Building The Therapeutic Relationship

My therapy session last week Wednesday marked a turning point in my relationship with my new therapist. I usually do 30 minute sessions with her, as that way I’m able to see her every week. But I wasn’t ready to leave this time… I wasn’t in a good space. So she said we could stretch it to an hour session. The nice thing about having her work part-time at the clinic is that the patients don’t have set times for sessions. Which was a major problem for me when I was still in there, and after figuring that out, my therapist started giving me rough times for our sessions (+/- an hours difference), which was so much better for me than not knowing at all.

At some point during the session I realized… I’m growing attached to C. I never thought it would happen. It’s terrifying, and was one of the contributing factors to my intense moment on Friday. I had become really good at containing myself when it comes to emails and texts, but had a relapse on Friday, which culminated in me sending her a panicked apology email after the first one I had sent. She was nice about it though, and in her reply told me that I didn’t do anything wrong (I had been convinced I had, and that she would “drop me”). We had a session today, and spoke about it. She told me that she won’t do that to me. She won’t just reject and abandon me. The relief those words bring is profound. Although I still don’t trust her fully just yet, but like she says, it’s a process.

She had asked me last week if I have any items or objects that I use to help soothe and regulate myself, and helps me feel connected to certain important people (like A) or places. I showed her one of the cards that A had sent me (and that I carry everywhere with me), and also that I have a “therapy jacket” from my early days with A that helps with that. When my therapist asked me last week what I can do to take our safe space, that feeling, home with me when I leave, I told her that I can’t seem to hold onto things like that. I jokingly told her I could take her with me though. That was a nice light moment. Before I left today she told me that she has something for me, and after packing out her whole bag (this had me laughing, because as a lot of women know, this is a familiar scene), she handed me a piece of rose quartz. It’s significant because in her office there are some small pot plants and a big rose quartz ornament thing, all of which I love touching and looking at, so she uses them as grounding objects when I dissociate. Anything I can touch and play with helps significantly. So I loved that she gave me that, because it reminds me of that space and of her. When I got home I just crashed onto my bed, got under my weighted blanket, put on an episode of a series I’m watching and just held onto that stone the entire time. I decided to just listen to my body, no work, no nothing, just watch TV for as long as I wanted and take a much-needed nap. When I hold this stone I feel calm and soothed. I can’t believe how much it helps. It has the energy it’s intended to have.

I sent A an email last week. She told me that she doesn’t want me to feel guilty or have regret at having moved to C. That she agreed and supported my decision, and that she was proud of me for taking that step. Those words meant so much to me. I realized how much guilt and fear I have been holding onto. Reading those words felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. “It’s okay”.

I haven’t been doing well lately. Life is too much for me to handle right now. So many things are going wrong. Yesterday and today I’ve been angry at the whole world. Myself included. And I’m not too sure where all this rage and hatred is coming from. I’m aware that I’m being irrational in some moments, but I’m struggling to find a more balanced and mature way to handle things. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m angry. What I’m really angry at or about. I’ve had intense cravings and desires to relive the drug and alcohol filled days of my 20’s. Just one of the reasons I’m angry at myself. During today’s session I threw something across the room (nothing that could break) and punched the wall. Essentially throwing a teenage tantrum. I was relieved when my therapist didn’t yell at me, and there was no negative reaction from her, which helped calm me down. Maybe a part of me wanted her to yell at me. Maybe I wanted a reason to hate her and not feel the attachment. I apologized and told her that I’m not angry with her, which she said she knew. I spent the rest of the session just crying. I’ve been filled with so much anger the past couple of days and when I would start to feel tears coming and the anger dying down, I’d resist. But in the session, I just couldn’t anymore. I know it’s okay to cry. I know it isn’t good to shove it down. But still, I couldn’t break through that wall until today.

I just feel exhausted now. All that pent-up energy is gone and I feel like sleeping for a couple of days. I’m thinking of taking tomorrow off work. And that means all work, not just from my office job. I’ve been trying to do too much and solve too many problems that I just don’t have the strength for right now. I need to take care of myself.

This post seems to be a little all over the place, but I couldn’t be bothered about that, so it is what it is. I need to process and my brain isn’t functioning at optimal level.

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A Good Therapy Session

I’m feeling a bit better today. Clearer. Less confused.

Last night I went to group and during the break I saw C on her way out. I had been feeling a little overwhelmed during group, and without even thinking about it, I ran to catch up to her. I had no plan. So when the first words out of my mouth were “I want A”, I was surprised. I can’t really remember much of what happened next. I vaguely remember C saying something and asking me questions, but it’s all a blur. I had sent her a message the day before telling her that I want to cancel our session for this week. I had bumped into her just before group as well, and told her that we could have a session next week instead. What I remember very clearly during these weird few minutes during group break, was asking whether we can still have our session today.

So that’s how I wound up in her office this afternoon. I spilled the beans, and told her everything I mentioned in my previous post. My doubts, self-doubt. Thoughts. Feelings. All of it. And C validated me every step of the way, which just made opening up easier.

She asked me what had happened the previous evening. What had changed between me seeing her an hour earlier and being adamant about not having our scheduled session, to my request to have the session after all? That one stumped me. After a little introspection, it hit me. Attachment pain (as one of my fellow bloggers puts it). The OT I had worked with last year was facilitating the group last night. The first time in months. During group I had been fighting that feeling of attachment, among other things going on in the group. Missing A and wanting to go back to her hadn’t left, and the two situations fed off one another, culminating in a big attachment mess in my mind.

The reason I had initially canceled our session was because I felt I needed more time to figure this shit out. I have also been wary of how things were going and didn’t want to deal with C this week. It came out during the session that another reason was that in my mind she was the “bad object” (she used this term) I wanted to get distance from.

Just as an aside: This is very hard for me, but instead of referring to her as “C” like I’ve been doing up to this point, I’m going to refer to her as “my therapist”. I’ve realized that’s one way I’ve been keeping her at an emotional distance, so I need to change this.

Anyway, we spoke about a lot of things in only 45 minutes (it was supposed to be a 30-minute session, but we went over) that have come up since we started working together, including the relationship. One of the things I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my therapist hugging another client, came up too. She actually brought it up, which I was grateful for, since that was one of the things I wanted to discuss with her. She said that A and I had established boundaries over the course of our relationship. It had been a process. Painful and frustrating at times. But I settled into it eventually, and it became the norm. I was used to those boundaries. To the way things worked. I knew what was acceptable, what wasn’t. And now some things work and look different. So it’s normal that I’m feeling confused, unsure, and insecure. She said that whenever there’s a threat to a structure I’m comfortable with, that’s when I become unsettled. She mentioned a few other instances of this (things I haven’t written about). One of them is the time she came into my room when I was still in the clinic, to see one of my roommates (who didn’t want to come down to her session). Things like this that threw me off and sent me into meltdown/tantrum mode. When she said this, it just all clicked into place. It cleared up the confusion I had around these times. About what was happening inside me.

As the session progressed, I found myself softening toward her. I told her that I feel like I abandoned A, and that I didn’t do things the right way. But I’ll send A an email about this when she gets back (I see she’s currently away on leave). The more I spoke about her, the sadder I felt. At some point I switched and felt anger toward her for being away on leave. “again“. My therapist pointed out that A had suddenly become the “bad object” and she, C, the good one. That’s when I started crying. She was right. And I hadn’t even been aware of it until she mentioned it. Her tone of voice changed to soft and gentle, which only made me cry harder. She told me that it’s okay and possible to have two “good objects” at the same time. I remember A had also pointed out how I tend to do that.

So much of what my therapist had said this session made so much sense. So many things seemed to fall into place.

Today was the first time I felt she was really in tune with me. The first time I actually felt some real connection to her. In the short time I’ve been seeing her, she’s taken a lot of crap from me, and always handled it amazingly well. No matter how much I’ve acted out, she remains calm, patient, and surprisingly, compassionate. She deserves a medal for that. As does A, although I was more “well behaved” with her.

This was truly the most valuable and insightful session I’ve had since starting with my new therapist. Which gives me hope for future sessions. So I’ve decided that I’m going to stick with it. With her. I hadn’t realized until today that I had actually subconsciously been fighting against her. And as she mentioned again, it will always remain my choice to be there. If I decide I want to go back to A, that will be okay. Even though I feel better now about working with her, it feels even better knowing the option, the choice, is still mine, and there.

Things still don’t feel quite “in place”. I’m hurting a lot, and it’s extremely hard right now. But at least after today, things seem to be moving forward in a positive way with this situation. All I can do is give it time, and truly try to give this my all.

I Don’t Know What To Do

There’s been chaos inside my mind. It’s a battlefield in there. I have to make a decision, and the sooner the better.

Do I stay in therapy with C? Or do I go back to A?

I think I already know what I want to do, but I’m terrified that I make the wrong decision. After all, my track record when it comes to decisions doesn’t seem to be very good. I can be convinced of one thing for a while, but then something changes, and suddenly I’m thrown for a loop. So I think the biggest issue here is that I’m too scared to trust myself. So when I say I don’t know what to do, I mean it.

When I started therapy with C, she said that we could try it out for a while, and if it doesn’t work for me, I can always resume therapy with A. And the truth is that the more time goes by, the more sessions I have, the more I want to go back. Why am I holding back though, while nearly every part of me wants to run back to my favourite person? Because I’m still trying to figure out if I’m doing it for the right reasons.

Maybe I don’t need to figure it out. I couldn’t have known some of the things I now know. I’m just scared of messing people around. I know therapy is about me, but it’s still me that I have to do right by. I care about people, and I need to know that my decisions are what’s best for me, while also respecting and keeping others in mind. That’s just how I work best. And it’s how I live with myself.

There are obvious benefits to staying with C, but most of them are surface level things, and won’t do much good if certain other conditions aren’t met. With A, right from the beginning, it felt like a perfect fit. With C, I’m struggling to connect. There seem to be too many elements missing. I’ve realized over the past few days just how vital the therapeutic relationship is for growth, change, and healing. Well, I’ve always known that, but more so lately. Now that I don’t feel there’s much of a relationship in my current therapy. Is this my fault? Or is it just how it is?

I don’t feel like anything is happening with C. It doesn’t seem as though she’s actually helping. I’m not even sure what we’re doing. What the purpose of our sessions are. A seemed in tune with me most of the time, right from the beginning, and she has a brilliant mind (which fascinates me). Our sessions were challenging, interesting and insightful, and I had a lot of “aha” moments. I haven’t had any such moments with my new therapist.

Sure, I’ll talk to C about this. But I don’t know what that will accomplish. She’ll probably just tell me it’s my choice. I don’t feel like I can tell her some of what I wrote here. Maybe that’s part of the problem. I don’t know. My new therapist is lovely, but I don’t know if we’re the right “fit”. I feel like I’ve lost the most important person in my life. The person who knows me better than anyone. Who’s been there for me through so much. Who has helped me so much.

The one person I really want to talk to about this is A. I can give her the full story. But, because this is life, she’s exactly the one person I can’t talk to about this. At least not now. So I feel stuck.

I Don’t Want to Hug You, But They Can’t Either

Since the weekend I’ve started having stronger emotions coming to the forefront. Mostly sadness. I’ve contemplated getting into contact with Elizabeth again, thinking that maybe I’m ready to resume a friendship. I’ve been feeling the loss more. So maybe now isn’t such a great time. I’ve also been struggling with thoughts of “I made a mistake” ending therapy with A. I’ve been struggling with self-doubt these past few days. I’ve been missing A a lot. Not just missing her personally, but also missing our work together.

I had a therapy session with C yesterday. While I was sitting waiting for my appointment, she came out with another woman, who I assumed was a client. This woman hugged her goodbye, and in that instant I felt something. Jealousy and anger. They weren’t intense emotions, but not very subtle either. When I got into C’s office, I asked her whether that woman was a client, and it turns out it was. I had hoped that it was a friend instead.

Naturally, C asked me what I was experiencing. What had that situation triggered in me? I struggled for a while to communicate my thoughts, as I was also feeling confused. I wasn’t quite sure what I was experiencing, or why. I don’t feel this incredible connection with C, so why did it bother me that another client hugged her? I ended up leading her down a different road to what I only later realized wasn’t the whole truth. It wasn’t intentional. But it at least gave us some material to work with, so I don’t feel too bad. I’m going to bring up the subject again in our next session though. She was really on the money when she said that it seems to her that I just want to feel cared for today (yesterday). To know that I’m loved. When she said that, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. I hadn’t even really consciously been aware of it until she said it, and I realized how right she was. And I still want that today.

On Monday I wanted to send A an email telling her that I’ve been thinking about returning to therapy with her, but that I’m not sure if I should. That I’m confused. But I didn’t send it. I could just imagine her saying “that would be inappropriate” with regards to sending her such an email, since C is my therapist and I should be talking to her about these things. So I just ended up sending A a quick text message to say hi. It helps so much just knowing that she’s still around, and we can still communicate. I just wish I could see her again.

I didn’t talk to C about this yesterday. It’s on my agenda for the next session. What happened yesterday, how I felt, just made me even more confused than I’ve already been lately. I also feel fear somewhere inside, but I’m not sure where it comes from and why it’s there.

With regards to whether she allows hugs, she told me that she doesn’t mind hugging her clients or her clients hugging her, as long as she doesn’t think it’s going to do them more harm that good. And as long as it’s with express consent. Then she asked me what I need then and there, and if I would ask if I want/need something. I told her that most of the time I’m too scared to explicitly ask for something, like a hug for example. But that I do sometimes ask… I’ve become better at it. In that moment, I didn’t want a hug from her. I didn’t want to hug her. Even after our session, I just thanked her for the session and left. It had been one of those days where I didn’t want to be touched by anyone, and even being close enough to touch felt overwhelming. So, I didn’t want a hug. But I didn’t want her other clients to get one either. Messed up, I know.

My roommates in the clinic haven’t been in contact with me. I sent them each a couple of messages, and they replied, but days later, and with messages that can’t even really be seen as a proper reply. The worst part is that I saw they went somewhere together last weekend. I know I said that I understood that this might happen, and that it would be okay. But that “no care” attitude is gone, and has been replaced with feelings of rejection. I’ve removed them from my contacts. I’m not going to run after people anymore.

I feel a little lost. Lost. Alone. Sad.

A Heartbreaking, But (Relatively) Peaceful Decision

I’ve been wanting to write this post since my therapy session last Tuesday, but have been hard at work making a website for a client. Once I’m busy with a website or graphic design, I lose track of time and before I know it, hours have passed. I’m definitely made for this field of work. It feels good.

I spent the weekend locked up in my room, working on the website, doing lots of reading, and other activities that I enjoy. It was a nice, relaxing weekend, and I was enjoying my time alone.

As most of you already know, I was seeing another psychologist during my two weeks in the clinic. The medical aid wouldn’t cover Skype sessions with my usual therapist, and my psychiatrist suggested C.

For those who don’t know, I met my lovely therapist more than two years ago, when I was still in the city I lived in with my ex of four years. It was a toxic relationship, and I was at rock bottom. That led to me meeting my therapist. When I left my relationship and moved to this city, my therapist thought it would be in my best interest to continue seeing me via Skype, rather than referring me to someone here. I was very attached to her, and like she mentioned in our last session, I would have stayed in a bad relationship just to keep seeing her for therapy. It’s worked beautifully for two years.

When I was in the clinic last year, I refused to see a different therapist, so just didn’t see anyone. I was only there for about five days anyway. This time I agreed to see someone for the duration of my time there. When my psychiatrist told me about C, and that she’d be a good fit for me, I agreed to give it a try. I saw C about five times while I was there. From the get go I told her I have a therapist who I’m happy with, so this would just be for while I was in the clinic. She assured me that she’s not there to replace my current therapist. Once that was out of the way, I felt better about the situation.

But during these sessions I realized something. There’s something different about face-to-face sessions. When I went to visit my mom last year, and got to see my therapist in person again, I had felt that difference. I know a lot of body language gets lost over Skype video calls, which is one of the disadvantages of this form of communication. I find it difficult to read people’s facial expressions, so I think I rely more on the body language apart from the face. There’s a certain sense of “safety” being able to see all of a person, I guess.

Doing therapy over Skype, I’m still in my home environment. A place I don’t particularly feel safe in. Where I’m always aware that someone could come into my room at any moment. Where there are interruptions from a family member from time to time. Sitting in that room in the clinic where I had my sessions with C, I felt safe and contained.

For some reason, when I’m in a face to face session, I feel more emotionally expressive and open than I do over Skype. It’s as if the computer screen/web cam dulls or even cuts off my emotions somehow. It’s weird. I don’t understand it. Maybe it’s not about the “mode” of therapy, but the environment I’m engaging in therapy in? Anyway, whatever it is, the experience is very different.

With C, I didn’t feel that instant connection like I did with my usual therapist. But I still felt quite safe in her presence, which is saying a lot. Over the next few sessions though, I felt more of a connection, but I have a special bond with Therapist that I don’t have with C, and don’t think I ever will have.

At some point during my stay in the clinic I found myself wondering whether it wouldn’t be better for me to continue to see C as an outpatient, and stop therapy with A (my usual therapist). For some reason that thought didn’t send me into a blind panic the way it would have just a few months ago. A few months ago I wouldn’t have even considered this. But somehow, now, it just made more sense. Of course, I felt a great sadness as well during this decision-making progress. But I also felt a peace about it.

I had my last session with A last Tuesday. Near the end I started questioning myself, and when the session was over, I went into panic mode. What the hell had I just done? What if I just made the biggest mistake of my life? But the rational side had a voice as well, albeit a quieter one. I had thought this through for a while, and I did make the best decision for myself at this point in time.

A was amazing as always. She told me that her door will always be open to me. In my second session with her more than two years ago, she told me she wouldn’t abandon me. And she’s holding true to that. I have the option to come back to her any time. I’m also allowed to continue sending her messages. To stay in contact. My safe person is still there. She’s not abandoning me. If it had been any other way, I wouldn’t have been able to let go. I would have rather stayed with her.

This was a hard decision, and I think I’m still processing it. Or at least navigating my way through it. My mind has been occupied this weekend with work and making myself feel good. I haven’t really gone “there” completely.

I had a session with C today. I told her that I’m not sure how I’m feeling about all of this (other than knowing I did the right thing). For a week I’ve shut myself away and had no desire for human companionship. I just wanted to be alone. I still feel that way. I had put my phone on silent and away from me for 4 days. It was pure bliss.

Anyway, in today’s session, C said something that made complete sense to me. I may have been shutting myself away a bit, but I was also taking care of myself. I’ve gone through two major relationship changes recently (including Elizabeth) so it’s normal to want to be alone and not have to deal with my other relationships just now. She was glad that I went out with a friend for a couple of hours yesterday though. So I’m not pushing people away, I’m just taking much more time for myself.

I saw my psychiatrist when I left C’s office, and she gave me a big hug, which made me feel good and happy. So that was really nice.

I’m feeling a little empty tonight and life feels a bit strange right now.

Love In The Therapeutic Relationship

Now this is an awkward topic, right? Which is why I haven’t written about it yet. I’ve been meaning to for quite a while now, but I couldn’t get myself to start. After the in-person session I had with my therapist last week Monday, I feel the time is right. There’s nothing strange with what I’m writing about, it’s just that not everyone is as comfortable with this topic as I am. I get it. I was there too. In fact, even though it’s so much easier for me to explore this these days, I still feel a little vulnerable. But that’s why I love my blog space. I can be as open and honest as I want without anyone seeing the different shades of red spreading across my face when I share certain things. “Red suits you”, one of my friends recently said after she kissed me on the cheek. In my defense, we’ve been friends for over 21 years, and she’s never done anything like that. She’s one of those “anti-touch” people.

So. I love my therapist. She knows this, as I’ve told her a couple of times in the past. I once asked her whether that was okay. Trust me when I tell you, it’s okay. I haven’t said those words to her since last year, but there have been a few times where I’ve almost blurted out again “I love you”, but didn’t. I wasn’t quite on the “knowing what I actually mean” path yet.

The love I felt for her has taken on different meanings throughout the first year of working with her. The “in what way?” question had been a source of confusion during much of that time. A few sessions into our first couple of months working together, I had a little bit of a crush on her. Okay, maybe a big one. There was also a time where I thought I might actually be in love with her, or getting there. I told you…Awkward. Plenty of times, I thought that loving her is wrong. That I’m not supposed to. Not allowed to. That it’s inappropriate. The natural consequence of those thoughts was shame. And a lot of it.

Sometime last year, I went through a stage where I had a few intimate dreams of her. They confused me. I told her about one or two of them, but never went into detail of course. It’s intimidating and so scary to bring these kinds of dreams and feelings to our therapists. Wondering what’s wrong with us, and feeling ashamed and embarrassed. But it’s nothing they haven’t heard before. Those feelings can be so big sometimes, and it’s important to talk about it. I’m guilty of not always having spoken to her about some of those feelings. But I know I’ll be able to if something ever comes up again. After all, I need to practice what I preach, right?

I once told my therapist that I love her as a person. A fellow human being. But that’s very broad isn’t it? After all, I only get to see the professional Clinical Psychologist side of her (with little bits of self-disclosure thrown into the mix every now and then). But, it’s still her. Maybe I don’t get to see the other roles she plays outside the therapy room, such as that of wife, daughter, friend, etc. But I also get to see her in her role as therapist, which they don’t get to see.

“I love coffee.”
“I love my friends.”
“I love my parents.”
“I love my partner.”
“I love my children.”
“I love my pet/s.”

Love. One word to represent different forms of it. So I’m going to call this form “therapy love”.

I feel like I’ve grown in the love I feel for her. I’m finally in a comfortable, secure place, where it just makes perfect sense. It’s not the kind of love shared between partners, parents, children or friends. It’s a love of its own. But it’s not less than those other forms. The therapeutic relationship is unique and not the typical kind of relationship, but it’s still a relationship. And the same is true of the love that we feel inside that relationship. I know a lot of you love your therapists this way too.

Then there’s the love that the youngest parts feel. I think it comes out of how children might feel about their main attachment figure? I’m not sure. I can’t remember if I felt anything about my earliest attachment to my mom. The earliest memories I have of her is when I was about 3 or 4 I think. But I also don’t remember much from those years and those after. Just little (and big) things here and there. But the love for my therapist that comes from those little parts feels different. Attachment love maybe?

Seeing my therapist again last Monday was amazing. When she came to get me, the minute I saw her face, it felt as though my heart just lit up. It was so nice being back in her office. It was familiar, with that “home” feeling. I like the fact that she has couches, and not just chairs. Like with my psychiatrist and OT, it felt a little awkward sitting in those chairs. I also find it intimidating because you have someone sitting right in front of you, whereas the way my therapist’s couches are arranged, you don’t get that “she’s staring me down” vibes. It’s comfortable and makes the space feel less clinical, and more welcoming.

I brought a lot to her that session. Way too much. I was emotional and jumped from one topic to the next. I was extremely ungrounded. So I gave her too much to work with, or too little. But at least now I understand (after she explained it to me), how the way I want therapy to work won’t provide long-term benefits. I might feel better for a few hours afterward, but that’s not the goal. I’ve always felt that maybe I’m doing therapy wrong. But there isn’t a wrong. It’s a learning journey as well. And now I understand her view better, and it makes so much more sense. Now I know better how to approach our sessions. Strangely, I feel more in control, like there’s a clear structure to work with. I’ve always tried to squeeze as much into a session as possible, because it feels time pressured due to the fact that I don’t see her every week. I feel like our most productive sessions have been when we’ve stuck with one topic though, and I know she feels the same way about this. I prefer it that way, so will give up on the “time pressure”.

Sometime during the session, my therapist asked “what do you want?”. In that moment, every part of me wanted to say “can you please come sit next to me? Hug me?” Of course I didn’t ask that. I’m very aware of boundaries these days, and I especially don’t want to cross any of her personal boundaries.

Near the end of the session, I wanted to show my therapist some of the pictures that I had taken while visiting with my mom, sisters, aunt and uncle. By that time I was feeling much more grounded. I like how she always seems so interested in seeing the pictures that I take. Last year, during one of the sessions we had when I was still living in the same city as her, I also showed her a picture (of me when I was a little girl- moody as hell), but I just handed her the phone where she was sitting. This time though, she actually moved to the furthest end of her couch, so she was close to mine. That surprised me (in a good way of course). One of the other reasons why I didn’t ask her whether she could come sit by me, was because I was also holding onto shame (so what else is new dammit), and therefore felt untouchable, unlovable and hideous. Why would she want to sit close to me? Why would anyone? Stupid inner voice. That one little action, of her moving closer, made a world of difference. It felt as though she broke through another one of my defenses. I have so many, I don’t even know all of them. Most are (probably) subconscious.

At some point I had the urge to draw, colour in, paint, etc. Why, I have no idea. My therapist let me borrow some paper and her pencil, and I got to it. It was so small, just took up a little space in the corner. I drew one thing on top of the other. No one would have been able to decipher that and know what the hell I had just drawn. But I know, so that’s what matters.

At the end of our session, I started to feel a little emotional again. I didn’t want to leave. But of course, I had to. Don’t you just hate that? As we were walking out, I wanted to ask my therapist whether I could hug her, but felt too shy to ask. But I knew that if I didn’t, I would probably regret it for a long, long time, and beat myself up over it. And then without thinking about it any further, I just came out and asked if I can give her a hug. She said “of course” and when she said it that way, I knew she was comfortable with it then, and I felt relieved. And my favourite part was when she said “I’ll give you one”. I loved that! It was the most special, meaningful hug I’ve ever had. A hug from the person that I never thought I’d ever get to be that close to.

It feels like my connection to her, that bond, has deepened. Which I didn’t think was even possible. I felt loved and valued. She really cares about me. And that’s such an amazing, warm, and soothing feeling.

So…

I love my therapist.

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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