There are a number of us – psychotherapy clients, that is – who write about what it is like being on ‘our side’ of the equation; what it is like sitting in that most uncomfortable of seats (though, if one is looking for at least physical comfort in the therapy room, this post describes what you need to do!).
But the blogging psychotherapist is a much rarer phenomenon; understandably, I think, in the light of the various difficulties and questions I raised in ‘Therapists who blog – I have some questions for you….!’. Nevertheless, just as therapists are fascinated by what goes on in their clients’ minds, many clients are equally fascinated about the contents of their own therapists’ minds, and in the absence of such concrete information, they are fascinated to know more about ‘how therapists think’. Of course, generalisations are as impossible to make about therapists, as they are about clients; but there is some comfort for clients, I think, in hearing other therapists’ views on questions they may feel unable to ask their own – “is it okay to be angry with you”, “what will you say or do if I tell you I love you”, “do you think about me outside of session”, “do you care about me”…to name but a few!
I follow two blogging psychotherapists – Dr Gerald Stein (now retired) and Martha Crawford from ‘What a Shrink Thinks‘ – and today I wanted to introduce you to a third, who I feel fortunate to have come across recently. Alison Crosthwait is the author of ‘The Good Therapists’ website and, as with the other two therapists I mentioned above, her writing is beautiful, moving and thought-provoking. She has published a wonderful book called ‘What it feels like to change‘ which is available through her website, and is a collection of some of her blog posts. The posts cover everything from ‘preparing’ for therapy sessions, to love and caring in therapy, to the process of understanding between therapist and client, to rage in therapy, and much more. I read it on my Kindle, and it is liberally highlighted – so much so that I really struggle to pick a sentence or paragraph to share here, but I will go with these two, which really spoke to me both in terms of my relationship with my husband, and my relationship with my therapist:
“Every human being struggles in intimate relationships. The ability to sustain this struggle is a sign of health. This involves the ability to recognize the humanity of another person even when they have deeply wounded us. The ability to ask for help. The ability to speak of our experience even when it feels risky. The capacity to tolerate the ways in which those close to us do not meet our needs”.
“I come in. I sit down. I say what is on my mind. And we talk. And I have to bear being who I am. Not the person I want to be, plan to be, strive to be. But me. And my therapist has to bear being who she is too. And who she is with me. And me with her. Owwww. It hurts to think about. It is so raw.”
And that’s one reason why the words of a writer-therapist can be so important to us, as clients – they write both as therapist and as client (or ex-client). They have been where we are, and can empathise with us, and we with them. They are the ‘proof’ that this process, which often seems so mysterious and indefinable, has worked for them and they see it working every day, for others like us. We can do it – even when we feel that we can’t. And we feel that we can’t, a lot.
But my favourite quote from Alison is this one, which I saw on ‘The Good Therapists’ Facebook page and which is by far the best description I have come across of what it feels like to change: “In order to change you need repeated exposure to your own coming apart, to the border between conscious and unconscious, and to the parts of yourself that you resist being with”. These questions of change and resistance have been ones I have grappled with immensely over the last few months, and I continue to go through that very painful (but rewarding) repeated exposure to my own coming apart.
Having enjoyed her book so much, I feel really honoured that Alison has included my blog in a ‘Psychotherapy Client Resource List’ that she has compiled for her new venture, ‘Therapy School’. Alison has kindly allowed me to share this fantastic reading list which you can find here (though it is normally part of her course), and I am very grateful to her for that. I really hope you find it useful – I have read a small number of these books so far, and have found them helpful and inspiring.
I am thankful for to all those – therapists and clients – who take ‘the risk’ of writing about their thoughts and experiences, sometimes incredibly intimate ones. They have added something to my own and to others’ experiences of this amazing process of psychotherapy which, as Alison has written, is “not just about relief of suffering…it is about living a good life“.