A Guide to Psychology and its Practice

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Page Contents: When a psychotherapist says nothing.                    


I met my therapist because I needed someone for my son who has ADHD and behavioral problems. She later asked me if I also needed a therapist and I said yes. I was in therapy with her for two years for depression, PTSD, and anxiety. She was very good in helping my son and with helping me. I grew very attached to her. I was able to tell her about things which I had never told anyone. I was very suicidal at times and she helped me through it. I always told her I was grateful for her help, and showed her the respect and kindness she deserved. One day she said she was leaving her group of therapists and taking another job. She was not sure if she would be continuing her private practice. She would no longer be my therapist and I needed to find someone else. I told her I could not bear to start therapy over again with someone new.
Although we met several times after that, she changed her manner and became cold and distant. I gave her a letter thanking her for all she had done for me and for my son. She never said one word to me of encouragement, or support, or caring, or anything positive about me. Am I wrong to expect that she would say she wished me the best, or hopes all goes well for me, or something of that nature? I am hurt beyond belief and I have cried every time I think of her. I feel I can not trust any therapist, that I am completely alone, that she threw me out like garbage (get rid of it quickly and don’t think about it again). I was so distressed the last time I saw her the only way to get through it was for me to put myself in a safe place inside my mind so she couldn’t hurt me.
She not only never told me that this termination could happen, she kept reassuring me that it would not happen. When it did, why could she not say one kind word to me?
“It was nice to have known you” “I also learned something from you” S O M E T H I N G............
or when a therapist says nothing it really means, JUST GO AWAY?

Yes, you have been deeply hurt. And yes, your psychotherapist could have handled the termination with more sensitivity. There’s really no excuse for her to have not said something.

Yet the point of your question goes far deeper than your feeling hurt by the manner of the termination.

The fact is, when a client’s progress in psychotherapy is based on the satisfaction of receiving the psychotherapist’s unconditional acceptance, everything will come crumbling down, like a brick house in an earthquake, when, for one reason or another, deliberately or inadvertently, the psychotherapist withdraws that acceptance.

In other words, when psychotherapy recreates the dynamic of a mother-child nurturing, you will want to bask in the imaginary hope of liking and being liked and cared for by the psychotherapist. This is the essence of common love. You will feel enthralled by the psychotherapist’s physical appearance, by the psychotherapist’s demeanor, by the mysterious techniques the psychotherapist uses, or by receiving so-called “healing energy” from the psychotherapist.

But just as all common love must eventually encounter the disappointment of the love-hate flip-flop (which occurs when the mother is “absent” and the illusions of acceptance are broken), you will have to encounter within the psychotherapy all kinds of perceived emotional injuries, simply because life itself is filled with emotional injuries and betrayals.

And so, effective psychotherapy must be more than just a mothering process—it must also involve a fathering process by which you can learn to trust in something greater than the mere presence of another person, something of solid confidence that can help you to tolerate the fraud and brutality of the world that will assault you for the rest of your life. Sadly, if your psychotherapy fails to teach you a stability in something more than just another person, you will be left, at the end, tearfully yearning for, well, S O M E T H I N G. . . .


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
San Francisco




A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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San Francisco


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