Asking for What I Need

I mentioned yesterday that the therapist asked if there was anything else she could do to help bridge the time between sessions while she’s on vacation (i.e. besides being available by phone). At the time I just said no because I couldn’t think of anything, and she said that was was open to talking about it more.

It wasn’t until I’d written and published my last post that I remembered that other bloggers have asked their therapists to write them short handwritten notes. This is something Zooey did on two separate occasions, unprompted. She wrote a letter to Julia (the same day we somehow ended up inpatient) and she wrote a card out to all of us that she gave me the last session before I went to the trauma program.

So I suppose I might associate therapist notes with abandonment and bad choices? Who knows.

Either way, I’ve been wondering if this isn’t something I should ask for in session today. I think if I did, she would probably ask me what, specifically, I wanted her to write. I’m not sure I know what would be helpful. I can’t really think of anything. Or perhaps it feels too vulnerable to be that open?

But I do think having something to physically hold and look at would probably be a useful thing to have. I feel pretty solid overall right now and the past week has been rather calm and settled, but I have no idea how next week will be. I don’t want to find myself in the middle of her vacation wishing I’d had the courage to ask for something I needed.

But what do I need?

I guess I need her reassurance. I’m not sure she’d give me that, though. She won’t promise me anything, nor should she. I don’t think I need her promises. But then what else would be reassuring? Maybe just knowing that our relationship doesn’t disappear when we’re not having sessions?

It feels very primal, this need. Which is maybe why it’s so hard to verbalize.

Any ideas? Suggestions? Anything that worked well for you?

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20 thoughts on “Asking for What I Need

  1. Jean says:

    A thing. Something from her office, if she has small things. A chair wouldn’t do LOL

    Or something personal of hers. If you have a camera, maybe you could ask her if you could take a picture of her. A plate or glass from her home. A pretty stone. Just something small you could hold and remember it was hers. Something you could either keep or give back when she returns.

    This way you could hold it, and it would be different from Zooey’s letter.

    This worked well for me when I was at the beginning of accepting the mega abuse in my childhood. I don’t need or desire it now because I have a solid belief that my therapist exists and cares about me deeply.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Jean. All good ideas. She doesn’t really keep anything personal around. Her office is very neutral and “blank” (I think it might be a NYC therapy thing?). It’s just chairs, bookshelves, a filing cabinet, some wall art, and three items on the windowsill (two vases and a gemstone, I think). I love the idea of having something that’s different from what Zooey gave me, but I guess I worry that if I don’t identify exactly what would help me, we won’t decide on anything and I’ll just feel stupid and rejected. Thanks again for the input. This gives me some “outside the box” ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rachel says:

    I want to gently say that you sound awfully hard on yourself to “figure it out” on your own; she is there to help, too. Just knowing you have a need for something is huge, and being able to express that takes a lot of courage. So perhaps you can express you have a need for some kind of tangible reassurance and comfort, and the two of you can come up with something together in session. Perhaps you can come up with a phrase she can write down on an index card. Or she can do a voice recording after the session and send it to you (this is a new thing with my new therapist, and I like it). She says specifically “Hi Rachel, this is (therapist), with a short recording for you.. blah blah.” Personalized, feels personal and special and precious.
    I completely understand your trepidation and that is so understandable. I think you are really pushing yourself and have a lot of admiration for that. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I know…I am always so hard on myself, especially around this. I suppose I worry that if I don’t “figure it out”, something awful will happen. Thanks for the vote of confidence, though 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. La Quemada says:

    What about a postcard or two? Not from her vacation, which is her personal time away, but maybe images you choose or you and she choose together, she can write to you and then mail after the session or right before she leaves. I’m not sure what message would work for you, but maybe something like, “Hi Andi, you know I’m thinking of you even though we’re nott meeting. I look forward to working together again when I get back.”

    If you like the photo route, you can also try the app Postagram, which can take a photo you select from your phone and turn it into a postcard with a message you create and then sends it for you. You could take a selfie of the two of you together, if you liked that.

    When I went to California recently, I made four cards of my own with messages from things we’d been working on in therapy (It’s okay to have whatever feelings i have, no matter what happened, nothing extinguishes the light inside of you, etc). And I’d pull those out daily and look at them. The good thing about it was that I was bringing wisdom from therapy with me, but it was in my own words with images I’d selected, so it was also practice in supporting myself. I get it that you need something from HER, but maybe you could modify this for what you need.

    Good luck! It is great you are thinking ahead about meeting your needs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I’ve never even heard of those things, which is something I would use in my regular life, so thanks for the suggestion! I also love the idea of creating something for myself that helps me hold onto her and to the work we’re doing…gonna brainstorm more on that 🙂

      Like

  4. Jen says:

    A few years ago, my therapist wrote me a card before she left on a trip that talked about how if I was reading it and feeling sad, scared, hopeless or broken to remember that those were feelings and fears, but not truths. She talked about how I had changed and healed in many small ways and how she believed I was special and remarkable enough to keep healing and changing. She asked me to remind myself that I was safe, not alone, and that I would be okay. The words were hers, but the themes were things I often talked about – how I felt broken and that I would never get better, how I felt alone and not safe, even though I was beginning to recognize at the time that even when I felt that way, it wasn’t objectively true. I think if I’d had to prompt her what to say it wouldn’t have worked as well. I needed to feel like it was authentic and from her.

    My needs have changed since then, so the particular wording of the card doesn’t (now) touch on the anxieties and hurts that plague me the most, but I still keep the card by my bed and look at it at times. For the most part, it provides the sense that she cares about me, and that our relationship is intact and strong, whether or not I am talking to her or in her office at that particular moment in time.

    We’ve also tried using voice memos/voice mails before vacations, but that’s been hit or miss. Sometimes I’ve found it helpful but other times I’ve found that she said one or two words that seemed off or not just right to me, an then it was hard to find comfort in that. For some reason that tended to not happen in the cards. Maybe just a coincidence though.

    A kind of silly thing we’ve found that is really helpful for me now is for her to recommend a couple of books/movies that I haven’t seen and when I read or watch them while she’s away, that makes me feel more connected to her, like she knows what and how I’m doing and that I’m doing something constructive that we put together together. I know it’s a little bizarre, but it’s what’s been helping most recently. If she has a copy of the book, she’ll lend that to me but I’ve found it’s just as helpful if I get the book on my own or read it on kindle. Similarly, sometimes telling me about an exhibit or movie she’s seen (as you know, nyc has never ending opportunities!) that I can visit or see while she’s away is something that makes me feel connected to her. That’s usually harder for me, though, because I tend to want to just curl up in bed in general.

    And the faxes, always the faxes….helps me to feel connected in “real time” — even though I know she won’t have access to them before she gets back.

    I think it’s great that you’re thinking about how to meet your needs while she’s gone. She might have some ideas, or tweaks, too, if you put it out there and talk about your thoughts on some of the ideas in the responses!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I love that you and your therapist are both flexible and willing to try different things to see what works best. And it’s interesting how you note the way your needs have shifted since the beginning of your relationship – a definite sign of growth. These are all lovely suggestions. Thank you 🙂

      Like

  5. sensuousamberville says:

    This is interesting, there is a desire to “have” something for when your therapist will be away for a period, almost like collateral. Vacations can be tough, having just had a short one, this is prominent for me now.

    Many of my patients have teddy bears, between sessions they sit on shelves and window sills together, I am sure they don’t whisper to each other too much, during sessions the patients teddy bear comes down/over for the session. I find it very useful watching how they grasp the teddy during sessions. Their emotions and reactions are often transmitted this way, even if their words are not. The bear is a source of comfort, they all have names. When I will be away for seminars, vacations or sometimes for a patients rough periods or if they are on vacation, the bears will go home with the patients, they come back when I return and we resume sessions.

    Initially some find holding the bear silly, but it occupies their hands as they adjust clothing (yes no nude bears) position arms and legs or animate the bear. They fill awkward pauses this way sometimes as well.

    If you ask her for something, tell her wish to hold it for collateral, to be sure she returns. Having a neutral office, this may be harder for her to find something, She may not be able to provide something this time, but it may give her thought for next time, see there will be a next time, because she will return and everything will resume.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I never thought of it that way, but yes – I think it’s definitely a form of collateral. I love the bear thing – that’s wonderful. I sometimes bring a stuffed animal with me, but it’s not generally realistic to schlep around the City with me, especially if I’m going to school and work, etc. Thanks for the input! 🙂

      Like

  6. mandy says:

    Andi, I didn’t even know therapists WOULD do anything extra for a patient, until I’d take several decades off from counseling because I decided I hated counseling. I told my new therapist (at the time) about it, and when she went on vacation, she told me I’d find out she was still there but I didn’t know what she meant. I found out. She pre-scheduled a bunch of emails to me that just had little affirming notes, quotes, etc reminding me I was strong and amazing…it was very cool. It helped a lot. It is great to be able to ask for what you need!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mm172001 says:

    My case manager wrote me a note when I was inpatient one time. It was more like a list of things to remember but I still have it. It said things like. Don’t lie about things. Tell them how bad it is. Don’t blame yourself. Don’t go home before you’re ready and probably some other stuff. Mine was specific to the situation. But maybe she could offer some words or encouragement or advice, just to have.

    Liked by 1 person

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