Emailing T between sessions

NightSky

MyPTSD Pro
Email has become so important in my work with my therapist. I email her usually once between sessions. (We meet once a week for an hour). I don’t process until later. In her office (even though I’ve seen her for five years) I often dissociate and can’t say things I need to. Sometimes I’ll come home and email that night because my mind is spinning and i need to tell her what i couldn’t say. Sometimes I’ll email during the week if there’s something pressing I want to make sure we cover (nightmares. Triggers. Etc). I have struggled massively with this- just like you. Feeling guilty. Not wanting to push the boundaries. She has repeatedly reinforced that it is part of our process and she values it. We’ve gone over and over what it is like for me to get a response vs not. Normally she responds within 24-48 hrs with a few lines or a paragraph. Sometimes she doesn’t respond at all. So after much wrestling with this alone I finally told her I couldn’t handle misinterpreting silence and we came up with a system. In my subject line, I write 1, to indicate this is an email sharing information I want you to have. No need to respond other than letting me know you got it if possible. 2. This is an email that is hard for me to send and I need a line or two to know you’re not angry, I’m not pushing boundaries, haven’t said too much, etc. 3. I need to talk on the phone. Because I’m spinning out of control. 3 has only happened once.
This has been transformative in learning to ask for what I need. And feeling supported through the whole process and not just an hour a week. But it has taken years to hash out what it looks like for us.
Please trust that if your T told you to email, it is in no way pushing a boundaries. They don’t tell you to do it unless they welcome it.
 

knuckles

MyPTSD Pro
... I finally told her I couldn’t handle misinterpreting silence and we came up with a system. In my subject line, I write 1, to indicate this is an email sharing information I want you to have. No need to respond other than letting me know you got it if possible. 2. This is an email that is hard for me to send and I need a line or two to know you’re not angry, I’m not pushing boundaries, haven’t said too much, etc. 3. I need to talk on the phone. Because I’m spinning out of control...

Really awesome. Something like this would be very helpful to me I think. Thank you for sharing @NightSky

The agreement with my therapist was that I could always ask her not to reply - and I did this a couple of times. But it never felt like a good way of handling it, as that "please do not reply" usually came from a place of pushing her away. It also meant that she didn't bring it up in session (and neither did I), which made it worse somehow. Guess I could have asked to try and work out another way to handle those emails.
Reading your post I'm thinking it might have been helpful if I had a way to communicate the emotional charge of the contents and what I felt I needed from her in terms of how/when to respond - like your number system. That would have made sending/sharing raw/volatile emails more productive instead of "hit and run (and never return)". Possibly
 
Last edited:

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
So grateful of you sharing your experiences and knowing that I'm not alone with all these feelings.

A new feeling I have is now how dependent I am on my T and whilst this email business has caused me so much anxiety, I now don't know how I will feel if I can't email her after tomorrow's session. Clearly tomorrow's session is going to be all about emails. Joy!
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
it never felt like a good way of handling it, as that "please do not reply" usually came from a place of pushing her away.

It also meant that she didn't bring it up in session (and neither did I),

While I'm generally ok with our emailing now – I don't do it often, don't tend to feel the intense angst about it that I used to and she generally now sends an acknowledgement so I don't get radio silence – these comments still resonate with me.

I have sometimes found myself finishing an email to her with 'You don't need to reply to this' which I think I've always told myself is me telling her that it is ok for her not to reply. But, I suspect, if she had taken her at her word and not sent any response at all, it would have irked! Thinking on it now, I wonder if writing that looks a little passive aggressive! And, yeah, I think there is a real sense of distancing about it....if I email her telling her some hard stuff but then tell her I don't need a reply from her...I suspect there is an element of, I've made myself a bit vulnerable by telling you this thing....but now I don't need anything from you, so don't even reply!

Plus, if neither of us brought it up again....although I had said I didn't need a reply from her...neither of us mentioning it in the next session always felt frustrating and a bit unsatisfactory. At best, it felt like something was left hanging, with no proper exploration, no new insight and no closure. At worst, it used to feel that she didn't think what I'd shared was interesting or important (totally on me, of course – I know and deep down also knew then that that wasn't what she would think)

Hmm...I think these are things that used to come up for me before but not so much lately...but still something for me to think about...


That would have made sending/sharing raw/volatile emails more productive instead of "hit and run (and never return)".

Describing it as a hit and run is spot on!

I actually woke up this morning feeling like perhaps I would email my T today....some thoughts that have come up since yesterday's session. Ad I was actually thinking of finishing the email saying she didn't need to reply and we didn't need to talk about it next time.
Ha! Will have to think about that now...!


A new feeling I have is now how dependent I am on my T

Mmm...I can relate to this too....not just around the topic of emailing. I definitely go through stages where I feel too dependent. Well, too attached...which is maybe a different thing!

Hope your session goes well!
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks @barefoot

Had the session today. We spent time talking about emailing and talking about what we will do with emailing for the future, and my feelings about her (that I'm dependent on her; I'm scared she will leave me and I'll have to deal with all this on my own; that I need her; that I'm scared I'll push the boundaries with emailing if she leaves the agreement about emailing too open ended).
She told me (as you all have!) that it is for her to manage boundaries and that she will keep an eye on the dependency over the sessions.
She hears my need for another outlet between sessions so sees the value of emailing, and she also hears the worry about boundaries. So we has tightened up the 'email agreement'. Which is: I can email if I need to, it is ok to email, and she will respond to acknowledge it, and it is ok not to email.

I'm all discombobulated (I do like that word).
I don't know 'right' from 'wrong', from 'healthy' to 'unhealthy'. How do you figure this out?
Is it healthy to be dependent and vulnerable with her when I have spent a lifetime avoiding that with anyone?
Is it unhealthy?
Is it healthy to be independent and not need to email her between sessions when I am always so used to solving my own emotions and never making demands on anyone? Or isn't that what I'm meant to change?

So how do I know if it's healthy or unhealthy to email her?

Now a new set of problems to fixate on, obsess over, and all the rest.

Jeez I do my head in.
 

knuckles

MyPTSD Pro
I have sometimes found myself finishing an email to her with 'You don't need to reply to this' which I think I've always told myself is me telling her that it is ok for her not to reply. But, I suspect, if she had taken her at her word and not sent any response at all, it would have irked! Thinking on it now, I wonder if writing that looks a little passive aggressive! And, yeah, I think there is a real sense of distancing about it....if I email her telling her some hard stuff but then tell her I don't need a reply from her...I suspect there is an element of, I've made myself a bit vulnerable by telling you this thing....but now I don't need anything from you, so don't even reply!
Plus, if neither of us brought it up again....although I had said I didn't need a reply from her...neither of us mentioning it in the next session always felt frustrating and a bit unsatisfactory. At best, it felt like something was left hanging, with no proper exploration, no new insight and no closure. At worst, it used to feel that she didn't think what I'd shared was interesting or important (totally on me, of course – I know and deep down also knew then that that wasn't what she would think)
The conflict (if that's what it is) sounds very familiar. For me it's definitely about feeling very exposed and vulnerable - and distancing myself from t so she can't hurt me. I guess there is an expectation of a non-caring response and/or a fear of her using the information against me somehow. But sharing a sensitive email and then not receiving a reply (because I told her not to) is perceived as a sort of invalidation I think. And only made worse if it's not touched upon in the following session.
I guess it's one of those situations where the issue of distancing and not believing that t could/would want to reply kindly or caring (or possibly me not being able to handle it/believe her if she did?) might be worth exploring with the therapist.


Describing it as a hit and run is spot on!
Yeah, throw it hard and run like hell in the opposite direction. Kinda sad actually. Creates absurd amount of anxiety and mind reading for me, making going to therapy even harder. I hope I find a more balanced approach next time around (maybe I should start by giving the therapist a chance to offer ideas instead of assuming I need to figure it all out on my own).

I actually woke up this morning feeling like perhaps I would email my T today....some thoughts that have come up since yesterday's session. Ad I was actually thinking of finishing the email saying she didn't need to reply and we didn't need to talk about it next time.
Ha! Will have to think about that now...!
Just read your post about grief. It stirred up a lot in me, things I can't quite grasp. Preaching what I am almost sure I couldn't practice myself; I hope you find a way to give your therapist the opportunity to show you that you can lean on her with this. It sounds like you could really use the external support and comfort (if you are able to accept it).
 

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
@Movingforward10 feeling ‘needy’ is a thing for me too. I can’t stand feeling needy and it really increases my anxiety if I think I’m being needy. Also don’t like other people being needy with me - it annoys me and then tends to make me want to run for the hills!

I remember saying something to my therapist once, ages ago...something about not wanting to be needy (with her, I think) I think I was getting quite wound up about it as I was talking to her about it.

And then she said something along the lines of: ‘I’m not sure it’s about you being needy...I think it’s more about the fact that you have needs...we all have needs...but I think you are only now realising that you have them too and that seems to evoke very difficult feelings for you.’

Mind. Blown.

It’s still a difficult area for me but I think about what she said then every time I start to worry that I’m being too needy (with her - I don’t really have that feeling with anyone else)

Not sure whether that will resonate with you or not?


Yeah, throw it hard and run like hell in the opposite direction.

Creates absurd amount of anxiety and mind reading for me

(maybe I should start by giving the therapist a chance to offer ideas instead of assuming I need to figure it all out on my own).

All very relatable for me. As is the idea of sharing something vulnerable and then wanting to create distance/come out of relationship with her. I don’t know that it’s because I don’t expect to get a caring response from her... It’s partly that vulnerable/intimacy feel difficult so then creating distance reduces anxiety around that.
On a more practical level, I think if I say she doesn’t need to reply to an email, I feel more in control of the communication. So, rather than sending it, panicking that I’ve sent it and then hanging on wondering has she replied/is she going to reply or not etc I can more easily manage my expectations. If I say ‘you don’t need to reply’ I would expect her to take that as ‘don’t reply’ so I then absolutely don’t expect one and it feels more ok not to get one. Sometimes, she does still reply to acknowledge those anyway though...so it’s not always that straightforward!

I hope you find a way to give your therapist the opportunity to show you that you can lean on her with this

Thanks. I did email her a couple of days ago. Put it all out there...then ended with ‘You don’t need to reply’ and ‘I don’t want to talk about this’ ?
She hasn’t replied so I suspect she won’t and I’m ok with that. A bit anxious about next session though...although I really don’t want to have a session about how I feel about my mum dying, it would feel odd if neither of us acknowledge the email at all. It wasn’t solely about my mum but I suppose that was the key thing. Anyway...she will most likely follow my lead and not mention it if I don’t!

@Movingforward10 I like the sound of your T. She sounds like a good combination of caring and professional. Sounds like she knows what she’s doing ?
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
And then she said something along the lines of: ‘I’m not sure it’s about you being needy...I think it’s more about the fact that you have needs...we all have needs...but I think you are only now realising that you have them too and that seems to evoke very difficult feelings for you.’

Mind. Blown.

Omg! That totally resonates. Makes sense. I will contemplate that.

like the sound of your T. She sounds like a good combination of caring and professional. Sounds like she knows what she’s doing ?
Thanks! I like her too! I feel safe in her hands (mostly!). She is nudging me gently and planting seeds cleverly.
 
Until very recently I have had an ironclad rule for myself that I will not email or text my T in between appointments. I see my T twice a week and that should be enough time. Therapy is therapy. Everything else is everything else. And I kept to this rule even when my T said it was completely ok to check in with her via email or text if I am struggling.

I have a problem with beling flexibile, even at the expense of my mental health.

Recently I had an emotional breakdown that maybe could have been prevented if I had been a lot nicer to myself. I now consider emailing or texting my T to be a way of being kinder to myself and have let myself do it a couple of times. My T has been helpful those times and has responded with sensitivity.

Knowing myself, I know I will not abuse this privilege. My previous T absolutely did not let her clients contact her off the clock so maybe this is where my rule came from. But if my current T is willing to help off the clock, I guess I will let her, since she can set her own boundaries. I can respect that.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
I have a problem with beling flexibile, even at the expense of my mental health.
Until very recently I have had an ironclad rule for myself that I will not email or text my T in between appointments. I see my T twice a week and that should be enough time. Therapy is therapy. Everything else is everything else. And I kept to this rule even when my T said it was completely ok to check in with her via email or text if I am struggling.

I have a problem with beling flexibile, even at the expense of my mental health.

Recently I had an emotional breakdown that maybe could have been prevented if I had been a lot nicer to myself. I now consider emailing or texting my T to be a way of being kinder to myself and have let myself do it a couple of times. My T has been helpful those times and has responded with sensitivity.

Knowing myself, I know I will not abuse this privilege. My previous T absolutely did not let her clients contact her off the clock so maybe this is where my rule came from. But if my current T is willing to help off the clock, I guess I will let her, since she can set her own boundaries. I can respect that.
I'm also inflexible at times (suppose it comes from needing consistency to ensure safety for me).
And your post gives me hope that there is change that I can make about how I view it. Am glad it is now working for you.

So many layers to unpick with sending an email! Who knew?
 
Top