Knowing and Being Known in Therapy

I committed to two sessions a week for two months this summer and it has had a profound impact on my relationship with Anna. I trust her more, I feel less self conscious and more accepted by her. I trust that she actually does care about me and wants to help me. I can feel her reaching out to me and I’m able to accept her care. I’m less defensive with her and I’m more willing to ask for what I need. It feels like we are on the same team and that she wants the best for me. All of this is new to me and feels incredible.

In our session on Tuesday, when we were sitting next to each other on the floor, my eyes scanned down from Anna’s face to her arms. She had both hands clasped around one knee and I noticed a small cluster of self harm scars high up on her arm. I looked away and didn’t mention it. I don’t know if she noticed. I felt an overwhelming sense of connectedness with her. A sense of compassion for the hurt she must have felt, the pain she tried to cut out of her at some point in her life. A respect for her resilience and self healing, how she turned her personal struggles into a way of helping others find their healing. It struck me that all the times I thought she might be judging me, she was actually understanding me on a deeply personal level. The strength and self knowing she has that enables her to not allow her stuff to interfere with my therapy. I felt so much love and respect for her.

I know that Anna is a very self aware therapist, I can guarantee she has reflected on this by herself if not in her own therapy or supervision, – what she will do if a client sees/mentions her scars. I know she will have carefully thought out the decision to have them be visible with me. That also makes me feel closer to her. I know that if I brought it up with her, she’d know what to say.

She asked me once if I wanted to show her my scars and I said no. Seeing hers has made me feel more comfortable with showing her mine. Not to ‘compare’ but rather because I always wanted to show her my scars so that they are witnessed and acknowledged/validated and the only thing stopping me in the past was thinking she’d never understand.

Thinking about my response to seeing her scars has made me realise that if I can have compassion for her, then perhaps I can have compassion for myself. It is sad that I’ve experienced things in my life that I couldn’t process in an emotionally appropriate way. That self harm was my ‘go to’ coping strategy. But knowing what I experienced, the self harm makes perfect sense. Rather than seeing Anna as a pathetic person who has no resilience and who made a stupid attention seeking mistake, I feel quite the opposite. I can see her strength and resilience. I can see how she tried to cope. I can see how the self harm kept her alive, for that I’m grateful. I can see that she turned her pain into something healing. Something that is now helping others. I can see that she worked hard to get to where she is and she probably sees something like that in me. That’s an enormous realisation.

Anna is going on holiday next week. I’m seeing her on Saturday then I won’t see her again for nearly two weeks. We have contracted to talk about how I feel about the break on Saturday and I plan to be honest with her. I now understand that I can share how I feel regardless of whether she can meet my needs or not. I can tell Anna I want her to stay and she won’t get angry with me. She’ll listen and validate how I feel. I can tell her I want to continue seeing her twice a week (but sadly have to go back to once a week because I can’t afford it long term)… without her being able to fix this for me. Just sharing how I feel will be healing. I’m not as scared about talking honestly with her as I used to be. This is a massive change that I want to acknowledge. I’ve had to crawl through some very painful hot coals to get to this point and I’m so glad I have.

7 thoughts on “Knowing and Being Known in Therapy

  1. LovingSummer

    I’m interested in how you found two sessions better for you – the reason I ask is that I’m trying to weigh up the difference between two 50 minute sessions a week (perhaps it makes the break between sessions more bearable?) and one double session each week (which seems to go deeper as most of the good stuff seems to take place in the second half).

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    1. I’ve never had a two hour session so I can’t compare them. Although my first therapist used to let the time run on so much that they were regularly up to an hour and forty minutes long which is ridiculous and actually not therapeutic. So let me think why I like two a week… 3 or 4 days to hold any kickback feelings I get or grief or regret from what I’ve talked about is more bearable than 7 days of waiting. Also it increased my familiarity with Anna so that I felt more comfortable with her. Often in the past I’d have to refamiliarise myself with her and remind my child who that she is safe and that would eat into like twenty mins of the session. With two a week I tend to just dive straight into stuff which is great. Does all of that make sense? It’s also made me braver… I felt like I could risk saying scary stuff coz I didn’t have long to wait til I saw her again. Alsooooo…. it helped me see that she doesn’t hate me or feel burdened or overwhelmed by me. She said yes to two sessions a week, she’s happy to see me twice a week. That means a lot! And helped me open up more.

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      1. LovingSummer

        Ah okay, that’s kind of what I was interested to know – whether you’d almost pick up where you left off the last time. Thanks for elaborating.
        Thinking about it, Guy has changed his hours and works elsewhere a lot of the week now, which would possibly negate my ability to see him twice a week instead of going for the double.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. LovingSummer

    Ps: interested in what you said about how it profoundly deepened your feelings of trust and acceptance with Anna, I felt this also helped accelerate the progress I made with Guy too. It’s like we break through certain barriers more easily with the extra time or something.

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