Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Does Your Therapist Really Care?

tidbits that tantalize
Do You

Feel My Pain??


Here you go again. Every Tuesday at 10 a.m. you park your keister in the old, but fabulously comfortable, leather chair in your therapist's office and dive in. Oh, yes - there's also Wednesdays at 2, Fridays at 11 and the occasional "catch-up" session on Saturday mornings. And, the diving? This is no wade in the kiddie's pool. This is a flying leap off the high dive into the deep, deeper and deepest end of your fragile psyche.

Yes, indeed. The rigors of psychodynamic therapy are not for the timid. At least, that's what you've heard - and you hope it's true, because you're still working on the whole confidence issue.

There's been progress. Six years ago you felt overwhelmed by the daily complexities of life. Today, it's more like being moderately confused and, on your good days, you actually feel you've been issued a cheat-sheet to life's most pressing dilemmas. It's fabulous - but...

Lately, you've had your doubts about your therapist. Sure, she still says she "feels your pain." But, does she really? You've decided to find out.

Popping open your laptop, you launch the Therapeutic Empathy Detection (TED) software, hook up a couple of sensors to your therapist and sit back in the fabulously comfortable leather chair. Ah, it's the moment of truth. You dive in. The past flashes forward, old issues tumble forth, tears flow and... there it is! Your therapist leans forward, gives you an earnest look and whispers, "I feel your pain."

Tap. Tap - tap. Processing data... Then, the results roll across your laptop, and you have the answer you've been seeking. You are now the one to lean forward in your chair, gaze steadily at your therapist and whisper:

"TED says no - you feel nothing. And your Internet service is on the fritz."

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital report there is indeed a physiologic component to empathy. Using skin conductance recordings, they studied 20 pairs of patients and counselors to assess the similarity of their responses during times of high and low emotion. Their findings indicate that both participants experience similar levels of physiologic activity during times deemed to be filled with empathy.

Therapists exhibit physical responses similar to those of patients during times of high emotion within counseling sessions. And, the patients can "feel it." Patients rated therapist's levels of empathy at different times during counseling sessions. The times at which patients believed their therapists were most empathetic correlate with measurements indicating higher levels of physiologic response.

Well... It's sad, really. Six years is a long time and you've built quite a bond. But, TED doesn't lie and it looks like you'll have to find another therapist's springboard from which to launch. Still - you're going to miss the chair...

To read more about the study, see this from ScienceDaily.


Anonymous raimi said...


Great article; you know I think I read a bit more on therapy at Great site with lots of stuff, content and great comps!


6:35 PM  

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