Are You In a Codependent Relationship with Your Therapist?

This week, as I sat with what I wanted to write about, this question popped into my head. 

For me, this is something that was true a decade ago before I decided to make some changes in my life to yield different results. 

But, prior to this, I was definitely in a codependent relationship with my therapist. It was so subtle, though, and maybe not society’s typical definition of codependency, that I don’t know if it would have been defined this way. That being said, unfortunately, I think this is a common dynamic that can occur, including in therapy. (By the way, codependency in this type of relationship doesn’t mean the relationship doesn’t feel good. In fact, many times, this can be the exact opposite, especially given that growth can make us feel uncomfortable, so if we’re (too) comfortable, this can be good information.)

So, what did this dynamic look like for me?

  1. I would subconsciously seek comfort from our sessions versus change. 
  2. I’d want to go just to have someone to talk or bitch to about my life and to not feel alone.
  3. We were making very little, if any, progress. 
  4. Our relationship involved extremely poor boundaries. This included meeting at her house for our sessions, even though this wasn’t something she typically did. 
  5. And, even though it wasn’t working and things weren’t changing, I didn’t want to leave it, as my therapist had known my mother before she had passed away. In this way, I felt more connected to her, and in leaving her, it felt like I was leaving my mom or a connection to her. 
  6. Simply put, I had subconsciously made her one of my sources. 

(Years later, while I was having much more success with another therapist, I found myself again in this dynamic. With this, I knew if I didn’t leave, I would never make the changes she was trying to help me with, which involved speaking up for myself. Instead, I would go to her after I didn’t do it, asking her what she would do. Finally, though, I chose to leave.)

And, this is important to notice as it can be easy to think we’re doing the right thing for ourselves by being in therapy. After all, this is what society tells us is a healthy choice, no matter what the actual relationship and results look like. 

Instead, though, it’s important that we actually look at the relationship dynamic and see if the actual relationship is working for us and yielding the results we desire. 

With this, here are some good questions you can ask yourself, if this is ringing true for you: 

  1. Is this relationship working?
  2. Why am I in this relationship? (If it’s for results, perfect. If it’s to not feel alone or to just have someone to bitch or gossip to about your life, you may want to reconsider.)
  3. Am I getting the results I initially was looking for when I sought out therapy and are we making progress in our work together?
  4. Is this relationship at all codependent? (This one you have to be really honest with yourself about. For me, for many years, I would have denied this, but looking back, we had a very unhealthy, codependent relationship.)

Then, once you get the clarity you need, make a decision on if you want to stay or not. For me, I stayed way too long, and then when I did leave, I exited poorly. But, at the end of the day, I left, and in doing so, this was one crucial step in saying yes to the life I’m living now, and damn, I am grateful for this life. 

To healthy relationships!

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