Burdening/Unburdening – should it concern clients about their therapists?

In life, as well as therapy, people experiencing feelings such as sadness, confusion, pain or loss would like to be able to share some of the emotional turmoil with another person. Often they don’t for fear of burdening another person with their “stuff” or unburdening themselves and so transferring the particular feelings onto that other. This sense of guilt around affecting another person with your hard luck story can prevent a client telling a counsellor the truth as well. Having clients who have shared this dilemma with me I found it strange; after all that’s what I have trained to do. Therapists are there to listen to the things that you don’t want to, or can’t, share with other people (for various reasons). What then prevents clients from being able to share; it’s not a matter of burdening or unburdening yourself “on” your counsellor. What is the risk to the therapist?

In answer to that question, like most things in life the risk is very minimal at most. Counsellors are trained to listen; we know our own capabilities and limitations. Not only do we support and hold the client in a safe, caring environment but we monitor our own well-being.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s (B.A.C.P.) ethical framework puts client care at the heart of the work therapists do and includes alleviating symptoms of personal distress, promoting the client’s well-being and avoiding them harm. It also recognises that a counsellor needs to be aware of their own resilience and diligence.

Undertaking regular supervision is another part of the care package for both the client and therapist. This confidential meeting between your therapist and a trained counsellor/supervisor allows exploration of client work and the therapist’s part in that relationship. Again, like your personal therapy sessions, your identity and confidentiality are maintained.

Counselling allows the client to throw away the words “burdening” and “unburdening”; you can feel assured that an effective therapist has the skills and abilities to support you in exploring your feelings and concerns, whilst they capable of caring for their own well-being.

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