leaving a therapist, finding a therapist

over at my “buddy blog” finding your marbles, there is a really good discussion about what happens in therapy. this post here talks about ending therapy. scott asked me to comment on a conundrum a commenter is experiencing.

here’s the problem:

i was sure i could go it alone but couldn’t face telling my therapist (of 2yrs) goodbye. so i sent a letter in which i told her thanks to her great guidance i am strong enough to go it alone. just 2 weeks later i am depressed and want to go back but my pride is stopping me.

she was a great therapist and after years of searching she was a great match for me. but i was unable to totally open up to her. i fear it will take me ages to find another one as good as her. but know if i go back it will be the same situation of been unable to open up to her.

really confused. anyone got any advice for me, please?

and here are my comments. yes, they are comments, not advice – i don’t know the person, don’t know the circumstances, don’t know the therapist. but i’ve run into similar situations before and perhaps my experience can shed some light on it. and those of you who read this blog regularly will not be surprised to see that i phrase much of this in terms of questions 🙂

first of all, let me tell you that i agree with scott’s comments. calling the therapist and explaining to her why you left is a good idea. it might bring you some closure, and maybe that’s partly why you’re not feeling well right now. also, yes, making it two weeks on your own is an accomplishment!

discussing the client-therapist relationship
in the course of your therapy, did you ever discuss your relationship with your therapist? my personal stance on this is that this is important. the vast majority of us go to therapists at least partially because something’s not quite right with our relationships. so the relationship with the therapist becomes a testing ground, a playground.

for example, i might say to a client something like, “it often looks like you’re a bit uncomfortable when you first come in the door here. what’s your guess, is that something about our particular relationship, or do you find that happens with other people, too?”

you may want to resolve that whatever your next step in therapy looks like, discussing with your therapist your relationship with her or him is a useful course of action.

going it alone – a bit scary at first
you say you want to go back. let me propose two extremes: “i need to go back because my life is falling apart around me, and i can’t go on without my old therapist’s help” on the one hand, and “geez, i’m missing her comfortable voice and how good she makes me feel” on the other. one is a strong need, like the need for food and shelter, and the other is longing for old comfort, like missing an old sweater that you finally decided to give to the salvation army. if the strong need was a 10 and missing the old comfort was a 0, where do you find yourself now?

it may just be that you’re feeling the normal anxiety that comes with taking off the training wheels.

pride – a strong force in all relationships
you say your pride is stopping you. what exactly do you mean by that? this pride is obviously a strong force. you might find it interesting to journal a bit about that.

shopping for a new therapist
i don’t know how you went about looking for this therapist. if and when you’re ready to indeed look for another one, it doesn’t have to take that long. have you ever thought of writing down what you’re looking for in a therapist? that would be a good idea at any rate, even if you decide to go back to your current therapist. you can take this list and literally go shopping.

helen, hopefully these thoughts are helpful. i’d be very interested in hearing what you think!

for my other readers: if you’ve been in therapy and are comfortable discussing it – do you have any experience to contribute?

11 thoughts on “leaving a therapist, finding a therapist

  1. Marc Olmsted

    I find there is a crucial bit of info missing. Why did he feel compelled to leave a relationship that was working in the first place? It seems as if he’s made the decision that it is better to “go it alone” even though he doesn’t really want to.
    I’m rather certain the therapist has detected by now his issues with pride and this idea that he “shouldn’t need” a therapist. What is he afraid of, that she’s going to say “How dare you call me again, you weakling?” It is in examining these very fears that he’s like to achieve the very growth that will make him no longer need therapy.

  2. Helen

    Hi Isabella,
    Thank you so much for taking the time out to breaking things down for me. It diffently gave me food for thought.
    I have just deleted a whole paragraph on what the issue was but your not my therapist , I now know who I should call.
    Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Helen

    It really means a lot to me that there are people out there that care enough to take time to help others.
    I know I already said it but I want to whole heartly thank you.

  4. isabella mori

    @helen, i’m glad this was useful! that you say you now know who you should call – helen, that made my day.

    the way i see it, we all sit in the same boat of humanity. over the course of the ride, we realize we all have different talents – some are good rowers, others are great a catching fish, etc. i just happen to have a bit of a talent for this, so i help you out. and you sound like someone who helps out people with HER talents.

    @marc, thanks for your comments. asking the question, “what’s the worst that can happen, and what’s most likely to happen” is always a good thing.

  5. Nancy

    This caused me to miss my counsellor. She was (is) wonderful, and over 10 years I had an on-again, off-again series of sessions with her. She knew that I’d call on an ‘as needed’ basis. Then we evolved into a more spiritual-director (when I started, I hadn’t known she shared my faith, cool, eh?) relationship. I wish I could go see her, but have no particular reason to! So I guess it’s kind of the opposite of Helen. What a world.

    Nancy’s last blog post..Tuesday?s Econ 101 Post: RRSPs in plain english

  6. isabella mori

    you really bring up an interesting question, nancy! what do we do when we’re simply looking for that specific type of intellectual or spiritual stimulation?

    (i mean, not ALL counsellors have blogs on which to have conversations 🙂

  7. ken

    I’ve had two therapists in my life..the first one was a bad experience, the second one was almost miraculous (sp?). As I have reflected upon it; the first therapist and I had very different/opposite personality types and the second therapist and I had personality types more similar. I’m pretty sure the reality of persoanlity type can have a positive or negative impact upon a therapist/client relationship. well, it did for me. All the very best!

  8. isabella mori

    @ken, that has been my experience, too – it’s much better if there is a personality match. or, let’s say, some sort of positive chemistry. if your therapist bores or irritates you as a person, it’s pretty hard to get going on working on yourself.

  9. Gerald @ Physical Therapy Assistants

    In my country going to a therapist was not a normal thing. I was born with a birth defect and struggled with strange looks from strangers and teasing from kids in school

    I would go to bed and cry asking God “why me”? My parents weren’t of much help either probably they didn’t know how to handle my situation.

    I had to encourage myself all along in my life carrying bitterness, anger, pride until I met my One true therapist, Jesus Christ at the age of 27. Now i can smile again in spite of the challenges i face in life. He is a very good listener too lol

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