Needy Pattern


Needs much caring, often in pain, often unconsciously tries to elicit caretaking from others

Upset by withdrawal or distance

Dependent, relationship or sexual addiction

Sees other people as having the goodness, richness

Feels most alive when wanting someone

Over-reacts to loss, sometimes afraid to connect for fear of losing

Usually lack of maturity and aggression

Can envy others who are seen as having what the needy person needs

The person’s needs can never be filled. Always needs more. May become critical in order to spoil a situation where the needy person might get their needs met


To try to get the nurturing needed

The client feels that the goodies are out there in other people, not in himself

Often needy clients have difficulty taking in the very caring they most want; the bottomless pit

The aliveness is in wanting and yearning, sometimes rather than in receiving what is needed

Sometimes the person feels that he should be dependent because that’s parents wanted (shaped variant)

Core Issues/Origins



Shaped dependence


No one loves me or cares for me. I need you.

Underlying Thought

I am unlovable. (may or may not be conscious)

 Healthy Capacities Blocked

Self-support and self-love, ability to receive nurturing, value

 Sees Others As

Potential nurturers or deprivers


More common in women

Activating Conditions

People who seem nuturing: women, therapists, codependent people, caring people

Love relationships, especially as they become more intimate


Insecure pattern derives from deficiency in recognition rather than nurturing. This pattern is older developmentally; the issue is fear of rejection rather than degree of need.

Compliant pattern involves molding oneself to others; issue is lack of assertiveness rather than lack of nurturing.

Belonging is a healthy capacity where the person desires and feels close to others but doesn’t need it the way a needy person does.



Very sensitive to loss

Derives from history of abandonment or loss

Grieving for losses is important part of healing

Shaped Dependence

Derives from parents shaping the child’s behavior to be dependent

Healing involves experimenting with autonomy, and support for that from therapist


Alternates between dependence and withdrawal or isolation.

The person becomes frightened of merging if he/she gets too close to another

Common in borderlines

Combinations of Needy Pattern with Other Patterns

Insecure: Afraid of being rejected for needs

Entitled: Feels he deserves to have all needs met, demanding

Self-judging: Feels bad about having needs

Codependent: Gets needs met by taking care of others

Compliant: Molds to others’ desires in hopes of being taken care of

Charming: Charms people in order to get nurturing without risking rejection


Need-denying and isolated patterns involves defenses against need

Codependent and victim patterns are ways to get needs met indirectly

Needy people are attracted to people with codependent pattern

Blaming/needy person can get in defense cycle with isolated or defiant people

A needy parent can produce shaped dependence or responsibility for others in a child


Related Technical Concepts

Oral character, dependent personality disorder (when combined with compliant pattern)

Extreme can contribute to borderline personality disorder

Possible Symptoms

Depression, addictions


Tries (perhaps indirectly or unconsciously) to get therapist to take care of him, but often can’t take in caring. Sometimes tries for gratification without working therapeutically.

Can become dependent on therapist

In some cases, excessive needs can’t be filled in therapy.

Very sensitive to therapist’s vacations and termination of group members

Countertransference toward Needy Client

Excessive desire to nurture, leading to over-involvement and gratification, or not recognizing that caring isn’t being taken in

Repulsed by needs, so can’t provide healing response

Countertransference of Needy Therapist

Too much involvement with client or group

Group Roles/Positions, Strengths of some needy clients

Emotional leader: Can be open and vulnerable

Group connector: Relationship is important to person, makes connections with others


Forming the Alliance

Therapist will need to be caring and warm enough for client to form bond

Understanding of Pattern Needed by Client

That needs are infantile or excessive in adult relationships. That fears of abandonment aren’t realistic. This should be done without making the person feel bad about the needs (tricky)

Disconfirming Pattern

Challenging destructive addictions to substances or relationships

Challenging the client who thinks you want him to be dependent

Accessing Core Issues and Origins

Sadness, loneliness, rage at being deprived

Grieving for loss, rage at being abandoned

Meeting Needs

Caring, nurturing, touch is often important

Eventually must come from self


Acknowledging not being attuned to client’s needs, and changing behavior.

Modeling Health


Experimenting with Healthy Behavior and Attitude

Showing needs directly and asking for nurturing

Taking in nurturing

Turning to self for caring and support when in need, nurturing self


Acceptance of needs

Meeting needs when asked for directly

Appreciation for self-support

Healing Relationship

A relationship in which the client can show needs, have them met, and take in the nurturing, in which the other is consistently there. Client gradually develops self-support so that he needs less and less from others and confidence in relationships not disappearing

Potential Problems

Group members or people in client’s life repulsed by degree of need.

  • Client must learn to manage degree of neediness without supressing feelings.

Client feels bad about needs.

  • Work on self-judging pattern.

Degree of need and pain can overwhelm client during access or because of close therapeutic relationship, especially with borderline clients.

  • Limit degree of access or nurturing until client has developed some inner support.