The Tough Goodbyes
This week I had a termination session with a client that I have worked with for the past year and a half, and honestly, it was tough. It is rare that a client actually sticks with therapy through the entire process and gets to a point where we can have a termination session. They were so strong and stuck through it, even when it was the most painful. They decided that they felt strong enough to move on in life and leave their past behind. I was so proud of them for this decision. I am thankful for that closure, as we had the opportunity to reflect on how that client felt they had grown and what they will take away from what they learned in therapy, but it does not mean that it is not tough to say goodbye.
Therapy is a tough process and one that I think most people are not fully prepared for. Most think that Therapy is going to be a quick process and understand that it will be painful, but don't quite realize the depth of this pain until they are in it. Is this their fault? Absolutely not. It is just something that cannot be explained until it is felt. In not being prepared for the amount of pain, many people decide that they will come back to the process later. This is why it is rare for me to actually walk through the entire process with many of my clients.
This form of goodbye, where the client decides not to return in the middle of their therapy, is tough and has its own process of grief, because the client and I didn't get closure, to wrap up the process that they experienced Yes, Therapists face grief too. Not many people understand the relationship that is formed between a client and therapist. We are humans and we get attached, just like you do to us. There is a rapport that is built, a trust that is earned, a relationship built, and therefore a grief process that occurs with the loss of that relationship. We as Therapists are held to certain regulations that do not allow us to have a personal relationship with clients for a certain amount of time after the therapeutic relationships ends if we have had a professional relationship with them. It is one that protects the privacy of the client and allows them to have a private life if they choose to do so, that doesn't include the therapist. But it doesn't mean that we don't feel some sadness for seeing someone walk away from their healing.
I thought it would be helpful to explain to you the impact that clients have on me, as many probably think that it is a one way street.
1. I am thankful for you
It is because of you that I am able to do the job that I absolutely love and am passionate about. You allow for me to do a job that doesn't feel like a job, one that I get to care for others and support them through a difficult time in their life. I cannot explain to you the amount of fulfillment that this brings to me. This is an invaluable gift that you provide me, simply by being my client. You allow me to hear your story and that means so much to me. You are willing to trust me with something that is so precious and valuable to you, one that requires you to be so vulnerable. I want you to know that you are so courageous and having been through the therapy process myself, I know is NOT easy. For some, it takes every ounce of courage to walk through the doors of my office each and every time. You are not alone. Therapy is a tough process for everyone and one that requires constant work and motivation.
2. You teach me.
Yes, I went to school to get my Masters in Counseling so that I could learn how to best help you, but I think something that is not acknowledged enough is how much YOU teach me. Seeing your strength, courage, and resilience is often a lesson to me. You encourage me and I grow through listening to you talk about your life and growth. Often times, you teach me more than you realize not only as a therapist, but as an individual in my own life. It is amazing to see your growth from the beginning of you coming into therapy to when you leave therapy. You were willing to come and do some hard work and face some tough, REALLY TOUGH, experiences that held you down and for that, I commend you. You were brave and you encourage me in your strength.
3. You do not pay me to care.
I cannot tell you how many times someone has said to me that the only reason I care about them and their life is because they pay me. This could not be further from the truth. I became a therapist because I love people. I care about people's lives and what they are facing. When I start the therapy process with you, I start to build a relationship with you. Yes, this is a professional relationship, but it is still a relationship and I get attached to you, because I care about you. I get invested in your life and care about what you are going through. Therefore, when you leave therapy, it is such a bittersweet experience. It is a happy moment in that you no longer feel like you need to come anymore, because you have found your own strength and voice! This is exactly what my job is as a therapist, to help you so that you DON'T feel like you have to come to therapy for the rest of your life. But it is sad, because I don't get to be an active part of your life anymore and I can't just stop caring. So, it does matter to me when you leave therapy and just know that I still care and am always here to support you if you ever feel that you need it.
Goodbyes are tough, but completely worth the relationship that I got to build with you. I could not be more thankful for you, and I want you to know that.
12/24/2020 03:36:02 pm
Thank you for writing about “Tough Goodbyes”. I am currently in counseling and it’s good to know that I truly DO matter to someone who doesn’t HAVE to care. Thanks for being willing to talk about those taboo subjects. I know I, for one, am thankful for the information
12/27/2020 10:36:28 am
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Nurtured Hearts Counseling's Blog
I am a Licensed Therapist in Lone Tree, Colorado and my goal for this blog is to explore taboo subjects that no one is willing to talk about and I am eager to bring awareness to.