Staying in Touch with Therapist after Termination?
I had been seeing a female Greek counsellor for social anxiety and I really miss her. I have just found out that firstly, she was exactly the same age as me; we are both 21 and secondly, that at our final appointment I was perfectly within my rights to ask if we could stay in contact with one another. Prior to our final session I had told myself that it was a necessity that I ask her that question. However, after looking on the internet to find out if I was allowed to make a relationship with a counsellor so soon after cutting our professional ties, I read that I was not allowed and I believed this; it turns out that it was pure lies. In retrospect I cannot believe why I did not just take the risk and ask her; I don’t see what harm it could have done. I am absolutely beating myself up about this.
My friends all gave up on me a couple of years ago because I didn’t want to socialise with them and this was the perfect chance to make a new friend which I have missed the boat on. She was such a friendly, likeable person that I got on really well with both within the counselling room and outside where we would chat and joke together.
My brother and sister often ask each other how many friends they have on Facebook and my brother will say “479”. My sister will then reply by saying “Is that all? I have 517”. I just wish that I could say that I have one friend and I hate myself for the fact that I can’t say that. It is likely that I will never see her again and that chance will never come back to me. i am not very good at all around people and I have no idea how I am going to find anybody else my age who I feel I could make a friend.
I have asked my new counsellor whether she would be willing to give me her phone number and she replied by saying “I am afraid it is not possible for me to help you with this, it would be completely contrary to our governing body code of ethics, however it was perfectly ok for you to ask [my Greek counsellor about maintaining contact]. Sorry I can’t be more helpful”. She was my only link back to her.
It was four months ago and already I am baffled and it is beyond any words of mine as to why I didn’t just ask her that simple question; I hate myself for it…
I desperately want to speak to my new counsellor about it but I only see her once a month now and in the weeks in between seeing her it eats away at me.
A: You certainly could have asked. But it’s unlikely your counselor would have encouraged a friendship. The counseling relationship is based on a helper/helpee dynamic. It’s very difficult for the two people involved to change their roles to ones based on equality. Right now, you have an idealized view of your counselor. This is natural and normal because all your conversations were one-sided. The hour was spent focused on you. If you did start to learn more about her, you might find that you don’t have as much in common as you think. Still, if this is eating at you, write her a note and see what she says. Many counselors are happy to get a note from a former client now and then but usually it stops with that.
As for your siblings’ “friendships:” I hope you don’t think a gazillion “friends” on Facebook means all that much. These are not intimate relationships. They are largely acquaintences. If you want facebook “friends,” all you have to do is start “friending” people and then updating your status with interesting comments and material. You too can have 100 friends on that basis. But I think you are looking for something more satisfying.
To get friends, you have to put yourself out there. That means doing the very thing you didn’t want to do to keep your former friends. If the idea of socializing is painful, I hope you will work on that with your new counselor. Friendships require maintenance. They require regular contact. You have to be interested in the other people and you have to find ways to enjoy each others’ company.
Please stop spending your time berating yourself about your idea that you missed an opportunity with your counselor. It’s just keeping you stuck. Instead, start looking at what you do and don’t do that makes having a social life so difficult and then make some changes. I’m sure your new counselor will be happy to help you with that.
I wish you well.
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Staying in Touch with Therapist after Termination?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 10, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/11/23/staying-in-touch-with-therapist-after-termination/