Negative feelings toward the therapist are common at times during treatment, and may even be essential to make certain types of positive changes. In psychodynamic psychotherapy, the client’s early conflicts with his or her parents are explored and, to some degree, re-experienced with the therapist. For example, an individual with a distant father might interpret the therapist beginning the session a few minutes late one day as a personal rejection. Similarly, a client with an overly critical mother is likely to interpret certain therapist comments as harsh or judgmental. Both of these examples would likely result in the client feeling anger toward the therapist.
In the safe environment of therapy, the client is encouraged to fully experience and accept his or her negative feelings arising toward the therapist as a result of re-encountering old family conflicts. Helping the client to experience and examine these feelings is simply part of the “job description” of being a therapist. Such client feelings are neither “rude” nor unfair. Rather, as the client begins to feel negatively toward the therapist, he can examine the ways in which he attempts to avoid, ignore or displace these feelings. Recognizing the underlying patterns that were unknowingly adopted in childhood helps the client to understand them from a more mature perspective and make constructive, conscious changes.