Patients' experiences of clinicians' crying during psychotherapy for eating disorders.

Research paper by Ashley A Tritt, Jonathan J Kelly, Glenn G Waller

Indexed on: 14 Apr '15Published on: 14 Apr '15Published in: Psychotherapy (Chicago, Ill.)


Many psychotherapists have cried in a therapy session. Those clinicians who do cry see it as likely to have a positive impact on the therapy or to have no impact, and therapist personality characteristics have not shown reliable associations to crying in therapy. However, it is not known how patients experience therapists' crying, or whether the patient's view of the therapist's characteristics is related to that experience. This study used an online survey, recruiting 202 patients with eating disorders, 188 of whom had received therapy for an eating disorder, and 105 of whom had experienced a therapist crying. Retrospective data from those 105 individuals indicated that therapists' crying tended to be seen positively, by patients but that perception was influenced by the patients' perceptions of the demeanor of their therapist and their understanding of the meaning of the crying. Although they need to be extended to other disorders, these findings suggest that therapists' crying needs to be understood in the context of the therapist's perceived characteristics and demeanor, rather than being assumed to be positive or to have no impact on the therapy.