There are certain aspects of what I’ve got that I really, really dislike, even more than I dislike the overall picture. The biggest, and most confusing? The very strange and one sided relationship I have with Therapist. I’ve talked about this before, here and with her, plenty of times and no doubt I will again. I know why I feel so reliant on her, why I’m sometimes overwhelmed by a need to contact her, or in some way (usually a sneaky look on facebook) check that she hasn’t vanished off the face of the earth entirely. I know all of this. But I cannot stand it. I really mean that. It leaves me feeling needy, clingy, sometimes lost, sometimes angry, sometimes desperate and always massively guilty if I have a bit of a snoop, because I have no right to any contact with her outside of sessions. I also know why this is. For therapy to be effective, these boundaries have to be maintained. She has to be a blank slate to be able to facilitate whatever it is I bring, whatever I need her to be at any particular point in time – mother, father, sister, friend, husband. But sometimes that feels too hard.

There are times when I’d love to be able to just chat about what’s going on for her. It feels wrong to take so much of someone, and give nothing back. There are times during the week between sessions when I desperately want to be able to just pick up the phone and say hello, and have her tell me that it’s ok to feel how I’m feeling. I get it. I understand it, at least from a logical point of view. She’s been a huge and phenomenally consistent source of empathy and support over the years, someone who has never judged me, and never will, no matter what I throw at her or how hard I push. She has always validated whatever is going on for me, something I’m only just starting to learn to do for myself through DBT. But it just doesn’t make sense, not at an emotional level. I’m not sure I’m explaining this very well. The biggest problem I currently face in therapy is the two extreme opposing forces that are going on – I want to be well. I want to learn to manage whatever it is I’ve got as well as I can, and reduce the impact it has on my life as much as possible. But, when I reach that stage, I’ll no longer need Therapist, and quite frankly even the thought of that makes me feel sick. I can’t imagine a future where I don’t have any contact with her. Maybe that’s all part of what I’ve got, maybe it’s a symptom, a sign that I’m not as well as I could be. Or, maybe it’s self sabotage. If I keep holding back, maybe not try as hard as I could, then I’ll keep needing support. How do I know which it is? Symptom or sabotage?

I’m firmly stuck in the middle

For now at least, I continue to need her support. We’ll have a long break (by my standards) over the summer, which will be a big test of how I’m doing. I hope that I can surprise myself. I hope that by the end of that break, I can at least start to see that I can be ok for myself, by myself, and that maybe, at some point in the future, it will be ok for me to let go of her because I will be enough.

This article has 9 Comments

  1. Well written. I started going to my therapist last year and didnt want it going on too long in case i became dependent. I have had a difficult year with a court case about work bullying nearly breaking my soul. Now I can see a need to keep going for months as I am struggling with what feels like BPD. I see my psychiatrist in two days and I find myself far more needy there. I know there need to be boundaries and yet I made unreasonable demands of him as I struggled in last year. If i do have BPD then it makes sense. But if not…

  2. It's the same with most professionals you see. It is one sided, that should nt stop them from disclosing some information about themselves but some will not cross that boundary. If the relationship breaks down in the future between health professional & patient they may feel more of a safe guard for themselves. Some patients can go over the top if the situation becomes volatile & bring up all sorts. It highlights in some professionals a lack of security by sticking to a very one sided relationship. They like to keep it that way. Gives them power to a certain extent, kind of superiority.

  3. It's understandable that you're feeling apprehensive about the break in therapy over the summer. I found that the therapist-client relationship was really the foundation of my was a safe base and from there, I could build on it myself but at first, I needed to know it was okay to be open, honest and vulnerable about what I was feeling..that I wasn't going to be judged for what I was feeling/experiencing.

    Is there any way that you can establish some external support over the summer? e.g. support groups? Just something to keep you going. There are some good DBT resources. I like the website (they cover all the DBT skills on it) and this book:

    I found the interpersonal effectiveness skills section of the book particularly really broke the skills down..simplified them..gave examples..made it easy to understand and use.

    1. I'm not sure it's so much I'm apprehensive about the break, as just kind of freaked out about the level of dependence I have on her, and that no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get around it. It's a strange one. I must check out that site, thanks

  4. Hi Fiona,
    I know it’s not quite the same situation as yours but something here might let you know you aren’t the only one who feels/acts like this.
    I’ve been seeing a psychotherapist for about 5 years now and from about 6 months in I was almost embarrassed that I was still there and had to keep checking with him if it was okay that I wasn’t keep going (which for me was excruciating having to ask). I felt like it was a test I was failing to still need him, like I had to prove I was better. It’s taken me a lot of years to get to the point where I realise that he is there for as long as I want him to be for whatever I need him for and it don’t only have to go when I’m in full blown crisis mode. He isn’t judging me. It was only me that was ever judging me, which is the case so often.
    I also struggled for the first couple of years with the one-sided nature of the relationship. I needed him so much and there were time when I’d be counting down the days to see him and knowing I would see him was the only thing that kept me going. It’s such a strange thing to have someone know your most personal thoughts, regrets, fears, shame, guilt and vulnerabilities and to know nothing about them. I also did far too much searching on the Internet and facebook to get glimpses into his private life which isn’t the best thing to be doing and it does feel icky but I think in some ways we want to know that there is a real person behind the one we see for the hour a week and we want to know that they aren’t just pretending they are concerned or that they like us. That’s another thing I struggled a lot with and had to painfully test out with him through the years – I always had a feeling deep down that he wasn’t being real, that he wasn’t actually the caring, kind person he seemed to be.
    I’m finally in a place where I’m seeing him less regularly and have to keep reminding myself that it is not a test. I’ve an appt for 2 months time but I know and believe now that if I have to ring tomorrow and say I can’t cope or I need help or just I need someone to work an issue out with, that I can. A few years ago I would have felt like I had to make those 2 months and I would have put myself through hell with the pressure of having to be okay for that time. Now, I try as often as possible to not put pressure on myself to be okay and realise that it’s okay not to be okay and that the person most judging me for it is myself, not others.
    While I understand the need not to become too dependent on your therapist, it does add to the pressure you’re putting yourself under. It’s okay to need someone, it’s okay to have an emotional need for them. I think that if anything helps you, even if it’s just knowing there’s some sort of cushion or support there rather than working out the big stuff, then I would try to keep it in place as much as possible. I know you want to (have to?) take a break over the summer but try not to see that as an absolute or a test and have some sort of backup plan so that you don’t feel like you have to make it through alone. That feels like a lot to have to live up to.
    You’ve helped me a lot in the last few months keep my own nasty internal thoughts in check by talking about your own experience of bitchface so candidly and I’m having a much better time as I remind myself that I don’t have to believe them or let them develop into feelings and I now challenge them or get mad and refuse to listen to them.
    I do hope things gets better for you. Our minds play tricks on us and tell us they never will but that isn’t true. It’s very hard to believe at times.


    1. Margaret thank you so much. Everything you've described is exactly how I feel about therapist. We talked about it again in my last session, and I'm gradually (very, very gradually) starting to come round to thinking that it's ok to lean sometimes, and while I won't need her forever, she's there as long as I do. I still feel a harsh pang of sadness when I think of not having her time any more, but I guess by the time I'm well enough that that's a reality it won't make me sad anymore. For now, I'll keep going, and I really, really appreciate knowing that other people have thought and felt as I do, and more than that, got through it. Thank you

  5. What if the two things – being well and needing therapist – aren't mutually exclusive? What if you could be better, and be managing whatever you've got in a healthy way, but still need therapist now and again?

    I struggle with having all or nothing thinking – and I'm realizing that I'm missing out on healthy solutions in the process. So maybe you could thinking of a future where you are better, but you still have therapist's support when you need it. Would that help eliminate this confusion in your head over whether you're sabotaging yourself?

    1. That makes a lot of sense and is something we talked about last week – she compared it to a child playing peekaboo to learn that even when they can't see their mother, she's still there. It feels kind of the same. She's told me countless times that she's there for as long as I need, and that sometimes, it's ok to lean. She's confident I'll get to a point when I don't need her so much, but that I'm not there yet. And I guess that's ok!

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