Have I destroyed the therapeutic relationship?

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Sideways

Moderator
A therapist should be able to withstand an angry email (if that is what you sent).
This is really difficult territory, because when we're angry at the T (as opposed to angry at, say, someone else, or something that happened to us outside therapy), we do have to be careful that we don't devolve into abusive language directed at the T. Excessively hostile language directed at them personally, whether aggressive or passive aggressive, isn't something that's going to work for a T.

I'm not saying that's what happened here, but anger can be a difficult emotion to communicate effectively, without attacking the person we're angry with. It's a learned skill for most of us how to do that. And while Ts should be able to weather an angry patient, even a patient who is angry at them, that becomes dependent on how that anger is being expressed.

I do wonder about the longevity of this relationship. Personally, in the past? I've found ruptures with Ts to be pretty traumatic experiences in themselves! It's really difficult in that moment to see beyond "this T is going to abandon me, and I won't have any help".

That, though, simply isn't true. Whatever we've learned from them? We take with us. And while some of those past ruptures were traumatic for me at the time? They were appropriate. Overdue even. I was so frightened of losing my T, that I wasn't aware that I really was at the end of what they were able to contribute (and had been for some time).

Our relationship with our T is professional, but also very personal. It's no doubt an incredibly painful situation to be experiencing. I hope the situation resolves favourably for all involved. Certainly it sounds like journalling between sessions, rather than emailing between sessions, may be more helpful moving forward. I've long abandoned emailing my T about therapy issues between sessions - there's too much emotion involved, and the risk of either party misinterpreting content (and the ramifications of that misinterpretation) is way too high.
 
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D

Deleted member 50877

Hi there and thank you very much for your input everyone. I have spent the past two days in tears and trying to process everything and most importantly the not very certain outcome.

Had a session today. We talked about everything that happened and T shared with me the thoughts he went over with the supervisor. He explained again that the reason why he was considering ending was because he had, based on his wrong interpretation / my wrong formulation of the email, a concern that the therapy with him is causing me harm, and that in that case he has to end out of responsibility. But we both agreed and that‘s what the result of the supervision was, that that is not the case. He said he would like to continue and asked me whether I could imagine trusting him after he temporarily broke the promise of not dropping me. I said that I would like to continue and that I certainly would need few sessions to recover, but generally I could imagine that we get to where we were. He agreed that we have to mold the rupture first and that this can only be done by talking about it and that there is some work in front of us.

Overall I am incredibly glad and thankful, that I‘m not losing my T. It seems that while for me the issue was that I made T angry, for him it was purely about believing that I was getting worse in therapy and that they are not able to change approach. But this was only because my criticism in the last email sounded like it was a very general thing bothering me for a long time, while I only meant one session. My words were probably very heavy too and T believed that this was how I felt generally about our work. So now I‘m glad, but also feel numb and almost like now I can start to allow all the emotions. I was crying so much in the session and still feel like bursting into tears now and then, but overall I‘m glad we can go ahead. I think the therapeutic relationship has a very strong basis here and we have done so much work that we can figure this out too. I will want to talk about what I perceived as angry in the session last week and reality test whether there was something angry or not. It seems that Ts understanding why he wanted to quit is different than what I thought. Confident we can sort this out though.

He was very empathetic today and caring, you could tell on his voice that he cared. I had difficulties to talk during some ocasion but he was patient, giving me my space and reassuring me several times. It was good to have him back as he normally is.
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
he temporarily broke the promise of not dropping me. I
I'm genuinely curious about this bit. I'm glad that you guys have started working to fix this rupture. But I'm interested in his phrasing. Cos there is realistically a lot of reasons why he would have to at some point that could or could not be anything to do with you. (think illness, new job.. etc)

Doesn't seem helpful for him to say he won't ever have to stop therapy with you. But maybe I'm being pedantic.
 
D

Deleted member 50877

I'm genuinely curious about this bit. I'm glad that you guys have started working to fix this rupture. But I'm interested in his phrasing. Cos there is realistically a lot of reasons why he would have to at some point that could or could not be anything to do with you. (think illness, new job.. etc)

Doesn't seem helpful for him to say he won't ever have to stop therapy with you. But maybe I'm being pedantic.

This is a good point. The wording he used in the past when reassuring me included death or the option of him not being able to do his work, which sounds like the options you are mentioning. The accompanying idea was that we will work together until I say that we are done or feel that we could take a break. And today, we discussed how this definition wasn‘t accurate and how he has to provide a caveat as now we have explored another reason that potentially could lead to ending: if he ever feels like the therapy is causing me harm.

The promise of not abandoning me was very helpful and necessary in the past. I have been dropped by two therapists before in a unethical way and my fear of him dropping me too if I open up or show emotions was a block that needed a lot of attention in the past.
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
I’m happy this worked out. I think going forward, you should consider all conflict or upsets be saved for “in person.” Though I still email my T, we have a limited response system, I no longer process in email and if I’m upset with her, I ask for a phone call or extra session. Emails now tend to be a list for my next appointment or update on some stuff that I wanted to share. And she doesn’t reply—because my anxiety can’t handle waiting. I was angry about this system for about 1.5 years, lol. It followed a pretty big rupture. Working with therapists is really hard work, with trauma and relational triggers all over the place, but I am finally to a place where I am seeing some life changes. Hang in there!
 

whiteraven

MyPTSD Pro
Doesn't seem helpful for him to say he won't ever have to stop therapy with you.
I think this is a thing with some therapists. I had a therapist who was kind of picking up the pieces after a horrible situation with another, and she said this. I didn't take it to heart, which was good, because she did terminate after a year (and pretty abruptly) because she had found a new job.

My next therapist did the same thing. I told him it was unwise, and after we talked about it, he agreed.
 
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