Appropriate and Necessary

I opened yesterday’s session by commenting on how much contact my therapist and I have had over the past week:

“Do you know that we talked for four and a half hours last week?”

“Oh, really? Is that…you mean, with the three sessions and the phone calls?”

“Yes.”

“You did the math?”

“Yes.”

“How do you feel about that? About last week and how much we talked?”

I told her that I was surprised I’d had that much to talk about; that I could fill that much time. I shared that I thought it was really helpful and she agreed. She said that I’d had a difficult week and thus I needed the added support.

I said, “Right. I mean, you know, I think it was appropriate…and necessary.”

“Necessary?”

“Yeah. I needed it. I was struggling so I needed more from you. And that’s what all relationships are, right? All interactions, really. We all just need something from each other.”

“Sure. But…’necessary’…? Words are important. So I’m just wondering about that word and about why you added it?”

“Well, it was deliberate, if that’s what you mean. I wanted to make sure I put it in there.”

“Is it a qualifier? Do you feel that you have to need something in order for us to be able to talk?”

“I don’t know. Probably.”

“Well I don’t think you do. Not in that way. I understand your overall point about relationships and interactions, but I think there’s an undertone here that you have to ‘earn’ or ‘deserve’ our interactions?”

“Yes. I do feel that way. But I’m not actually sure that’s what I meant when I added ‘necessary’. I think I was just trying to draw a boundary.”

“What kind of boundary?”

“Around us. I just want it to be clear. I want this to be clear.”

“What do you think needs to be clarified? And to who?”

“To me, to you, to each other. I just want to be clear about this whole relationship and what it really is; what it means when we talk to each other.”

“Does something feel unclear or ‘off’ to you?”

“No. But I want to keep everything really contained within the space of the work. So I guess I added ‘necessary’ as a way to clarify that there was a reason we were talking to each other so often. We weren’t friends just chatting on the phone – we were talking within a therapeutic space because I needed something and you provided it. But the tone of the conversation was more casual and relaxed than what I’m used to having with therapists…”

“And maybe that’s bringing up some feelings?”

“Yes. So I just think that when we discuss us and this relationship, we need to always circle around to remind each other that this exists for therapy. I think that’s the best way to keep this space safe and contained. We need to always stay focused on the nature of why we know each other and why we talk to each other and why we care about each other.”

“Okay, I see what you’re saying now. And, yeah, I think it would be very helpful to keep those boundaries really clear for you because I’m not sure that’s always been clear for you, historically. And I can see how it would feel unsafe or confusing for you to not know where that line is.”

“Exactly.”

This was a really simple and quick conversation, but it was so important. This dialogue was not punitive and I don’t think I brought this up to emotionally punish myself by reminding myself that she’s “just” my therapist.

I do know that she is “just” my therapist, but that’s what I love the most about our relationship. It feels safe and caring and protective. It feels special that I get to have this person who puts so much time and energy into figuring out how to help me heal from tremendous pain and trauma. She has a skill-set that can help me get through this mess and I hire her to use those skills to help me.

I don’t need a new friend or partner or another enmeshed, co-dependent, confusing relationship. I don’t need someone to talk me off the ledge or chat casually with me on the phone. I don’t need someone who’s unclear on their role in my life or vice versa. And I certainly don’t need someone who’s lacking in awareness about how our relationship impacts them.

What I need, and what I pay for, is a really good therapist.

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15 thoughts on “Appropriate and Necessary

  1. Sirena says:

    It’s interesting to see the client so firmly holding the boundary. I feel the same way, but sometimes very conflicted about the relationship boundary. I want a really good therapist. I don’t want or need a new friend and I don’t want the lines to get confused, and like you, I don’t want co-dependency or enmeshment. Yet… those things are so normal to me that I sometimes miss the co-dependency or enmeshment because there’s comfort in what you know. And sometimes clearer healthier boundaries see scary, part of the unknown and I feel the distance and it feels uncaring or rejecting. It’s all very confusing.
    Reading what you wrote, I think I understand where you’re coming from, and it’s a really healthy thing, yet there’s something that felt a bit defensive about it, like you were trying to create some distance in establising her role in your life pehaps? I dunno, just something I picked up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I think I’m holding the boundary because it feels like I finally have the option to do so, if that makes any sense. It doesn’t feel like rules and parameters are being shoved down my throat, it feels like something we do together to keep us both safe. I absolutely get the “normal” thing – I tend to feel like relationships are not “real” without all of those other things. I don’t know whether or not I was/am trying to establish distance. Perhaps. I’m sure you’re picking up on some message I don’t even realize I’m sending.

      Like

  2. Boost Connection says:

    That sounds like such an important conversation! It’s so amazing that you were able to maintain that type of emotional clarity about your relationship. I feel like *I* feel safer and calmer knowing how solid but flexible your therapeutic parameters are based on the decisions you make with her. I’m very impressed with how well you two work together overall. Keep up the great work, Andi!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Yes! It really does feel like I play just as much a part in the boundary stuff as she does, which is very empowering and makes it all seem so much less arbitrary and punitive. Thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anxious Mom says:

    I’m impressed with how much thought you’ve put into the therapy relationship. It’s not something I’ve gone near, but how much thought you’ve put into it and how you were able to discuss it with her strikes me as brave.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Cat's Meow says:

    I know that I have struggled with these issues, myself. In general, I am glad to have my therapist as my therapist and not in another role in my life, but I always felt kid of sad that I am “just a client” for her. But then I realized that a therapist can still care deeply about a client. There is no “just” in my relationship with my therapist. I think that a really good therapeutic relationship has to be more than just a fee based transaction of services. It is clear that your therapist cares about you, which I’m guessing is probably both scary and a good thing for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Very well said. It’s a very unique and unparalleled relationship, which in itself makes it tricky. I used to always want my former therapists to have dual relationships with me. I wanted to feel special and important and loved, which I thought I could only get if I somehow wasn’t just a client to them. With this therapist, I feel more love and care and appreciation than I’ve ever felt, yet it is the most solidly boundaried of all of them. Kinda funny how that works. Scary and a good thing for sure!

      Like

  5. geeklychicqmhp says:

    I know these struggles all to well! My therapist is very laid back, I sometime struggle with her professional boundaries. But then I think, man I can talk to her about anything and everything, its like im talking to a good friend who has great advice and ideas. The personal connection I have with her is still totally professional but the comfort level is that of two friends. Like @cat’s meow said, it is a very awesome but scary thing! Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Absolutely! I feel as though I have both – someone who I feel close to that I can talk about anything with AND a professional, skilled therapist who can help me navigate very challenging stuff. I’m very grateful to have her in my life. Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Rachel says:

    Whoa, this is one of those posts that I had to stop and ask myself – who wrote this? It is completely how I feel about my therapist and therapy – I feel such a strong sense of being cared for and held and supported, but have NO desire for a dual relationship or for it to be anything except therapy. Because a boundaried, flexible, and intelligently-crafted therapeutic relationship has the potential to be more intimate and meaningful that most other types of relationships ever can be. It is beautiful. And absolutely, establish those boundaries and communicate them and yes. Yes, yes. Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Oh thank god. Sometimes I honestly feel like I’m the only one who has this clear cut understanding that I do NOT want the duel relationship. I’ve had that, more than once, and in the end it does NOT feel good. At all. We think it will, but it just doesn’t. What makes me feel the most loved and the most safe is someone who is willing to set boundaries for me, because let’s face it – no one did that for me, ever. It’s nice to feel like I am finally worth someone protecting.

      Liked by 1 person

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