As you might have seen in movies or so, it is nowadays somewhat popular to have your own therapist that you can call any time and discuss all sorts of issues. Even in real life, I’ve heard statements like “I have to talk to my therapist about that before I make a decision”.
In the world of therapy, there are occasions where this might work well for both parties – the client having some sort of safety and back up and the therapist having a grateful and loyal dependant client. And sometimes this leads to unhealthy relationship, not to mention the therapist’s temptation that the longer a client stays in therapy, the more money a therapist makes, therefore dependency might even be created deliberately. I hope I’m making this up and this would never be the case in reality.
In Solution Focused Therapy a role of a therapist is minimal. We discussed that a bit in previous posts, saying the therapist takes a non-expert position in relationship with the client. To develop this further, if the therapy is to be successful, the clients won’t even remember the therapist and/or what he/she did. So it is quite the opposite of the above statement.
I have a client, who’s been in more than 3 sessions already. Her best hopes to say generally, were to overcome anxiousness and bring some order in her life. She hoped to be better organized and to find some path and determination that would get her where she wanted to go. Which she didn’t know yet. In her feedback, she told me the sessions were a nightmare for her, because she’s been exhausted afterwards. However in spite of that, she was making great progress, as her situation began to change dramatically, because she took from where we started in sessions describing preferred future. So I understood her exhaustion as a sign or evidence that there is some dynamic going on. As I asked her about that she agreed and added she was exchanging old energy for new and unknown one.
Our sessions were long, a bit too long and I was inexperienced to be able to stop at a right time (I’ve improved now, thanks to her!). Further, I began to notice she’s reporting me every little detail she did or didn’t do as well as the reasons why she reacted this way. If this was happening during our session, that would be expected and fine, but it was outside the session, her sending me text messages every day or so. I started to worry whether what we do is being helpful and useful for her. I realized it was not, because she was depending upon a feedback, my approval and praise. So I had to back up, not giving feedback anymore. It was a hard thing to do, because I may appear impolite or rude. If our task was to open the window, I was helping her open it. But I wanted her to learn to open it herself, because she had everything she needed to do that. I didn’t want to do that for her, even though it may be easier and also quicker. But I wanted her to become independent and find her own way.
So after a few attempts she stopped writing. As we’re in contact, I was still aware of what was going on with her and when we coincidentally met, we discussed other issues. If she was not an acquaintance who I meet regularly, I wouldn’t “break” the contact the way I did, because in another situation this might mean a client would not ever come back, because she/he might feel rejected or might understand this as a sign of me giving up on her, which may push her in deeper problems instead of looking for signs of progress. So it really depends on situation.
Yesterday, there was a knock on the office door, where I write my dissertation. It was her. She delivered amazing news, saying she’s passed an exam. It was her 276312893(!) attempt and she was really annoyed by her recent failures and professor’s attitude. In our sessions we didn’t even try to go as far as trying to pass that exam. But she did, it appeared to me “just like that” even though I realize it must have taken her great efforts and discipline that brought her to finding her way and making incredible progress on herself. I stood there with my mouth opened.
Then she said she’d like to come to therapy again. I was happy with that. She also said, she’s really comfortable now and she would like to move forward. So in her next session we’ll explore how she managed to achieve such great success in such a short period of time. Once we have a clear picture of that, this might serve her well as a tools and a weapon for future challenges. Or it may be something else, it’s up to her.
Opening windows. Dear reader, if we ever meet in session and after we’re done and stop meeting, if we meet in the street in a year or so, it would be the greatest compliment for me that you would hardly remember who I was.