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Sufferer My experience with regression therapy & a question when to quit therapy

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Marla81

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I’ve been reading the posts here and it’s been helpful. So first thank you all. I’m Dutch, so English is not my native tongue. I’m sorry for any bad grammar or spelling errors. I write this post for two things: 1. To share my experience with regression therapy for childhood trauma. I could not find much about it on the forum, maybe it can help other people. 2. Hoping some people can give me some of their thoughts about when to end therapy.

About me: I can’t honestly say I have PTSD. I’ve heard many diagnoses over the years, personality disorder nos, dysthymia, depression, cptsd, ptsd and complex bereavement disorder. My current therapist doesn’t work with diagnoses and skews away from any psychiatry jargon. I like that.
However, I can’t deny I am traumatized by my childhood experiences and still am, 37 years old. While I would say it isn’t that bad, many therapists told me to stop denying. Well, I’ve build a good life. I’m successful… I’m never sick… People call me strong… Yeah… But in my feelings, dreams, and thinking it's something else. Like, I get on my bike to go to work in the morning crying, but moving my body will make the tears go away. I need to be productive and successful, because I have to prove myself I can handle life. Basic safety issues, not great, but I function well.
This year I got promoted at work. They gave me a biweekly coaching sessions for support in my new position. I think the word therapist fits him better, he uses regression therapy and inner child work. I had never done anything like that. I had therapy in (a diverse set of) cbt methods. I said yes when he suggested to work through my past again. I was skeptical and scared though.

I would like to share that regression therapy has been extremely helpful for me. There are controversies about it which I take seriously. But in my experience it really depends on the therapist and the client. Yes, a bad therapist can suggest things and a sensitive client can believe those suggestions or believe firmly in their own imagination. While those things are a risk in any therapy, regression therapy uses guided visualizations around memories, so those things count even more. I’d say a client needs some ego strength and authenticity towards himself and the therapist, while the therapist needs proper technic and having done his own inner work. I believe regression therapy can help people that did not have success with cbt or still have some symptoms (like me) and are willing to endure emotional pain. But N=1 here. If anyone is interested, ask me; I’m willing to discuss how those sessions took form.

During regression sessions he helped me to really feel and get through traumatic memories. That did not work before in cbt for me because when I talked, the feelings weren't there and vice versa. Now I spoke from reliving those memories. I felt like the child I was again. Crucial for me was that he helped me associate or dissociate my feelings, so I felt safe. For example by visualizing I was looking from above. He encouraged me to get ‘through’: Made me say or look at painful things I denied. Now my past feels like it’s about me: Those where my experiences, that childhood is mine. As a result, I don’t have flashbacks, panic attacks or dissociation anymore. For months… yeah… months! This is huge for me, I did not expect I could ever reach that.

However since a session in the beginning of June where we worked on a really important topic, I feel depressed. I told him how I felt: Relieved my anxiety was gone. That I felt more connection with art and music, having more diverse emotions. But I also told him about my depressive feelings. These make me think: “I don’t want to move forward anymore. Life has no meaning. Everything is mundane." He said it’s mourning and that it’s a sign that I’m healing. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. He said I should not judge, to just give it time and space. Then he said that because I’m healing we will quit shortly after the summer break. He also told me that we might work on anything else if it comes up, but that he expects that we only need one or two sessions.

I feel so much shame about this, but I don’t want to quit. I want to continue because I want to keep connecting to those feelings from childhood, I can’t do that alone. But I doubt my motivation: I’m better now. I should not dwell on the past, and move on. Maybe I still don’t want to be independent, to take care of myself. Like it’s transference, that he is the parent I miss. Maybe my depressive feelings stem from that: Feeling like I’m being abandoned again. It seems my 'inner child' doesn’t want to quit, but my adult perspective agrees with my therapist. I also can’t find a topic to talk about since that session in June, which in my experience is a sign that you are ‘done’ working together. But it is so sudden, I might be avoiding? And he is so happy with the progress I’ve made, that when I’m there I feel the same: Yeah, it’s going well, time to quit. When we started he said: You decide the pace and he meant that. It also goes with this, with ending: I have a big say in that. But I don’t know what to follow, I feel lost.
When is it time to quit? Of course I will discuss this with him after summer break, but I would love to hear perspectives from others about this.

Thank you all for being here.
 
Welcome to the community :)

I think that in the very beginning of either a new depression OR a new mourning -especially if you have a history of complex bereavement- is a truly terrible time to quit therapy. It seems like getting on top of that would be paramount, rather than, Ah! I think we’re done now!:confused:

If he expects that the mourning will settle and you’ll return from break refreshed & renewed & ready to begin a new chapter, having passed through cathartic grief and left it behind you? I could -perhaps- understand his reasoning. I know that’s a lot of people’s experience with grief and mourning... once felt, it then starts to lift. The hard part for many is done, and it all just keeps getting better/easier. But that’s not my personal experience dealing with trauma. Instead, it’s very much the other way around. Once the floodgates open, it’s going to get much much worse.

I would personally be open to the idea that I may simply pass through mourning and onwards/upward to better things. That would be the best case scenario & absolutely wonderful. But I would be equally aware that may not happen. And be willing to argue my point, should it not happen. Just because other people may feel better, doesn’t mean that *I* am feeling better. Just because it may be a common narrative, doesn’t mean it’s MY narrative.

(( If 1,000 people are running a 5k who trip and fall halfway through just need a quick breather, and then can run on just fine? What THEY need doesn’t matter to me if I’ve broken my leg when I’ve fallen, or if I fell not because I tripped but because I’m having an asthma attack. Our narratives are different. We’ve all fallen, but that doesn’t mean that what most people find to be true (rest for a moment, and run on!), is universally true. The person with the broken leg & asthma attack a) Need something different & b) Are NOT wrong for needing something different. They would be wrong for attempting to do what the other 998 people are doing, and ignoring their own situation.))
 
Hi Friday,

Thank you for your response, it made me smile. You have a valid point. Maybe it is true he expects that it will get easier from now on like 'most' clients. Meanwhile, that is not what I'm feeling.

Also, I felt that it isn't the right moment to talk about quitting, your comment validates that for me.

In that session in June, I broke through my denial of finding my mother dead at home when I was 9 years old. (At 7 years old I've found my dad in a coma, he died that day.) After losing my mom, child services decided to give me 'a new life' somewhere else, so I lost everything and everyone at that moment: New city, new school. Family, friends where not allowed to contact me: I was treated like a blank slate. How anyone could be thinking that was a good decision is beyond me. I would say that if it was 'real' mourning, I would feel grief about losing my mom, but I feel depressed about life and the future and it has that typical repetitive pattern I feel belongs to depression.
He says it's normal and will take time, but you are right, I also should be open to my own perspective; this isn't new for me.
So, yes: I should be open to the possibility that I might go through 'normal' grief and I will come out better at the other end, however I also should not be naive and ignore my (self)knowledge and feelings about this.

Reading your reply, I think I should be more assertive to my own perspective: Thank you for that.
 
Hi there. In reading your post it reminded me of my small amount of "internal family systems" therapy I did in 2018. It sounds like the effects were similar. It was "very quickly" accessed childhood emotions as if it was happening again, and yet, somehow removed from it and observing, and seeing protectors emerging, why they were there, what they were protecting me from, and releasing them from those duties, a letting ago, and a releasing of emotions. It was probably the most helpful therapy I have ever had, but the therapist was not trained in it, and had not done his own work in it, and the therapy relationship was a mess. So in that respect, sounds like your therapist or coach is much better internally equipped to handle it and work with you.

I feel like I got more done in a brief moments in the "regression' therapy as you call it (as IFS felt like really quick "regression" moments) than so many hours of therapy of cbt, emdr, etc.

I would question your attachment to the therapist and perhaps a mourning of quitting therapy is an internal part that is attached to the therapist and leaving the therapist feels like another death another end. In order to do this kind of work it's a catch-22, there does have to be some sort of attachment to the therapist as that is natural because of the vulnerabilities. Only you can answer that question of course. If you had scary mother and/or dad there are probably some attachment issues, fear of attachment and yet longing for one. I think taking over the care of your self for yourself will come in time if this is the issue. These were just my thoughts while I read your post.
 
Everything you wrote and some of the information by Hithere are very much similar with my experience of psychodynamic psychotherapy. It was short with extreme regressions which I took as dissociation (maybe the same) and I allowed them without resistance or attachment of anything else and I came through a lot of the information, awareness, recovery, mourning you shared here. Since then I always change my goal post in therapy. My deep cracks (for me so far) have been extreme intrusiveness and impingement during development. So I was more or less enmeshed with my mother and I had a failed the weaning period. This is technically speaking my areas of wounds.
I had re-experienced weaning, crying, wanting space, and yet fear of abandonment and wanting love but yet full of hate for my mother and yet etc. etc.
full contractions of feelings of that I did not learn to express, let alone feel or articulate but thank goodness, I have extremely stable life as an adult and could endure to truly experiment in therapy by allowing and risking of becoming unstable (which I have briefly). Deep depression and high anxiety become my besties.

First, thank you for nicely putting your recovery story so well...it truly resonates so deeply with me. Secondly, I think it is good idea you are exploring quitting part and you are (IMHO) deeply mourning for the loss of childhood and parents...this is extreme double abandonment that most people do not go through. I think you will probably experience a deep void and emptiness and definitely abandonment after your therapy is terminated or you quit. I felt your deepest fear as a child was being left or abandoned and you may have to re-experience that BUT the truth is you will never be able to experience the one you experienced as a child when you lost both parents at such delicate time in your life but you may experience similar pain and that could be one reason you are entertaining of quitting. We all have the right to protect our sanity and not unnecessarily destabilize our core without the right support or internal strength... But by your account of recovery I feel you have the capacity to do that when it is right for you. The lurking shame is a residue of waking up knowing yesterday you did not know about you what you know today. The biggest antidote to shame is being grateful at least you know now!

I feel this strongly (for me at least) because my biggest turning point in therapy was when I become extremely aware how therapists, and others in general easily invade my mind internally. It was shocking to me and I almost seriously lost all my bearing recognizing, I was nobody unless someone or image or a thought about another was in my mind. I felt empty all my life because I needed to have an internalized image of others in my head to feel I was someone. Without a person impacting and mostly negatively in my head, I didnot feel alive. If I was not fighting, fleeing, dissecting, challenging an issue with a person in my head, I was void. Imagine when I realized that throne for the other (in all our minds BTW) was where the therapist was sitting now and all of sudden, I recognize I own that throne (figuratively speaking) and I felt being born for the first time. I have a reference point, a frame and vantage point and I do not need a negative target to make me feel alive. In dissociation, it makes sense that my mother and her anger and abuse created me as expecting and living and becoming the vessel that just lives while being abused. No identity nobody. When I experienced extracting from the therapist and experienced no pain and love and respect, I knew I was out of the grip of ptsd. This does not mean I feel and think like a person who grew up in healthier environment, far from it. It means I am not obsessed or phobia or paranoid or afraid of life. I am just awake... Eyes open no more fear unless it is real.

So (maybe yes or maybe no), your biggest challenge in life may be abandonment and being left alone where mine was being taken over psychologically - yours is being left; hence, I feel that is why you are stuck should you stay or should you go? classic resistance and classic pre-emtive reaction to before you abandon me I will. I do not know what will work for you and I feel you will find it soon cause it is so much on the surface now, but you can entertain the feelings of ultimate abandoment you felt as a child in therapy and see if that unlocks the fear of it.

I loved your post. I felt your resilience and I felt I wanted to share mine. I hope my words make sense and if they do not, I hope you find that deep spot were our protoself met its malice and find peace after all.

love and peace to you and welcome to the site. It is a great place to share and find information and most importantly learn a lot about child abuse or misfortune and its aftermath.
 
The questions I ask below are ones you and answer here or not, but might be worth considering as you evaluate the situation:

What is his experience and training in trauma work? One tool set is good but a diverse tool set is better.

Does he have the qualifications to diagnose?

What skills and tools have you gone over in therapy about how to cope with the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing?

It is really common for trauma work to stir up symptoms or worsen underlying symptoms that were already there. This is why most forms of trauma work involve a phase of working on skills to cope with and manage symptoms spikes when diving into the past. Sometimes depression and/or grief that is connected to PTSD or trauma doesn’t show up as actually thinking about the actual loss or trauma. I tend to get really down at a particular time of year. I never think of the loss that happened around that time and I’m usually surprised by it, but it happens like clockwork on the anniversary.
However since a session in the beginning of June where we worked on a really important topic, I feel depressed. I told him how I felt: Relieved my anxiety was gone. That I felt more connection with art and music, having more diverse emotions. But I also told him about my depressive feelings. These make me think: “I don’t want to move forward anymore. Life has no meaning. Everything is mundane." He said it’s mourning and that it’s a sign that I’m healing. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. He said I should not judge, to just give it time and space. Then he said that because I’m healing we will quit shortly after the summer break. He also told me that we might work on anything else if it comes up, but that he expects that we only need one or two sessions.
This seems unusual to suggest ending now.

It is possible that this could be a sign that now the adrenaline of anxiety is passing you can feel other feelings. It is highly possible this season of grief and/or depression will pass soon like he hopes it will... the waves of grief sometimes just have to be waited out. However, it strikes me as odd that his response is to speak of ending rather than how to manage the symptoms regardless if they will be short lived. Grief can be lonely in and of itself. Even short term grief benefits from support.

You have mentioned struggling to have things to talk about. How specific have you been about the symptoms you are experiencing? Maybe his response might be focused on what impacts your work. If you are reporting these symptoms but also telling him you are not experiencing difficulty on the job... then that might be why he is thinking his role as job appointed regular on-going support is done.

One option to consider is logging your feelings for a week or two, what is going well, what could improve, and then bring the log in when you talk to him and see what he thinks. Be as specific as possible. Sleeping, eating, what types of thoughts and feelings, the good and bad. Then ask him how to manage the things that are not going as well as you would like.

Life has bumps, and no therapy can get rid of feeling down at times, and yet in those times most of us benefit from connection. Do you have any other supports besides him? Do you find it doable to reach out when it’s hard?

Also, most of all, I’m sorry you lost your mom and the connection to family and friends the way you did.
 
Hi Hithere,

"It was probably the most helpful therapy I have ever had, but the therapist was not trained in it, and had not done his own work in it, and the therapy relationship was a mess. "
I think that is a difficulty in therapy: When I needed help, on what grounds should I assess the therapist or therapy? And also: What do I need, want? Like; Isn't it me that the relationship is a mess?

"I feel like I got more done in a brief moments in the "regression' therapy as you call it (as IFS felt like really quick "regression" moments) than so many hours of therapy of cbt, emdr, etc. "
Yeah regression can feel intense, depending on the 'depth' you are in it. But that alone doesn't heal and can also harm, like a flashback. However, I felt that making connection with those feelings, helped tremendously. I developed empathy for myself.

"I would question your attachment to the therapist and perhaps a mourning of quitting therapy is an internal part that is attached to the therapist and leaving the therapist feels like another death another end."
Yeah, that's part of it. I want to give my own direction in that now, because of what Friday wrote. Trying to find my own form to do this, so it is not happening to me, but I'm doing my part, proactively.

Thank you for your reply
 
Hi Hithere,

"It was probably the most helpful therapy I have ever had, but the therapist was not trained in it, and had not done his own work in it, and the therapy relationship was a mess. "
I think that is a difficulty in therapy: When I needed help, on what grounds should I assess the therapist or therapy? And also: What do I need, want? Like; Isn't it me that the relationship is a mess?

"I feel like I got more done in a brief moments in the "regression' therapy as you call it (as IFS felt like really quick "regression" moments) than so many hours of therapy of cbt, emdr, etc. "
Yeah regression can feel intense, depending on the 'depth' you are in it. But that alone doesn't heal and can also harm, like a flashback. However, I felt that making connection with those feelings, helped tremendously. I developed empathy for myself.

"I would question your attachment to the therapist and perhaps a mourning of quitting therapy is an internal part that is attached to the therapist and leaving the therapist feels like another death another end."
Yeah, that's part of it. I want to give my own direction in that now, because of what Friday wrote. Trying to find my own form to do this, so it is not happening to me, but I'm doing my part, proactively.

Thank you for your reply
 
Grit & Justme here: You both wrote things I need some time for tho think through, with at this moment I don't have time for. I'll respond tomorrow or the day after that. I think you both deserve more than a quick reply and I need some time to think it through.
 
Hi I like your posts. All I can say is how much you sound like me and I'll tell you why I think that.

I never had a working facade like you do, I had some functionality though or I kept going a long time while I was repressed.

But then my trauma came out. I'm worse and better. You probably sense the "worse" part meaning, if you get in touch with all that your facade might break apart.

You're probably right. That could happen.

But who knows? Maybe I'm off base. That's the impression I got though?

Thanks for posting.
 
@grit: I also recognize the way you write about your process with my own experiences, feelings. I needed to read it a couple of times to think about it. I think that when it is so much about feelings, words tend to fall short. I tried in Dutch first, but even in my own language I can’t put in words what apparently so much resonates with me.

Grit wrote: “I have extremely stable life as an adult and could endure to truly experiment in therapy by allowing and risking of becoming unstable (which I have briefly)” And then I read that Justme wrote: “It is really common for trauma work to stir up symptoms or worsen underlying symptoms that were already there. This is why most forms of trauma work involve a phase of working on skills.”

I think that is a big difficulty in therapy: I need help to feel safe, but in order to do the work I need to feel safe, I need safety… I don’t really recognize I need those things or what that safety is: So doing trauma work is kind of a ‘blind guess, a risk’ (don’t know how to say it in English), I guess it is for everyone in some way. My therapist helped me with safety. For the first half year he often said: We are not going into this now, first you must feel safe. And I was like: Why? Is he avoiding? But now I understand it better.

@grit : If I understood correctly, your process is about finding yourself, of who you are. That in order to be a person, you needed to be seen. Maybe that’s a core thing in life. I read somewhere that we ‘decide who we are in the context of other people’. But you need an identity somewhere inside to put the ‘context of other people’ next to that. I mean: You can only see if something is big or small if you have a thing to compare it to. I’m also trying to find myself (again) in some way. Sometimes I feel like the child I was once for example, and discover old feelings or perspectives.

“Eyes open no more fear unless it is real.” I think this is really awesome, I would like to have my eyes open: I’m happy you reached that. Reading your post, that must have been really hard work.

@Justmehere : I value your call to be critical. A lot of therapists are not that good. Most mean no harm but can do harm out of ignorance. I had a therapist once that did not have qualifications for trauma work. She told me she thought I needed that and that I should find a trained therapist. But I felt safe with her so I made the conscious decision to try anyway together. After the therapy, I still had some symptoms. I thought I should accept it and I did. But now I know better: We didn’t get to the real core of my fear (and I couldn’t do that on my own). Looking back it helped, but it also unconsciously confirmed my believe that some things inside are better avoided. I think that’s why those symptoms stayed.

@Justmehere I think you are right that we can be triggered by things we don’t know and that some of it will stay forever. Whoever, I think I have a tendency to think I can’t get better and therefore only now started to face some of the most difficult things at 37, when it was given to me: I did not believe I could change, so did not search for it. Acceptance can also come in the way of growth.

@Justmehere He is not focused on work we rarely discuss it. He also insisted I would come to his office cause I needed safety. Funny thing: He is at my workplace two days a week for other clients. We occasionally pass each other at my workplace, always an awkward moment, haha. It’s more like work (and other) experiences are used as a metaphor. But like I wrote before, I have a tendency to deny things that trouble me, to ignore difficult feelings. So when he says I’m doing well, I tell myself that I’m just worrying too much and I should move on. While this attitude brought me far, it also doesn’t have boundaries: I don’t know when to ask for help, or when to make room for nice things. If I feel fear, I will push myself to do it, to prove myself the fear isn’t real. That’s why I was admitted for a year, and twice really sick: When I finally give in, it’s a long way up.

@Justmehere : Logging feelings is my go to method! I have a diary for 20 years now. I tend to log a lot of things even use Keep on my phone to note little things. Writing helps me to get some ‘grip’, but it also is a way of controlling. I recently decided to start playing piano again, as a way to express feelings (instead of thinking), while controlling the keys of course. ;- )

@Mach123 :Yeah I've been scared about that, but I was more scared of things I did in those regression sessions. Atm, I’m not scared that I will fall apart anymore, because I don’t have unexpected panic attacks. Feelings have ‘root’ now, that really helps. I'm still scared of getting depressed again. I mean not feeling depressed, but having an actual depression.

@everyone:

Writing and reading the past few days with you here made me realize how much I felt lost again. I -finally- cried Saturday, after many weeks of having what I call ‘depression tears’. Now this was real sadness and mourning, for the first time in years. I sometimes regress back now to an earlier age during the day, but also in a ‘happy, childish’ mood; It’s all there. I asked my husband for some care and I do things to soothe myself. I can now, because I have feelings to do so. I think that’s big progress, and I honestly think that your replies where what I needed for this. Thank you all.
 
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Glad things are shifting, as hard as it can be to ride the waves of mourning.
I think you are right that we can be triggered by things we don’t know and that some of it will stay forever. Whoever, I think I have a tendency to think I can’t get better and therefore only now started to face some of the most difficult things at 37, when it was given to me: I did not believe I could change, so did not I search for it. Acceptance can also come in the way of growth.
A quick clarification that I don’t mean to say at all that things won’t change, or that you won’t change... you already are changing. Just the fact you are feeling any of this at all is change. Recovery sometimes involves feeling pain.

Grief and trauma sometimes comes in waves and the recovery goes through different seasons. Some can work through a matter once and be done with it, some can’t. It’s not better or worse, just is. I once asked someone when it gets easier (with trauma recovery) and they said it doesn’t really get easier but more that it’s like lifting weights. We get stronger and able to embrace more of life, and all the good, bad, and ugly in life.

I have a friend who is 70, and who is just now facing a childhood loss. It’s never too late. Things come up when they come up. Acceptance is key. We can rail about the years we didn’t face stuff or realize well, it is here now. 37 is younger than it feels. Don’t lose hope. Grief often isn’t something that people can kind of just work through and be done. When it was a core figure that was lost, grief tends to show up from time to time and come and go in waves. It shows us what is important. I hope this doesn’t discourage you but encourages you that when things get hard, it doesn’t mean you are hopeless. It’s just the way grief and loss work.

There is a traumatic loss I have grieved in and off for years. Now, when grief shows up, I’m sometimes thankful for the reminder that the person was important to me and why. It softens me instead of hardens me like it did in the past. It gives me a chance to reach out for comfort and connection... I lothe asking for help too, but grief reminds me of the importance of connection.

Your life has meaning and purpose even when it doesn’t feel that way.
 
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