The first thing my therapist and I discussed during Friday’s session was the upcoming schedule changes. As I wrote previously, my school and clinic schedule will be shifting (yet again), causing me to change all three of my weekly sessions.
My therapist had originally discussed the option of having sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays, with the choice to do a double session on Wednesdays or two 90 minute sessions. I respected her efforts to maintain our three hours of session per week, but knew that the length of time from Wednesday to Monday would be very challenging for me.
My plan was to bring this up with her and explain my feelings. I didn’t have solution, but I wanted her to understand how this could potentially impact me.
But in a rare act of initiating the conversation, she asked if she could start out session by talking about scheduling. She said she’d gotten a little mixed up when giving me possible times and wanted to clarify. She said the Monday time would work, but that she couldn’t see me until 7pm on Wednesday (no big deal since that actually would work a little better on the days I have my seminar class). She also said there’s a chance she could see me for a third session. She said, “I could see you on Fridays, maybe, but that’s not my favorite.”
See, these little things – these moments, these comments that seem so insignificant are what have the power to completely derail me within sessions. I sat for a moment wondering what to do. Should I ignore it? Should I let it wash over me and then deal with the inevitable panic? Or should I say something about it. I voted on the third option. I said,
“Why did you say that like that? I don’t know, I just…that didn’t feel good to hear. How would you feel if your treatment provider said that to you? If they were like ‘Hey so I could possibly see you at this time, but it’s not my favorite.’ Would that feel good to you?”
She just sat there for a minute. And then she explained that it isn’t about her personal preference or being attached to a certain time or date for our sessions, she just doesn’t think that she will be able to make a third session work on a logistical level. I still think the wording was strange and I told her it hurt me.
She said that my question asking how she would feel seemed insulting – as if I was dismissing her efforts to make our schedule work because it wasn’t perfect. She also said I seemed disinterested in engaging in the conversation altogether.
“This always happens, doesn’t it? The moments when you think I don’t care or seem dismissive are the moments when I absolutely care the most. I didn’t ask you that question to challenge you – it wasn’t even about you, really. I just wanted you to imagine what I might be thinking or feeling in response to your comment.”
“Yes, this does seem to happen a lot, which is interesting. I’m also wondering if you could have phrased your words a little differently to be a little more explicit about what you were trying to communicate about your reactions to me?”
“Probably. I guess neither of us can say the right things today.”
“It’s not about saying the ‘right’ things, it’s about learning better ways to communicate with each other. It’s about figuring out, from moments just like this, how we impact each other. And it’s about learning what works and moving towards those ways of talking and asking for what we want and need from each other.”
“True. I see that. But, also, I didn’t mean to hurt you…”
“You didn’t hurt me. I’m fine, I’m okay. I wasn’t hurt, I just wanted to share how I experienced your question.”
“See, even that comment right there: ‘You didn’t hurt me. I’m fine.” For me, what I hear you saying is that I don’t matter…that I don’t have an impact on you. That I couldn’t possibly hurt you because I don’t matter enough to hurt you.”
“No, you have an impact. But it’s not your job to take care of me in here. That’s my job and I’m doing it. So I’m okay. And you’re allowed to say things that might be hurtful to me.”
“Okay. And that’s probably what happened with the shrink last week. I think she probably wanted to open up a dialogue with me, but I was already so hurt and shut down that I went on the defensive and completely locked her out. I’m sure she felt that I was dismissive as well.”
“Hmm. Well now that is certainly something to explore some more.”
“Yeah, but not right now. I’ve had enough of this for one day.”
I can’t really explain or even describe it, but something has shifted in our relationship lately. We’ve finally, after 14 months and nearly 150 sessions, started to figure out how to talk to each other and communicate and stay connected even in these really tough moments.
It’s kind of awesome.