professional boundaries and genuine human connection within the therapeutic space


For practical tips, free resources, and weekly updates, leave your email addy here!



Click one of our contacts below to chat on WhatsApp

× How can I help you?