Crying has always been recognized as a significant and frequent part of the therapeutic process (Blume-Marcovici, Stolberg, & Khademi, 2013; Nelson, 2012). During the therapy process, tears are often shed by both the client and the therapist. Because therapy tends to be focused on uncovering repressed emotions, working through traumatic experiences, processing grief, or adjusting to life’s circumstances, tears are often associated with the work that is done during therapy. Because mental health therapy tends to be emotion-focused, it is surprising to discover that little research has emphasized the importance of therapists’ crying during session. This leaves family science researchers wondering how often therapists cry in therapy and if their tears are helpful or harmful to their clients (“The Tears of a Therapist,” 2013). In a field that is so focused on emotions, more research needs to be done in order to better understand the frequency of therapists crying during therapy and how a therapist crying may affect clients. Understanding the frequency of therapists’ tears and the effects the tears have on clients may help future clinicians better indicate when and if it is appropriate for them to cry in front of their clients in a therapy session.
When trying to understand the significance of therapist’s tears in a clinical setting, researchers are often faced with the question, “Are therapist’s tears helpful or harmful?” Much of the literature that is associated with therapists crying in therapy agrees that therapists’ tears can display empathy and strengthen the therapeutic alliance (Blume-Marcovici, Stolberg, & Khademi, 2013). On the other hand, research also indicates that therapists’ tears can create role-reversal in the therapeutic relationship, and may leave clients feeling awkward or uncomfortable (Nelson, 2012). Given that limited empirical research has been focused on therapists’ tears, mental healthcare providers and clients alike can benefit from increased knowledge in this area.
Future studies may help to determine whether or not therapists are crying during their therapy sessions, and if so, further research may help to indicate if therapists’ crying during therapy is helpful or harmful to the client, and help develop more skillful clinicians in the future. Research that is focused on the client’s perspective of their therapist crying would also be beneficial to this field of study. For example, if it is proven that the majority of therapists report crying in a session at some point in their practicing career, it may be important to understand how the client felt during these specific situations. Asking clients for their feedback related to their therapists’ tears during session may help mental healthcare providers understand if it is viewed as helpful or harmful, rather than simply making assumptions.
The way therapists respond to their clients during their therapy session is an important contributing...