Therapists Crying During Sessions: Some Research

Here’s a rarely studied issue: therapists crying. As reported in BPS Research Digest, researchers Amy C. Blume-Marcovici and colleagues surveyed 684 therapists in the U.S., a majority of whom were women, on this issue. Represented among the shrinks were varying theoretical orientations, e.g., CBT, psychodynamic,  eclectic, and more.

How many had ever cried during therapy? 72%—or most of them. And 30% of those who’d cried did so in the preceding four weeks.

Who were the most likely to cry? Older, more experienced therapists with a psychodynamic approach.

Did the women cry more than the men? Nope. Even though in their daily lives they did.

What were the stated reasons that the therapists cried in sessions? Mainly sadness and “feeling touched.” But also warmth, gratitude, and joy.

What kind of therapist personality cries the most? One who shows more openness, for starters. And to a little extent, more agreeableness and extraversion. But none of these findings were actually that significant, statistically speaking.

What effect does crying have on clients? As they weren’t the ones being surveyed, we don’t really know. But the therapists themselves mostly believed that it didn’t matter one way or the other or that it helped.

Did any of the shrinks think it was harmful? Just less than a percent.

Advice for therapists? “…(R)estrained tears — not full-on sobbing — can be a positive and natural element in a therapeutic relationship,” states Nadine Kaslow, PhD (

Advice for clients?: “If your therapist’s crying is making you feel uneasy, bring it to their attention. You’re likely not the only one who feels this way. However, if the crying is appropriate and not disruptive, there is no need to feel guilty or concerned” (ZocDoc). (Update to this post 2024.)

From BPS Research Digest: “Referring to the literature on therapist self-disclosure, the researchers speculated that perhaps therapist crying has a positive impact when the therapist-client relationship is already strong, but can threaten that relationship when it is weak or negative.”

Does anyone reading this have any thoughts about this study about therapists crying? Clients out there? Therapists? Therapists who are also clients?

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