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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23 thoughts on “Am I overreacting?

  1. Tina says:

    Nope! I don’t think you’re over reacting. I would be equally flustered if my therapist INITIATED the change in appointment day/time & then BLINDSIDED me with … “Oops my bad …. I’m now going to ask you to switch to an appointment that I know your schedule will most likely NOT accommodate” 😦 I would feel disregarded & feel like I was being potentially forced out the door. Yes, they have a personal life & obligations. At the same time, please don’t indicate you can still see me, ask me to change schedules & then potentially drop me.

    • Jay says:

      Right?! Thank you for GETTING it. I was so shocked that I burst into tears. It seemed like he was making it almost impossible to continue. Obviously I then felt anxious that it must be because he didn’t want to deal with me anymore or because my thoughts and actions in therapy were unacceptable and unbearable.

  2. se4b says:

    Not at all. I would be quite upset/frustrated/annoyed. I too am quite sensitive to change, and from my experience your therapist should understand that their clients need the stability of having appointments at the same time each week. It’s extra frustrating that he’s made you switch to Wednesday and then expects you switch to another time, which you’ve stated you couldn’t do.

    • Jay says:

      It helps knowing that other people are also sensitive to change. I agree completely with your experience… having appointments at the same each week really creates a safe, reliable space that we can count on to return to. Now the base is in jeopardy. Thanks to you, I realize that it’s about not feeling safe.

  3. Ellen says:

    No. This guy is really starting to bug me. He should at least be sensitive to your schedule needs.
    I’ve recently needed to be on site full time at work, and scheduling was also an issue, but worked it out.
    Its not as if u can just change therapists.
    One thing Ron said to me – in therapy, being given sessions stands for caring. I think u definitely need to discuss your feelings. Good luck.

    • Jay says:

      Ellen, you have no idea how relieved I felt after reading what you had to say. It helps that you’ve also been through scheduling issues and know how tricky it can be.

      Yes, I totally feel that changing therapists is not an option. I see DS as a big attachment figure. Our work has led us to a point where I am firmly attached and using him to explore life step-by-step. I can’t just suddenly see someone else and start from scratch.

      Ron makes a good point. Thank you x

  4. attached says:

    No you are definitely not overreacting at all. If my T did that I would be angry and hurt too. Why suggest changing evenings at all if he wanted to stop evening appointments completely. Doesn’t even begin to address the fact that he is offering you sessions at a time you have already told him doesn’t work for you. I agree with Ellen that one of the few clear indicators of caring in therapy is sessions. I hope you can express your feelings and then work out a solution that works for both of you.

    • Jay says:

      Yes, those are the things I am feeling- anger, sadness and hurt! The viewpoint of sessions equalling caring is something I haven’t thought about much. But it makes so much sense. A therapist being available for you and setting a dedicated and do-able time aside each week definitely sends the message that they care about your wellbeing and that you are worthy.

      I told DS that I feel like I have moved right down on his list of priorities and that, as paranoid as it may seem, it feels like a way to get rid of me because he knows my time situation.

  5. Tina says:

    I doubt that it’s truly because he “doesn’t want to deal with you anymore, & finds our thoughts & actions unbearable/unacceptable” 😦 It’s most likely an unfortunate oversight on his part during a hectic time when he has a lot in his plate. Still no excuse, but …… What was his response when you said that you felt that you “moved down his list of priorities & it seems like a way to get rid of you”?

    • Jay says:

      Yeah I am sure it must simply be a logistical thing and that it’s about him, not me. I guess it’s just difficult to shake off how personal it feels (That is my stuff, not his). When I shared how personal it felt and that I had moved down on his priorities, he said something like: “You were special and now you are not”. I physically flinched when he said that. We’ve spoken before about me wanting to feel a special bond with him. But I felt he was off the mark this time because it’s not about feeling special. It’s about the perception of being seen as someone who deserves his fair and careful treatment, to someone who can easily be taken for granted and looked over. Does that make more sense?

  6. amandarocksyoursocks says:

    Not at all! I feel like it’s pretty much been my experience dealing with university counseling centers (and I’m already someone who’s super sensitive to changes), the therapist my first year was an intern, and our sessions ended as I was most attached to her. Last year, my sessions were dropped suddenly without warning because the counseling center made an executive decision about financial issues.

    It’s scary having so much unpredictability, and I think it’s completely normal to be feeling the way that you do. Crossing my fingers and hoping that you & your T will be able to work something out that benefits the both of you! And there’s always that glimmer of hope that you can keep in the back of your mind that he won’t phase out *ALL* of his evening sessions. 😀

    • Jay says:

      That sounds super unsettling and unpredictable! Must be hard to feel safe and relax in therapy when you know things could be pulled out from underneath you at any moment? Sheesh, really hope things become more stable for you.

      I get the feeling that Wednesday is the only time he still has an evening session (mine), because he got me to move from a Monday. I had a thought that he probably liked the feeling of open evenings so much that he decided to get rid of the other late session too. Probably has a partner who wants more of his time. Or maybe he has taken on lecturing again and needs the evenings to relax or prepare. I don’t know!

  7. S.G says:

    I am someone else who needs predictability in therapy. Any change causes a fight or flight panic and my body seems to inform me of impending abandonment. From what you’ve written, it seems like he’s not leaving you much manouevre room. What is he expecting to happen if you can’t come during the day, does it mean you have to finish with him? I hope you can both figure something out, sorry you’re going thru this very stressful situation.

    • Jay says:

      Sorry to hear you are also really affected by changes. The fight-flight thing is definitely happening here because I have no idea what will happen if I can’t come during the day. My head imagines that it means the end of therapy. In reality, I would like to believe that DS is the kind and flexible therapist he has shown himself to be in the past and will keep an evening slot open. We wait and see!

  8. Cat says:

    No way are you over reacting. It is not harmless because It is causing you distress and I wouldn’t be happy if it were my T.

  9. Joan says:

    I think you are problably overreacting but its perfect understandable and normal. We sometimes forget that therapists are real humans, with real needs, problems and obligations. We create this images were they are some kind of superheroes, flawless, and that anything that they’ll do or say is somewhat because of us. We take everything personally. In our daily jobs we do the best we can for our clients, for our bosses. We genuine try and worry. We invest. But that doesn’t mean that our whole lives run around those obligations. I think that therapists do this and much more. They even share and promote compassion, security and love. For everything that you’ve been sharing, I do not believe that DS wants to abandoned you or hurt you. If he could share, maybe he would tell you that he is sorry for the disturbance and pain that he is causing you. But maybe he can’t do that. Maybe it wouldn’t do you any good (therapeutic speaking). But I have to say that I think that he was a bit harsh when he said “You were special and now you are not”. But I also believe that he said that with a therapeutic objective. To get some kind of response from you. I hope you both manage well this situation and that your relation prospers from this episode. Know that you are not the only one who suffers from situations like this, from the therapeutic relation, from transference, from the crazy journey that is therapy….

    • Jay says:

      You definitely make a good point about me taking it personally. I agree that I don’t think DS wants to abandon or hurt me. It just feels like that. I wonder what kind of therapeutic aim was intended with the “special” comment. Been thinking about that a lot. Thanks for your input 🙂

  10. Nope. You aren’t over reacting at all. If Bea changed my appointment time, and then at the first new appointment told me she needed to change it again, I would be really upset, and seriously think she was getting rid of me. I really hope that this can be worked through. You have had a good relationship with DS, and this is one of those down disconnect times in the therapuetic relationship that feels like crap but really needs to be worked through.
    I am really sorry he blind sided you like this. Xx

    • Jay says:

      I feel a little less “crazy” knowing you would feel the same. I actually told him it felt like he wanted to get rid of me! You’re right. I know this is just something we need to work out. I guess I am upset because this change feels so at odds with how he has treated me up to now. That is why it came as a shock. Xx

      • Reading it, it seemed very at odds with everything you have written about the relationship and your therapy experience. It’s not surprising it feels so shocking.

  11. I love that you are processing your feelings with DS. While I agree with all the people who have validated your feelings in response to the sudden change, I have to weigh in with the therapist perspective. Yes…your feelings are completely valid and understandable. But in my career I’ve had things come up either at work or home that required me to make sudden changes in my schedule. This affected my ability to be flexible, even though I knew how that would affect my clients. I tried processing this with the people who were able to do so. It’s part of the reality of the therapy process. I very much hope you can find a session time that works for you both! It sounds like you are doing good work together.

    • Jay says:

      Sharon, your insight is always valued and I thank you for taking time out to weigh-in with a therapist’s perspective. I think it must be a challenge when your clients are those who bear the weight of the world on their shoulders and who are vulnerable (more so than a lawyer’s client or an architect’s client, for example). Can only imagine how hard it is having to shake things up when you know how much it may affect someone. As with everything, I believe this is a good learning opportunity and I hope that we can sort something out. Thanks again 🙂

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