We clicked on to the zoom session and simultaneously announced to each other that we were going to get rid of our self-view. He remarked that it was an odd way of meeting someone for the first time and asked if I could hear him. Checked we could both hear and see each other. He said it was a very clear picture of me and clear audio which is good. His audio to me kept fading in and out which was annoying, I don’t know if that’s a problem with his Wifi connection or mine.
Once we’d got the initial greetings out the way there was a slight pause and I said, ‘I’m just going to start by saying that I’m really nervous,’ Mark was calm, he sat cross legged on his sofa with some plants and soft furnishings around him. He smiled in an understanding way and said, ‘Oh yeah, okay, well that’s not unusual… let’s sort of allow that nervousness to be here, just take a minute with yourself to let that be there.’ I was immediately struck by how calming I found him and how despite this being a ‘chat’ and not a therapy session, he was being very therapeutic. I then said I wanted to apologise for the emails. I said, ‘I felt like I was nit picky and critical and picking you apart in the emails and I didn’t just stick to organising the details of this meeting and I apologise for that basically.’ He said, ‘well you know actually I’m quite grateful because the website you went on is relatively new and I had some teething problems that I thought were taken care of and so thank you for that because it let me know there’s an issue. And the other site, I must have signed that up years ago and didn’t even know it was still active so actually I’m grateful for you letting me know. So interestingly, I didn’t experience it like that. I apologise to you actually that you had that difficulty in contacting me. You had your own feelings towards it which is valid, but I didn’t feel you needed to apologise.’ I joked about my internet stalking abilities meaning I had found everything he’s ever put on the internet and then explained that my tendency to be a bit unforgiving of things and when I reflected on it I was aware I had been a bit like that with him but it was nice to hear his perspective. He said, ‘and I appreciate you clocking that… this was helpful for me, a little bit of a burden for you having to navigate all this just to get me to respond to an email but yeah, it was helpful for me and I appreciate you exploring your process… that feels good to me because we had an unusual start and it feels good to explore the way we both experienced it.’ I agreed and he asked how my nervousness was. I laughed and said, ‘it’s gone now!’ he said, ‘great! Well, take a moment just to feel that outbreath and feeling that little bit lighter.’ I did just that and it felt lovely.
Mark then explained the plan of this discussion, that it’s not a therapy session as such, that unfortunately we aren’t sitting together in person but we can try to get a sense of each other through the screen. He said it was helpful that I’d explained a little bit about what’s brought me to him in the email, he was glad I’d done that and he said, ‘you might want to say a bit more and then I will explain a little about how I tend to organise things and then you might want to ask questions and it will be about 40 minutes… okay?’ I agreed, he said, ‘I got from your email that you’ve done therapy and actually it sounds really sad that your therapist, your transactional analysist, through no fault of theirs had to stop working, that can be quite traumatic…’
I said, ‘Yeah it’s been very very difficult. Both of my long term therapeutic relationships ended out with my control. Paul, who I was working with first, I took some time away because I was pregnant and wanted to spend time with my son and couldn’t afford sessions while on maternity leave, when I went back to him I discovered that he had closed his practice and moved city. I wanted to have a proper ending with him but wasn’t able to have that. I also got into debt paying for his sessions as he was £80 an hour… my need for the therapy outweighed my need for financial stability at the time but when I returned to my therapeutic journey I wanted more of a balance. So, then I found Anna. There was a massive difference between the way she worked to the way Paul worked. It was exactly what I needed and it was going really well… and I did a lot of really valuable work with her and feel like I’ve changed a lot because of the work I did with her.’ Mark was saying, ‘lovely’ and ‘fabulous’ in this really warm, genuine tone. I continued, ‘then the pandemic happened and she became very ill and there was a break for a bit when I worked with Linda and then went back to Anna briefly and then she became very ill again and suddenly decided she had to close her practice so I basically had a 14 minute phone conversation with her where she told me the news and that was it… which to be honest… I’ve worked a lot on it with Linda… I felt like it broke me open, any barriers I had to my grief or any childhood stuff just completely shattered and it was like this damn burst and all these feelings I was holding just poured out of me.’ Mark said, ‘cor, yeah…’ there was a pause and he said, ‘Are you doing okay talking about this? I just want to check with you coz yeah, I can see that you’re pretty grounded as you talk about it but I am aware it can be upsetting to bring that up so just…’ I said, ‘yeah I know, it’s constantly with me, it doesn’t feel like I’m bringing it up, it’s already up here and I had a session this morning so I’ve been sort of talking about this and writing about it all day…’ I continued, ‘so I had described the past four or five months as being the most difficult period of my adult life, really so hard, but also as much as I would not wish that on myself, it’s provided a sort of awakening in me where I felt things I never felt before, I got in touch with something I couldn’t get in touch with before…’ he said, ‘yeah, there’s something good that has come out of it,’ I said, ‘I really used to struggle to cry and even found it hard to cry with Anna… I mean, I’ve cried every day since she left and it feels you know healing, actually, as much as it’s really painful.’ Mark said, ‘that’s good to hear.’
I said, ‘so the place I’m at now is that Linda and I have been talking a lot about my longer term goals in therapy, we talked about it again this morning. I really like her, I like the way she works on some areas of the stuff I bring to her… when I’m talking about day to day stuff. But there’s this gap, of something I’m not getting with Linda that I got with Anna. This desire to work on things within the therapeutic relationship, so stuff comes up for me within the relationship,’ he said, ‘of course yeah,’ and I said, ‘with Linda, the understanding I have is that she doesn’t want to work on it… I told her I felt that she was defensive.’ I explained a bit about what I had discussed with Linda in the session and Mark said, ‘yes this makes a lot of sense, the way we started today in fact was you bringing your feelings about the email and we touched on how I received it and without going too deeply, it’s that sort of thing that happens in relationship. It’s often a really helpful thread to follow these threads, I mean I firmly believe in that. In some ways it happens between you and in some ways it’s the relationship, so it’s not one person it’s both and you need to explore what happened for you and what that triggered and to sort of be able to speak about it freely. And if you can’t do that with someone and work in the present with what you’re experiencing, that’s not helpful.’ I said, ‘as soon as we had that brief conversation about the emails I was thinking ‘he gets it’ that is exactly the kind of conversation I mean. I mean I could spend a whole session talking about why it was important to me that I noticed differences amongst your websites and for you to not take it personally but to help me explore what it is for me and why I look for perfection… when I was looking at your website, the way you describe yourself and what you wrote really resonated with me because you seem to also value looking closely at the therapeutic relationship and looking closely at things and working on deeper levels or spiritual levels and lots of different stuff and not just the surface level conversation that we’re having.’ Mark said, ‘indeed, there’s a lot more going on… the in-between what happens relationally is gold dust, it’s not the only avenue of therapy there’s lots of them but I think if that’s missed out you’re missing some important things that are going on.’ I said, ‘so the dilemma, I guess, is that I have this need for something else which is why I’m talking to you, and also I have this reluctance to let her go, because she’s my last connection with Anna because also she’s friends with Anna.’ Mark said, ‘so there’s a boundary thing there in a sense I’m thinking because… hard for her to have space around that if you’re mourning the loss of one of her friends that’s sort of between you isn’t it and you know she’s her friend so I’m just getting a number of what I’m imagining to be quite tight corners for you to move in.’ I said, ‘yes, its been nuts!’ I laughed. I explained to him that I shared this with her and she was honest with me and told me she felt she was holding a lot and that it’s been challenging for her. That we both feel that it’s getting in the way of the therapy. Which is the important thing. I said, ‘we’re having to use sessions talking about that rather than talking about what I need for my therapy, if you know what I mean.’ He said, ‘I do know what you mean, yes. It’s very much in the way and it’s very charged between you, not very helpful. And you’ve fully named it and you’ve had the courage and the solidarity with your own process to say that ‘this is what’s happening for me’ and she’s acknowledged that this is huge for her too.’
I said, ‘So, my gut feeling here actually is… I feel that it would be right to move away from her and I know it’s only been twenty minutes but I am curious about starting work with you actually, but I’m thinking about timing and… so with Anna and Paul the power was taken away from me in terms of ending the therapeutic relationship and you know for ‘ancient history’ reasons it’s really important that I have the power to do this and to end it the way I want to do it.’ Mark sort of talked over me and said, ‘absolutely I’m 100% behind you!’ (which felt lovely) I said, ‘so I’m not left again, basically…’ he said, ‘yeah so you have control of the ending and do it as far as you can that’s right for you, because before it was something that happened to you rather than something you initiated. That’s very important, big piece of work.’ I said, ‘yeah so I go slowly with things and I process slowly and on a really deep level so I write and journal and think deeply about things… which is another reason why I want to work with someone who is experienced in mindfulness and meditation because I’m really crap at that and everything that’s going on with me is there with me all the time, in my head, conversations in my head all the time, Anna is always here, Linda is always here… it’s exhausting… anyway that’s a round about way of me saying I can’t do this overnight, I can’t just immediately stop this and obviously there are professional logistical things here, I don’t expect you to wait forever and we would want a time frame of sorts… it might take a few weeks… I don’t know how long it would take to wind things down with Linda,’ Mark said, ‘no sure, it sounds very important that you do that in a way that is as right for you as you can make it, you’ve just said that and I would encourage that I really would encourage that, you want as good an ending as you can get in these times and maybe even some space between that whether it is me or someone else, whatever is right. I certainly wouldn’t be pushing in any way for you to stop and start something in a hurry. It needs to be worked through a little bit. Where I’m at is, I’m not in a rush for new clients, if anything I’m shutting up shop a bit… I felt from your email that you wanted to work at a bit of depth so it sort of attracted me in some sense because I think it’s a much more rewarding thing for me if I can put myself out there like that. So, I thought it would be good to meet and discuss it, because I’m very interested in the deep work. So, no rush. I’m not in a rush to fill a slot or whatever. The space is there for you, I’d encourage you to take your time with it. There’s a couple of weeks when I’m away in October anyway. So I guess where we’re at is that you need to come to a place in your current therapy that feels good enough to end so you actually have an ending that you have initiated that hasn’t happened to you. And you may or may not need some space around that, so just sit with yourself and let that bit of work do it’s thing.’
I asked if I could share my thoughts on that and he said, ‘course you can.’ I said, ‘I’m not great with breaks… I think its because of how unsettled I felt when Anna left. I have done breaks, there were two years between me stopping with Paul and starting with Anna so I can do it… but when I get attached to the therapist all this other stuff happens. So, the cognitive adult is totally fine and hearing all this saying it sounds great but the child is like ‘oh my god he’s gonna take two weeks holiday I can’t cope with that!’ so already I’m aware that there’s gonna be these things that come up within the therapy. So, I’m thinking, how can I make it so there’s no gap…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘but you can.’ And I said, ‘but also maybe I need a break… so I’m going to need to contemplate that.’ He said, ‘sure, take your time to think about it, it’s important you do what feels right for you.’ I said, ‘I mean, I know on a cognitive level I’d be fine, I’m a teacher a mum, a coping adult but other stuff goes on in therapy.’ I was gesturing to my stomach and he mimicked that gesture and said, ‘and that’s the important thing to let that speak and be received and make sure that part can come in and be met in a way that feels right and I think it’s important that if there’s parts of you that have spoken and it feels like the break could be wrong then we will listen to those parts concerns… that was just a suggestion… and I do tend to announce breaks because I understand it can be difficult. As you just did, you were transparent enough to voice that emotional response to that, which we know in the work I would let that part speak but yeah I always announce breaks so that people have warning… I’m rarely ill but that sort of thing you never know, but I try to let people know well in advance.’ I said, ‘yeah that was a challenge with Anna because she was frequently ill which was a shame,’ he said, ‘yes it would be.’
I said, ‘I feel like I should have lots of questions… I mean this conversation has felt good actually, I’ve felt understood by you which is nice.’ He said, ‘That’s great, I’m glad you can talk about how it’s landed with you. You felt good and understood…’ I said, ‘There’s been a lot of me feeling like I have to over explain myself with Linda which has been quite hard and maybe it’s personality types, she’s very straight talking… I appreciate honesty and openness but sometimes straight talking can feel harsh which is difficult when you’re working with really raw vulnerable parts,’ Mark said, ‘Yeah if your young parts are up they might need a different voice or something, yeah..?’ I said, ‘Exactly! I mean this is already feeling so good, Linda doesn’t talk about young parts like that and Anna did and being a transactional analysist she talked a lot directly to my child and that was so healing and so therapeutic because it taught me how to speak to myself like that and be compassionate with myself and you know yeah this is just really showing me that I’m holding on to Linda for the wrong reasons.’ It felt amazing to hear him talking about the young parts… I can not wait to start that work with him!
I said, ‘It’s such a weird time just now with the lockdown and the way we’re living… I mean, I imagine most people who are free to choose, won’t start working face to face with people for a long time… parts of the work I’m curious about like Somatic Experiencing, I’m curious to know how that works through video… I know it can work remotely but I also feel like so much of the work is in the room. And also there was a lot of the work I did with Anna that I really felt I needed and was so powerful but Linda wouldn’t do it. I’m curious to see if you would. So things like moving around the room, and specific prediscussed touch, like a hand on the arm or something… Linda was dead against touch this but it was so important and impacted my healing in such a deep way. I mean I haven’t even sat in a room with Linda but she said she’s not a touchy/huggy person and doesn’t do that sort of thing. It really felt like a closed door when there’s something really powerful about it. Anna and I talked about it for a year before we brought touch into our work. In terms of her sitting beside me and putting a hand on my arm. And it was very professional and boundaried and everything,’ all this time Mark was nodding and saying, ‘yeah’ periodically… I continued, ‘I feel like with Linda it was a dead no and it’s a shame when the therapy is going in that direction to just close the door on it and not even consider it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.’
Mark said, ‘I’ll speak hopefully very directly and stop me at any point if you want to ask anything. Speaking to the zoom points initially, I’ve been ambivalent about offering in person sessions, I haven’t returned to my office in town, just not had a green light from the inside about that,’ he had his hand on his stomach and I was agreeing with him. He said, ‘I imagined at some point offering a hybrid so for people who are happy to work remotely they can continue doing that, as I say I haven’t made that choice yet. I’ve actually been surprised with how effective this medium can be. I was a bit thumbs-downy about it at the start but actually I’ve had to change my views on things. Including somatic things. There is the option to move around the room and use the space creatively. And in terms of the SE stuff, the way I tend to work is quite organic but I do like to include the body because that’s where things come up and we tend to feel things quite intensely and I will point things out if things are happening. And ask them to explore it. So there’s that way of working. And I guess people start to connect with deeper parts of themselves. And obviously touch is impossible in this medium. It can be a very therapeutic way of working because were not just sort of brains on sticks with our thinking mind and feeling someone’s touch and support sometimes we take that in in ways we cant take words in and it can be very powerful. You can feel something from the inside that you can kind of ground, bookmark if you like, carry with you… so um… I have worked in that way, not heaps, I largely work very relationally,’ I asked if I could give an example and he encouraged me on. I said, ‘so there have been some times when I could get quite dissociative if we were exploring particular topics deeply and there were times when Anna and I felt a complete disconnect and she couldn’t reach me and I couldn’t even feel she was in the room. We explored that a lot and talked about what might be helpful and we came to the agreement that if I asked for it she would pull her chair round to be beside me and she would put her hand on my arm and something really deep inside me would wake up to the fact that she was actually there and then I could take in her care and connection. So, I’d go from feeling completely alone and then the touch would connect me back to her and bring me back to the room.’ Mark said, ‘yeah that makes complete sense.’ I said, ‘so when I explored that with Linda, using the words Anna would use as a transactional analysist, my child felt like Linda was closing a door to my child by saying ‘no I don’t do that’ because that was the only way me or Anna could access her. And I spent a good year and a half denying any existence of parts and being dead from the neck down and not feeling any emotions and being very cognitive and intellectualising. So, Anna worked really hard to connect me to any feelings at all. So, it felt like hitting a brick wall, losing Anna and then working with someone who then said ‘I won’t work with you like that’. It felt devastating to feel that this amazing thing that I’d only just found was taken away from me and I’m never going to be able to have it again.’ Mark said, ‘more loss, yeah more loss.’
I said, ‘and then when I was searching for another therapist, it’s such a black hole searching for a therapist online, especially when it’s not counselling you want, it’s therapy, you want to do attachment work and all the things you were talking about developmental trauma, first 18 months of life… all this stuff I was like ‘yes’ because I haven’t read that in other profiles, you know and I had been narrowing my search down to only women and I realised last week that I was just looking for Anna in all the profiles and I realised I wasn’t going to find her so I lifted all the restrictions and searched again and found you. I felt that you sounded interesting… so that’s that!’ He said, ‘yeah yeah I really appreciate it’s a strange thing to trail through profiles to try to get a sense of someone, I’m glad my words, as far as I could put myself out there, landed with you in a certain way. I offer this meeting and I don’t charge for it because I think it is important to meet people and have a sense of how it is to sit with and speak to the person. It’s whether our vulnerable or young parts feel that it’s okay to speak as well. My sense is that you are feeling quite free in speaking but how is it, how has it been to speak for these parts?’ (I really loved that he said this).
I said, ‘yeah it feels like I’m being heard and understood, it feels good, you know. I mean, I’m not new to therapy…’ he said, ‘no I get that,’ I continued, ‘so I’m used to having to make the most of the hour or however long, um… but I know now what it feels like to be out of alignment with someone or in alignment.’ He said, ‘and right now, with me?’ I said, ‘I feel in alignment with you I feel like you understand me. Actually, you saying to me that you were interested in the fact that I wanted to deep work, that excites me because that is how I feel and I always feel like I’m too much, and that people are frightened off by that. And when you didn’t reply to the initial email that you didn’t even get…’ he spoke over me and said, ‘oh God, right, oh no!’ I continued, ‘all those stories were going round in my head, I should never have told him all that history I should have just stuck to the basics and left it at that, you know, so it’s actually really reassuring to hear you say that actually that’s the thing that interested you because I always have this story that I’m too intense, I’m too much, people don’t want to go so deeply in to things, they want it to be easy, you know all that sort of stuff, so thanks for saying that!’ he said, ‘well that’s brilliant then because you bumped into your assumption and I kind of undid it, didn’t I. and that’s lovely coz it’s a relational experience different from what you imagine is going to come your way.’ I said, ‘and you said it without me asking, usually if I say I feel like I’m too much and the therapist says I’m not I don’t believe them but I didn’t ask you, you just volunteered how you felt… when my attachment stuff is triggered I find it hard to believe what people say, I feel like they say it coz its their job.’ Mark said, ‘yeah I get that and I just happily volunteered that. And I do just bring stuff forward. The main thing for me is that we process the impact of that, of what I say or what you say, how we’re left. Which is partly what were doing now were going back and saying well it impacted in a good way, with you. Now I know that, with the back story of what you imagined. When you didn’t get an email back. So there’s a whole piece there for us to bring forward. Its only if you talk about what happens between you that you get that gold!’ I said, ‘yessss and I really value that work and you know (I know were gonna wind things up)… Linda keeps using this word critiquing, she feels like I’m critiquing her when I’m not, what I’m doing is wanting to have that kind of conversation with her. I want to explore why these things are important to me. I’m not critiquing her but she’s taking it personally. This whole thing is reinforcing that this was the right decision. I’m really glad that we had this conversation today.’
Mark said, ‘okay shall I just say a few things? I mean, you’re quite experienced in therapy so I don’t think I need to say much about it but basically in a nuts and bolts kind of thing… I tend to say lets have 6 sessions, and then we can see how that goes if it feels right for you. What you’re saying is you’re interested in longer term work and so we know that from the get go. I tend to work woth people for as long as they want to come. ive never had to stop someone prematurely or moved away. I have no plans of going anywhere. So it would be your space and the ending would be your control, all things being equal you know, if a bus ran over me or something… but you know, so I offer it in a deep way, the sessions are an hour long and usually once a week. I don’t like to work with lesser frequency than that coz I don’t think its that affective. I think weekly contact is important. Um… what else? Probably that’s about it. Every now and again we’d have a review, have a check in about how were doing together. That tends to happen organically and I can tell it would happen organically with you, but it’s worth sometimes to have a formal 10 minutes looking back. See how its going. There’s a way, I call it ‘house keeping the work’ my way of making sure its effective…. so, is that maybe enough for now? Is there anything you want to ask? How are you left… from today? How do you feel?’
I said, ‘ehhh…. I’m feeling excited actually.’ He said, ‘excited! That sounds good! It’s nice to hear that you’re excited. I like that.’ I said, ‘yeah especially knowing where I’ve been the past few months. Its really nice to feel hopeful.’ Mark said, ‘it’s good to feel hopeful, that’s important.’ I said, ‘yeah I would like to work with you, em…’ Mark interrupted and said, ‘oh I’d like to work with you, it’s immediate, I always say to people go away and sleep on it don’t rush to do anything but eh, I’m glad you’ve said that and it’s felt very organic and eh… well sorry, I’ve just spoken over you I guess I’m excited too!’ he was smiling and moving around a wee bit. I said, ‘aww that’s nice, that’s nice… that’s so nice! Coz I reckon Linda and I didn’t have a choice, we ended up working together by default so its really nice to feel like we’re both on the same page with this. So… basically I think then what I’ll do is… I’m having twice a week sessions with Linda which I had started to do with Anna a year ago when a lot of developmental, preverbal stuff was coming up that was really hard to hold for a while week emm…’ he said, ‘yeah that makes sense,’ I said, ‘then it continued with Linda because basically I had a complete breakdown when Anna left and I couldn’t go more than a few days without talking to someone about it…. so I had thought about moving down to once a week with Linda just to try to centre myself into a shift, so what I could do is… I’ll be seeing Linda again on Monday and talking to her about how I’m feeling about all of this and the teacher in me wants to have a big forward plan but that’s not helpful. But I could email you and let you know a sort of rough idea… I’m 100% certain I would like to work with you I just don’t know when that’s going to start and how many sessions… I mean I might feel after speaking to Linda that I’m happy just with another week and that’s it… you’ve said you’re away for a couple of weeks in October so it might make sense to wait until after that. Wait til November… but I could maybe email you and let you know my thoughts on that?’ he said, ‘yes its good to keep me in the loop yeah, and we don’t need to be bound in concrete as you have another ending process… yes do that and get back to me. At the moment, it might change but I am open to twice weekly but at the moment we’d struggle to find the time for that but its not out the question just to let you know.’ I said, ‘okay we could talk about that then, I work Mon, Tue, Wed so at the moment I see Linda Monday early evening and Friday morning… so you and I could move to once a week on a Friday and play things by ear.’ He said, ‘yeah I’m pretty confident we can work something out.’
Mark said, ‘good to uh… I’m glad we’ve managed to meet in this mad medium and um… yeah just let me know what’s happening. Whenever you’re ready whenever feels right.’ I said, ‘okay thank you Mark I will do.’ He said, ‘yeah okay and uh… symbolic of being in control of the ending I’ll let you do the leave meeting button.’ I said, ‘okay great, well thanks very much, it was good to meet with you and I’ll email you next week.’ He said, ‘grand, thank you.’ And he stayed sitting crossed legged while I leaned towards the computer. I said, ‘okay have a good weekend,’ he said, ‘and you, bye for now,’ and I said, ‘bye Mark, bye.’ And that was that!
So… I’ve since emailed him asking when he would be able to start. I’ve been reflecting a lot and I’ve listened again to both my session with Linda and this conversation with Mark. The contrast is stark. Linda hasn’t been able to hold all my stuff and isn’t able to take me where I want to go… I have a very strong feeling that Mark may very well be my next step.