Relationship Thesaurus Entry: Therapist and Patient

From Writers Helping Writers:

Successful stories are driven by authentic and interesting characters, so it’s important to craft them carefully. But characters don’t usually exist in a vacuum; throughout the course of your story, they’ll live, work, play, and fight with other cast members. Some of those relationships are positive and supportive, pushing the protagonist to positive growth and helping them achieve their goals. Other relationships do exactly the opposite—derailing your character’s confidence and self-worth—or they cause friction and conflict that leads to fallout and disruption. Many relationships hover somewhere in the middle. A balanced story will require a mix of these dynamics.

The purpose of this thesaurus is to encourage you to explore the kinds of relationships that might be good for your story and figure out what each might look like. Think about what a character needs (good and bad), and build a network of connections for him or her that will challenge them, showcase their innermost qualities, and bind readers to their relationship trials and triumphs.

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Description:
A patient visits a therapist to receive treatment and rehabilitation in support of their mental and emotional wellbeing. A therapist’s guidance helps the patient identify their emotions, cope with daily challenges, reduce symptoms of mental illness, and make life choices.

The term “therapist” is a broad one that encompasses social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches, and more. The label also applies to counselors who deal with marital, family, and substance abuse issues, among others.

Relationship Dynamics
Below are a wide range of dynamics that may accompany this relationship. Use the ideas that suit your story and work best for your characters to bring about and/or resolve the necessary conflict. 

  • A therapist and patient working together willingly to solve a problem
  • A therapist working with a reluctant patient, such as a teen whose parent is making them attend sessions or an addict partaking in court-enforced rehab
  • A patient seeing an overworked or incompetent therapist who isn’t really helping
  • Two willing participants who just aren’t a good fit for each other
  • A once-willing patient backsliding into destructive habits and no longer being honest with their therapist
  • A long-term patient becoming frustrated with their lack of progress and pulling away from the therapist
  • A therapist becoming too emotionally involved in a patient’s situation
  • A needy patient demanding too much time or attention from their therapist
  • Challenges That Could Threaten The Status Quo
  • The therapist quitting their practice
  • The patient or therapist relocating 
  • Insurance changing for either the patient or the therapist’s practice
  • Either party developing feelings beyond the professional relationship
  • The therapist gossiping about the patient
  • Either party accusing the other of inappropriate conduct
  • The patient suffering a severe setback (a relapse, family tragedy, job loss, breakup, etc.)
  • Someone the patient knows receiving care from the same therapist
  • The patient refusing to participate in a session
  • The therapist giving the patient bad guidance or wrongly diagnosing them
  • The patient not following through on their appointments, promises, or the advice of the therapist
  • The patient coming off of prescribed medication for mental health reasons
  • The patient’s situation stirring up painful memories for the therapist
  • The patient giving the therapist a bad review
  • The patient failing to pay for services
  • The therapist not having the skills, knowledge, or experience to help the patient
  • The patient lying to the therapist
  • The therapist exerting too much control over the patient
  • Conflicting Desires that Can Impair the Relationship
  • The patient wanting to stop therapy before the therapist believes they are ready
  • The therapist wanting to put the patient on medication, and the patient resists
  • Either party wanting a different amount of time together than the other party
  • Either party wanting to bring a third party into the sessions, while the other does not
  • The therapist wanting to refer the patient to someone else
  • The patient wanting more access to and communication with the therapist
  • The therapist wanting information the patient is not yet ready to reveal
  • The patient wanting to finish therapy in order to meet an external requirement, while the therapist wants them to accept help
  • The patient wanting to keep secrets from the therapist
  • Either party wanting control 
  • Either party wanting a personal relationship
  • The patient wanting the therapist to lie on their behalf
  • The patient wanting to maintain behaviors, believing they can self-monitor them
  • The patient expecting an unrealistic outcome based on what is possible through therapy

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers