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Navigating Ruptures in Therapeutic Relationship

by Andres Carrion | October 2021

Therapy is a personal space for you to explore your thoughts, feelings, insecurities, traumas, and so much more. As such, therapists should ensure that they are fostering a warm and nonjudgmental environment, so that you feel safe enough to explore those parts of yourself. Most of the time, therapists can achieve this level of security with their clients. However, therapists are not superhumans, they are people who inevitably fail to understand clients and make mistakes. There are times when therapists say or do things (usually unintentionally), which make clients feel unsafe. These can be things like, your therapist saying something you do not agree with, saying or doing something you find offensive, or even arriving late or cancelling a session. These are known as ruptures. Many times, therapists are aware of ruptures and will attempt to repair them, but sometimes you (the client) may be the only one who knows that rupture has occurred.

When a client believes that a rupture has occurred, there are three possible ways to address it. One option to terminate treatment. For some people, terminating treatment is a go to response when dealing with conflict with their therapist. While this may seem the easiest, it can be detrimental effects to your care continuum and long-term therapy goals. Another option is to not say anything and hope that the situation resolves itself or “sweeping it under the rug.” This is a common way to navigate conflict for many people, but the reality that both “solutions” are seeking to avoid the conflict. If you continue in therapy while holding onto counseling, you may do more harm than good. You can grow to resent your therapist or even therapy. You may notice yourself shutting down and talking less, frequently being late to sessions, or even frequent canceling. 

The best way to repair a rupture with your therapist is to address it. Chances are the issue is a lot more manageable than you may have believed it to be. Your therapist is there to listen to you and take in feedback, they want to support you as much as they can, even if it means changing their approach. In therapy, the most productive progress happens when we’re uncomfortable, so this shouldn’t be any different. This is also good practice for navigating conflicts in your personal and professional relationships. Plus, being able to repair a relationship with your therapist not only preserves your unique bond but can also make it stronger.

This page is also part of the Roamers Therapy Glossary; a collection of mental-health related definitions that are written by our therapists.

While our offices are currently located at the South Loop neighborhood of Downtown Chicago, Illinois, we also welcome and serve clients for online therapy from anywhere in Illinois and Washington, D.C. Clients from the Chicagoland area may choose in-office or online therapy and usually commute from surrounding areas such as River North, West Loop, Gold Coast, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Lake View, Rogers Park, Logan Square, Pilsen, Bridgeport, Little Village, Bronzeville, South Shore, Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Wicker Park, Bucktown and many more. You can visit our contact page to access detailed information on our office location.