A Hard No

So my therapist thought more about letting me record sessions and came back with a hard no. 

She, of course, gave a perfectly logical explanation for this decision. Something about not wanting to make a copy of the work, but to keep it in real time; making me work towards staying present in sessions and being better able to hear her authentic words and tone in the actual moment. And forcing me to work towards getting the comfort and reassurance I need from the time I’m with her, instead of pulling it from recordings that I listen to later on, without her. 

Whatever. She makes a decent argument, but I still hate it. 

I told her today that I feel like she puts a hard line around the compassion and reassurance she offers me. I get to be with her in person (where I honestly feel like she also greatly limits the amount of reassurance she gives me), but once I walk out that door, she’s completely unavailable, even as a voice on a recording taken during a live session with her. 

She let me keep the Gray Mouse doll from her office. Not forever, but indefinitely. I’ve had it at my house for a couple weeks now. I’m grateful for this, and it’s better than nothing, but it still feels limited. This is not a doll she’s ever interacted with; she’s never held or hugged it or used it in sessions. It’s just this object that sat in her office. My little parts were drawn to it and became attached to it, so it developed meaning. But when I really think about it, even this doll from her office that has taken up residence in my own home feels like yet another example of her restraint. 

This is hard. It’s super painful to feel such deep and agonizing attachment pain. It’s as if there’s a black hole in my sternum that’s slowly drawing me in. It also feels like my therapist exists inside this neat, fortified box that completely protects her from the chaos that’s constantly surrounding me. 

I mean, I guess I don’t blame her, but it sucks. 

So I tell her all of this at the end of session today and her response was to tell me that she sees how incredibly hard I’m working around all of this very difficult stuff. 

Um, what?!

I said, “Is that really the last thing you’re going to say??”

Yes, it was. 

She said that this is an example of how I want reassurance from her, but she’s not going to give it and that upsets me. 

So I told her that the next time I see her, I really need her to explain to me why she won’t give me the reassurance I not only need, but specifically outlined and asked for. 

Then I left. 

And now I’m wondering if I should consider seeing another therapist to try and work out what the fuck is happening with this one, because I just don’t understand this approach she’s taking and it feels hurtful. 

I understand boundaries and parameters, but her blatant refusal to be a source of comfort to me is excruciating and confusing. 

I think if I even mentioned wanting to consult with someone else, she’d see that as manipulation, as if I’m pushing her to alter her boundaries as some ultimatum. 

Maybe I am. 


43 thoughts on “A Hard No

  1. Sirena says:

    Sorry Andi but this feels cruel and witholding and bordering abusive to me. There is absolutely no evidence that witholding care or reassurance or warmth helps a client connect or attach securely. The only person who has a problem with boundaries is your over rigid therapist. I don’t see that you have a problem with boundaries, I see you being quite repsectful of them, actually.
    What I do see very much, is this vulnerable child who just needs love and care and attention and an adult who is constantly withdrawing from that child or punishing her for needing.
    Does that description resonate with any past relationships at all?
    I absolutely advocate consulting another therapist. I’m sorry if I sound a bit full on but I feel angry at her. This is maybe just her style and it isn’t suiting your needs anymore but you’re not alone in thinking she’s cold.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Andi says:

      I mean, it sounds like my mother. I agree, this feels so cruel and unnecessary. I’m really struggling to understand where she’s coming from, therapeutically, and I just end up getting hurt over and over again. At the very least, I think we may be at a point where we just don’t match anymore because I really feel like I need more nurturing and reassurance and she really feels the need to not give it to me. That’s just not okay.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sirena says:

        I had wondered whether there was some sort of transference and countertransference going on that the two of you were acting out? If she’s like your mom maybe you were trying to resolve that with your therapist. I’m sorry she isn’t being more of what you need, that is painful.


      • Andi says:

        In general, she’s nothing like my Mom. In the transference, she essentially IS my Mom. I get the sense she’s having some strong reaction to being challenged by me this way. We’re certainly enacting something, but I’m not sure that automatically means her compassion should be withheld. Thanks for your kindness.


      • Sirena says:

        As long as you can seperate her issues from your needs- which are perfectly normal bytheway and she should be meeting them.


      • Andi says:

        I think I struggle to separate those things. And I struggle with even having needs, which she knows, so I don’t get why she has so much difficulty with this specific need. Ugh.


  2. audreeee says:

    I agree with everything Sirena said above.

    I mean, if a parent was acting this way toward their child we would all point it out as being damaging. And this does seem to be quite damaging. I truly believe that the therapeutic relationship is one wherein a re-parenting of sorts takes place. And her rigidness is actually pretty punishing.

    I would support you and your decision in consulting with another person no matter how she interprets it. It’s not encroaching on her time if you consult with someone else. It’s not encroaching on her boundaries. And if she’s against you consulting with another then I would push further ask why…? If she’s not already aware of the fact that she’s holding such staunch boundaries to be boarding on abusive then she shouldn’t have a problem with you consulting. If she’s doing her job she shouldn’t have a problem with it.

    But I have this hunch that she’s going to have a problem with it because she’s aware that she’s being hurtful.

    Sorry to be so straight forward, but I definitely don’t want you to be hurt.

    No matter what you decide I hope you take good care of yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. kat says:

    therapy should not be about what is best for or what the therapist is comfortable with. the therapists’ job is to make a strong, empathetic, supportive connection with the client to help guide and assist the client in developing insight into their behavior and provide them with the tools to modify it accordingly. They are supposed to be our ‘safety net’ in times of crisis; our ‘go to’ person to help us thru the dark moments so we don’t slide downwards, so we don’t need hospitalization (at least not as often), so we can function more independently and appropriately in our lives.

    i agree with your statement that you don’t understand this approach and that you find it hurtful. i think it is at least worth interviewing some other therapists. by that i mean develop a list of questions to ask a potential therapist that are things that you have to have in a therapist, that would be nice to have, and that you will not accept. Then when you meet a potential new therapist, interview them; after all, they are applying for the job of your personal therapist so you should get to decide what kind of therapist you really want.

    i really feel for you being shut out, so to speak, of your own therapy and truly hope you find something that works sooner rather than later. sending good thoughts your way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thank you. Right now I don’t know that I need a new therapist, but I’d definitely like a third party to give me some insight, since it feels like I’m really missing something.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. thecollectivesystem says:

    My first reaction to reading this post was anger at your therapist. There are stepping stones to being able to stay present in the moment in treatment, or anywhere, for trauma survivors. Recording sessions, I believe since I do it myself, helps facilitate staying present inside treatment sessions because you would not have left over baggage from the previous sessions that you can’t really talk about because you cant really remember. My second reaction to reading this post was to wonder what I would do in this situation. In my past I had a therapist that was controlling and demeaning, like your therapist sounds to me. I stayed with him for 4 miserable years. After our fallout, I stopped treatment for 14 years. I was so hurt by his twisted words, his controlling ideas. I got all tangled up in feeling I was always wrong, nothing I did or said was good enough. I felt like I had to keep seeing him since he took so much time and energy with me. By the time everything came crashing down I was too afraid to start therapy again with someone else. I had anger I thought I would take out on my next T because of him and his roundabout ways of dismissing everything I said. The third feeling/thought I had was that your therapist doesn’t have much experience in DID treatment or she doesn’t believe in it or believe you have it. Or however that works out. I’m saying that because she seems to dismiss your inner kids attachment fears and treats you as an offending patient. While any T who has had experience with DID would see your attachment issues as coming from your younger parts and would do what was necessary to help them. Which brings me to the last thing I thought/felt…by the way you wrote about what she said to you today, it brought up strong anger in my system to how if must have felt to your littles. It felt abusive to us. Now I know we dont know you, we dont know exactly what went on, we dont know your history, and we dont know if what you wrote and her intentions mesh…however if you and littles stand by your feelings in this post then we are completely pissed off at your T for you. It is your treatment. Her absolute NO means she is acting like she is your boss or your mother or something. She works for you, you do not work for her or owe her anything. WOW. Im sorry. Im really going off here. I apologize. I just want to say maybe getting out from under her would be best for you and your littles.
    We wish you the best. Lora

    Liked by 4 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks Lora. I definitely meant what I said, at least inasmuch as I’m able to speak on behalf of my littles. I think she believes I have DID, but no I don’t think she has much experience in that respect. I hesitate to imagine her as abusive, although it certainly feels that way, but rather to imagine that we’re somehow not matching in terms of what I need and what she’s willing to give. Which sucks and is horribly painful.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. thecollectivesystem says:

    I can understand that. It would be horribly painful and it can also be damaging to work with a T that has little experience with DID if they are not willing to get supervision and assistance and learn regarding issues for DID. I hope the best for you and your littles. (Waving hi to your littles from Becky, our 6 yr old internal happy child)

    Liked by 4 people

  6. skinnyhobbit says:

    😦 I don’t believe it’s withholding so much nurture and comfort. Sone therapy modalities do “limited reparenting” and trauma book stuff on abuse survivors talk about how it helps to provide explicit reassurance, care, nurturing etc for corrective emotional experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Blooming Lily says:

    Man, this sucks. I’m sorry, Andi.
    Boundaries are put in place by therapists to benefit the client. It’s a delicate balance – too few boundaries can harm the client, and too many (i.e. being distant and not connected) also can, especially for those of us with attachment issues.
    It sounds like your therapist is highly bordering on the latter end of that spectrum. She’s more focused on semantics / technicalities (“you’re challenging me!!!”) (when btw I don’t think you’re being that challenging), and doesn’t seem interested at getting to the underlying issues that you are trying to bring up, that could start to create real, deep healing if she would explore them with you.
    I don’t think consulting with another therapist is a bad idea. You don’t have to pack up and completely leave her, effective immediately – and you know that. The truth is, though, this is YOUR treatment. In essence, it’s YOUR healthcare. You have a right to choose your provider, and to look into other options if your current provider isn’t meeting your needs (and to be clear, this seems to me not an issue of you raging against decent boundaries – it’s different from someone being like, “She won’t talk to me an hour every day, she’s not meeting my needs!!” This is an issue of her setting incredibly confusing and stringent boundaries that basically sets you up to fail and hinders your treatment, because even when you try your best to respect her boundaries, she finds ways to make them even more restrictive, and punishes you if you slip up instead of working it through – and her approach does not strike me as helpful in the least).
    If you consult with another provider, you don’t have to tell her. You’re not under any obligation to – you get to choose what you share with her. This isn’t being manipulative or going behind her back – it’s you taking control of your own medical care, which is perfectly acceptable and proactive. It’s exactly what I did when switching psychiatrists.
    This is not an attempt to say “leave her” (I know, too, how much attachment pain that would likely bring up), and this is not a cut and dry situation. But just wanted to give you my objective perspective that it’s not you; something with her is off. You deserve better – if she thinks you should be “more present” in sessions, she should look in the mirror and be “more caring” in sessions (in my humble opinion – of course I’m not there). And also my perspective that it’s okay to consult with another provider, and even switch providers, if necessary (although that’s getting a little ahead of myself, I’m just saying).
    There’s also something to be said for working it out with her, but even in therapeutic relationships, it’s still a relationship – compromise sometimes has to happen. It sounds like she is completely unwilling to compromise or take your needs into account (she has some idea of what you need, without realizing what you actually need, which you are trying so hard to tell her – I want to bonk her on the head!), which is really unfortunate. I guess what I’m saying is that this is not your fault. You deserve a therapist who is going to walk by you and encourage you in this journey – not punish you and push you away at every opportunity (which it seems like she’s doing recently – I can’t speak for your entire history with her).
    I hope this comment isn’t too blatant or mean, but I just want you to know that it’s not you. And yes, I’m upset that she is hurting you. And I am sending a big, big hug.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks for the support and the hugs. I’ve always sort of felt like boundaries are really there more to protect the therapist. I can see how they’d be beneficial to either party, but I think the clinician needs to be protected in order to do their work as much as the client needs to be protected. At least, in this case, that’s the impression I get; that my therapist is very protective of herself and her work. Which, I suppose, is okay. It should be okay, right? Yet I still feel so deliberately deprived and it’s killing me.


      • Blooming Lily says:

        It’s okay for the therapist to use boundaries to protect themselves / the therapeutic work itself, but some of the boundaries your therapist is setting – I can’t understand how they protect her. How does not letting you record sessions protect her, for example? It just doesn’t make sense to me. And that makes it seem almost more cruel, in a way – that these boundaries might just be arbitrary. She doesn’t seem to be good at explaining them to you in a compassionate, non-defensive way. And if she isn’t going to budge on the boundaries themselves, at least being open to exploring why they hurt you, and why it feels excruciating, and accepting the fact that it DOES and being compassionate yet firm, would be good. And, remember, it’s okay to challenge her, to challenge the relationship, to push her, to question her – in a respectful way (which you are absolutely respectful, if your writing is any indication!!) – and if that makes her uncomfortable, that’s not on you.


  8. La Quemada says:

    There’s not much I can say that someone else hasn’t already said. Sometimes we just need to feel some affection and comfort from our therapists. I think that’s normal, and goddess knows why she doesn’t want to give it. The important thing for you right now, whatever you decide about consulting someone else, is to keep reminding yourself that your therapist’s warmth is not a measure of your worthiness. You are absolutely worthy of love.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Andi says:

      My instinct tells me she doesn’t give it to me because she truly believes she cannot; that it’s somehow not something she is even able to give me. Beyond that, I feel truly at a loss on this because it seems cruel and strange to just deny me that comfort, especially in the throes of such intense relational pain. It’s not like I’m just asking for it without putting in the work, either. I’ve been busting my ass to stay in this work and I wish she’d reward me with a bit of reassurance that she cares about me, or at least explain what’s happening from her end. Thank you for this comment, it means a lot.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Paper Doll says:

    It’s so difficult, attachment pain, and finding a good therapist who doesn’t shy away from attachment but in fact understands it. I have a therapist who has strict boundaries – no outside contact, no recordings of our sessions. But the difference here is within the session she is completely caring and attuned. She has offered alternatives, such as a recording of a poem. She will hug me at the end of each session, and while her boundaries feel punishing at times, within session I feel connected and held. I have shamed myself for needing her and she will actively and vocally disagree. It seems so much to me like you’re missing that. And how painful that is.

    Yes, outside contact can be tricky. But I believe if a therapist is going to restrict their outside contact (for what I believe are very legitimate reasons), then they have to be willing to allow a client to attach warmly and securely in session. I see you trying to work within her boundaries while reaching out and being rejected in session. I see her withdrawing from your need for her care. And I absolutely see this being painful and confusing.

    So, a few things. You are not wrong in how you feel about any of this and I want to validate how incredibly confusing and painful this must be to parts or all of you. Reaching out is absolutely something that should be allowed. Seeking attachment absolutely is something that should happen within session. And I will support you and stand with you in whatever you decide to do next. But know that you aren’t wrong in how you feel. And that you deserve to be heard, cared for, attuned to, and not pushed away.

    Sending you so much love.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Andi says:

      Thank you for the love and support, PD. This is indeed quite difficult and painful. I sense that my therapist absolutely understands attachment and trauma, but for whatever reason, she holds this hard boundary around comforting me. It’s like she outright refuses to give me comfort and I wish I understood why. My default assumption is that it’s because I’m unworthy of such comfort, but the logical part of my brain says that can’t be true. Regardless, my intense urge to reach for her is seemingly met with a brick wall and that is excruciating.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Paper Doll says:

        I wonder why. I wonder if she can explain it to you. I find it helpful when I ask A to explain why she’s doing something. She tells me her methodology shouldn’t be a secret. It is hard especially if she’s denying me something that I want or think I need – but it is easier when she explains why.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Andi says:

        Agreed, that does make it easier. My therapist is very hesitant to get too far into the methodology because she thinks it pulls us out of the work. I’m really feeling like I need more explanation around this though.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. S says:

    I think getting a consult is a really healthy, reasonable, adult thing to do, especially if you discuss it with your therapist first and explain the reasons why – that you want to understand, that you want an outside opinion. It doesn’t have to mean that you are looking for an ultimatum. It may be that an outside view is able to offer a position that you haven’t considered — or that your therapist can’t quite articulate in a way that is meaningful. It could lead to effective, positive change. Of course, the opposite could happen too – I acknowledge that.

    I wonder a lot about the reassurance. I have at times felt and asked for specific kinds of reassurance and found my therapist absolutely unwilling to provide that and totally feeling hurt and unable to understand. Isn’t it good to be connected enough that reassurance would be helpful? Isn’t it good to be aware and able to advocate enough to ask for it? I don’t know. I kind of instinctively feel like recording sessions as a form of reassurance is different, though. I get how it could dampen the flow of a session or lessen the honesty a therapist might usually feel comfortable saying – s/he doesn’t know for sure who will ultimately hear part of all of those sessions or how they will be used. And the cornerstone of therapy is confidentiality. It might even affect you without noticing.

    That said, before you had mentioned both wanting to be able to revisit what was said as well as hearing her voice. Revisiting what was said, I don’t have any great wisdom. But as far as hearing her voice, I wonder if there’s another way to obtain that form of reinforcement in a way that isn’t threatening to her (I get she isn’t saying that, but it seems to me that might be what she’s feeling). Would she be willing to make a voice message or a voice memo and leave it for you on your phone? I had a therapist do that once (it was her idea) and I listened to it off and on for year. It was generic, but hit the key points of the things I was most scared of and I nearly always felt her reassurance and care when I listened to it. She hasn’t even been my therapist in more than a year and every couple of months I still find myself listening to it. I still hear the care and compassion and reassurance and belief in me and it’s still meaningful. Another time she wrote a card for me I took a picture of it on my phone and that too served the same purpose. She was my therapist for 5+ years and between those two small gestures I was able to access much of the reassurance that I needed. Of course I know we are different people and our therapists are different people, just wondering if thinking outside the box or different ideas might spur ways for you to get reassurance that functions well for you and doesn’t feel threatening to your therapist. Hang in there, Andi.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Andi says:

    Thank you so much, S. I’m going to attempt to bring up this idea of consulting with another therapist when I have session tomorrow. Not sure my therapist will handle that well, but I think it’s worth discussing because I feel like we’re somehow just completely missing each other around something very important.
    I understand the hesitancy around recording sessions. I guess my point is that she just said no, and that was it. I wish she’d said no, but then acknowledged that my needs are still going unmet, and offered to brainstorm with me about alternative ways to meet them. When I bring it up, she just sorta takes this, “Yes, you have unmet needs and that really sucks” approach, which doesn’t work for me anymore.
    Which, yes, I could ask for something else like a shorter recording. But in the midst of all this seemingly restrained relational stuff, I feel so vulnerable and also ashamed that I would even need such a thing, which prevents me from explicitly asking for it. I get the sense she would say no because she truly would not want me to have a recording of her voice; as if she does not want to make herself available to me, even in that way. Which, to be honest, really hurts me.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. e.Nice says:

    This is so confusing to me, and so I can only imagine how crazy making it is for you. She has seemed genuinely helpful to you in the past, caring and concern is part of that. I don’t know why she would withhold it now. I am also confused as to why she gets to say no. This is your therapy. You are paying for it. I guess she gets to decide who her clients are, but other then that its pretty much your gig. If you want a record of YOUR session, you should be able to do so. If she feels it would be damaging to you she should be able to articulate that better, and find ways to help you meet your needs that wouldn’t be so. I’m sorry Andi. This blows.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Yara Aiko says:

    I too wanted to record my sessions, my therapist said she hadn’t heard of it before so I thought I was alone in this. I had trouble staying in the moment in session and couldn’t really “hear” her. I found recording them and listening later really helped me make a lot of progress very quickly. Why did you want to record yours?

    Liked by 1 person

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