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Physical distance between patient and therapist


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Hi everyone,

I have a question about the physical distance that is kept between a patient and a therapist during a psychotherapy session. I've been seeing a therapist for almost 3 years now. I've had a lot of issues opening up to him because I have major trust issues, however he has earned my trust over the years. So I am opening up to him more. We started doing focusing exercises a while back where we both sit on the couch (so I'm not facing him) and I've been able to get more out that way. I figure it's because I don't have to look him in the eye, however there is something comforting to having him closer to me. I feel like when we are face to face, there is slightly too much distance between us. I feel like he's on one side of the room and I'm on the other. In a sense it makes me feel more "in the spotlight" which is a feeling that makes me clam up and not want to talk.

During a session a few weeks ago, he rolled his chair slightly towards me at one point. I think he was just shifting a bit, but it threw me off. The distance of "gap" between us changed enough that I felt suddenly different about the connection we were having. And actually, I relaxed more. I felt more comfortable than ever.

So yesterday I had a session, and he was so far away from me! I felt like something was a bit off....that we weren't "connected" well. So I started to wonder, would it be innapropriate for me to ask him to move his chair a bit closer to me? Not at an uncomfortably close distance, but I mean by perhaps a few inches? Or is there a reason he is sitting so far away from me? Is there a physical distance during sessions that is thought of by therapists as "appropriate" or "necessary"? I'm almost certain that he'd want me to tell him how I feel anyway (they always do :) ), but I just wanted to know what everyone else's thoughts were on this.

Thanks!

Cass

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So I started to wonder, would it be innapropriate for me to ask him to move his chair a bit closer to me? Not at an uncomfortably close distance, but I mean by perhaps a few inches? Or is there a reason he is sitting so far away from me? Is there a physical distance during sessions that is thought of by therapists as "appropriate" or "necessary"?

I don't think it would be inappropriate to ask him. Certainly it would be appropriate discussion around your feelings of connection and closeness. Try expressing your feelings/concerns with him about his proximity to you during sessions and what that representation of closeness might mean to you.

Something similar happened to me during therapy. One session I noticed my former therapist was closer that usual and it did feel more connective. I expressed this to him (though I think in a written note) and he ended up remaining at this proximity for the duration of my therapy.

Buttons, I hope that you are able to reach a place of comfort with yourself and become able to sit face-to-face with your therapist and be fully seen. This was a bit of a struggle for me as well, but once I got there it felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. There is great serenity to be found in simply being yourself. Best of luck to you.

Edited by IrmaJean
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I have the sam experience! :D Once he was closer for a reason and I felt better, it ws very pleasant (and that was the day I asked him for the 2nd time for a hug and this time the hug was very very nice)! But... I don't feel bad or unconnected when he's not so close, so I didn't want him to stay like that every time - it's OK for me in the usual "setting".

Anyway, I agree with IJ; it's a good idea to ask him if he could be closer. I hope his answer will not disappoint you!!

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