Dependence On Therapy

Since we’ve started working together, my therapist has mentioned quite a few times, that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy. Whenever she’d say that, I’d feel uncomfortable and get defensive. Even though she would tell me that she didn’t say I was dependent on it, I still took it as an attack. And I think I have figured out why it bothers me so much. Deciding to see a psychologist (or any mental health professional) is terrifying. I was terrified when I first reached out to my therapist. Deep down inside, on an unconscious level, I felt ashamed.

Even up to today, that shame is still there. It’s died down a lot, but a few fragments of it still exist. The man who calls himself my dad contributed to that most of all. He’s told me so many times how some people need therapy, while others have strong minds, so they can deal on their own. How do I take it? I take it as him telling me, and thinking, that I’m weak because I’m getting help, when I should just suck it up and get on with life the way he does. So here my therapist is telling me that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on therapy, and in my mind it sounds like an affirmation that therapy is “bad, so you shouldn’t get used to it”. I know that’s not what’s being said, but that’s the way my overly sensitive, reactive mind takes it.

I see now why regular therapy sessions are so important. It’s not about being dependent on it. How do you become dependent on the process of therapy? It’s damn hard sometimes, and even if I’m okay during a session, it hits me afterward and sometimes I just want to crawl under the covers and shut the world away for the rest of the day. There were many times that I didn’t want to have a session. Where I wanted to cancel. But I knew that those were probably the times when I should have one. So I didn’t cancel, no matter how much I wanted to.

I read a lot of your blogs, and from what I’ve read, the majority of you have weekly sessions, some of you twice weekly, and you’ve also expressed a hesitation and even downright resistance to attending a session from time to time. So I know I’m not alone in this.

As my therapist mentioned during our short phone call on Monday (which was strangely helpful, which I didn’t expect it to be- mostly because I didn’t know what to expect in the first place), I need structure. I thrive on it. I feel unstable, and everything feels chaotic without it. My nervous system feels under threat. When things are structured, I feel calmer.

When I had 3 therapy sessions a month, I felt more secure. It felt more structured than it does now. Now it’s just all over the place.

Sometimes we open up a topic, but there’s not enough time in a single session to really delve into it. Then having to wait two or three weeks, I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I don’t want to talk about something painful, difficult and shameful, and have two or three weeks go by before we can pick up on where we were. It feels like something is lost, and it gets disrupted. I know that the nature of therapy is that just because it seems something has been worked through, it might come up in future sessions again. Sometimes we think the work may be complete, only to discover that it actually isn’t.

Even when I write down things to discuss in the next session, it’s not quite the same. Those emotions that I felt, that were so extreme, die down, and it feels pointless to talk about it. If I do talk about it in our next session, those emotions are a distant memory, and I talk about the situation, or whatever it was, without really connecting with my inner world.

I think it’s important to have that safe, consistent space every week. I don’t show up just to see my therapist. I show up because I want to do the work. If you’ve got a physical illness that requires you to see your doctor every week for a checkup, does that mean you’re dependent and happy to go for those checkups every week? No. You do it because you know it’s important.

In keeping an open mind, if a person can become dependent on therapy, is that necessarily a bad thing? We’re dependent on work for an income. Which enables us to live, to pay rent, have food to eat, etc. So why would it be any different with therapy? The purpose of therapy is to help you heal and to craft the life you want to live. To help us grow, giving us valuable tools in order to function optimally in life. We’re still doing the work during and between sessions. But knowing that the next session is only a few days away helps, as you can more easily bring up any observations, experiences, etc in the next session, as it will still be fresh in your mind. Which, brings that sense of continuity.

Of course, right now I can’t afford to have regular therapy sessions. But when I’m able to, I’m definitely going to invest in it. The point of this post is just to share my view on how I don’t believe that one can truly get “dependent” on therapy, and why I think regular sessions are so important. I’m grateful for my therapist, who really tries to bridge that gap between sessions, and keep the therapeutic relationship safe and secure, which has been so helpful.

A while ago, I heard someone say that attending therapy is a form of self-care. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on this. I like hearing different opinions and view points, so please let me know what you think about this topic.

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34 thoughts on “Dependence On Therapy

  1. Great post, Rayne. Agree with you on many points that you made, like how doing therapy regularly is more desirable than waiting 2-3 weeks between each session, which is quite a grueling wait. Also, it does seem to be a form of self-care, that was interesting to read. 🙂

    The only thing I’d like to add/mention is how it may be common for a patient to become (co-)dependent on the therapist. And most therapists probably don’t want that; they want to see us grow and become healthy, mature, independent individuals. At least, that’s my guess.

    My favorite part of this post is when you outline the purpose of therapy and contrast it with being “dependent on work for an income”. That paragraph was awesome. 😉 Hugs ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment Psy. 🙂 In response to your “add-on”, I like the comment that Lily made: “I think some amount of dependence is necessary for the healing process. Being able to depend on your therapist for validation, support, and care shows that you really trust them. Is it possible to depend on them all the time? No, because it’s a boundaried relationship.
      The more you grow and heal, ironically, the less you will have to “depend” on your therapist.”

      Despite what it seems like, I’m not totally dependent on my therapist (thank goodness). I like my independence and being able to handle things on my own as and when I am able to. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I definitely think that therapy is important. It can definitely be a form of self-care. I used to think of regular visits to my Community Mental Health counsellor as maintaining good mental health. I have recently (last year) graduated from therapy after about 20 years. The thought of it was terrifying at first, but we gradually went from weekly visits to bi-weekly then monthly. Then none. I feel okay because I have my local Peer Support Centre that I regularly go to. I have made quite a few friends there. I know that if I ever need therapy again, my local CMH is still there for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing Joyce. I think when we’re ready to move on without our therapists, we’ll know, and even though it’s hard, it will be okay. I’ll get there too someday. I’m glad you have your local Peer Support Centre. 🙂

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  3. I think therapy is extremely important. Our therapists are often the safe attachments that we need to work through our attachment issues. As well as our teachers, and witness’s to our story’s. When I started therapy the goal was to end therapy someday. It wasn’t that I would be dependent on therapy, it was that I would learn the tools and eventually come to a place where I wouldn’t need the therapeutic support to use them independently. 8 years, 2 months later….I have reached that point. But, I knew when I reached it. I think that is the key. We eventually get to a place (and everyone’s timetable and process is different) when we say okay…I think I want to try this on my own for a while. Plus, I know that if I need therapy again in my life, I will reach out and get help.

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  4. There is absolutely no shame in attending therapist. My ex boyfriend, the narcissist, used to make fun of me for swing a therapist but in fact he was scared because she helped me realise that I was in an abusive relationship and she helped me get strong enough so that I could end it. Now I go twice a month. I used to go once a week but at £75 an hour I couldn’t afford to continue. I will see my therapist as long as I feel necessary and so should you.

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    1. I’m glad your therapist helped you realize what was going on, and that you were able to get out of that abusive relationship. My therapist also helped me find the strength to let go of my own emotionally abusive relationship. It was scary as hell, and hurt a lot, but I’m so glad I got out of there.

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  5. Therapy is like having a private lesson with a caring tutor who wants the best for us….That is how it felt for me sometimes..Everytime I went, I learned something new about myself, that I could take away and use to make my life better..I looked forward to going each time and liked having regular sessions.Now I haven’t been in 2 months and feel absolutely fine..Before that I was only having sessions when I needed them..Before that I was having regular sessions once a month..In the past when I was struggling a lot more, I went once a week…even twice a week when severely depressed..xxx Great post Rayne! I enjoyed it very much!

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    1. “Therapy is like having a private lesson with a caring tutor who wants the best for us.” I love this! Thanks for sharing your therapy journey. I always enjoy hearing about other’s experiences. Glad you enjoyed the post. 😉 ❤

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  6. I think attending therapy IS a form a self care, definitely, and I know personally that less space between sessions is better for me when we are addressing difficult things.

    I also believe that while becoming dependent on therapy is not necessarily ever in ones best interest, in certain therapeutic contexts becoming attached to your therapist and therapeutic environment can be healing.

    I’m attached to A, I’ll fully admit it. She has mentally replaced my mother for me in some ways. I’ll be out and something will happen and I will make a mental note to tell her later. I bought her and I mnms in Hawaii because of the weird flavor and worried if that was ok and she was happy I had thought of her outside of session because it showed a strong attachment and bond which, for my healing, is necessary.

    But I am not dependent on her. Outside of our sessions even if I think of her or think of reaching out or even feel like I need her – I am not allowed to reach for her. And this is how I think I’ve been able to walk that line of attachment v.s. dependence – her incredibly strong boundaries mean that the relationship stays separated and I have to be independent in many many ways.

    Because this healing work is hard and if they don’t hold boundaries for us, there are some days where I would have crossed the line into dependency.

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    1. I’ve only seen my therapist as “mother” a couple of times, but they were short lived. The rest of the time I just see her as “therapist”. I’m not dependent on her, in the general meaning of the word. But my attachment toward her is very real and extremely powerful. I’ve lived without having her in my life for more than 30 years, so I don’t expect her to save me. I know that only I can do that. However, I DO need her during this healing phase of my life, so reaching out to her, for me, is so important. Like I’ve mentioned before, she’s the only secure attachment I’ve ever had. That connection is one of the most important things for those of us with BPD (according to Marsha Linehan). Marsha says that if a patient (client) feels disconnected from the therapist, it’s okay for that patient to reach out. I don’t reach out nearly as much as I’d like to, because her world doesn’t revolve around me, and I’m capable of going through tough times by myself. So, it’s rare that I actually reach out. It just helps to have that support when I really need it.

      Each therapist is different, and takes different approaches for each client. There’s no one size fits all, so I think they tailor our therapy to what works and is more necessary and healing for each individual client. The boundaries my therapist has, and the way she works with me, I can honestly say is working out very well. 🙂

      Weird flavour M’n’Ms?? 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree wholeheartedly that boundaries look different in different relationships, definitely. Without them things get messy!

        Attachment is an insane feeling. And yes, I totally understand the support. I’m allowed to reach for A, she’s just going to suggest a time to talk haha but that’s good and helpful for me.

        Each relationship in therapy is so unique. ❤️

        And they were coffee flavored! And strawberry flavored.

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  7. I find it hard to know how you could cope without regular consistent sessions in therapy Rayne. And what your therapist is saying strikes me as strange at this point, adult you in the end needs to build a connection with the wounded inner child of the past and that occurs in time when we have consistent holding and validation which is so important in BPD. I have needed twice weekly sessions and I will be honest I really could do with three a week, for when the deep pain comes up you need a lot of support and I need a lot of support with inner voices which try to attack my own therapy.

    I can understand on one level what you therapist is saying but its damaging for you. I think you are strong enough in your recovery to realise a lot of truths, so trust yourself. Feeling upset at what your T said is natural as I too would have taken it as a trigger, its great you can blog about it as you will get more understanding at times from fellow sufferers who are on the path, we all struggle in similar ways. I hope in time you can find some kind of more consistent support as it must be so hard to be in this situation. Sending you love support and a huge hug. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One thing I must say, is that my therapist is very consistent. The situation I’m in at the moment, isn’t. Like I said, she helps to bridge that gap. I can reach out to her if I need to, and she texts me from time to time to check in, which is really very helpful. I couldn’t have asked for a better therapist. I’m looking forward to the day (which I have to hope will come soon) when I can start having weekly sessions. Thanks for the love, support, and hug. ❤

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  8. I feel you…being told by a therapist not to become dependent on him, her or it is terrifying. We tell these people these things because to some of us it’s like sharing a secret that after which we share it with this person, THEY’RE BOUND TO US FOR LIFE. Oh hell no they ain’t going no where with our secrets, our hopes, our pains, etc. And it’s like, if I’m going to share with you…I’m depending on you….”You are now “my person” please don’t leave me…”

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    1. I hear what you’re saying. I like how you said they’re going nowhere with our secrets and hopes. It’s a special bond that we develop with our therapists. And mine is definitely my “person”.

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      1. Awww! I had one once in Austin Texas back in…2013 (when I left my husband for the third time (Bwahahaha!) She was wonderful. I swaer if I could go every single day to talk to her I would have. Insurance wouldn’t cover it. LOL!

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  9. Regarding your dad, I’ve come to know many men like that. They are usually highly defended and closed-off to anything resembling the internal trouble of their lives. They create a faux-manliness that says the things you’ve quoted from your dad. Mostly, they bolster themselves into thinking “I’m strong-willed and tough and YOU aren’t!” One such man, when his wife started to become more assertive, promised to change some things about their relationship if she agreed to stop going to treatment! He was terrified of what she would become and, perhaps then, no longer need him.

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    1. In my opinion, men like this are in denial. They have obvious issues, but either deny them, or think they’re above it all. And above everyone else. Thanks for sharing that story. 🙂

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  10. I think you are right Rayne. It takes a really strong person to go to therapy, it’s the exact opposite of what your dad says. Like Alexis said, I have gone through periods of time where I needed to see my therapist every week, then gone for years without needing it, then gone back when I needed it again. Healing is a life long process, sometimes we can manage it with the tools we learn in therapy, other times we need the extra support. I hope you can go as often as you need. Sending you my love ❤

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  11. Sorry Rayne, wish I had been more careful and sensitive/sensible in my previous comment…

    I feel that being attached to your therapist can be a good thing, especially if you trust him/her and feel safe-secure around them. I know that what I wrote the other day came out wrong and I should’ve been more considerate with my choice of words. Hope you’ll forgive me and that everything’s ok with you. Ciao later xo

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  12. I think some amount of dependence is necessary for the healing process. Being able to depend on your therapist for validation, support, and care shows that you really trust them. Is it possible to depend on them all the time? No, because it’s a boundaried relationship.
    The more you grow and heal, ironically, the less you will have to “depend” on your therapist. That sounds scary now, but it will be less so once you get to that point (which can take a long time- im not there – this is just how T explained it to me).
    When I’ve heard this from therapists it hurts a lot. I think what they mean is that they want you to have some reliable outside supports in addition to them. It sounds like you do (Jasmine, friends, group) so I don’t think you’re in danger of being totally dependent on therapy. And yes, therapy is self-care, just as going to the doctor for immunizations or going to the dentist for routine cleanings is. Xoxo

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    1. I completely agree with you on all of the above. I’m more secure in my relationship with my therapist than I was last year. It’s really been so great having that outside support. I feel more in control of my mental health than I ever had before. So I can definitely see why having more supports is so important. I’ve never had support while growing up and even up until I first started seeing my therapist. And it’s really been making such a difference in my life. Tuesday is my favourite day of the week, because I look forward to going to group, and Thursdays (at least those that I see my therapist on), are also great. 🙂

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  13. I see have two therapy sessions a week and if I didn’t I don’t know where I would be. My therapist has said before the same thing that she doesn’t want me to become dependent on it and I also got angry. I guess because I’m a very independent person so I took that as an insult

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