Laura Hunter Therapies

Should Therapists Comfort Crying Clients?


When emotions overflow in the safe space of a therapy room, it is not uncommon for tears to follow. But when a client begins to cry, what is the appropriate response for a therapist or counsellor? This question touches on the core values of empathy, professionalism, and the therapeutic alliance between client and practitioner. In this blog post, we’ll explore the nuances of whether therapists should comfort crying clients, the importance of maintaining professional boundaries, and practical approaches when faced with such sensitive situations.

1. Understanding the Role of Comfort in Therapy

The primary role of a therapist is to facilitate a client’s journey towards self-understanding and improvement. When a client cries, it often indicates a breakthrough or a touch-point of significant emotional resonance. Offering comfort can be a natural response for therapists. Comforting a client can validate their feelings and foster a sense of safety and trust, which are crucial for effective therapy. However, the method of providing comfort—whether through words, silence, or physical gestures—needs to be carefully considered to maintain the integrity of the therapeutic process.

2. The Importance of Professional Boundaries

While empathy is a valuable tool in therapy, maintaining professional boundaries is equally important. Therapists are trained to handle emotional expressions like crying without becoming personally involved. Overstepping these boundaries, especially through physical comfort such as hugging, can potentially lead to dependency, blurred lines, and even ethical dilemmas. It’s vital for therapists to navigate these waters carefully, using their professional judgement to decide the best course of action based on the therapeutic goals and the client’s comfort level.

3. Therapeutic Techniques for Handling Tears

When faced with a crying client, therapists have several techniques at their disposal:

  • Active Listening: Simply being present, listening, and acknowledging the client’s emotions can be profoundly comforting.
  • Encouraging Expression: Therapists might encourage clients to explore what their tears represent, thus deepening the therapeutic dialogue and understanding.
  • Setting and Revisiting Boundaries: If physical comfort is part of the therapy process, it should be explicitly discussed and agreed upon with clear guidelines.

Each technique is used based on the therapist’s professional discretion and the established therapeutic framework.

4. Case Studies and Ethical Considerations

Exploring various case studies can illuminate the diverse ways therapists handle emotional situations. These real-life examples provide insights into the ethical considerations and the decision-making process behind comforting a client. They highlight the delicate balance between empathy and professionalism that therapists must maintain.


Crying during a therapy session is a natural emotional response that can facilitate healing and growth. While comforting a client is often part of the therapeutic process, it is crucial that it is done within the boundaries of professional ethics and practice standards. Therapists must judiciously use their skills to provide support while safeguarding the integrity of the therapeutic relationship.

If you’re exploring therapy and are curious about how a therapist might support you during emotional times, consider booking a discovery call with me. This initial consultation can help you understand what to expect in therapy sessions and how a therapist can assist you in navigating complex emotions in a professional and supportive environment.

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