Does My Therapist Think About Me? Everything Between the Sessions
You always wondered, does my therapist think about me?
One of our first sessions. You told me you went to therapy years ago and that question constantly nagged at you. What did that therapist think of you? Did she judge your stories? Did your secrets torment her in the dead of the night? You wanted to know, when it came down to it, honestly speaking, what does my therapist think about me?
I remembered laughing at that question, nodding and telling you a resounding yes, that humans absolutely think about other humans. That, even when you remove the professional licenses and fancy degrees and psychological jargon, we’re all just emotional humans with needs and fears. And, we all impact one another.
You arrived at my office in so much gut-wrenching pain, carried it like it a backpacker traveling across the globe without a real destination. You arrived feeling dejected and broken, but you were so far from that.
That’s the fallacy of therapy, right?
The fact that I mirror what you can’t see. That I find good where you only see bad. In therapy, you expose yourself, and I validate you for it. You break down and I do my best to fix you up. It’s a strange relationship, but I’m convinced it’s one that makes the world a much better place.
We explored all your baggage. All the grief and the loss and the trauma and the pain and everything that lied in between. You told me things you planned on taking to the grave. Being a professional secret-keeper has its pros and cons, I suppose, but I appreciated holding yours. We both knew they stayed safe with me.
Do you remember how scary it felt to actually be vulnerable?
Because, I remember when you finally really cried, beyond just the tears misting the eyelids, when your ego finally just decided to release the pain. It hurt me so much to see you in all that pain. And, I’m a professional, and I have a master’s degree in Pain, but pain is pain is pain, and in that moment, I hurt so badly for you.
Afterward, you avoided eye contact and tried to discount your feelings, telling me you were overreacting. And, that was okay. We both knew you weren’t overreacting. You were simply letting your guard down, and it horrified you. I understand letting guards down feels scary. I get scared when I have to do it myself.
You wondered, does my therapist think about me? To that, I can only answer that I still think about that session and that pain to this day.
Every time clients let their guard down in that raw and primal sense, after restraint and holding back, I’m reminded that this job, no matter how stressful or emotionally taxing, no matter how depressing or bleak, brings me more joy than any work I could possibly imagine.
There are clients I won’t give up on and there are clients who are so painfully misunderstood that an ounce of acceptance of praise feels foreign- like a parasite latched onto their vulnerable bodies. These clients move me. This is why I do this work.
And, I know you felt safe with me.
You wondered, does my therapist think about me? Yes. I think about how I affect you, how I help you, how I risk harming you. I think about it all, and I think about what you need from me. With you, I also thought about safety. I thought about how important it was for you to know that you could trust me, that you could be exactly you around me. No facade. No charades. And, no filtering.
Clients like you make me question if we therapist are truly ever ready to say goodbye?
I think ready is the wrong word. Are we ever really ready for anything? Maybe it’s about accepting that we all need to say goodbye to the people who touch our lives. And maybe it’s about accepting that the ambiguity of their lives can still haunt and worry and preoccupy us.
My husband told me today that therapy is about making clients think and feel inspired. This philosophy grounds him, gives him peace in his therapy practice. Everyone changes and moves at different paces, with different intentions. I can feel peace knowing that I made you think. I can also feel peace knowing that I made you feel inspired.
I’ll add to his philosophy. I want my clients to think, feel inspired, and feel safe. Without safety, there’s no trust. And without trust, there’s no unlocking the door to shame, fear, and secrecy- the very things that therapy must address.
Question: Does my therapist think about me? Answer: Do you think about your therapist?
If the answer is yes, then my answer is yes. We are symbiotic, a relationship built on trust and openness, a relationship designed for healing and hope.
I don’t know what happened to you. That’s the most painful part of this work. The ambiguous goodbyes, day in and day out. The grotesque work that is acute addiction and trauma and everything else that I specialize in. There’s a lot of unknowns, and there are even more negative turnouts.
But, I want you to know that I cared about every part of you. You touched me, as only someone who truly exposes themselves in the rawest layers of self, can touch someone. It’s as beautiful as it is tragic, as painful as it is holistic. This is how connections are made, and through these intimate connections, we heal and we change.
*While based on a true story, all reasonable efforts have been made by this writer to protect utmost client confidentiality and safety. Because of this, particular identifying details in this piece have been changed, omitted, and/or embellished.