Monthly Archives: March 2015

Goodbye DS

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My heart has not felt this much pain in a long time. My most wonderful, kind and helpful therapist DS is leaving. I am in shock.

He broke the news when I walked into our session on Wednesday night. I entered in the best mood he’s probably seen me in the last two years. We sat down and he said he had something big to share.

“I am going to be closing my practice in August and I am moving overseas for training and study opportunities.” (Or at least this is what I remember hearing. And it was probably said in a much gentler way). I felt like I was dreaming. Surely he couldn’t be leaving. Could this be another of my common abandonment dreams that I hadn’t yet woken from? There I sat on the couch, trying to process what he had just said. I was too shocked to cry immediately.

And then the emotions rose to the surface… joy, pride, sadness, despair, confusion and to a lesser degree, anger. The tears started pouring down my face as I opened up to him.

“I am so proud of you DS. What an amazing opportunity. Wow,” I said, meaning every single word. I felt like a proud parent. It was a courageous move to leave behind the familiar and his friends and family. At this, his eyes welled up and he broke out into a beautiful, genuine smile. I sensed this was extremely difficult for him and I told him I wouldn’t like to be the one to have to break the news to all his clients. It would suck to be in his position, knowing his move would hurt some people.

I had a ton of questions.

– Will you start a private practice over there? [yes]

– Are you taking your dog with? [yes]

– When do we begin termination? [when would you like to start, he asks. I tell him I honestly hadn’t thought about it and surely he knows more than I do]

And then the implications of the move hit me and I crumpled into my lap. We would have to say goodbye to each other. Not only was he leaving us but leaving the country too. He would be very far away, with no chance of bumping into him. He would be as good as dead. My whole body hurt at the realisation. It made me feel less alone that DS also seemed sad and had tears in his eyes.

How is possible to feel so happy for him and yet so sad and lost? Perhaps the adult and child part of me feel differently about this? I haven’t slept well since the news (just when sleep was getting better) and I find myself weeping at random moments of the day.

This sucks so bad.

Like it or not, DS is re-enacting what my dad did when I was four. My parents divorced, he left the house without much warning and I didn’t see him often after that. I need to find a way in the time we have left to re-frame this departure so it doesn’t scar me in future. I don’t know how but I remain optimistic.

I have to admit that a small part of me was relieved when DS told me he was leaving. It made me feel less crazy. I just KNEW something big was happening in his life and that he would be leaving. Call it intuition. I’ve felt that way for at least six months. Every time I shared my feeling that DS was going to leave, he acted surprised or calm. Either I sensed something before he did or he knew and was still deciding whether to move. My gut tells me he has been planning this for at least a  year. One doesn’t just decide on the spur of the moment to move your entire life to another country. My gut also tells me he is moving for love, and not just for his career. But I have absolutely no way of knowing this for sure. It’s just something I feel. I think growing up in a house where I was on alert all the time honed my super-sensory skills. I just wish I could call on those skills at will.

The next four months are going to be quite tough. All I know is that I don’t want to see another therapist after DS leaves. He was my first therapist and I honestly can’t imagine sharing that private space with anyone else. It would feel tainted.

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Am I overreacting?

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Please tell me whether I am overreacting. I need outside perspective from those who are familiar with the therapy process.

DS informed me at the end of last year that we would need to change our session from a Monday evening to a Wednesday evening because he was taking on new commitments. In our first session this year, he said we could keep the same day and time for now but that Wednesday would be a possibility in the near future. A few weeks ago, he confirmed it would be changing and we met yesterday in our new session time. I shuffled things around a bit to make it happen, knowing that the sacrifices were worth it because I really valued what I was getting from therapy and that it was important enough to me. I am more sensitive to change than normal and it takes me a while to digest how things might be different.

I arrive at our new session slot last night and DS poses himself in such a way on the chair that I know he is going to announce something. He tells me that he is phasing out his evening sessions and asks whether I will be available sometime during the day or just after 5pm. He knows from our previous negotiations with session days and times (we’ve been through this three times in the last 22 months), that it’s almost impossible to meet during the day or just after 5pm because my job is hectic and unpredictable.

I was shocked that he was changing things up as soon as in our first new session. It made no sense why he would prepare me to meet on a Wednesday evening and then tell me in that first new slot that actually he doesn’t want to work evenings anymore. It seems like an unnecessary disturbance.

The phasing out of his evening session seems unfair to me given that he suggested it in the first place. Once we changed from a weekend slot to a weekday slot, he created a reasonable assumption that that would be available to me for as long as I needed it. To me, removing his evening slot is based entirely on his needs, not on mine. Don’t get me wrong… I cannot overstate how much I imagine he has to deal with and how he may need more time outside of his therapy role to remain healthy.

But for once, I don’t want to have to think about his needs before mine, something which already happens in our alliance. I am dealing with the grief of losing my job, the huge anticipation and nerves around a new job, trying to finish up my Masters thesis, awaiting the outcome of a serious professional issue that arose from a genuine mistake and could threaten my reputation, and worrying about my dad’s health. To be honest, I don’t feel like myself at all and am finding it a challenge to cope. I feel very vulnerable.

Given that he knows how much I am going through, is it harmless to shake up the therapeutic frame and take away that secure base? And is it fair to put the spotlight back on the therapy process when he recently noted that he wonders what has been happening for me in daily life because we’ve talked so much about the alliance lately?

I understand that it could very well be an overreaction given my present fragile state. It just feels scary and real that I could lose DS and my therapy space if he does not budge. I know I need to be assertive and tell him what I need. With a head alternating between racing thoughts and big, empty expanse, it is hard to think clearly.

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Therapy funk

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You only know you’re in a state of “therapy funk” when you begin to emerge from it. And to claw out of it, either you or your therapist has to see that something is not quite right. It’s hard to point to individual molecules but almost impossible to miss a thick cloud. To me, the funk builds up as an emerging pattern of acting out of “character”, focusing too much on something or completely omitting certain topics, for example, as a form of resistance.

This therapy fog has built up, molecule by molecule, since sitting with DS this year. I spend most of the session on Monday continuing a discussion on the therapy relationship and the complexity of what I feel for DS. He nestles in his white and wood recliner, as always, in a state of absolute buddha calm, taking notes and chipping in where necessary.

With a thoughtful look towards the end, he says: “I have noticed that we have spoken a lot about the therapeutic alliance or relationship here recently. I am left wondering how you are doing and what is happening in your life.”

It strikes me that he trusts the alliance enough to say this without fearing I might become defensive or hurt that he has changed the topic and put the spotlight on something I am doing or not doing. I tell him as much and he says this pattern has more to do with what WE are doing, not just me. I think of a dance, where each partner makes a move in response to the other. Why have we been dancing in this direction and what are we avoiding? My head clicks into high gear, trying to formulate reasons for why I might have consciously or unconsciously chosen not to speak much about what has happened for me, focusing instead on him and my dreams.

– Maybe, with life shaken up so much by the retrenchment, I have tested the solidity of the therapy relationship because it is one of the constant things in my life and I need it more in the present moment?

– Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently been debating whether to share two painful memories in the past which I believe are my fault and say something bad about me?

I bounce these possibilities off DS and I can see his head kicking into gear too. He proposes a theory which floors me. He says that perhaps I have watched In Treatment and read about therapy as a way to learn as much as possible, and therefore avoid bumping up against his boundaries. In other words, if I know enough I will be able to avoid the pain associated with these boundaries.

His observation seems to clear the air a little and my eyes well up.

Who enjoys feeling ashamed or being rejected by another? I don’t think anyone. But perhaps bumping up against others helps define the relationship more clearly, and who we are too? It just seems very difficult to say and do stuff which might make DS uncomfortable when I know better. I know what is “right and wrong”.

I do think there may be a lot at play here. I half-joked that maybe I haven’t spoken about my day to day stuff because things seem to be going well. He said that would make sense if that were the case.

But actually, things have not been plain-sailing and I have had to deal with some difficult situations and feelings lately. Maybe I have kept silent because I managed my way through some of them and don’t want to be dramatic in front of DS, be accused of inflating something out of proportion. Or maybe it’s the familiar feeling of thinking I need to deal with everything myself. After all, you have been in therapy for almost two years and shouldn’t you know how to run your life by now without needing help?!, the critical voice yells.

It may take a while to completely figure the funk out but the therapy space has lightened somewhat.

As Dr Steven Brownlow, a clinical psychologist in Texas, said on Twitter today: “Life is the best therapy. Leverage what happens in your clients’ lives to advance their growth.”

P.S. Less than a month after finding out about the retrenchment, and after rounds of interviews, I was offered a job a few days ago. I am dumbstruck by the blessing.

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