SHOULD YOU STAY IN THERAPY ONCE THE CRISIS THAT BROUGHT YOU HERE HAS PASSED?
Of course I've dug myself a bit of a hole with this blog project. I am committed to writing. Not committed such that I go outside insane with the stress of over-committing. Not committed such that I compromise my health. But committed in a many-layered and important kind of way. And I know there are eager readers and that the conversations I will have with them will enrich my week. And, ultimately, I believe the work matters. So I will write.
I have been writing some terrible stuff the past couple of days. Truly terrible.
I have a list of topics that I think would be valuable to write about.
I have an order to these topics that I think would be useful and provocative - I envision a series with an arc, if you will.
And if I do it that way you will have some dry-ass so-called educational drivel in your inbox and what is the point of that?
But if I stick to what is alive for me right now, I don't get the posts I want. I get this - which I imagine the reader questioning - what the hell is the point?
Yes. I have an imaginary reader who isn't particularly kind. I'll see if I can get them off the mailing list.
Should I Stay In Therapy?
So now let's redo this story as if I was talking about therapy.
I have a list of topics I think should be addressed.
But when I get in the room I cannot be anything other than what I am at that moment.
And to stick to an agenda would suffocate my opportunity to live in that moment.
And the topics do get covered. I am not wrong that they need to be addressed.
But I can't squeeze them out. I can't force them.
I come in. I sit down. I say what is on my mind. And we talk.
And I have to bear being who I am. Not the person I want to be, plan to be, strive to be. But me.
And my therapist has to bear being who she is too. And who she is with me. And me with her.
Owwww. It hurts to think about. It is so raw.
This article is dedicated to those of you who have just begun therapy. Who are 5 or 10 sessions in.
You have made the leap and done the terrifying thing - talked to a stranger about what is going on with you. About who you are. The initial crisis is, perhaps, over. You find yourself insisting to your therapist how you are not crazy, how everything is alright. You find yourself giving detailed updates of the week's events. You find yourself missing sessions. When your therapist's name comes through your inbox you cringe a bit. You have reached a crossroads.
It may be time to end therapy. Or - and I believe this is often although certainly not always the case - you have arrived at the point where the work is going to go somewhere difficult. It's not going to be easy and you know it. You have shown yourself to this person and now they might actually see you. And what will come of that?
The project of speaking that is psychotherapy is this - can you put language to that fine line, that sliver of feeling, that your desire to flee sits on top of? Can you tell me what it is like for you to be exactly where you are - right now - having begun a process and wondering how it should continue?*
I believe that a thoughtful answer to this question, developed over time, guides each of us to the next steps that are right for us.
Pause here for a moment before continuing.
*"Can you tell me what this is like for you?": This sentence needs a bit of a chat. It is something I felt in the moment and wanted to ask the imaginary 'reader at a cross roads.' But writing is not reality. The answer to this question is for your therapist. Talking with someone outside your therapy about your therapy is almost always not a good idea. That is a whole other topic. And one which weighs on me as I write this. This note written with therapists in mind: It is this not talking which I believe is one of the factors that has kept our profession as under wraps as it is. Many (although not all) meditation teachers talk in detail about the practice itself and as a result meditation is widely practiced and 'understood'. Psychotherapy is not as well understood and part of the reason for this is the boundaries that must be put around it in order for the process to have integrity and value. This goes far beyond the ethics of confidentiality. And this is the conundrum and weight under which I write every line.
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These two very different women and therapists inspire and spur me on with their writing. Their posts from last week were juice for mine: Linda Esposito, The Painful Truth About Happiness Linda writes with brutal honesty and forthrightness about therapy and the work required to make change. She makes me laugh and she speaks boldly. I admire that.
Justine Froelker, Living In The Tension Justine's work moves me. Her blog, Ever Upward, is about her recovery from infertility but it is about much more than that. It is about recovery from the losses of life. And her recovery is deep, heartfelt, and ongoing.