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Published: 11 years ago
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"She knows many things about me, in the course of our working together, nothing too deep, nothing that would cross ethical lines, but enough where trust has been established. It is just that the depth of her attack and trauma, she is closed off to everyone and everything. I still don't know what happened at the hospital, but she hates counselors due to something that happened with the rape crisis counslor. Yet she will talk with me. She will only give me brief descriptions, small amounts of detail, then shut down. She frequently misses appts. Sometimes, she comes in and sits quietly....the silence doesn't bother her, which is unusual. Sometimes, she comes in, sits...and falls asleep. That lets me know I am trusted. So that is why I am grappling with the thought of letting her know I was attacked, no detail, just to let her know I can understand or relate to her fears. That I know about the nightmares, fear when alone, fear of strangers, noises at night."

A few things you might want to consider; we do not have the clearly defined boundaries that most people think we do. Example: I remember very clearly working with one therapist and I had been frustrated for some time because I just wasn't getting past some barrier. I told her one day in a session that I felt like I had this big gaping hole inside of my that I just couldn't fill. I was sort of looking straight ahead when I said this, and not at her. And very quickly, out of the corner of my eye, I detected a look of horror on her face. In that instant, I knew that I had just hit on Her main issue! And that the reason that I was feeling so stuck was because she had not resolved this for herself, and consequently, she didn't know how to help me! It was shortly after this session that she referred my to Ellen, the therapist I posted about. At least I was very fortunate to have a therapist whose ego wasn't getting in the way of doing what was in the best interest of her clients!

I'm wondering; could this client of yours actually be protecting you from your own emotional reactions? And this could either be to unresolved emotions that you have about your own experience or it could be an attempt to protect you because she senses that you might not be able to handle her whole story.

My suggestion, for whatever its worth, would be for you to stop trying to figure out her motives, intentions or reasons for her behavior and simply ask her instead! Ask her if she trusts you. Ask her if she wants to hear your story. Ask her what it is that she wants from you. You might be very surprised by her answers. This is a magic question!

My last therapist used to ask me this all the time. Sometimes I used to get so aggravated with her, and then I realized that, in asking the simple question, "What do you want from me around this?", she was teaching me how to think! Instead of spoon-feeding me, she was forcing me to figure out what it was that I wanted, and making me articulate it! She even stood me in the corner once, facing the wall (and with her hand on my back for support), and made me think my way through what it was I wanted in that particular moment. And what did I want? I wanted a hot bath! And guess what? She went into the bathroom, filled the tub with water, and allowed me the luxury to take a hot bath while she cooked dinner in her kitchen! (She worked out of her home.)

Some people would say this is outrageous! Why?! That is what I wanted, it was a simple request, there was nothing inappropriate about it, and, in allowing this, she honored my ability to think for myself and validated what I wanted. Simple! We are not the complicated creatures that our intellect would like us to believe that we are! Our deepest wants and needs are really quite simple and easily fulfilled when it boils right down to it! And I see so many people, and especially therapists, doing far more than they need to when it comes to 'helping' people, and it is actually detrimental. One of the greatest gifts that this therapist gave to me was the firm belief in me that I could figure out for myself what I wanted and needed. She had no interest in 'saving' me, and she made me work hard and really reach for whatever I wanted! And in taking this stance with clients, a therapist communicates to the client that they are trusted, highly regarded, and perfectly capable of figuring things out for themselves! This fosters confidence and independence far more than all the analysis, intellectualization, and all the lip service that is given to 'boundaries'! Can all therapists work in this way? Absolutely not! This only works with therapists who have truly healed themselves before they go about trying to heal someone else! And, personally, I believe that is the way it ought to be, anyway! There are far, far too many therapists that are trying to heal themselves vicariously through their clients!

And also ask yourself if you really want to hear her whole story! And if you are not prepared to hear her story, for whatever reason, ask yourself just how effective do you think you can be with her!

Sadly, most therapists are far too busy with their own head chatter and second-guessing all sorts of "whys?" about their clients behaviors instead of just actively listening to their clients and really getting to know them as fellow human beings! Frankly, I believe that 'therapeutic space' and all the talk about 'boundaries' is more about protecting the therapists than about assisting their clients! And it's a whole different ball game when the therapist has truly healed their own 'issues' and maintains that space out of genuine concern for the client instead of out of their own self-protection from their own emotions and issues! When a therapist maintains this sort of 'warm' detachment, then they are creating sacred space! This does not occur with the emotional distance and hierarchical structure that is more commonly implemented. It is in sacred space that true healing takes place!

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