Saturday, April 2, 2011

Disappointment in therapy

I saw my therapist for about a year, part of that time twice a week. I came to therapy with a specific issue. This issue did not get resolved.

Even so, I had gotten close with my therapist. Charlie is an older man, in his sixties I would guess. Through working with him, I have been reminded to get back to the fundamentals of therapy in my own work - to talk less, to listen more, and to be genuine with clients. Howard and I once even talked about aiming to be the Tim Duncan (basketball's Mr. Fundamental) of therapy.

I don’t know the details of Charlie's life, but I feel like I know Charlie because he is himself with me. He has a way of greeting me, putting his hand on my back and making eye contact that makes me feel liked. I want Charlie to like me.

He has been a father figure to me. I sometimes have the wish that we could know each other outside of the therapy office, that we could go fishing, not saying much, just spending time together. 
This has been the most important thing I have gotten from therapy - a relationship with an older man who gets me and accepts me for who I am.

Nevertheless, I hadn’t resolved the issue that brought me to therapy. It had been a year. I was going out of town for a few months, and the future of our therapeutic relationship was unclear.

I don’t remember how it came up, but I know I didn’t just bring it up. Charlie had to get it out of me: I was disappointed in him. I was disappointed that we had not resolved the issue that brought me in. I had avoided telling him this because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and then have him like me less.

When I am the therapist, I encourage clients to talk to me about their feelings about our relationship, but here I was as the client hiding.

Now my disappointment was out in the open for us both to smell. I expected Charlie to try to fix it, to suggest ways we could work through the issue. But he didn’t. Neither did he seem offended or hurt. He didn’t take responsibility for not solving the issue but he didn’t try to absolve himself either. He just let it be.

He said he understood why I would feel that way, and he asked me why I hadn’t told him sooner. There was some urgency to this last question, as if he also meant, “I wish you had told me sooner. You don’t have to hide from me.”

I felt the relief of being honest, and I felt the relief of another person not running away from the truth I was hiding. 

Sometimes therapy works this way: You come looking for one thing, and you find something else. I came in looking for a solution to a specific issue. Instead, I found someone who challenged me to be more me.

No comments:

Post a Comment