I’ve noticed on “Mommy blogs” that women will often write their birth stories, especially if they had a particularly traumatic experience giving birth. They often say that writing it down and sharing helps them process what happened. I suppose the practice of sitting down to narrate a story really forces you to get in touch with that experience. So I’m going to do something similar and write down the story of how Zooey terminated therapy.
Firstly, it’s worth noting that at our Monday session of that week (we had sessions every Monday and Thursday), there was a lot of emotion and tension. She had just come back from vacation and we hadn’t seen her in two weeks. Any break in therapy is hard. It’s weird and scary to have your therapist away and living their everyday life. It’s hard to not have that routine and it’s also painful to know that they have a life outside of providing treatment to you.
So, naturally, I was feeling more reserved. But she pushed. She mentioned that it seemed like I’d been less willing to open up and talk freely, as I’d done in most of our previous sessions. She was absolutely right. But a lot had happened recently (more on that later) and I was in the midst of a lot of very intense and very painful transference. As a therapist, I (mistakenly) assumed she’d pick up on that and stay with me through it. I was wrong. I ended up offending her and at the end of the session she seemed flustered and stated, “Well, I think we both have a lot to think about.” WTF does that even mean??? What am I supposed to be “thinking about”, exactly?
Enter Tuesday, when my wife and I get an e-mail from her asking if my wife could come to my next session with me to “discuss insurance issues” (even longer story, also for a later time). My wife agreed to come to Thursday’s session. But I felt the floor drop from underneath me. It seemed off that Zooey would ask her to come just to talk about money shit. Why not talk on the phone? Or via e-mail? I just KNEW something was wrong. Very wrong.
Fast forward to Thursday. My wife and I are both there. Zooey comes out in to the waiting room to get us. My wife walks into the office first and sits where I normally sit. I curl myself into a ball at the opposite end of the couch, diagonal from Zooey. I just wait for the bomb to drop.
And then it does.
Within the first minute, Zooey explained that she felt a “referral was a good idea.” She talked a lot of crap about the insurance being a problem and such (which is valid, but also bullshit because I wasn’t arguing with her on that point and I would have paid out of pocket if need be). Then she went on about how I “haven’t been getting better” and “new problems have been coming up” and I “really need someone who specializes in trauma and dissociation” – someone who can “see the end.” She admitted that she was struggling with finding a way to help me, particularly during dissociative or distressing moments. To be fair, in the time in treatment with her, I had gone over session several times due to difficulty with staying grounded. But I’d also gotten much better at that. However, in a fairly recent session prior to this termination, I’d gotten “lost” in the reality/past haze that often plagues trauma survivors. Zooey felt the need to point this out and said, “Just a few weeks ago your appointment was at 4pm and I couldn’t get you out of here until close to 6!” Um, way harsh.
It was like the entire world exploded. It’s hard for me to even remember much else about the session except how excruciating it was. At some point I know I went to the bathroom to just sob. Then I went back to the office and told her that she didn’t get to blame this on me – that it was unfair of her to suggest I’m not progressing simply because new issues are coming up. Of course they are! We are dealing with some seriously heavy trauma and that’s going to bring shit up! She seemed so cold and disconnected. It was agonizing. It felt like she was deliberately withholding any connection from me. The room was spinning. The system was in chaos. It was awful.
My wife was unimpressed, to say the least. We were both baffled and pissed at this woman’s unprofessional and unexpected behavior and responded accordingly. At one point, my wife said “If you do this to her, she’ll never go back into therapy.” Zooey just said, “Well, that’s her choice.” Ouch. Let’s just say we did not exactly get more cooperative with her at this point. She clearly felt this was unwarranted and told us that we were both being “very hostile.” Well, duh. What did you imagine would happen when you bring a client and their spouse into your office under misleading pretenses and then suddenly terminate treatment?!!
Then, in what seemed like mere minutes, it was time to go. She told me that she wanted to help me with the referral process, but at that point I wasn’t even processing information. I remember my wife shaking her hand. I remember zipping up my coat and just looking at Zooey. I did nothing. I didn’t say goodbye. I didn’t shake her hand. I didn’t hug her. I just looked at her, turned, and walked out. It was such a surreal and painful moment. But the entire time, I was thinking to myself, “NO! This is not how this ends! I don’t know how to fix this, but this is NOT going to end like this!!!”
And it didn’t end there. I sent her an e-mail requesting a proper termination session, which she agreed to. I will write about that next…