Ask a Therapist: Are Therapists Constantly Analyzing Their Friends and Family Members?
By: Kendra Doukas
Many people assume therapists are continuously judging others’ behavior or always looking to "psychoanalyze" people around them. If you've ever watched the TV show The Big Bang Theory, one of the main characters named Leonard has a mother who is a famous psychiatrist. She periodically visits Leonard (much to his chagrin), and spends most of her time pointing out psychological flaws in Leonard, his partners, and his friends. Whereas these interactions are happening in a comedic context, the "analysis" Leonard's mother is often experienced as disarming and intrusive. There are people who fear that real life therapists are actually doing this same thing, and that one should remain "on guard" from unwanted feedback. My own friends and family will make jokes such as, “Oh, what is the therapist thinking about our craziness” or “Watch out, she’s a mandated reporter!”
The ironic thing is that therapists are some of the most non-judgmental people around. In stark contrast to Leonard's mother on the show, most of us become therapists because of an internal belief that all humans are good inherently, they are trying their best, and could be capable of better if supported correctly. Therefore, therapists are actually more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt than most other people might. Something else to consider is that therapists often see a wide array of human behavior which means that we are less likely to be "shocked" by behaviors or experiences others might perceive as weird or abnormal. We are more likely to have exposure to ranges of human experiences such that we can proceed with less judgement or surprise and instead show more empathy and understanding.
When wondering if therapists spend their free time analyzing themselves or everyone around them, it is important to point out that most therapists don't want to do clinical work in their off time. The clinical perspectives we bring to work are useful for the jobs we do, but often are less useful to bring to our personal time. Who wants to operate like they are at work twenty four hours a day seven days a week? Therapists often want to "turn off their work brain" just like most other working professionals. So you can rest assured that therapists who are not at work are likely not "psychoanalyzing" you.
Therapists can't actually analyze their own relationships very well because they are unable to be fully objective. Having a true and accurate analysis of a relationship requires a neutral perspective. Therefore, we cannot establish a fair, accurate clinical assessment of our relationships because we are personally (not professionally) involved in the relationship. We would need another therapist to be the neutral, objective party to give us the best clinical perspective. Remember, many therapists are naturally compassionate, empathic, and non-judgmental individuals. We are not mind-readers or even interested in analyzing everyone or everything in the world. So, the next time you wonder if your therapist friend of family member is secretly judging all of your choices, remember that this is most likely the furthest thing from the truth. You can likely feel free to be yourself without any fear of being analyzed without your knowledge or consent.