Monday, 12 December 2011

Reasons why it's really hard when your therapist leaves

You go to therapy. You talk to a person who, for most of the time, sits there without expression and basically takes in what you have said and feeds it back to you in a more eloquent way. Sometimes they ask you carefully worded questions that are designed to get you thinking about the right kinds of things, or talking about the things you need to talk about. If you're lucky they may even add in a word of wisdom or two, if the moment calls for it. You leave, you go home. You know their name; you can probably take a guess at what decade they were born in and you can make a few assumptions based on their accent, dress sense or body language... then you start to feel like a Sherlock Holmes wannabe... but at the end of the day, you don't know them. You know nothing more than what you create in your mind based on their interactions with you. So, why then do you end up in pieces when they go on holiday, or God forbid: leave you for good? Why does it matter that this blank slate has abandoned you? Why not just move onto another one and do the same thing all over again?

Here are a few of the reasons why it FUCKING STINKS when your therapist leaves:

1) You tell your therapist about stuff you wouldn't talk to anyone else about. For most of us this takes a leap of faith: trust. If you're like us you would have spent months and possibly years sussing them out to see if they can handle what you have to say. You test them with small pieces of yourself and they cope well, and you feel understood; validated and even cared for for possibly the first time in your life. This feels great even though its a difficult process. You then feel great about this person because of that and you learn to trust them and they become someone great in your eyes. 

You might even start to think that they are so great they are better than anyone you know in real life. Fair enough, this is because you are only seeing that one sided, polished act that they have spent years learning how to perform and you have added this onto your carefully composed picture of what you think they are like the rest of the time in their perfect, harmonious, well balanced life. This picture can become a safe place for you. This picture of this person might be all of the things you crave for your own life. This is the person who can save you and help you. No wonder you feel great about them. Unfortunately, you have now instilled them with a lot of power, because if they don't live up to your expectation of them, there is a long way to fall. Suddenly, they tell you they are leaving and it's no fucking surprise you feel awful really is it?

NB When I say 'you', I am not lecturing. I am talking to my own self. Don't feel bad. If anyone should know better it's me. I of all people should know that therapists/psychologists/counsellors are as human as I am, with all of my flaws.

"But T understands me too and that matters a lot. It's not just that I need 'a' person; any old person. It's something that works for me that she has. She has an ability to take my jumbled up mumbled words that are so ineloquent and decipher what it is that's going on in my jumbled up brain and feed it back to me in a way that makes sense to both of us. I don't want to face the prospect of seeing someone else, who can't get what I'm on about and doesn't take the time to try to understand. I know it's not necessarily so that another person would be that way but it may be so. There are fits and there are non fits."

2) If, like me, you have a dissociative disorder which makes for a wonky life, where sometimes you're just not sure what's real and what's not, having a stable presence in your life can be a very reassuring thing; even if it's only for an hour a week.

"It's just that, T is like my anchor. I trust her... not completely, but more than I've ever really trusted anyone and it has taken a long time to build up that trust. I know it's still fragile too and as I say, not complete. I still wait for her to hurt me and reject me... and leave me like others always have. And now that's what she is doing: leaving. I know she says she's coming back but there is a big part of me that just does not believe that. Good bye is forever. Oh my God! I struggle when she takes a week off on holidays!

I feel reassured when I drive past her work on my way to mine in the mornings and I see her car there. 

I like how her car is there. 

It reminds me that she's real. 

And if she's real, I must be real. 

And sometimes I struggle to believe I am real. 

When she goes away I feel like she has stopped existing: no car outside her work equals: did I make her up? Do I even exist? Car there equals she's real; I'm real, maybe other parts of my life are real." 

And she's one person who is consistent. 
She's the kind of person who gets up every morning and makes herself presentable and goes to work and eats lunch in the middle of the day and at the end of the day, goes home and does the same the next day. That is so important to me. I struggle with all of those things. Consistency has been foreign to me in my haphazard strewn together life. I have loved having a consistent, safe person in my life. It hasn't just been about the hour or so a week; it's all of the moments in between when I feel so changeable and unreal and I'm in my chaotic, unstable, morphing mind, hanging on by my fingertips to my 'normal' life and I think about my T and I remember how consistent she is and it helps me to remember what kind of life I want. Solidity, structure, boundaries, safety, energy, positivity, certainty."
And we have gone through a process. A long, long process. I've been seeing her for three years now. That's a fucking lot of time. I don't want to start again with someone new, with the old insecurities and fears. When I first met T, it was months and months before I stopped worrying about ridiculous things too absurd to even start to tell you about (and I've told you about some pretty ridiculous worries I have in relation to T).

That's just two reasons why it fucking stinks. I'm sure there are more. You may have some in mind yourself. I'm sure I will have plenty of time to think up more over the next few months.


Ruth said...

Thanks Candy, you put into words exactly how I felt last year when my counselor announced he was moving. I still feel awkward with new counselor but I am also seeing progress. You have my deepest sympathy.

ellen said...

Those are excellent reasons for not wanting to lose your therapist. I think also it's not so much that we imagine they are's more of an issue of transference, where we project on them important qualities from people in our past. When that happens, you can't just transfer those feelings to someone else so easily, and part of therapy is working through those feelings. I'm surprised your therapist isn't sensitive to that.

Very tough situation for you and I do sympathize a lot. I like how you are going into detail on your thoughts on this. take care

Anonymous said...

You have given very good reasons for why you don't want to lose your therapist. We totally understand. Just wish we could help :-(

Best wishes,

NormalWasNotMyGoal said...

It definitely fucking stinks!

Anonymous said...

It totally totally fucking stinks

Thanks for your writing it describes how i feel, i have did and my t told me yesterday that we are done, after five years - hard to keep going

Anonymous said...

Boy oh boy, you are so, so right

Candycan said...

My heart goes out to anyone in this situation. It does get easier in time but it'a little consolation during the crisis of it. I learnt to be stronger and care for myself after time. It's hard accepting her back now and trusting again knowing I'm making myself vulnerable to a repeat. But healing from the past involves some risk. Take care

Christine Marie said...

Thanks for writing this - my therapist that I've seen for 3 years just told me that my insurance is making me go to someone that does EMDR, which she doesn't do, so she won't be seeing me anymore as my therapist. I feel like someone I love just died suddenly.

Candycan said...

I'm sorry for you to have to go through that loss. I hope your therapist can help you prepare for this change. I hope you have success with the EMDR. Would be interested to hear from you how you find it. Take care of yourself.

MAry said...

I ma losing my therapist afer 5+ years. Your right, it fucking stinks and sucks!

Candycan said...

Oh gosh, five years! That's awful Mary. I totally feel your pain. So sorry it's happening to you. I hope you have good support and can take care of yourself aswell.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I'm going to lose my therapist in about 7 weeks and I'm devastated. I've become so attached to her, I don't think I go a day without thinking about the things we talk about in session. I have not cried so hard and so much about anything in a long long time. I'm only 14 so I'm really dependent on her and the fact that I'm probably never going to see her again completely breaks me. I honestly don't know how I'm going to get through this. I feel like my whole world has just fell apart and that I'm never going to be able to get through this.:'(

Anonymous said...

Me too :( We've been seeing her for 2 years and she diagnosed us. We were getting to the point of being comfortable with her and now she's leaving and I feel like everything's crumbling away around me. I have not cried this hard since I was a freaking toddler. It feels like she died it feels like we have to forget her now. We think of her numerous times a day she has really become my anchor for everything. I don't know if I even want this new therapist cause if they leave we'll be hurt like this again maybe even more. We have to keep going back to her now for 6 weeks and I don't know if I can even do that. I don't know how to say goodbye and I don't want to tell her what I look for in a new t at all.
Very nice blog btw, really nicely said. :((

Unknown said...

Had my last session today. I can't console myself. It's too hard...

Candycan said...

I am sorry you're going through such a painful experience. Take care of yourself at the moment. It will get easier with time. I know that might not help much at the moment. For now, just work on coping with each day, hour or minute and do nice things for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I am loosing my therapist soon. We only have two more sessions together before she leaves. She is going to start her own business somewhere kind of far. It's in the same state, but I'm just so heartbroken. 💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔💔I already switched once, and I don't want to do it again. I've only been with her for about 8 months, but I'm devastated. I'm heartbroken.💔 I can't really deal with changes well, and I haven't exactly brought that up with her. I know I should and I feel SO stupid. She's been so helpful and our sessions have been so productive. When she told me a couple of days ago, I almost cried. But I held it in. I should have let it out since she's my therapist, but I didn't want to look pike a baby. I love her. Not LOVE love her but u get it.
I have cried myself to sleep every night this week, and it's affecting my life outside. 😢😪😭😭😭😭😫😭😭💔
She said we could keep in touch through email and text and call and stuff, but it's not the same. I'm glad don't get me wrong. I'm just soooo devastated. I can't contain myself. She's just.... She always understood me and now she's leaving me. Wtf?!'sorry, but I love her. Andrea, if you are ever reading this (which ur probably not) I want you to know that I miss you.

It was so nice to be with you. I'll never forget you. 😘💭

Anonymous said...

same thing is happening to me after 3 yrs and im DID TOO and I wonder ho you got on since you wrote this a coupl of yrs ago.

Anonymous said...

My therapist is dying from cancer or from the side effects that come from the chemo used to treat cancer. I have seen him for 30 years and he is the one who has worked with my DID. I have felt this is the most secure relationship in my life. Now that he is leaving i have so many abandonment issues arising. I feel like he never cared. The idea that he lives in my town , but I will be unable to have any contact with him whatsoever, makes this seem unbearable. I have 5 more sessions with him. we were just getting to core issues and memories and this all feels very overwhelming.

I have tried to move to a new therapist several times in the last year, and each time I did i got suicidal within 24 hours. I am really frightened to what this could cause within me. I am devastated and have parts who are suicidal and who want to cut and i have never had that occur before. what complicates issues is that we had some unresolved issues that we have been unable to resolve. We don't understand what was wrong with us that he was unable to reach us in some of our feelings. Now we will feel this permanent lose, and the sadness that this is unresolved. Why would he abandon us completely?

We really need at least 4 more sessions to get through what is really driving all of this.

Anonymous said...

my T retired after I have been seeing him for 7 years. he's just gone and he was my anchor. i'm not feeling very grounded right now. it hurts to know he doesn't want contact by phone or internet. i was not ready at all and I feel depression setting in. i went to him for abandonment issues....and now he abandoned me .

Candycan said...

That's so hard because it brings up so much pain from past hurts. Are you going to see someone else to help you through this? I just hope you will find someone who you can feel is right for you. All I can say is don't give up. It does get easier in time.

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to find this. I had my last appointment with my therapist a couple of days ago. It is SO hard to deal with. Especially as she told me she was leaving 5 weeks ago, so I've been upset that whole time before it even happened. I am so so sad. I've been seeing her for 10 months, so not as long as others here.

I am in recovery from anorexia nervosa, and she became my therapist when I left the hospital. Things were very hard then, and still are. Right now I'm not sure wether to continue therapy.

I honestly feel like I am grieving. I wish I could accept it and cope better. But I am too sad.

I hope this will get better.

Anonymous said...

I just lost my therapist with 1 weeks notice. I have been in therapy multiple times. I finally felt that I was working somethings out. I had gained a lot. She was encourging me to things to make my life better. I had even told her that I was sure I believed that things could work out but I was trusting her. She was an anchor. I have cried more in the last 10 days than I have in my entire adult life. I have gone decades without crying. I feel alone and tired. I don't feel any tramatic cresendo of wanting to end things, but I do feel a complete resignation. My sense of world is what is left? I sant others to well and be happy. I just don't have a lot left. I really would like to just fade away. I am so tired of fighting just to get out of bed in the morning, of going to bed hoping not to wake up. I stick around because I have a responsibilty to my 3 daughters. I love them, but how long until I fail them. I am so tired. I have an appointment with a new therapist. I am sorry this is not a cheery post. I don't have cheery in me right now. Sorry for the typos. I am workiking with a very small tablet. Be well. Steve