For me, this is the hardest part of being a therapist. Whether the ending is mutual, or, one sided, it is never easy to say good-bye.
Being a therapist is more than just my job. I put my heart and soul into the work that I do. I feel both humbled and honored when working with my clients. Being privy to inner thoughts, secrets, feelings and experiences-many which may not have ever been exposed before, is huge. I take what I do seriously, and, I hope that my clients do as well.
Therapy isn’t like other relationships. It’s not about me. It’s about them. Helping them heal. Helping them figure things out. Helping the client find their voice, direction, strengths and abilities that may have never been known.
And, unlike most, if not all other relationships in life, both parties go into the therapeutic one with the expectation that it will end. And, once it ends, it’s done.
This is something that I grapple with. How to say good-bye. Especially when it is the clients’ sudden decision. How and where does the therapist fit in?
Recently, I had a client whom I had been working with for a long period of time. T. was struggling. Almost no area in life was working. From relationships to employment to financial, nothing was going according to plan.
Together, we dug through the muck. We dug through the pain, disappointment, and sadness that had gotten T. to the present. Challenging assumptions about life and what T. thought was true. Opening up skeletons in the closet, facing them head on. It was hard work. T. hardly missed a session.
In the midst of our work, T. stopped. It was hurtful in it’s simplicity. Crushing in it’s formality. An email, that’s all it was. Thanking me for my care, time and our work together. Feeling in a different place, T. decided to “try someone new”. Almost like a shirt that has fallen out of fashion.
I couldn’t conceal my shock. I responded that I was surprised, shocked at this sudden turn of events. What there something in our work that made T. unhappy? Something I did? Didn’t do? Should have done? I wished T. luck and all my best.
I do, I really do wish the best for T.
But, as I deal with the aftermath of the end of our work for myself, I have questions. Was I too involved? Were my boundaries where they should have been? Did I miss something? As I ask myself why this affecting me, I have to wonder, therapy is about people. Relationships. Being real.
Finding the balance between the realness of the relationship, while maintaining objectivity of the therapist is a constant process. One that I don’t want to ever stop working on. After all, being a therapist means being a person and being really there in the client’s experience.
While the therapeutic relationship is not about the therapist, and, it never, ever should be. Does it mean that I did my job well because I am sad? Or, I did too much because I am?