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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fear of Being a Disappointment to Your Therapist

I was talking to a friend recently, and she mentioned to me that she was thinking of leaving therapy because she was afraid she was going to be a disappointment to her therapist.  She's been with this particular psychotherapist for more than a year.  She told me that they have a great rapport, but she was worried because she was considering returning to her ex-husband, and she feared that she would be a great disappointment to her therapist if her therapist heard about it.  So rather than talk to her psychotherapist about it, she was contemplating leaving therapy rather than risk seeing the look of disappointment on her face.

A Common Fear for Clients in Psychotherapy
After we talked about it, my friend, whom I'll call Mary (not her real name) gave me permission to write about this in my blog because it's such a common problem for many people in therapy, especially when they really like their therapists.

Therapy is a place where, ideally, you can talk about anything.  Yet, so many people hesitate to tell their therapists about decisions they're about to make because they fear looking bad in their therapist's eyes.  They become so filled with shame and fear that they'd rather leave therapy prematurely than deal with this issue.

Clients Feel Too Ashamed to Talk to Their Psychotherapist About Certain Topics
When new clients come to me for a consultation in my psychotherapy practice in NYC, I usually ask them what their prior experiences have been in therapy.  It's not unusual to hear that they had a therapist that they really liked, but they left because they felt ashamed about something that they did or were about to do.  Often, it involves going back to an ex or making some other decision that they think will disappoint their therapist.  Often, their abrupt departure from therapy is still a loss for them that has not been worked out.

If clients have been raised by overly critical and shaming family members, this is even more likely to be a problem for them as they imagine that their therapist will think less of them.  Often, this is a projection of old, unresolved emotional wounds.  And, they would rather leave their therapist prematurely than see disappointment in his or her eyes.

Talk to Your Therapist About Your Fears
Since my friend had not left therapy yet (she was only thinking about it at the time), I urged her to talk to her therapist about her fear.  This took a lot of courage on my friend's part.  But, afterwards, she was very glad that she did it because that session affirmed the bonds of their therapeutic relationship.  Rather than seeing disappointment in her eyes, my friend saw caring and compassion.  It was a very healing experience for her to know that her therapist still cared about her regardless of what she was contemplating about her ex.  In fact, my friend realized that she was the one who was judging herself and projecting this onto her therapist.  This realization caused her to stop to explore the issue of reconciling with her ex further without being burdened by guilt or shame.

There's a good article in Psychology Today on how to communicate with your therapist by Ryan Howes, Ph.D. that could be helpful to you: "How to Give Feedback to Your Therapist".

Thinking that you might be a disappointment to your therapist can be a painful experience.  Most skilled clinicians have dealt with this issue before and can help you to navigate through it.  Rather than leaving therapy in haste, I usually urge most people to talk to your therapist about whatever it is you fear will make you a disappointment to him or her.  These are often the best sessions in therapy when they are handled by an experienced licensed clinician.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist,  EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

Photo Credit:  Photo Pin