What is Your Therapist Thinking?
Pauline sits down opposite me. This is the start of our first session. Her head low, shoulders hunched, she takes up as little space as she can. “I know that there’s nothing you can do for me”, she whispers, making the briefest eye contact. “Oh right. So, what shall we talk about instead?” I think of saying this but it is too early even for gentle humour, the relationship is not yet formed. I do say “Is that how you feel?”
“Yeah” she replies after a while.
I try to attune myself as much as possible to how desperate, confused and hopeless she seems to be feeling. But I also sense the fragile hope that has brought her here. She is 67 and has experienced anxiety since the age of 15. It has affected so much of her life, a clingy companion that has become part of who she is. No wonder she feels therapy will do nothing for her. She cannot conceive of being free of anxiety.
She has had decades of critical judgements. That she is “just being stupid”, “pathetic” or “ridiculous”. Most of these judgements have come from one person; Pauline herself.
I sense she wants me to tell her boldly that I can help her, to bolster her delicate hope. But I also sense that she is not ready to hear it yet and she may dismiss it as just the ignorant confidence of yet someone else who doesn’t understand how this thing has taken over her life. “That must be tough” I say.
“It is. I almost didn’t come here this morning” she admits to me. She looks at me whilst she says this. Something is happening. It is subtle, but something is happening. A relationship is starting to form.
“I’m glad you did Pauline” I say.
Picking up the phone and coming to her first session were difficult hurdles for Pauline to overcome. Thinking she couldn’t be helped made it seem a waste of time jumping those hurdles. But she did jump them and so can you, when you’re ready.
“I don’t recognise the person who sat here in our first session” smiles Pauline. “I wish I’d done this years ago”
“Maybe you weren’t ready years ago” I suggest.
“Maybe not”. She nods. This was the end of our last session.
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