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“We need to discuss what you want to get out of coming here,” my therapist said, as she peered at me from behind her glasses.
I sat on the couch, swaddled in a blanket in the chilly office. I hate being cold, and right now, the temperature wasn’t the only thing that felt cold to me.
My therapist went on to talk about the type of therapy she provides, and from her description and reaction, it didn’t sound like I fit the bill. I responded by saying something to the effect of, “I’m sorry if I don’t want to perseverate on some feeling I may have had as a two-year-old when I feel like I have a lot of painful sh*t going on in my life right now.”
I added that part of my resistance of delving deeper into my feelings was that I had recently been let down by my previous therapist, one who I worked with for approximately four years.
You see, this was the second time I was being rejected by someone who is supposed to offer unconditional positive regard. At least this time around it was being addressed in a professional manner, and the therapist was not implying it had to do with me. When it happened the first time, all I received was a text saying that she felt like she helped me as much as she could, along with a couple of referrals. Cold and unethical.
That’s the thing—I know how therapists are supposed to address this situation because I am one! Well, not practicing, but I still remember what I was taught in graduate school: be cautious when referring out a client. The primary reason should be because you do not have the knowledge or training to help them in the area in which they are coming to see you.
Do not abandon the client. Have a termination session, especially if you have been working with the client consistently. (A termination session is a final session where both the client and therapist discuss their experience of working with one another, offering closure for both individuals.)
Yet, what was difficult was how these experiences landed with me emotionally. My first thought being: am I really that f*cked-up that someone doesn’t want to work with me? It also triggered feelings of loss and abandonment. 2018 was not the year for me. I lost two close female friendships, people I considered to be like sisters to me. Both had a negative reaction to something I had said, and instead of talking through it with me, they decided to sever the friendship.
After talking over these experiences, I was reminded to look at the whole picture; not to analyze my friends, but both individuals struggle with interpersonal relationships, and I wasn’t the only person they had abruptly “cut” from their lives. It still stings, but it lessens the blow.
As for the therapists, well, I really wanted to have a discussion with the one I worked with for four years. But because of the way she delivered the information to me, I didn’t think my feelings would be heard much anyway, so I’m hesitant to reach out to her.
When it comes to the most recent experience, I did hear from her shortly after our last session. She texted me to see if I wanted to discuss how things ended. It was heartfelt. I sat on it for a little while until I decided to give her a call. I expressed my hurt, and it sounded like there was some confusion regarding what she said versus what I heard.
She was apologetic and emphasized that she would love to continue working with me. Granted, the last time we met I said that I was getting kind of burned out on therapy, and she was partly responding to my comment since she didn’t want me to feel pressured.
So, I scheduled an appointment and we decided we would meet biweekly—my choice.
Much more was said but what it came down to is this: a therapeutic relationship is just that—a relationship. There can be misunderstandings, hurt feelings, confrontations, and the like.
Of course, it’s vital the relationship is healthy, and the client is being treated in an appropriate and respectful manner. And after that, it’s an opportunity to find out if it’s a good fit.