Dependent on therapy
I am a 39-year-old professional woman being treated for major depression. I have been with the same therapist/psychologist for 9 years and have made a lot of progress, healing from childhood sexual abuse issues. My problem is my over-dependence on the therapist. I have tried to cut back on therapy recently and found that I became depressed if I didn't see her twice a week. I want to cut back to once a week and then gradually wean off of therapy altogether. She claims my dependence is what will make me well; I see it as getting worse not better -- less therapy frequency = getting better. It is painful to me to be this dependent on her. I don't feel like it will ever end.
Should I continue therapy?
Nine years is a long time to be in therapy, but on the other hand, you clearly state that you have made significant strides in that time, which is a very positive indication. When you decreased the number of sessions that you were having with your therapist, you became depressed. That depression is a feedback mechanism which is telling you that right now, you are not yet ready to cut back on sessions. It's hard for you to hear that message though because you are scared by your feelings of dependence and want so much to "be better," to move on, to cut back on therapy sessions.
You say that it is very painful to you to "be so dependent on her," and that "you feel that it will never end." It is vital that you talk with her about those very things. Talk with her about WHY it is so painful to you to be so dependent on her. Talk with her about what it feels like to feel that "it will never end." There is probably a connection between the feelings of discomfort you have and the sexual abuse you experienced as a child: typically, sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone on whom the child is dependent, and to the child, it feels that the abuse will never end. It may be that is hard for you to be dependent on someone because you associate dependency with being abused. Learning to experience the feeling of dependency without a simultaneous feeling of panic is an important part of your growth and will pave the way for healthier relationships with the people who are important to you.
It is important to differentiate between the two situations and realize that your experience of dependency now is NOT the same as it was when you were a child. As an adult, you are not powerless as you were as a child, and you can ensure your safety in all situations. There is no one "right way" to heal, and you can choose the steps that are right for you. If it continues to be very important to you to decrease the number of sessions you are having with your therapist, you may wish to explore alternatives to put in place to provide you with adequate support so that you do not become depressed. You might join a support group for sexually abused women, or you might see about decreasing the number of sessions more gradually (say, alternating 2 sessions one week and 1 session the following week). You might ask if the therapist would be able to schedule a short telephone "check-in" time to replace the session that you skip. If you were to choose any steps such as those, it would be important to monitor your reaction. Increased depression would indicate that those measures are not sufficient support for you right now.
The healing process is one that takes place in its own time and speed, and there is no formula for determing when someone "should" be able to cut back on their sessions. It's hard to be patient with the process, but you don't want to force yourself into weaning from therapy before you are ready to do so and sabotage the progress you've made. Take care and good luck.
Susan Maroto, LCSW
This question has been answered by Susan Maroto. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She uses an eclectic approach to holistic healing, mind-body relationships, life transitions, depression, and anxiety.For more information visit: http://www.therapywithsusan.com/