WHEN YOUR THERAPIST CHANGES, PART 1

 
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When I was in training we used to joke about how freaked out one of us was if we saw our therapist on the street - like we unconsciously assumed they slept in their office closet…

We know in our heads that they are human beings.

And the very very young parts of us need them to stay the same.  We need to know we will always be OK. And that they will always be there for us.  This young need gets expressed in many different ways.

Therapy is supposed to be about the client and their change.  And yet the change happens in relationship to another human being, the therapist, who is also living their own life.

Therapists…

get older

start relationships

end relationships

move offices

have children

lose people they care about

study new modalities

heal themselves

get stuck

and on and on.Just like you do.

And so while therapy is about the client, the relationship between therapist and client includes all the changes that the therapist is going through too, though few of them are usually put into words.

Think of your energy when you are grieving.  Then think of your energy when you fall in love.  These are two very different states - visceral, real states. A therapist grieving is grieving in their office.  And a therapist in love brings those exuberant and tender feelings into the office too.

I think psychotherapy is so dynamic.  It might be the same room, the same two people, the same time every week… but both people are fluid having a world of inner and outer experiences between their meetings.  

And when they meet for that hour every week it is new every single time.

So many of us desperately want to pin it down.  To get the security we should have had when we were young.  Security our parents couldn’t give us for a myriad of reasons.  

We want to know outcomes. We want to define relationships. We want assurance.  

We bring this to our therapy.

And in time if we stick with it even in therapy we will discover that things change.

That what we needed as infants we needed.  And those needs can no longer be met by another.  Not for good.

Therapy needs to, eventually, hand the client back to themselves.  

We come home to ourselves. We learn to hold ourselves and reach out for touch, intimacy, affection, attention, insight, support when we need it and we learn to be in our own company when we need that.

That is what is possible for the adult and what was not possible for the infant.  

And so when a therapist changes and when the patient’s response to the therapist includes feelings from the time in their life when they desperately needed to be held, the material for healing is being revealed.

When this dyad tracks their experience, whatever change is happening has the potential to lead the client back to themselves.

With honesty and care and sustained attention change in the therapist can catalyze change in the patient.

The fact of change is unending.  How we approach change in therapy - as both therapist and client - determines how the energy moving through the life of the therapist impacts the experience and healing of the client.

This thinking extends beyond therapist - patient into all interrelationship and interconnectedness.  I sit with it and feel it and though I am alone right now I am most certainly not alone.

I have gone through a lot of change in the past 18 months and I am very aware of how challenging that can be for my clients.  There isn’t anything they “know” that has changed but they can feel it. I will write more about this in the next post or two.  About how we work with change in ourselves and how it changes relationships and the therapeutic relationship.

I am back to blogging about psychotherapy and change every two weeks.  And starting March 20th I am offering A Course About Change,  a five week seminar that dives into many of the aspects of change I have encountered on my journey.  We’ll be working with our intentions for change and exploring new ways of looking at and experiencing change.  I’d love to have you join us. Details here.

I also have a brand new website.  It is an expression of myself, built over the past fifteen months in creative collaboration and with love.  I hope that you find something in it that resonates, illumines, inspires, challenges...

 
Alison