Why do therapists not allow or limit contact outside of arranged session times? Surely the more contact the better and it seems obvious that a therapist will be the most useful at the time when you need them.
Of course, different schools of therapy apply a range of strategies. However, it is still a generally held norm that many therapists do not do therapy between sessions. There are a great number of reasons why this has become so well established and widely considered best practice:
- The therapeutic relationship is affected by communicating over different channels;
- for example, communicating over text or email is more informal and can be more personal
- There is a greater chance of misunderstandings developing without non-verbal queues and almost no way of checking we are on the same page or correcting miscommunications; this can do far more harm than good
- The more time spent thinking about the client, especially outside of the session, the more the therapist aligns to their way of experiencing and understanding.
- This leads to a loss of distance and objectivity, soon and without noticing, you have two minds thinking about the situation in the same way.
- This will essentially make change improbable and the therapy ineffective
- This counteracts the function of having therapy only once a week which is aimed at building the client’s capacity to resolve situations themselves, to learn to hold difficult emotions and to bring summaries/interpretations of incidents rather than offloading raw experience for the therapist to process
The list above is certainly not exhaustive with many reasons relating to specific situations. Nevertheless, these are some of the key general ideas that benefit the client.
Early in my career, like many therapists, I didn’t take this careful and strategic framing of the therapeutic process seriously, but have come to learn that therapeutic communications between sessions so often led to a failure of the therapy process.