Therapy clients often feel sheepish


My therapist DS (Deep Soul) definitely cares about me. I have come to this realisation after blogging about our last session and how devastated I was that he had kept me at a distance. It was one of those moments when things are so emotional that you are blind to your own issues and first need to vent before being able to think straight.

To the bloggers who are either in therapy, therapists or just emotionally intelligent: Your insightful and objective comments as outsiders gave me a lot to think about. Thank you for being there, not judging and also giving me the space to come to what now seems obvious.

My more rational and gathered thoughts about Monday’s session are as follows:

– I went into the session with two opposing expectations. On the one hand, I expected him to be there for me and comfort me, when my dad had not. On the other, I was expecting him to be exactly like my dad and disappoint me.

– I think DS kept a clinical distance with his neutral tone of voice and unaffected demeanor because he did not want to enter a dynamic playing out in the moment.

– He was being a good therapist by giving me the space to fully feel the overwhelming fear, panic, sadness and anger that seemed to emerge out of nowhere. He was allowing these feelings to discharge their energy.

– Not rushing to alleviate my abandonment fears allowed him to observe me and listen to what I had to say, in order to get a better understanding of why I was feeling this way.

– As far as I understand, he was basically allowing the negative transference to strengthen. He then timed his interventions to make me aware of the similarities between how I was feeling about him and how I had felt with my mom and dad, two major attachment figures.

– He did not rush in to offer comfort because that is not his job. By standing back, he was trying to allow me to sit with the discomfort and build the capacity to do that by myself in future.

– When he did not answer my question about whether he had thought of me during our break, he might have been extra icy and seemingly detached to tease out the anger and rage that I’ve been too scared to unleash.

– He put the transference needs above the needs of our therapeutic relationship. While research shows the relationship as being the most reliable marker of therapy success, I think he took the risk because he knew it would pay off.

– The risk was that I might think he was such an absolute asshole that our relationship would be irrevocably damaged and I would cancel all sessions. (But I think that would more likely have happened with an avoidantly attached client and not an anxiously attached one)

– I don’t think it was easy for him to see me in such pain and to indirectly cause me more pain in the moment by not responding as I had wanted.

Sheep have feelings too…

I am satisfied with these findings and they resonate on a cognitive level. They are starting to sink in on an emotional level. If he had responded as a friend or family member, we would have lost a good opportunity to advance my therapeutic goals. Could I go so far to say that he was giving me tough love? (And I hate to use the L word here because I cannot even comprehend that would be his feelings for a mere client)

Yes, I am only human and I am still feeling very raw. And it does hurt to expose a wounded heart. There is also an emotional pain volcano inside my torso that I have to deal with. After erupting on Monday, it’s now at the point where it’s bubbling and simmering slowly.

DS said that even though he was going away this weekend and would be taking Monday and Tuesday off, he would let me know if an evening session opened up on Wednesday. Failing that, I would see him in two weeks time.

While I was wiping my snot and streaked mascara from my face, he also said he thinks I am being too hard on myself by expecting progress all the time. When I think of how he dealt with me, it actually just strengthens the warm feelings I have for him as a therapist. Which creates a dilemma in the sense that my attachment to him has now only strengthened. It’s going to be a bitch to eventually say goodbye.


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22 thoughts on “Therapy clients often feel sheepish

  1. Hope says:

    This all makes perfect sense to me.

    The most helpful therapist I ever had was a psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapist who was big on the blank slate approach. It was really hard to adjust to that. I mean, god, I spent at least the first year of therapy with her convinced that she hated me, and I spent a lot of time sitting silently, staring at her Oriental rug and becoming more and more convinced that she hated me.

    But it meant that when she did do or say something that showed she cared, it was even more meaningful. I lost most of my memory of the two years I was in therapy with her (an unfortunate side effect of ECT I had a couple years later), but several of the few clear memories I have of that time are instances where she demonstrated how much she understood me and cared about me.

    But even those moments didn’t always make it easier to endure the times when I was sure she hated me. I will say, though, that it did help on at least an intellectual level to hold those times in mind during the times where I felt very disconnected from her. I don’t know of any of that will resonate with you…just my experience, in case it’s of any use to you.

    • Jay says:

      Oh my word Hope that’s exactly how I feel with the periods of silence and the neutral face expression! But yours sounded extreme. You poor thing.

      However, as you say, it really does highlight the times they go out of their way to be kind or caring, especially if those memories stick even after ECT.

      I think you hit the nail on the head with perceived disconnection. I think we automatically feel traumatised as humans when we can’t connect with another. Reminds me of attachment theory and the “stillface experiment” with babies. Have you seen that video on Youtube? I feel distressed for those babies whenever I watch the video.

      Thanks for your input!

  2. I really love all the images you choose Jay. This post and the last one especially…They remind me that image is our native way of communicating.

    When I am having inner turmoil I often thrust myself into my photography and art (even just fingerpainting!!) to transmute the tension into something greater (or just more colorful haha)…Images move me…Your way with words is of course impressive, but your ability to choose such poignant images really touches me as well. ❤

    Wishing you Strength and Love on your journey….

    • Jay says:

      Thank you so much Amanda!! To be honest, I’ve recently started using paintings a lot more as they just seem to exude very special vibes or traces of what the artist was thinking and feeling in the moment.

      I like the idea of fingerpainting… can’t remember the last time I was so carefree that I got my fingers dirty and let them do the talking on paper. You’ve given me something to try out!

      Keep growing and can’t wait to catch up on your next post xx

  3. velvetmp says:

    Yes yes yes. You got it 🙂

  4. Well done on excellent reflecting. XXXXX

    • Jay says:

      Thank you DB 🙂 At the moment I am reflecting my intellectual and cognitive truth. I guess what makes attachment issues so hard is that our emotional truth can sometimes feel so at odds with logic. I need to speak to DS about this!

      • I know what you mean. Seriously, I found it difficult to find the right words in therapy today. I “knew” I felt abandoned by my therapist but I also “knew” it was perfectly reasonable for a professional to take some time off. (I figured out late last night there will be five weeks between my last appt before he goes on leave, and my first one after he’s back; five sounds an unseemly amount bigger than four and a half!).

      • Jay says:

        Exactly. And having both knowledges exist alongside is confusing and personally makes me feel either crazy or irrational. And then I don’t want to open my mouth and say anything because I don’t want my words to be misinterpreted. It’s tricky. Five weeks is a LONG time and does sound more intimidating than four and a half (which technically sounds like it’s four weeks). Don’t take this the wrong way but I just had a thought about how difficult it must be for therapists when they decide to take leave. They probably already anticipate the amount of upheaval and distress that their absence will cause some of their patients and try to formulate how best to break the news to each one in a way that doesn’t re-tramautize or minimise. In that respect, I am glad I never became a therapist! Sounds so difficult.

      • Today we spoke a lot about the relationship: it’s constructed and professional, but it also has to be authentic to work; it’s bound by rules, regulations and conventions, but there has to be a true connection for the patient to allow themselves to become vulnerable – which is the purpose of the exercise; it’s when the soft pink underbelly of rawness is explored that progress happens. It’s a complicated beast, all right. The level of self-control required by a psychodynamic therapist to manage all that and not become overly invested in their patients must be incredible. At the moment, I’m trying to work on exploring angry feelings I might have towards my therapist. It’s something we’ve been working on for ages. It was hard, but today I did say how I felt about him going away for so long – hurt, abandoned, sad, rejected, angry – and I hated myself for saying it, because it’s perfectly reasonable for someone to take time off work!!! I *know* that. But it had to be said; that’s the nature of the work we do. I knew I could trust my therapist to handle it. I have faith that he could handle it.
        (As I’m typing this, I’m wondering: “But what if I damaged him?” – as you know, I had a bad therapy experience in the past which still haunts me, and am afraid of being “dumped” by a therapist again.)
        It’s truly the stuff of the heart.

      • Jay says:

        Thank you for sharing what’s been going on for you at the moment. It does make me feel a bit more normal. It really makes my heart pang that your bad therapy experience still haunts you 😦 I hope its grip becomes less and less powerful as time goes on with your current therapist xx

  5. Your self-awareness really shines through in this post. How long exactly before you see him again? Are we in the same boat? 13 more days for me… :-/

    • Jay says:

      Wow what a compliment. It means a lot.

      We are almost in the same boat. I am 10 days and counting. But with the possibility of a session midweek if one opens up. Have you finished Grosz’s book yet? 🙂

  6. velvetmp says:

    Hey Jay I just wanted to thank you for all your support on my blog. I appreciate it. I’m new at this. T

  7. How are you holding up?

  8. Paul Mahlum says:

    Your post reminds me how emotionally intense a session came become and how intense our relationship to the therapist becomes.

  9. Wow! What you said totally resonated with me! I explained to my therapist a situation regarding a former friend and I wanted a cheering section. I wanted her to agree with me and basically respond back like a friend would. I then said I’m talking to you like I would talk to my friends. She said I am not your friend. .I’m your therapist. I felt hurt but could understand her position in not being biased. I still would have liked her to agree with me at that time that I wanted. My shit I am working on. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jay says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I think many people in therapy can relate to having these moments and it can feel painful because our therapists come to mean something to us. However, I do believe that keeping the boundaries clear is what allows us to grow and heal.

  10. Jesus I just read SO many similarities from your rupture(?) and mine…. I also went in with some news hoping for my T to respond better than my mum would have BUT also expecting her to act the same as my mum would… ANDDDD my T said she fell into a re-enactment with me (which your T avoided)…. thank you for helping me to understand this xx

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