Reasons to Leave your Therapist, Part III: Therapy Love? How about Therapy I’m starting to Hate?

September is back to school, back from summer vacation, and for many the beginning of a new year and a new beginning.  In our lives, some things are always beginning, and some ending, but it often takes contemplation to know which should be which…

How in the world do you know when to end therapy?  There are a number of scenarios, depending on you, your therapist, and your course of treatment. Leaving the good experience can be tough; ending a not-so-good, or a downright bad, therapy can be even more difficult.

Ending before you begin:  What’s a fair amount of time to decide if this is the (right) therapist for you?  What if you get a funny feeling early on?  What if you’ve been given a referral by someone you trust, and you have a terrific initial conversation, only to find something comes up early on that really bothers you?  Should you start with a therapist when you’re not so sure she’s the right one for you?

Yup.

Here’s a shortcut to what I think is the right balance:  you should feel comfortable enough to speak openly and honestly, but not so comfortable you feel as if you’re having coffee with a friend.  Go with your feelings.  If it feels right, dive in, if not, keep looking.

Ending in the middle:  You’ve hit a speed bump.  Maybe your therapist did something you didn’t like, or has turned out to have shortcomings you hadn’t seen before (I have certainly been guilty of both, and no doubt will again).  Maybe your therapy’s veered in a direction that doesn’t quite feel on the mark.  Maybe there’s something you just can’t bring up, maybe even bring yourself to face – about the problem that brought you in to therapy in the first place, about your feelings toward your therapist, about your thoughts or conclusions. 

Bring it up.  No matter what it is, whether you are “right” or “wrong” think you “should” feel this way or not, might “hurt feelings” or “make her angry.”  Bring it up.  Because that accomplishes two things:  you get it out and realize you’re still alive (hopefully with a tour guide who’s calm and compassionate), AND you get to see how your therapist reacts.  Does she minimize what you say, make you feel small or silly or just plain wrong or bad?  Or does she listen, take you seriously, consider her part in your discomfort and work with you to get over (not around) the bump?  Because that will tell you all you need to know.  Can’t avoid the bumps, I’m afraid; can avoid feeling afraid to talk about the bumps with the therapist who’s meant to help you do so.

Ending when it feels as if you’ve been going forever.  If therapy’s been uncomfortable and unproductive for a long time, if you find yourself leaving each session wondering why you bother,  if you keep trying to communicate something but your therapist really doesn’t seem to get it/you,  if you feel increasingly frustrated (maybe even angry), it’s time to reassess.

If, after months, maybe even years in therapy, you are feeling that you’ve hit a wall, chances are you have.  If, after months, maybe even years in therapy,  you are feeling unheard, you’ve got to wonder:  what will it take for this therapist to get me?  Actually, maybe you’ve got to stop wondering, and just start saying your goodbyes.  Because if you’ve invested months and years in treatment and your therapist still doesn’t get it, or you’ve stopped learning anything significant about yourself long ago, or if you’ve gotten stuck in the land of diminishing therapeutic returns: it is time to go.  Maybe time to end therapy, maybe just time to end therapy with this therapist.  Doesn’t mean it hasn’t been real, useful, important; just means it hasn’t been for a while.  A dry spell is one thing – every therapy relationship (geez, every relationship) goes through those – but a dry spell that lasts for weeks and months is more than a dry spell.  It’s a dessicated therapy experience.  And that is none too therapeutic.

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

You and Your Therapist: Part IIa. Therapy Love, Revisited

Sometimes I feel like there’s a wall between me and my therapist.  And sometimes I wish there were some sort of wall between me and my therapist!  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  And I worry:  does it mean she can’t help me?

It’s making me so uncomfortable!  How do I stop falling in love with my therapist?  It’s making me so uncomfortable! How do I keep my therapist from falling in love with me? 

Sometimes I think I don’t even like my therapist.  Do I have to for therapy to work?  I don’t think my therapist even likes me.  Does she have to for therapy to work? 

I hate it when my therapist is mad at me.   Why does it bother me so much? What do I do?  I hate it when I am mad at my therapist.  Why does it bother me so much?  What do I do?

Questions like these just keep rollin’ in to us here at Feeling Up in Down Times.  In the initial installment of Therapy Love, we addressed those good  (sometimes confusingly so) feelings:  loving your therapist – or wondering if your therapist loves you.  But what about all the uncomfortable negative feelings:  worrying if your therapist secretly hates you – or if you secretly hate your therapist?  Worrying if your therapist is angry with you for not acting on what you’ve supposedly been learning in your therapy.  Worrying if you’re too angry with your therapist for therapy to be helpful.

When you come to trust someone as much as you can the therapist you share so much of yourself with, when you come to trust your therapist “gets” you, you’d think you’d feel comfortable, safe, free to be yourself.  And that is usuallythe case.  But in a cruel twist of fate, it can also mean that whatever negative feelings do come up seem particularly meaningful and important.  And that, in turn, makes it both more uncomfortable to share them with your therapist – and more important to do so.

Maybe those negative feelings are so uncomfortable because the relationship comes to matter so much.  Because therapy love just feels so real, almost like the real thing.  Therapy Love is a real thing, it’s just not the realthing.  Therapy love is a state of heightened emotions in a situation where your every emotion is under a microscope:  one you and your therapist share and look through together.  Or – often and –  a microscope you’re uncomfortable having anyone else look through, especially your therapist.  All in an intimate relationship that looks and feels just enough like a real life relationship to make you wonder:  what’s going on here, and what do I do about it?

You take a deep breath.  You bring it up, into the light of day.  You explore the realm of contradictory feelings, the juxtaposition of loving and hating.  Because the one thing you can count on if you do risk sharing those tough feelings with your therapist  is that you’ll learn an awful lot.  About yourself.  About yourself in relationships. It’s rare to have a dedicated person and place to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly – with the very person you’re feeling those things about, when you’re feeling those things.  Unlike the other people you may love, your therapist doesn’t have any vested interest in the outcome.  Your therapist is working for your insight, in your best interest.  It starts in the relationship between you, but it extends beyond that, way beyond that.

Even with any fears or anger or disappointment.  Even better than any fantasies.  And  that just might be the best thing about Therapy Love.

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Feeling Up in Down Times named as one of the 25 Best Blogs for Coping With Unemployment » Online College Search – Your Accredited Online Degree Directory

The 25 Best Blogs for Coping With Unemployment – #9

Soothe the Stress: A Conscious Breathing Meditation

I was recently asked to put together a conscious breathing meditation for someone who finds reading an easier way to focus than listening to a pre-recorded meditation – and for whom simply returning to a focal point may well be simple, but is not at all easy.  The following meditation is meant to be read, either silently or, if one wanted to, recorded in one’s own voice.  Thought I’d share it here for anyone else who might find it helpful.  Comments – always – appreciated.

Make certain you won’t be disturbed.  Turn off the tv and quiet all electronic devices.  Close the door and quietly yet clearly tell yourself you have decided you will now do a conscious breathing meditation.  Determine if you will give yourself 3-5 minutes, or if you might set aside 15-20 minutes.  Either way, consciously decide you will now do a breathing meditation, and gently tell yourself you will now begin.

Sit comfortably, by which I mean sit with your feet uncrossed and on the floor, and your hands uncrossed in your lap or resting on the arms of the chair.  Let the chair support your weight;  feel the floor under your feet. Or lie down comfortably – supported and uncrossed – on the floor.  If your body wants to shift position as your meditation progresses, that’s fine.  Just start out uncrossed and supported by chair or floor.

Close your eyes and focus your awareness on your breath.  Nothing to do, nothing to worry about, simply notice your breath coming into your body, and moving out of your body.  And again.  And again.  As you focus your awareness on your breath, you may notice your breathing gets deeper – or more shallow.  If it changes, fine.  If it does not change, fine.  Simply focus your awareness on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Notice your breath coming into your body, moving through your body, and moving out of your body.  And again.

Good.

Now allow your awareness of your breath to gently shift, as you focus on HOW you inhale through your nose.  Notice how your breath fills your chest and belly. And then focus on HOW you exhale, also through your nose.  Nothing to do, nothing to change, just focusing your awareness on your breathing however it is in this moment.

You are becoming mindful of your breath, focusing your awareness on your breath, becoming conscious of your breathing.  Nothing to do, nothing to worry about; no correct way, no incorrect way.  Simply focusing your awareness on your breath.  As it moves into your body, as you inhale through your nose.  As it moves through your body, filling your chest and belly with breath.  As it moves out of your body, as you exhale through your nose.  Notice how it is your breath moves into, through, and out of your body.

Good.  As you continue to focus your awareness on your breath, imagine it is as if your breath were breathing you.  As if you were watching a movie called “My breath is breathing me.”  You needn’t do anything; your breath continues with or without your conscious awareness.  You are now choosing to be aware of your breath.

Focus your awareness on your breath as you inhale through your nose.  Focus your awareness on your breath as it fills your chest and belly. Focus your awareness on your breath as you exhale through your nose.

Your mind may wander: remembering something you must do, worrying about a deadline, wondering how you are doing at this meditation.  Minds wander.  It is what minds do.  When your mind wanders, when you become aware of your mind wandering, bring it back to focus on your breath, easily and gently.

Focus your awareness on your breath as you inhale through your nose.  Focus your awareness on your breath as it fills your chest and belly. Focus your awareness on your breath as you exhale through your nose.

Again.  And again.  And again.

Good.

You may find it helpful, as you breathe in, to say to yourself, ‘Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.’ And as you breathe out, to say ‘Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.’  Or “Breath in” and “Breath out.”  Or you may find it helpful, as you breathe, to count your breaths.  If you care to try one of these, do try it.  If not, do not.  Either with or without one of the above, you are focusing your awareness on your breath, recognizing your in-breath as an in-breath and your out-breath as an out-breath. And gently bringing your mind back to awareness on your breathing when it wanders.

Focus your awareness on your breath as you inhale through your nose.  Focus your awareness on your breath as it fills your chest and belly. Focus your awareness on your breath as you exhale through your nose.

Again.  And again.  And again.

Good.  And when you have finished, remember you can bring this feeling of focused awareness with you, as you slowly open your eyes and return to the room.

 

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

FEELING UP IN DOWN TIMES: Psychology in real life, for the good life...

Help, I think I love my therapist!
How do I know if my therapist loves me?
What do I do if I think my therapist loves me?
How do I get my therapist to love me?
Am I supposed to hate the therapist I love?

I’ve been amazed at how many questions like these bring folks to Feeling Up in Down Times. Therapy love feels real, and it is real. It’s just not real love. It’s therapy love.

Transference – all the feelings you put onto your therapist that really emanate from somewhere, someone else. You idealize your therapist, adore your therapist, and then, at some point, you see the shortcomings and the inevitable happens. He or she becomes real, flawed, and not nearly so fantastic as your perfect transference version. Sometimes, you even hate her; talk about falling off the pedestal.

Countertransference – all the feelings your therapist…

View original post 242 more words

Dr. Marlin S. Potash – Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, The Mount Sinai Hospital

Marlin Potash – The Mount Sinai Hospital.

Marlin S. Potash Ed.D. | Official Publisher Page

Marlin S. Potash Ed.D. | Official Publisher Page.