finishing chapters; shutting doors: endings in therapy
Someone once told me that the best way to never leave therapy is by becoming a therapist...! This is because as a therapist you sit with your clients alongside the wise voices of your supervisor and your own therapist, all of the time. There are the books you continue to read, the various CPD training courses you attend to diligently and the writing you privately work on, on top of your client work – all of this and more keeps a therapist in "therapy mode". Clients however do leave (and should).
Endings (and not just in therapy) for the most of us are tricky, messy and confusing, we would rather avoid and not do it if possible. Sometimes people go to large extents of avoiding any ending. They may 'ghost' you, run away, disappear, not show up, avoid you. Often clients, knowing that it’s their last session, will find every valid reason in the book to not show up. And sometimes they just go silently.
Some clients leave prematurely. A psychoanalyst may attempt to see this as resistance or some form of abandonment but I think clients leave primarily because therapy is difficult. It is not easy being vulnerable and harder yet to shift established ways of being and thinking – the roots run deep. The word ‘change’ is often thrown about lightly, it's easy to say but not so easy to do. Our long-held beliefs and ways of being in the world are like the houses we live in. To change these would mean moving home and we all know how stressful that can be!
Ultimately however it matters not how many sessions a client has (short or long term). Sometimes a simple tool or technique attained from a short time together can be enough. Not every client needs to be in long-term therapy. What remains, however, are that “endings” are important and therefore it's always good to “end” properly. So it is important to show up for the final act and most clients do.
I keep learning as a therapist and I find that it is of value to let clients know that it is OK to leave therapy, to end it and to leave me, when they are ready. I feel strongly that the client should be in charge of the entire process. It is in therapy that we learn to do what we can then try to mirror in our outside lives. So often we need the same from others too – the many people that we wished could have helped us to leave (that relationship or that job).
The relieved expression on a client’s face when I tell them that I will help them to leave, if ever they need me to, is lovely to witness. I say this to them too: “should and when you decide to ever return I will still be here; with the same contact number, the same email and ready to get right back to work". (written by Amrit Sagoo)
colours of your self-esteem
What I never
from my mother
someone desires you
not mean they value you.
desire is the kind of thing that
leaves you starving. (Nayyirah Waheed)
“Just because someone desires you, does not mean that they value you”.
Read it over.
Let these words seep deep through you and settle, albeit uncomfortably, in your mind.
This is what we sometimes say when we speak of our longing to be desired and for their desires to be reciprocated - to have our 'happy ever after'.
We all yearn this, this feeling of reciprocity when it comes to our intimate relationships yet yearning does not make it so.
Often wishing for something (or someone) to be in a certain way with us leads to much disappointment.
In a therapeutic encounter we find that there ways of looking at these experiences of excitement and new love. We find that we take the time, slow down and pay close attention to our instincts and gut feelings we know more than we let ourselves believe. We know if someone is going to be good for us right from the start and often we try and silence that voice because we do not want to believe what it is telling us. Often it is because we wish to stop looking for 'the one'. We want the person we are with now to be the one.
Much time is needed when it comes to forming intimate relationship and in our “quick fix; only a mouse click away; multiple choices that exist” society in which we live today, it is easy to forget.
Yet it pays to be cautious, for rushing in can often lead to much disappointment and a broken heart - and a broken heart and a shattered sense of self-esteem may take many years to mend, to rebuild and is never quite the same again.
So trust the signs, that voice.
And ultimately, know the difference between someone who values you from someone who just desires you. (written by Amrit Sagoo)
vulnerability in therapy
"What happens when people open their hearts?"
"They get better.”
- Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood
Opening your heart in therapy takes courage. It is not easy. It is not easy sitting in the client’s chair for your first session, meeting your therapist for the first time and being asked to tell your story and what brings you to counselling. It is a huge question. Where do you start you may ask yourself? How do you start? A simple question with such complex answers. So you begin as all stories do from the very beginning. You find your ‘once upon a time’, your intro, and you start with that. Slowly. There is no rush, not even with a limited amount of sessions as you might do if you’ve been referred by your GP. Six sessions is plenty to begin with. Sometimes it is the right amount of time and more.
So there you are, on time for your first session, thinking about running away and feeling completely vulnerable. It is absolutely natural. A good therapist will have had extensive amount of personal therapy hours herself as a client, so she will know what and how it feels to be in the client’s chair. I am a therapist, but I am also a client – I have my own personal therapist. I find this is not only essential to my work as a therapist, but as a source of my own emotional support. You cannot give if your own well is dry. I know how hard it is to talk about the truly painful stuff that’s happened, that still bleeds even after much time or no time has passed. I understand how uncomfortable it is to be open with your hidden shame, your darkness, your demons, your capacity for hope and faith shaken and diminished. And the longing your heart still holds and needs to speak of.
All you need to do as a client and when working with feelings of vulnerability is to find a therapist you connect with. Do not be impressed by credentials, although they do signify determination, but go for someone who you feel in your gut ‘gets you’. Do not decide based on modalities either – don’t worry if the therapist is CBT oriented, psychodynamic, humanistic or existential. Even though I am an existential therapist for I love philosophy, stoicism and working with our existential givens what I tell my clients when they ask me about my way of working is this: I have a space for therapy. I sit in it. People come to see me and we talk. I care about everyone who comes even if it is very hard, very painful or scary. I don’t turn clients away unless, of course, I feel they would be better off with someone else. I stick around. I listen and I don’t run away.
I do this because it was done for me, and this meant the world to me. I do this because I know this helps with feelings of vulnerability and allows people to open their hearts. When they do, they do get better. (written by Amrit Sagoo)
time: the stage on which grief is portrayed
Joan Didion captured the lived-experience of Grief perfectly in her book The Year of Magical Thinking.
For those of you needing comfort from a broken heart caused by bereavement (not just through death but a loss that comes in many shapes and forms) you will find that this book will put into words what your heart wants to say but unable to do so. It offers you something in return for your time and your patience. The book will try to make sense of the process of grief that you are feeling- that there is no timeline and despite our assurances of knowing-what-it-must-be-like we can never really know until we arrive at that place (and when grief arrives in its boat to meet us).
Most of life is like this I think. We think we know how we are going to feel when something in the future happens.
We, (I for instance), dread that late-night call that will surely, as the sun will rise tomorrow, come at some point. I think I know how I will be at that point but I know that I don’t know, not really at least.
The impact of that heartbreak is something we will only truly feel and experience when that time presents itself and now it only sits in that place where imagination is wild but removed from reality. But in my smallest of hearts, I can only hope that when those heart-breaking moments arrive we will remember that there great resources of support available for us -- Joan Didion’s words of wisdom is but one and her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, a superb read in its entirety — enormously difficult, but the kind that stays with you for a lifetime.
"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect the shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes. In the version of grief we imagine, the model will be “healing.” A certain forward movement will prevail. The worst days will be the earliest days. We imagine that the moment to most severely test us will be the funeral, after which this hypothetical healing will take place. When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves the for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself." (J Didion) (written by Amrit Sagoo)