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August 27, 2020

When a Therapist Triggers your Attachment Trauma.

I often wonder why we “terminate” clients in psychotherapy.

Why do we use such a harsh word?

Why not call it the “ending process” or the “transition process?”

Instead, we use “terminate” as if something bad occurred and we are destroying what once was.

I read a final email from a friend of mine who is also mourning the loss of her therapist. It said, “You must accept the termination of our relationship and the cutting of ties.”

All I could think was, “how cold.”

It’s great to know a client can be so easily snipped out of a therapist’s schedule only for the client to be left on the floor of their bedroom to try to gather their unteathered selves for a year.

People from all walks of life, with all types of disorders, will sit in front of you when you work as a therapist. They trust you with their stories and trust that you will not drop them.

It is your ethical duty not to cause unnecessary harm. Yet, some of you “terminate” clients when you aren’t enjoying working with a patient or you make a mistake.

Sure, there are times in which different care is needed or the relationship isn’t benefiting the client, but this decision to end a client’s therapy should not be taken lightly.

It happens all too often for the wrong reasons. Clients will have transference. Many will likely transfer their parents, desire for parents, partners, and friends onto you. It is your duty to help them through this and to hold space for them when their behavior appears irrational and/or pathological.

There is no reason in a healing field to ever demand that a client “learn to accept the cutting of ties,” especially a client who has attachment trauma.

I often wonder what LMFTs and psychologists learn in school. Do they not study attachment trauma in-depth? This, in my opinion, should be covered in every course from day one.

These are people’s hearts, people’s lives, and whether you enjoy working with them or not, in their mind, you likely mean the world.

Remember that your words and actions will replay in your patients’ minds for years to come. Hold our hearts with care, and if you truly feel it is in our best interest to “terminate,” help your patients walk through an “ending process” in a loving, healing manner where space is provided and doors never slammed shut. It is your ethical duty as a therapist after all.

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