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Page Contents: When you’re upset that your psychotherapist may die.                    

 

I have been in treatment for approximately 2½ years. I saw my psychologist, at first on a twice weekly basis, and I now see him on a weekly basis. I was very depressed when I first went to see my psychologist. He has been helping me with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. He has helped me greatly. Last week he became unexpectedly ill and was hospitalized. . . .

I am very distraught. I think I have been crying for days. I always ask my psychologist if things I do are normal because I like to be normal. So is it normal for me to be this upset about a non-family member that may die? I am married and have a child, but I feel so alone.

 
Of course it’s normal to care about someone with whom you have spent the last 2½ years sharing the depths of your inner life.

Having said that, I must also add that it’s now important to realize that your psychotherapist’s illness—and your emotional reactions to it—has become a part of your psychotherapy; therefore, when your psychologist recovers and returns to practice it will be important to speak about all this openly and honestly with him. (And—God forbid—if he were to die or not return to practice, then you would need to continue this psychotherapeutic issue with another psychologist.)

Just keep in mind that the end of psychotherapy is the ability to dissolve your intense need for another person and to function independently, using your own psychological and spiritual resources. You can’t get to that point, though, until you first encounter your inner capacity to form “normal” attachments. Moreover, persons with PTSD, depression, and anxiety often have serious difficulty forming honest and intimate attachments. So your reactions to this illness are showing you that you are part way to the ultimate goal. Congratulations.

 


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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