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Responding to my therapist’s check-in messages

barefoot

MyPTSD Pro
I’ve had a tough few weeks. A surgery (which has gone ok and I’m recovering fine) Getting triggered a lot. Have had a couple of good but tough therapy sessions - tapped back into some old trauma stuff, connected to it really deeply, shared some feelings about with my therapist in a more raw way than I have before. Cried in therapy (not something I do very often)

Therapist has been lovely - very caring and supportive.
And she’s checking in a bit outside of sessions via text.

Her check-in messages are kind and brief. Generally asking how I’m doing or hoping I’m doing ok (so, the one today was hoping I was feeling a bit better and that I have a peaceful weekend)

It’s kind of her to message and I like feeling that she’s holding me in mind and that she cares. So, on the one hand, I like getting these messages from her.

But I also find the messages a bit anxiety-making. And, I think that’s might be partly because it jangles me a bit - I like feeling her care…and feeling her care also feels a bit…unsettling and like I want to push it/her away.

But mainly, I think it’s because I struggle with how to respond to the check-in messages.

I sometimes think I don’t know how to respond so I’d quite like not to respond at all (because then I don’t need to think about how to respond!) But, if she has bothered to message me in her own time (her decision to do so, I know) to see how I’m doing, it feels rude to not respond at all?

But, if I’m not feeling great, that feels quite hard to respond to…because I also know that (quite rightly) whatever I write, she’s not going to get into any to and fro messages with me about what I’ve said. So, then it just feels like I’m telling her I don’t feel great and I don’t know if that just sounds negative/like I’m moaning? Or whether it will come off that I’m trying to manipulate her into texting me back?!

And then I think if she’s said something like ‘Hope you’re feeling a bit better today’ am I meant to just say that I am?!

I know I’m massively over-thinking this because I think all she’s probably doing is acknowledging I’m in a tricky place at the moment, trying to monitor how I’m doing after our sessions, and demonstrating some care/support.

But I’m getting quite caught up with how I’m ‘supposed’ to respond. And even whether I should respond, or whether they don’t actually need a reply?!

I could ask her (in a session, not in a text!) what her expectation is when she checks in via text. Is she just letting me know I’m in her thoughts. Or is she expecting a reply? Or does she really want to know the detail of how I’m feeling? Etc. (I expect she would say that she doesn’t have any expectation either way)

But I’m worried that, if I do ask her, she might stop doing it because she might think it’s stressing me out.

It’s not really stressing me out. And, I do like it. But…it just makes me overthink what I’m meant to say and then I get a bit confused and think about it even more!

Anyone else have a therapist who checks in this way? If so, how do you respond?!

I feel silly asking because I feel like I’m making a big deal of a non-issue. It’s not a big deal. It just brings up some conflicting feelings, I think, which then makes me overthink and question my response.

Also just to add: we’ve been working together a long time. We’re both ok with texting being one of our methods of communication. It’s not like she doesn’t have professional boundaries and is constantly texting me between sessions. So, no comments about how we shouldn’t be communicating outside of sessions for anything other than logistical arrangements or whatever, please!
 
But I also find the messages a bit anxiety-making. And, I think that’s might be partly because it jangles me a bit - I like feeling her care…and feeling her care also feels a bit…unsettling and like I want to push it/her away.
Mine has done some checking in. I told him I can’t have it unless he’ll do it through email. Texts jangle my nerves. My emails don’t alert me so I have to check them to get it. He said it makes sense because it’s not a surprise and it can be on my own terms.

Usually I just send back thanks unless I have a question or concern. Sometimes he arranges a check in via what the plan is for EMDR for the session later in the week and that sometimes has back and forth but if he just sends a thing about how he knows a session was rough and he hopes I’m having a good weekend then I say thanks, or thanks for thinking of me.
 
Mine has done some checking in. I told him I can’t have it unless he’ll do it through email. Texts jangle my nerves. My emails don’t alert me so I have to check them to get it. He said it makes sense because it’s not a surprise and it can be on my own terms.

Usually I just send back thanks unless I have a question or concern. Sometimes he arranges a check in via what the plan is for EMDR for the session later in the week and that sometimes has back and forth but if he just sends a thing about how he knows a session was rough and he hopes I’m having a good weekend then I say thanks, or thanks for thinking of me.
Thanks @Charbella Yes, I wonder if it might be the same for me. That texts from her in general are fine and welcome (and generally more convenient for me as it’s quicker and easier for me to see a text rather than have to go in to check emails). But, at times when my nervous system is more jangly and I’m feeling more raw and sensitive and edgy, perhaps the sound alert and immediacy of the text coming through is just too much. Too urgent feeling?

Hmm…

Your responses sound very simple (and good!) Feel a bit of an idiot that I have been over-thinking this so much!
 
But I’m worried that, if I do ask her, she might stop doing it because she might think it’s stressing me out.

It’s not really stressing me out. And, I do like it. But…it just makes me overthink what I’m meant to say and then I get a bit confused and think about it even more!
Totally recognise this feeling! And yeah, I never raised it either as for every element of panic there was an equal amount of soothing at someone being there and being thought of...

With ex T I used to say either I'm holding on (had an analogy through therapy about fingertip connection when I was so avoidant) or bit by bit. It sort of summed up that 'still here, still crappy but I'm trying' without a load of words. If I really needed some help, I'd ask if she could speak for a few mins, so the ball was in her court and it didn't make me feel bad for asking. Without exception she always said yes and those few mins really helped to change my head space
 
Too urgent feeling?
YES. I also think for me I tend to box my worlds up and therapy coming to work or home seems invasive especially when I’m on edge.
Your responses sound very simple (and good!) Feel a bit of an idiot that I have been over-thinking this so much!
No worries, I over thought it to the max at first. Then I went back to how words have meaning and I couldn’t just use anything because sometimes he picks my words apart…ok it’s my fault because I say what I mean and then he’s learned if he doesn’t he doesn’t take my meaning and I get away with saying things he doesn’t agree with. Anyway trying to avoid that mess meant thanks was the best way to respond, because I didn’t appreciate he’d noticed I’d left in a state.
 
for every element of panic there was an equal amount of soothing at someone being there and being thought of...
Yes, that’s exactly it. A confusing internal conflict!

Sounds like your ex-T was really supportive. My T would be open to arranging a brief phone call if I’m ever in an emergency situation. Hard though the last few weeks have been and rubbish though things feel, I’m thankfully not in an emergency situation/crisis, so I don’t need that.

Of course, if she texted to check-in and, in that message, offered a quick call to chat…I would probably lose my mind overthinking that internal conflict and trying to decide what to do!
 
YES. I also think for me I tend to box my worlds up and therapy coming to work or home seems invasive especially when I’m on edge.
Yeah, I try to compartmentalise that way too. Sometimes find it difficult though - opening things up and digging in and sharing about something hard then having to put it away for another week…

Hence why I think there is an element of her keeping in touch being welcome. So I don’t feel I’m completely left holding it all on my own for another week or so. But it does create quite a powerful internal conflict, which isn’t easy.
 
Yeah, I try to compartmentalise that way too. Sometimes find it difficult though - opening things up and digging in and sharing about something hard then having to put it away for another week…

Hence why I think there is an element of her keeping in touch being welcome. So I don’t feel I’m completely left holding it all on my own for another week or so. But it does create quite a powerful internal conflict, which isn’t easy.
Can totally relate to the ambivalence here! My T doesn't text or check in but tells me during every session to reach out when I need it via phone and they will call me back when they can. Not sure how to take this. Is this a common thing in therapy for ptsd? Feels like I'm overstepping a boundary and don't really want to be surprised with a random call back where I haven't got composure. But then I almost feel 'in trouble' for not doing it when they mention it again at the next session.
 
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