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?

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