In my psychotherapy practice, I’ve had a number of clients who suffered from emotional dependency issues: in their personal relationships, they often seemed helpless and extremely needy. I’m sure you’ve known such people. They may appear clingy and possessive; they often get involved with someone very strong and competent, a Rock of Gibralter type. In extreme cases, the relationship consists almost entirely of one person taking care of the other. Incapacitating depressions may be frequent or continuous, to such an extent that the emotionally dependent person may be unable to hold down a job or function as an independent adult, so completely reliant on the other person that at times he or she seems infantile.
As clients, such individuals quickly become dependent on treatment for support. Even if they’re coming for more than one session per week, the gap between those sessions will feel too long; they may make frequent “emergency” calls on weekends or in the middle of the night. If a therapist isn’t careful, such clients can become extremely taxing and emotionally draining. We may feel intense pressure to provide emotional relief; if we’re not empathic or supportive enough, these clients may become intensely angry with us. In some cases, it actually feels like a relief when they quit in a rage and seek treatment elsewhere.