Why Can’t I Make Eye Contact with my Therapist? | Kati Morton


Hey everybody. Happy Thursday. If you’re new to my channel, welcome. Make sure you subscribe and
turn your notifications on because I put out videos twice a week, and you don’t wanna miss them. But let’s jump into today’s question. Hey Kati. I recently started therapy
and I find it impossible to make eye contact with my therapist. Do you find it harder to connect with your clients if they
don’t make eye contact? Do you think it affects
the recovery process? Thank you for taking time out of your week to make these videos. They’re super helpful. You’re very welcome. I’m glad you’re finding them helpful. Now the first thing that I
wanna address is the fact that making eye contact in
therapy can be difficult for a lot of different reasons. Number one, many of my
clients on the autism spectrum find it really difficult to
make eye contact in general. Second, if we’re talking about a trauma, or talking about something
that’s embarrassing, maybe something that we
haven’t said to someone before, making eye contact while we talk about that thing is nearly impossible. And I say all that just to
let you know that it’s normal. Nothing’s wrong with you. A lot of people struggle to
make eye contact in therapy. Now the first portion of this question, she asks if it makes it
harder for me to connect with my clients if they’re
unable to make eye contact. And the truth of it is, not really. And I say not really because if a client can’t make eye contact when
they’re talking through a trauma or something difficult, that’s okay, and that’s something that we’ll work on. And I will encourage them, I’ve done this with many my clients. I’ll encourage them to
move their eye contact a little bit closer to
me slowly but surely. Sometimes I’ll say look
at the table next to me. Do you see that figurine there? And it’s kind of done partially as a way to help them move closer
to making eye contact, but it’s also a way to keep them grounded. To make sure that they’re with me while they’re talking about the trauma, or the abuse or anything that happened that maybe making the
eye contact difficult. However, if a client isn’t
able to make eye contact ever, it can be difficult in my
practice in an outpatient basis. I do not specialize in
autism spectrum by the way, which I believe would be
a little bit different. And it’s a whole different specialty. But in my practice, if a client was unable to make eye contact at
all, it would be difficult for me to feel connected to them, and to make sure that they’re okay. That they’re not dissociating. To know when things are hard or easy because if they’re next
making eye contact, it’s really hard for me to read them. But that being said I could
play devil’s advocate to myself and say well body language
can tell me a lot as well, but eye contact is just a little extra that helps me better understand
where they’re coming from. Listening to them. Feeling connected with them. And like it gives me all the information so I can help them the best that I can. Does that make sense? I know it’s kind of difficult, but think of talking to someone and them not making any
eye contact with you. It can be really difficult to you know, we sometimes try to make
eye contact and like hey. Do you get that? Does that make sense? And I do a lot of check
ins with my clients when I’m giving homework to ensure that they hear me, that they understand, and we’re on the same page. And a lot of that is
done through eye contact. Now to move into the second
portion of the question, she asks if it can affect
the recovery process. So a lack of eye contact,
can it make recovery slower? And it kind of depends on the patient. But my short answer would be
yes and the reason for that is because eye contact is so grounding. Like I said I use it with a lot of my clients as a grounding technique. To make sure that they’re
present and they’re with me. It allows me to check in more quickly, so that I don’t let
them become dissociated for a really, really long time. And if we are dissociating for many of you who’ve been watching a lot
of my videos for years, you know that I’ve talked about
how if we are dissociating, we’re not able to process
through the trauma, because essentially we’re not present. And so if I can’t check
in with my clients, then while we’re working
through the trauma, or working on the recovery from whatever they’re struggling with, I won’t know if they’re really with me. I won’t know if they’re
actually processing through, and hearing what I say and understanding. We could potentially work on different body language
techniques for them to be able to express to me that they
are listening and are present, but it just makes it a
little more difficult. And it can, therefore, slow
down the whole recovery process. Overall I hope that you
hear that struggling to make eye contact is completely normal. It canmake us feel really vulnerable. When we look someone in the
eyes for a length of time, it can makes us feel connected
and that can be scary. It can also be scary to
look someone in the eyes and tell them something
embarrassing or shameful. So know that it’s normal and it’s okay. What I hope this video
does is encourage you to at least try to make eye contact, because it’s something
maybe it’s like muscle we have to work out and make it stronger. It’s something we’re gonna have to work on with our therapist. And the cool thing about therapy
is that it’s a great place to practice those relationship skills. Things maybe we’re not great at, or we don’t really know how to do, but we really wanna learn. And it’s a safe place to do that. So if you find yourself
struggling, bring it up in therapy. Maybe write it down and just read from it, if it’s hard for you to say
it out loud and look at them. If that’s the struggle,
maybe just reading. Keep your eyes on the page could maybe make it feel a little more safe so you can get out what
maybe’s causing it. What your worries are. If it’s always been a struggle for you. It’s something that we should communicate with our therapist, because then and only
then can our therapist gives us tools and tips and tricks and ways to enable us to make eye contact, and feel safe doing it. This video has been brought to you by the Kinions on Patreon. If you would like to support the creation of these mental health videos, click the link in the
description and check it out. As always though, leave in the comments. Are there things that you’ve done with your therapist or in your own life to help you be more
comfortable with eye contact? Or are there other reasons I missed as to why it’s really hard for you? Let me know. And I will see you next time. Bye.

100 thoughts on “Why Can’t I Make Eye Contact with my Therapist? | Kati Morton

  1. Eye contact is so hard for me on a daily basis. Used to be ok with it but now I've realized how few times I actually look at someone at all. I tend to fade out a lot too and eye contact feels, quite frankly, painful. It's a physical challenge. Like when lifting heavy weights, making eye contact takes a serious push and i can be crushed by the weight.
    In therapy, it's far worse. I am aware of it and i feel so rude. I try to look up once in awhile but it's only briefly. It's easier when it's a super light conversation or if he is explaining something. But if I have to talk about anything, i find myself staring out the window. Couldn't even tell you what I'm seeing because I'm not fully present.
    Trying to be better though. Not that my therapist ever commented on it but I know and it bothers me.

  2. I have a question! My therapist used to have me throw a ball or something to become present. Is this normal? How do you make sure your clients are present?

  3. if you can't feel connected to someone who can't make eye contact that is your problem and you need to work on it.

  4. Idk if you see comments from old videos, but maybe someone else will and can answer instead. Last week I had my first 2 appointments with 2 separate counselors in my quest to find someone I connect with (dont worry, the 2nd one was suitable and who I'll stay with) but my question is about the 1st one and the biggest reason I didnt choose him.

    He HIMSELF couldn't make eye contact. It was extremely unsettling and made me feel uncomfortable when I noticed it. I was sitting on the couch and I would occasionally make eye contact, as much as I am able, then look directly behind him till I felt ok to return. A lot of the time, I'd go back to looking at him and his eyes would be darting back and forth to the paintings on the wall behind me. At one point he said something that triggered me but he didnt realize. I got really shaky and my heart was pounding and my throat was dry and I tried to look him in the eye to maybe give him a death glare to stop talking about it, but he wasnt looking at me. He didnt look at me till he was done talking about it. My mind shut off after that and all I could say was yes and no, pay him, and leave. Is it normal for a counselor to do something like that? Not look at their client?

    The 2nd guy was looking at me 90% of the time, except for like the normal human tendency to look away when you think really hard. Like looking up at the ceiling. But even if I wasnt looking at him, I'd feel his eyes on me and when I looked up, hed look right back into my eye. It was unsettling, but still comforting. Someone was paying attention to me in a way that no one in my life ever has and it was magical.

    Thanks for everything you do and helping those who need the help.

  5. I struggle to make eye contact with anyone! Even family members, I find it deeply deeply uncomfortable. It does mean that people often question whether I'm listening to them when I really am! I'm 35 and still struggle with this.

  6. I always worry my therapist will think I'm lying if I dont make eye contact but when I talk through difficult stuff I find myself looking around the room

  7. See I thought that it would be Asperger like a type of autism because that's what I have and I can't ever make eye contact I also have anxiety and depression but like I can never make any eye contact and yeah I just don't know what exactly it is that I have that's causing that but every time I look at someone in their face I get really scared. And start seeing things too like I don't know if I have schizophrenia or something but I've never gotten that checked out but like could be basically anyting.

  8. As someone on the autism spectrum, eye contact can feel really intimidating in my experience.

    I’ve had a problem with just dissociating a lot in general and eye contact can actually make it worse for me (Turn Off Reality has sort of been my go-to response for stress in general, including overstimulation).

    Some of us ground better with physical sensations, and paying attention to a therapist’s other body language has been a good substitute for me personally. Communicating my ‘presence’ with good ol’ words has also helped.

  9. in therapy even when i wasnt talking about something personal i would still find my eyes wandering. i think its just the simple fact that my subconscious knew its a place im vulnerable in so i would tend to look away often. im happy i saw you made this video cause i thought that i might be weird😅😂

  10. This is really interesting. Every time I am in a therapy session I find it extremely difficult to make eye contact. It’s not so much that I’m not comfortable with my therapist, it’s more the fact that talking about personal stuff is weird to do when I’m alone in a room with someone else. Also he technically doesn’t sit directly in front of me and he’s typing on his computer so I tend to just default to staring out of the big window in his office, haha.

  11. I have autism, and the first time I was hospitalized, the jerk therapist there tried to force me to look him in the eyes for 5 minutes. And when I couldn't he said "Do you want to get better or not?" fucking rude as hell. hope he got fired

  12. I’ve struggled with PTSD and have been in emdr therapy for four years, what’s your take on this form of therapy?

  13. I can't force myself to make eye contact ever with anyone but neither does my brother or my mom. It makes me feel so uncomfortable but I also feel disassociated all the time. It scares me.

  14. I don’t like making eye contact with people bc I find myself ugly to look at and I don’t want people to stare at me head on bc I don’t have a pleasant looking face

  15. I’m terrible at keeping eye contact. I can look at someone when they talk but can never speak to them with eye contact.
    Idk what that means, but it’s impossible for me to keep eye contact when I talk. I want to be better at it, but it always happens. I must be awkward looking.

  16. Wow this makes me feel so much less alone. I thought it was just me. I have no problem making eye contact in everyday life but in therapy it’s a different story. I’ve noticed when I say factual information about my trauma (The Who/what/where etc) I make eye contact but when it comes to talking about my feelings I’m looking everywhere else

  17. I have had trouble with eye contact since I was younger. I also have congenital nystagmus so eye contact is just hard with my wobbly eyes

  18. i just started back in therapy and so far I have barely made eye contact with my therapist, it’s so awkward when I don’t look at her and she just stares at me in a moment of silence trying to think what to say next. It makes me very uncomfortable. By the way, I am new here 🙂

  19. BAHAHAHA. I never thought about this one before. Must be a HUGE MYSTERY. I only sound crazy, because the TRUTH is crazy.

  20. I get distracted when making eye contact unless its a very confprtable situation like talking with a good friend. I think i overthink it too much.

  21. This is a question I can't find the answer to on Google. Maybe you have come come across it in your family practice, but my niece will follow my brother and I around and attempt to build a fence or barrier around us, seemily, blocking us in. We have to step over her string of miscellaneous items she elongates in what appears to be an attempt to herd us together.

  22. Hi Kati,
    Dont know if this is the right place to ask this. I just recently started therapy and I found it very difficult to feel comfortable with not knowing what shes thinking while we talk. As a result, I've been imagining what could be going in her thoughts and having imaginary conversations with her in my head between sessions. Is that normal?
    Thanks!

  23. I'm really confused by the fabric of her top she's wearing. To me it looks like a sheer material made of see thru mesh. I'm pretty certain that it might be something we would see in a fashion show you know where they wear weird things to make statement. But as I was listening to her, I forgot all about her top and was no longer concerned with what she was wearing. I can't say that I think her top is unappealing. It's just that it is confusing. It just doesn't seem like a top we would nornally see on a human being. I'm sorry but I got hung up on that. Katie does very well with her videos and does such a good job that I actually listen to her videos almost every week.

  24. I wish I had seen this video back when I was still getting therapy. I would always focus on the same 2 points in the room and I was annoyingly aware of it the entire time. I wasn't sure how to bring it up or what to say because she hadn't done a great job guiding me or helping me with the issues I was struggling with. She expected me to dig myself out of my own hole but never really helped me find the tools I needed to do that in the first place.

  25. i was really a very kind child … who love everyone … i was good .. but they insulted me for my nose and that i am ugly … no woman will accept me ever 🙁 , now i have really bad self image 🙁 i can't make eye contact because my subconscious mind think that they are seeing my ugly face ,,,, i am not bad man believe me … i can't make other sad … if i say something may be bad … i can't sleep before i apologize for it i am not bad man

  26. In everyday life eye contact with people is SO HARD. I find myself watching their mouth more than their eyes. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I can understand them better when I watch their mouth

  27. I can't make eye contact with my psychiatrist because he is looking at his computer nearly the whole time. Whenever my therapist uses her computer, she says something out loud, such as, 'Let me look that up for you' or 'I will send that information to your case manager / psychiatrist so s/he can begin working on that issue for you.' I always feel that she is listening to me, and that I am not providing background noise, like I do when being seen by the psychiatrist.

  28. It took me a long time to get the hang of eye contact. When I was younger people used to tell me that "it looks like I'm staring at their soul", so I got used to just not looking at people because it seemed to bother them so much. Now I look at people for a few seconds, then look away and look back, and the whole time kinda try to think of something else so I don't look at them "too much". And I have to concentrate on those things every second that I'm ever talking to anyone…

  29. Now don’t judge..

    But I feel like when I’m talking to a therapist i can’t make eye contact because I feel judged because I don’t know what they are thinking and it either makes me angry or it makes me ashamed

  30. When I'm talking to people I always flicker my eyes between something and their eyes… But that's when I make an effort for eye contact

  31. What would you say if I have a tough time breaking eye contact, and that that's why I avoid it but most times?

  32. I can make eye contact when she is talking, but when I am talking I have to force myself to make eye contact. I am very aware of eye contact, so I try my hardest.

  33. I am fine making eye contact with literally everyone, but I can't do it in therapy. I just stare at the floor lol.

  34. Thank you Katie! Great video. I have struggled with this for a long time. And I can only see out of one eye, ha! 😅, so thank you!!!

  35. Hi Kati, I have been doing DBT therapy and was wondering if you had any useful tips for rejection? We have been learning about interpersonal skills and was wondering if you had any coping strategies because i take it harder then others to cope with. Thanks

  36. I think most of the time I have issues with eye contact it's because I don't want to see how the other person is feeling towards me, or in response to what I'm saying. I get afraid that if I look, I'll see pity or indifference…
    In therapy I tend to look in specific places and I've noticed that my posture changes, too. My therapist is not pushy at all, and I'm grateful for that, but I do think I've gotten used to him being that way and have gotten into the habit of not encouraging myself to make better eye contact. It's also hard to cry in front of him, too, even though I feel like I spend so much time crying in my free time lol! But at least Im not paying him to watch me cry hahaha!
    Someone mentioned in another comment about looking in certain places when they feel certain ways. That might be a factor as well. I think I could benefit from trying to make eye contact more often. Maybe it will help me not feel that emotion as strongly. Maybe I can practice with him when I feel safe and it will influence how I interact with everyone else… Thanks for all the great videos Kati. You really do help me understand myself. What you do here is so important

  37. I try to make eye contact because I understand its respectful but it's still very hard for me and I was raised in an environment where eye contact meant you wanted beef

  38. When I speak to her I avoid eye contact, but usually when she’s talking I’m looking at her so she knows I’m listening

  39. I used to struggle with eye contact when I was so much more anxious, less so with my psychologist, and mainly because when I get anxious I start focusing on one eye and can't look at them with both eyes and I feel they can see it.

    A minor incident with my sister she said you can't tell the difference (looking at one eye) so now when I get nervous I just focus on one eye and I find it easier to maintain eye contact. Sounds weird, but anyway it works.

    Now I feel like I hold eye contact nearly too intensely, especially with my therapist, but I'm not anxious about it. And when I'm thinking I break it, cause I'm more focused on the thought.

  40. [For background, I have ADHD and CPTSD] Honestly, I simply find eye contact distracting. Making eye contact a lot makes me more aware of my own facial expressions and gestures which can (and often does) cause me to lose my train of thought or just to be less mindful of what I'm feeling. I've let my therapist know about this and she didn't think it was anything to worry about.

  41. Personally I love these videos they make talking about my feelings and struggles with not just a professional counselor or psychologist but with my friends as well and one of them is both a friend and a psychologist it's blended in with the Friendship so she's sort of teaching me to look up at her like a mother does with her child and that in itself is very comforting still have difficulty showing her the tears and the fear percolating inside is it different for getting mental health support if you have down syndrome and we mostly do our sessions over the phone or a breif catch up after church

  42. Am I supposed to make longer than 2 second eye contact with my male therapist? Isn’t prolonged eye contact a sign of interest? I am so confused

  43. I can make good eye contact with my therapist when she is doing the talking or explaining something to me. However, I really struggle making eye contact when I have been asked a question or explaining something. For me, that's because if I am making eye contact I am reading her face/reactions. As such, I spit out answers or cut a story short because I think I'm taking too long/being silly. Looking at the wall is the only way I can actually be in my head and be honest.

  44. I was afraid to make eye contact was embarrassing in society she was like why arent you giving me deep eye contact she got mad when I kept ghosting ignoring her texts hiding my true self with anger and bad words I felt bad I also felt bad that I was getting diabetes from depakote I was afraid of her… fuck she mad me nervous asf and worried about her I kept feel like I'm getting guilt tripped the fuck out literally fucked me up for years… she also got mad when I wasnt always happy all the time when I tell her I'm being attacked or I'm dealing with gang members and I need to defend myself she takes it as a joke calls the cops on me 40 cops come into my house now the police are corrupt people why trust them… I dont trust my therapist… I felt embarrassed asf ashamed asf being on those pills destroyed me made me ts age angry suicidal and homicidal and its jn the side effects lexapro gave me static vision and it's hard to see I the dark the pills gave me brittle breakable bones… I told her but she just gave me more pills… and injections I was paralyzed for years…

  45. Is there a therapy for close eye contact?
    I can't make eye contact up close. My brain doesn't know where to look. As you can imagine this would ruin close front to front missionary style sex. I was hoping to fix that.

  46. What I feel a little empathy from my therapist??? I haven't heard a word about my trauma. She just ask Questions and tries to interpretade what I said. That's it. It's no conexion at all. The bigger problem it's than I can't quit this. Its Very strict in Norway, because it's part of sosial work. 10 years with different therapist here, but nobody knows what I am talking about. For example narcisism personality desorder. I feel alone, misunderstood and a lot of judgment. I getting enough. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowlege. Hugs from Norway desde Noruega🇳🇴

  47. i never ever make eye contact, i get embarrassed and i dont even know why but i was never able to make eye contact with anyone

  48. often in therapy in order for me to find the right words to describe what I feel or to face my problems I have to look inside me and its totally unnecessary to make eye contact with my therapist at those times because my attention is focused on myself and little of it is devoted to my therapist ,I don't think that there is a problem with that because in therapy all the work that's being done is done inside the patient and that's how the patients mental health improves sure there are cases of those that are fearfull but don't all those who don't make eye contact often belong in this category

  49. Oh Kati, I can’t do eye contact either. Trauma is exactly nearly impossible but also once I put my therapist on the piedestal, like there is a transference.

  50. My therapist didn't have our chairs facing each other, they were at an angle. I thought that was because therapists wanted to avoid eye contact because it allowed for oppenness.

  51. I make eye contact to to the point the other person looks away for the sole purpose I know you’re supposed to make eye contact.
    Not because I want to look at you.

  52. Eye contact isn’t hard for me. It’s that further external step in situations I feel self conscious about and that I’ll look dumb. So I freeze and wanna pass out. Eye contact kinda actually helps me keep it together sometimes.

  53. Eye contact isn’t hard for me. It’s that further external step in situations I feel self conscious about and that I’ll look dumb. So I freeze and wanna pass out. Eye contact kinda actually helps me keep it together sometimes.

  54. i stare through my therapists head hes a numpty the state pays to listen to me whine about my personal problems. at this point its just entertainment and education for him they're not helping me if they ever did. he gets a B+ for effort he tries but hes not educated properly hes an LCSW basically a high school counselor with a more expensive certificate.

  55. i wish you were my therapist,,you are gorgeous ,i'd listen to you all day Kati 💚💚💚💚💚💚💚
    n i'm not weird ,just depressingly lonely…….i'm in a treatment drug centre (20 years) n i sadly am invisible to anyone who can see all the signs but do nothing ? so have to get meds illegally n it works great ,i'm taking a dose i should be taking but i don't abuse n it's sad to know any doctor there could help me but i noticed the scumbags getting their meds n the ones who really need it are told "we can't do that" n it's pure bullshit n i am making a a serious complaint n a partition to get help for those who need it before suicide n that will be next for me.
    n i don't want that or wish it on anyone ……

  56. It is kind of funny for a therapist to talk about eye contact when some of them put us on a couch and seat behind us exactly to avoid eye contact.

  57. I can’t stand this new two commercials before every video YouTube is now got going on. I can put up with one but two I’m bouncing. After this comment of course…so later.

  58. How can you look some one in the eyes? You can look in one eye. But thats weird, because which eye to look into, the left or the right, or switching all the time?

  59. I don’t mean this in a demeaning way, but talk therapy just does nothing for me. I hate it. I don’t want to talk about anything with people, especially not people I don’t know. And also especially not people I do know. I’ve gone to talk therapy sessions, and I just have nothing to say. It’s gotta suck for the therapist because i’ve probably said 5 words total in all the sessions combined. Pretty sure they couldn’t wait for me to leave and I don’t blame them and I agree.

  60. Weirdly with the therapist, psychiatrist etc. I see through the study I attend, I am almost okay with making eye contact. Sometimes when we have a Desk between us she will move to get me to Look at her and I find that helpful. With my therapist I see twice a week though it‘s almost impossible but i try really hard. Sometimes when I can actually Look at her while talking she will look away quickly and that way I can keep it up longer until she Looks at me again. Maybe it‘s not in purpose but I feel like it and it helps. We Never talked about it but I feel like she just knows.

  61. is that why in those 'generic' 'sitting/laying on the couch' therapist images, the therapist is always sitting like behind the patient near their head as opposed to in front of them or somewhere else where the patient would be able to see the therapist??

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