Therapy & Relationships

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Turning up for therapy unprepared can often transpire as some of the most powerful sessions, but they do require a little more rummaging around before anything significant emerges. That sounds a bit like a Psychic Medium who waits for the spirits to ‘come through’, and it can feel as if I’m waiting for an inner part to express itself.

At first, my mind flutters in and out of previous sessions, searching for a connection. It is a nerve-wracking process because my paranoia is on high alert and I would hate to disappoint Paul, or worse, bore him.

Eventually, I bring up the Client-Therapist relationship. We have discussed this briefly in previous sessions, not because it’s a significant part of my therapy, but because it holds very little importance.

The book, ‘Psychotherapy in a Nutshell’, talks about the importance of having a good working relationship with your Therapist. “The relationship is a central vehicle through which psychological change occurs.” Apparently, the client-Therapist relationship mirrors the ones we have in our personal lives. “As the therapeutic relationship begins to grow and change, so does the clients relationship with other people.” Really?

Paul talked a lot about his idea of our professional relationship. He went on and on about all the things he liked and admired about me. I wondered what he was trying to achieve because it meant so very little. He, as an individual, means so very little.

I am not sure if I had any specific intention for bringing this up other than to acknowledge my observations. I did not need this apparent bonding exercise and I do wonder if Paul misunderstood, or maybe he was trying to evoke some kind of response, intentionally.

I cannot trust Paul’s thoughts and feelings. However, I do trust his professionalism and I have experienced his empathic understanding, and his ability to put me at ease. This is all it takes to work with him effectively.

We touch on a couple of major crisis I experienced a few years ago and how these times are usually when we discover who our true friends are. I talk in general about people who let me down, starting with my parent’s, and how that affects trusting people today.

I have probably said this before, but it feels like I live within a transparent plasticth05T6471O bubble. I can see people and they see me, but the plastic muffles our voices and there is definitely no chance of connection. The similarities to the relationships I have in the therapy programme are clear to see.

I love writing about therapy because it helps to process and remember the session, but it can also evolve into new realisations and today is no exception.

Yes, there are people who let me down, but there are also those who tried to reach out and, ultimately, I let them down.  I let myself down.  I am not altogether sure why I never gave anyone a chance. Maybe I assumed their loving care and their support would always be conditional, or maybe there is an unconscious belief that I do not deserve the unconditional.

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36 thoughts on “Therapy & Relationships

  1. Ellen

    So I’m not quite clear, though it’s a really interesting topic. Are you coming to think that while the professional relationship you have with Paul serves its purpose, and seems OK – you’d like to work for a more feeling based relationship?

    I’ve found a therapy relationship that is personal, based on feelings, is good and bad. The good – you can feel connected, nurtured and held. The bad (well, difficult) – that person can now let you down, cause pain, cause jealousy, arouse anger, and all kinds of other ‘fun’ experiences.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Hi Ellen, I’m not too sure and that probably comes through in the post. I guess I’m just acknowledging that the relationship with Paul and group members is similar to the ones throughout life. However, if theory is correct then that therapeutic relationship may well change and that should then reflect in personal relationships… just a very new idea. Incidentally, the reason why I avoid Close relationships is exactly the same as yours…

      Thank you, Ellen

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  2. hopeforheather

    I love that I found your post, today of all days. I don’t share too many details of therapy on my blog, but I have been receiving therapy services at a training location. Not a bad deal since I don’t have money to pay for anything more, and it’s been working out nice since diagnosis a few years ago. BUT, something HUGE happened 2 weeks ago. Something with the therapist (trainee) not being able to “TRANSFER” or “TERMINATE” our therapy relationship (he was moving on to another location, do therapy in another place because his schedule changed. Part of the rotations there. Not a big deal at all.) And HE DIDN’T TELL ME. Now, I wasn’t attached to him. We didn’t have an unhealthy relationship. We were only working together for a few months as he was a new therapist after the one I had been working with for years got a permanent job.

    It has turned into a HUGE fiasco. Me showing up for the next appointment. Him not being there. The supervisors getting involved. Just plain odd.

    it’s brought up some weird emotions for me. Whether or not I want to continue there (probably not), what HE (trainee) thought of me (did he pity me? The supervisor I talked to said she thought he liked me.), I don’t think he was an egomaniac so that he thought I’d “fall over in emotions” not working with him anymore.

    Just plain weird.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s not only just plain weird, that is absolutely appalling and extremely unprofessional…. what an idiot! Understandably, that sort of conduct is enough to put anyone off. A quote comes to mind when I think about how this must make you feel, “the way people treat you is not a reflection of who you are, but about who they are as human beings.”

      I wouldn’t blame you for quitting this service, but it might be worth waiting to see if the supervisor comes up with something better. You never know sometimes these things happen for a reason.

      Thank you for commenting

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  3. Priceless Joy

    Your posts about your therapy sessions always make me think. I don’t remember specific things said in my psychiatric sessions as it was too long ago. But I do remember feeling the way you described. (Brain strain (lol) and trying to figure things out that he would say to me (which created for a reason)). I will shamefully admit my feelings for my psychiatrist (the one I had for over 12 years). I thought I was just head over heels in love with him. Haha! I had just gone through a divorce and my life was chaotic and I was an emotional flailing mess. As time went on I began to think of him as my brother, my much beloved brother, and that is the point where I honestly felt like I started healing and slowly getting better. Feeling that relationship with him worked for me. I just wish it had happened for me sooner!

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    1. Cat Post author

      That is amazing, Joy and apparently it’s not uncommon to develop feelings for your Therapist, although I doubt my own will stretch that far with Paul
      😉 All the books seem to say this relationship is where change occurs, so your experience is consistent.

      If I can make your beautiful and wise mind think, I must be doing something right. Thank you, Joy

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      1. Priceless Joy

        Yes! You do all that and even more! You make me laugh. LOL! So you don’t want to be in love with Paul? Haha! Just kidding. It is strange though how therapy helps things “unfold” for us and in such a non traumatic way. In fact, therapy reminds me of a butterfly in more ways than one. (other than the cocoon part). It’s elusive until you aren’t thinking about it and it softly lands on your shoulder. Then P-O-W! It slaps you right across the face. (just kidding on that part of it. Just wanted to add some drama :D)

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    1. Cat Post author

      And the first photo is of a secluded bay on the Isle of Skye called Camasunary. To get there, we used to hike for a couple of hours with our tent and all our provisions for a few days camping.

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  4. Eric Tonningsen

    I always speak my mind and my heart, Cat. Honestly. I get a sense that Paul needs you more than you need him. Dependency inhibits personal growth and a willingness to embark on one’s own, even when doubt and hesitancy is present. How often do you pause to reflect on how strong and capable you actually are? Perhaps a break from dependency might awaken you to a new, strong you. Food for your thought. 🙂

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  5. kat

    ah the twisted web of trauma…is it me, am i worthy, do i deserve this. the answer: yes. you are worthy and do deserve it. you are a unique and wonderful human being. the trauma tries to tell you different, but it is lying.

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  6. Life in a Bind - BPD and me

    I love this post, Cat, and it feels so tied in to what’s going on in my head, it makes me want to go aaaaaahhhhhh! As is often the case your experience seems different to mine, but it speaks into it so clearly. What holds so little importance for you holds such significant importance for me, but your plastic bubble feels exactly like my world right now. I can’t help feeling that the book is right – that the therapeutic relationship _is_ key to a change in other relationships. I _can_ see some evidence of that with me. I think one of the things that struck me most in what you said is “this is all it takes to work with him effectively”. But what _is_ the nature, content, aim of that work? I know that I have no clear idea _at all_ of where I’m heading with therapy, or what the end result will be. What work am I embarking on? Has it been defined? Will it change? If that’s all it takes to work with effectively in one arena, is it all that it takes in another? Is there another aspect to your work? How do you _define_ effective work? Could there be an aspect to that work that is all about connection rather than introspection, and is that what you are hinting at in your final paragraph? You say you trust Paul’s professionalism, but not his thoughts and feelings. Could part of the work involve learning to trust those other aspects too, and through that process, ‘;giving others a chance’, as you talk about at the end of your post? I think I’m coming to realise both that trusting others is more than trusting that they won’t betray my confidence, but less than trusting that they will be a an absolutely perfect guardian of that trust. Maybe there can be risk involved, without it ceasing to be trust. I don’t know. I don’t want to waffle on. It just _feels_ like a pertinent question – what _is_ that work, have you exhausted every aspect of working effectively with Paul? It feels like there’s something in that question for me too, but it’s frustratingly out of my reach right now. Thank you for another inspiring and thought-provoking post. Wow…

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    1. Cat Post author

      This was a thinking out loud post, and you did accurately pick up on my conclusion. Since our discussions and reading “nutshell” and now “love’s executioner”, I am becoming more aware that the relationship with Therapist is a central role. I can’t see how it will happen but I imagine my feelings and interaction with Paul will probably start to change and this will no doubt have an effect on personal relationships. So, yes, connections rather than introspection is most definitely on the agenda.

      Thank you for being a part of that journey 😉

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  7. mandy smith

    I’m really glad you like writing about therapy, Cat. It’s always been a sore spot for me. I can’t remember how many different ones I tried. Reading this, I wonder if I couldn’t connect because of my trust issues. I never believed they really cared–obviously they were there “for the money.” Also, I desperately wanted them to bond with me–like, become real friends. I desperately wanted to be cared for–and that wasn’t their job. Or sometimes, like Eric suggesting Paul might need you more than you need him, I found that sometimes I actually ended up counseling my therapists. Whatever the reasons are that you have a difficult time in connecting, you must know that it’s the same for most all abuse survivors–trust is the last thing to come around. I really like what Eric said, too, about possibly seeing how you do on your own, just try it out. I know when I decided no one could get there for me, I started searching for where I could connect. And here I am! 🙂

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    1. Cat Post author

      I always doubt their sincerity and that connection part seems to be a sticky point. I’m not sure about Paul needing me, he has plenty of other clients waiting. This is NHS, we don’t pay for our medical care in uk. It’s only an 18mth programme and I only started 6mth ago. If I gave up now I would only be following the habit of a lifetime. Plus I feel it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself 😉

      Thank you Mandy

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      1. mandy smith

        Oh, I didn’t realize all that, Cat. What you are saying about sticking with something for a change? That’s huge! I’m experiencing that now–for the first time, I don’t want to quit things–so different from the past. I love the way you jump right in and identify the GOOD things that have come from this program! I think writing all this out helped you identify your amazing progress this last 6 months. I give YOU 99% of the credit–you are doing the work. But the program is making you be accountable to follow a schedule and working on things. Now I’m feeling really like you are doing the right thing. Amazing UK has free medial. The US has terrible medical care, and mental health coverage is almost a luxury! $100-$200 an hour usually!

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          1. mandy smith

            We have so many kinds of insurance here, Cat, and many many can’t afford the monthly premium to pay for insurance so don’t have any. I pay $1000 mo premium and then the ins covers about 80% for medical and 70% for mental health coverage–and only 20 visits per year. (We have the worst health care system anywhere!

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  8. N

    I found myself feeling quite similarly at the beginning of my therapy. My therapist kept bringing everything back to the relationship between us and I thought she was being a bit ridiculous. I started to wonder if she just wanted to feel like I needed her, but with a little bit more experience in therapy I’ve actually started to notice ways that I do sometimes react to her as I would another particular person in my life.

    You admit you’ve been disappointed by people in the past. Maybe you like to keep your therapist at distance and value only his professionalism because you don’t want to allow yourself to be let down again? – That could be completely wrong, but from my own experience, I’d be inclined to believe your book might have a point.

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    1. Cat Post author

      Everything I read clearly emphasises the importance of this relationship and apparently that is where real change occurs, so perhaps the therapist wasn’t being so ridiculous after all 😉 You are right about me keeping the therapist at arm’s length because I don’t want to be let down again.

      Thank you so much for commenting, it helps when someone understands.

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  9. martha0stout

    It’s hard to realize that some of the problems we have with people are because of something we did or rather something we didn’t do. But it’s so hard to reach out when you’ve done so for so much of your life only to have it be not only slapped away, but have stones thrown after you for even daring to reach out in the first place.

    But there are those people who will come up to you and even though you are wary, they will just stay there, showing no aggression and only friendship. Sometimes you need that one person to then bring others who only wish to be friends. They teach you that you don’t have to be afraid and some are patient enough to wait out your fear.

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    1. Cat Post author

      One of the things I realised while writing this post is that, sure, there are those who let me down, but many more tried to reach out. Something in me repels connection, similar to the therapeutic relationship.

      Thank you, Martha, for your thoughtful comment 😉 It’s nice and supportive when people understand

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  10. Sharon Alison Butt

    Umm, yes that’s not surprising. If your parents let you down, then you are bound to struggle to trust anyone else.

    Your pictures are amazing! You always manage to find something that aptly captures what you’re trying to say. You could not have found a better pic of that plastic bubble!

    I am well aware that my little incisions about God are probably numbing, as you are bound to think that if there was one, why did he let all this crap happen to you. That’s okay, he understands that contempt. But if I found the cure for Cancer and kept it to myself, it would be the height of selfishness. You don’t have to get your head around why would a stranger on the internet care. I know what he’s done for me that’s all, and we all like to pass on a great recipe don’t we?

    I think many of us struggle with trust owing to our childhoods, so its great that you can face your demons head on.

    I’ve almost caught up with your blogs now, but I think I’m gonna be behind for a while.

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    1. Cat Post author

      It’s very nice and supportive of you to take the time to catch up…. thankfully, I don’t tend to write too many posts 😉 Yes, trust has become central focus this week in therapy… the reason why genuine connections are so difficult.
      I am not a stranger to Christianity and worked for the church of Scotland for many years. My views changed over the years when the followers of Jesus – of love and non-judgement – constantly judged and rejected me for being me. It’s all a long story.
      Thank you again for commenting, Sharon

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      1. Sharon Alison Butt

        Thanks for being so honest about that. I am touched that you felt comfortable enough with me to say that. To be honest, I’m not shocked. Sometimes, we Christians have a lot to answer for and give Jesus a bad name. I hope our shockingly bad example won’t put you off a relationship with the real genuine, One who cares – I mean you’ve suffered enough in this life, so why should you let the devil win twice by rejecting Jesus and going to Hell? That’s not God’s will for you, nor his plan. But I totally understand why so called followers of him have made it harder for you to get to Heaven. I met a guy once who asked me for prayer and told me that when talking to God I should refer to him as ‘Susan’ as he was considering a sex change. It didn’t faze me one bit as it’s not my right to judge anyone. He later told me that he was surprised that I took him seriously and did not laugh. Gosh, I’ve got too many sins of my own and silly foibles to be wasting time fussing over the ‘imperfections’ of others. My prayer is that we stop judging and start loving a whole lot more.

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