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What can my therapist say/do to provide reassurance/connection?

Discussion in 'Treatment & Therapy' started by HollyBeans27, Jun 13, 2018.

  1. HollyBeans27

    HollyBeans27 Well-Known Member Premium Member Donated

    So its been along time since I’ve posted, although I’ve thought about doing so. I’m not having issues in therapy per se; I trust my therapist, we have a good working relationship, etc. Most of my issues are relational in nature and involve attachment. We’ve been working together for a long time and have been focusing on inner child stuff for about two to three years now. As such, I have extreme difficulty expressing my feelings and being emotionally safe to do so. I have a major surgery in four weeks (for a quality-of-life issue that has gotten worse over the last year), and we have discussed all of my emotions, especially fear, related to the surgery. Today we were talking about whether or not the fear is related to the actual procedure or something about our relationship. I definitely have fear about both, but upon reflecting after my session, the latter feels more true at the moment. We’ve also been discussing the way we communicate in sessions. I am unable to write because of my disability, and my therapist suggested that we communicate without words since my little one has trouble articulating herself. My therapist also suggested that we reverse roles when I asked her if there was a way that someone else could hold my feelings for me. I had a very strong reaction to both suggestions for various reasons, including my masters training, so we decided to leave them alone for now. I was able to tell her that I think she needs to do most of the talking for me during the next few weeks leading up to my surgery. I gave myself the homework assignment to make a list of things she could say/do to provide reassurance/connections/be helpful.

    I have trouble believing what I know logically to be true. For example, I know my therapist will be here to support me through my surgery and after (my trauma is medical in nature), but my heart doesn’t actually believe that she will help me through the situation. Similar to the fact that I said my brain trusts her, or I wouldn’t keep coming back after so many years, my heart is deathly afraid of abandonment. She also uses touch to communicate safety and connect with me. Keeping the above in mind, here is what I have for my list so far:

    I’m here for/with you
    You’re not alone
    You’re not in trouble
    I’m not going anywhere (leaving you)
    You can/it’s okay to cry... (fill in the blank)
    You didn’t do anything wrong
    It’s okay to have your feelings
    Do you need a hug/to hold my hand?
    I’m not angry with you
    You are important/you matter
    I’m not judging you
    You’re safe here

    That’s it. These are all things that she has said to me before, but I don’t believe them. I feel like I need reassurance, but I’m struggling to accept it. What else would you add to the list? Any other suggestions are welcome!
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2018 at 11:49 AM
    tin-man and Sietz like this.
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  3. barefoot

    barefoot I'm a VIP Premium Member Donated

    Posting here to give this a bump as I know you said on your other thread that you have a therapy session tomorrow.

    I don’t have any suggestions to add to your list but, if the things on the list feel like they would be helpful and reassuring for you, I’d say that you’ve come up with a really good list :)

    I’m curious to know what your T meant with her suggestion that you communicate without words. And her suggestion that you reverse roles. Does she mean for you two to have a conversation wherein you be the therapist and she gets to be you?

    I wonder whether your upcoming surgery is affecting you more than you think?

    Is the reassurance you feel you need all something that needs to come from your T? Or could you, for instance, spend some time working on your adult self reassuring your little one?

    Good luck with your session and with your upcoming surgery!
    scout86 and tin-man like this.
  4. tin-man

    tin-man Member

    Hm, that's a tough one. There's not a whole lot you can do when your heart just isn't ready to trust. You mentioned that your brain trusts this T, so on some level you know that they're good people. That they only want the best for you. And you've made it clear to them that you need a lot of time and patience.

    I know it's not much, but all you can do is be ok with where you are right now. Have patience with yourself. Maybe meditate on your feelings of mistrust. Try to approach the session with an attitude of acceptance with the place you're at.

    Sorry all I can give you is generic advice. Hope everything goes well the session and surgery. :)
  5. Rumors

    Rumors I'm a VIP

    I think you need to take your therapist at face value but as well find some tools that can help you self soothe. Your energy would be much better spent focusing on how to best get through the upcoming surgery versus if your therapist really means what they say. Perhaps you are focusing on this bc it is easier than thinking about the surgery??? I really hope things go well for you and that you are able to be at peace with the level of comfort your therapist is giving you. Hang in there!
    blackemerald1 and piratelady like this.
  6. MyWillow

    MyWillow Well-Known Member

    Oddly enough the things that have helped me the most lately that my T has said have all run along the same lines...and have actually helped me to relax around her a little more. I really like and respect her but part of me wants to shut down any and every “dangerous” conversation and I’m not even sure why.

    You don’t need to deal with this now.
    You’ll know when you are ready.
    You can put this to one side and, not ignore it, but wait until you have the energy.
    Would you like to tell me? You don’t have to.
    Would you like to try a breathing/safe place exercise?
    What will self care look like this week?
    You don’t have to write a journal/attend trauma yoga if you don’t want to.

    So, rather than providing comfort she provides choices, allows me to set boundaries with her, makes me feel comfortable about saying “no” and is really focusing on stability and safety above all else. No discussing childhood. So it’s empowering. And my protector part is backing down. Which engenders trust. We will just have to chip away at the whole vulnerability and processing thing really slowly.

    I hope that makes sense. Just my jumbled spin on things ;)
    piratelady and barefoot like this.
  7. HollyBeans27

    HollyBeans27 Well-Known Member Premium Member Donated

    @barefoot - all good questions and things to consider. We are still discussing what communicating without words would look like. I’m still not ready to do it, but I did tell her that I’ve thought about it a lot. Now that I’ve had time to process her suggestion without such a strong reaction, I can see where she was coming from. She was trying to make things easier because it’s so hard for me to articulate myself when my feelings become overwhelming. We engage in a lot of nonverbal communication in general, every day, all of us do. Since words are my main form of communication, and not being able to/losing control was part of my initial trauma, doing so now is extremely difficult/seems impossible. But I’m not discounting nonverbal interactions in the future because I need to find a way to express my feelings and let them overcome me in a safe space. Today we spent a lot of time talking about how the therapeutic environment used to feel safe but doesn’t anymore. She tries really hard to understand things from my perspective, and get into my head/heart, but we both don’t understand what is contributing to the lack of safety right now.

    As far is reversing roles, yes she meant that she wants me to be the therapist while she tries to role-play how I’m feeling so that we can discuss how I would respond. Maybe as a way to show myself that I can provide reassurance when I need it? Not sure about that one because I’m not comfortable doing that yet either. Right now, the reassurance I’m speaking of does need to come from my therapist because my little one has trouble accepting reassurance from me. She pushes me away, and when that happens, the internal conversations/self talk either stops altogether or becomes riddled with suicidal thoughts that I don’t always express to my therapist. I told her that one of my fears was expressing suicidal thoughts when my feelings become overwhelming. That’s kind of where we ended today. My preoperative appointments are tomorrow, so I am expecting things to be intense. I am almost exactly four weeks out, so you might be right about how much the actual operation is affecting me. At the same time, this isn’t my first rodeo; it’s actually number 22. Sorry for the rambling, but I wanted to make sure that I responded to everything you said.
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