Judgmental therapists in the family?

This may be mere coincidence, or leaning too much on anecdote, but I have a question about therapists:  Both a family member and a close friend--two very intelligent, charming, energetic people, with some experience of depression, for what that's worth--eventually became therapists. My question is whether others with a therapist in the friends-and-family circle have noticed that therapist's becoming ever more judgmental, offering unsolicited advice or opinions, and jumping to conclusions about others' intentions, even in the smallest matters. Both my friend and my relative had internship training with quite difficult clients, then went on to successful private practices, and are both now middle-aged. Both are very conscientious about their work, and I wonder whether either has really learned to let go of the therapeutic role: for example, to not treat a flippant sentence in a text or e-mail about a mundane topic as if it were the crux of a client's issue. ("What was the purpose of that observation? Did you intend your tone to express such negativity?")

Anyway, I often have that walking-on-eggshells sensation around the relative, and some with my friend as well; I feel rather like a parent being patient with a teenager who's acting out. Maybe they just forget who they're speaking to, and slip into clinician mode. Or perhaps it's simply these two individuals and my relationship with them, and nothing to do with their occupation. Both live at a distance and lead busy lives, so it's not easy to talk about any of this in person.

Any thoughts, observations? (Please, not judgmental ones!) Having said all that, I truly don't mean to bash therapy or therapists, two of whom helped me a great deal.

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Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.  It is really tough to constantly feel like I'm being judged and/or offered (unwanted/unsolicited) therapy by my therapist relative (who is unmarried and childless, but of course knows more than I do about marriage and childrearing).  I have to constantly watch how I express myself; it is very stressful.  The individual in question is still in therapy herself (3x per week) on top of being a therapist.  I am (unlike you) pretty judgmental however - this experience has DEFINITELY colored my view of therapy and therapists.  

My husband is a therapist, about 10 years experience now. He is in the right profession for sure, he notices things and is skillful about asking probing questions. That said, me and my daughter agree that we experience him as being in clinician mode often and forgetting to be human. But when called on it, he usually realizes we're right and stops. EG, I'll say, STOP THERAPIZING ME and the point is quickly taken.

there is a lot of diversity among therapists as people (not to mention training background and treatment modalities) just like any other profession but i can imagine why it would be extra irritating to receive unsolicited advice and judgment by a therapist (it's like having an argument with an attorney, you sort of know they're not necessarily logically more correct but somehow with their skills of persuasion they make you feel like they are more 'right' than you are).

For the original poster, if they are intelligent and charming they also probably have a way of making you feel 'lesser than'. so-called intelligence can often be used in a defensive way. really what is needed is emotional connection and the focus on the relationship. 

There is a wide range of where people are in their own healing process. Also, the bar to become a licensed therapist is not very high. as a therapist myself there are only a select few colleagues that I would go to for support and many others I would not go near.  It's like they have the potential to facilitate the most healing but also can cause harm. I have personally felt among certain therapist colleagues that if I became their friends I would always have the feeling of being not 'good enough' as a support person.  Then there are many other therapists that I highly respect that I can still feel like an equal when I'm next to them. All 'good' therapists I know don't use big terms or esoteric theories or make you feel 'lesser than'. And if that's a theme that comes up that is something to be talked about because when you care about someone else what matters isn't who is right or wrong, but the impact that they have on you and the relationship.

Hope this is helpful

Interesting observation/topic. I also have both a family member and a friend who are therapists by occupation. I've found that my family member frequently goes into this clinical mode with me, even going so far as to diagnose (with the caveat of prefacing the diagnosis with "I can't diagnose but...") the experiences I've had with other friends and family. I wonder if being in this clinical mindset on a day to day basis with clients has made it so that they can't help but pick up the patterns they've been trained to analyze, even though we aren't in a therapeutic relationship. 

In contrast, my friend who has not been in practice for a few years now since having their child, doesn't do this with me unless I specifically ask for that type of advice. I imagine if your job was to edit films or such, could you help not analyzing the issues with every movie you watched? No judgement here, but perhaps a kind reminder to take off their therapist "hat" and that you want their advice as a friend would help them curb that auto inner therapist response. I need to do the same with my family member; it gets to be too much at times, for sure!

I was a therapist "in my past life," and what you've shared doesn't surprise me. Generally speaking, psychotherapy and clinical psychology remains pathology-oriented, which is consistent with a focus on what's wrong. In turn, this is consistent with a "need" to "fix it," e.g., by offering advice as to how you might change for the better. But I, too, have been fortunate enough to have worked with one amazing therapist who was intentional about not "pathologizing" her clients. In therapy school we learn that clients have mental disorders, and at the end of the day, these labels convey the message that there's something wrong with clients. Therapy culture will shape the assumptions of those who work within it. On the other hand, some therapists resist clinical psychology's pathology orientation, and a few have a deep, genuine respect for the client's perspective. I think what you're experiencing is a blend of occupation along with development, in other words, I think the habit of evaluating others as wrong or sick or as needing to change, is itself a lower-level habit that reflects a certain immaturity. That tendency is there regardless of occupation, but certain occupations will exacerbate it. I feel for you!

I was somewhat traumatized by a therapist-parent at my son's elementary school. We would chat on the playground or at an after-school sport, and she always seemed to have the most cynical and negative interpretation of my every motive. How did I know? Because she was constantly interrupting, or quickly responding, to ascribe meaning to most everything I said, when I was just trying to have a neutral-positive connection. I felt short-circuited and judged, and that trying to have a conversation with her was decidedly not a safe space. It was intrusive; I am used to more compassion and equanimity in my conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances, without having to defend or explain myself. One might think that means my friends and family let me be delusional, and that she could see through it, but I didn't think that her 'insights' were very accurate, since they were so negative. I seek supportive, interesting connections in a fragmented society, not to be taken down by a therapist on the playground. It seemed to me that it was a power-play, and that if I were her client, her approach would be traumatizing, not healing. In fact, I am generally opposed to psychological diagnoses and categorizations for most people, who are just trying to do their best living in a demanding, often unhealthy society. What most of us need is a safe, healing space to explore our inner self, history, emotions, and aspirations, without feeling judged. Perhaps she was trying to help, or she was overly-enthusiastic, especially since she wasn't currently working as a therapist, but I decidedly prefer 'alternative' approaches - shamanic or spiritual counselors, for example. When trained well they focus on holding a big compassionate healing container, in contrast to the Western clinical approach, which can feel almost lawyerly and intellectually combative - looking for the holes, the flaws, and the weaknesses to fix, which can just make the client more paranoid and separated from their inner knowing.