In my previous post, ‘The importance of saying goodbye‘, I talked about the fact that in order to be able to feel that one has had a ‘good ending’, it is important to have the opportunity to say goodbye. In writing it, I drew on my experience both of loss through death (in which I did not experience ‘good endings’), and the loss of a therapy relationship (which though untimely, was ultimately a positive experience).
I wanted to share with you this post by Dr Ryan Howes (who used to write the ‘In Therapy’ blog for Psychology Today) called ‘4 Reasons not to ghost your therapist‘. As he explains, ghosting “is when someone in a close relationship suddenly disappears, like an avoidant apparition. They’re there one day, everything seems to be going fine, and then they disappear——they’ve ghosted.” Although it may be tempting to do that in therapy (and Ryan Howes explains why), in reality this benefits neither the client nor the therapist.
I’ve read a few similar articles on this subject, and readers who have been in therapy often comment that the client is under no obligation to give the therapist feedback or enable them to be a ‘better therapist’. This post acknowledges that that is true, while at the same pointing out that there are all sorts of spheres of life where we give feedback not so much to benefit ourselves, but to benefit others (both the therapist and their future clients, in this case). Giving feedback about one’s therapy experience is much more emotive (and therefore much more difficult) than alerting a restaurant to poor service; but it is correspondingly more important and we shouldn’t discount the value of such an exercise purely on the basis that we have the right to leave without explaining why.
Ultimately, a key reason not to ‘ghost’ is that, as Ryan Howes explains, we “don’t have enough good endings in life” – and good endings are possible. By ghosting, we could be denying ourselves the chance of such an ending, and the healing it can bring. As the article says at the end: “More important for you is the loss of a clean, good ending—a missed opportunity to express yourself. You lose a chance to dive into material that may be difficult, but ultimately beneficial for you.” Ghosting may feel easier at the time, but it may come at a longer-term cost, whether conscious or unconscious, and it represents a missed opportunity for personal growth. And as Ryan Howes says, “That’s why you chose to come to therapy in the first place, isn’t it?”
June 17, 2016 at 8:06 am
“..used to write”? I’m still writing! I don’t deliver as often as I used to, but I haven’t ghosted the blog! Thanks for writing this, LIAB, I’m honored and I think you captured this sentiment very well. All the best to you – Ryan
June 17, 2016 at 9:20 am
I am SO sorry for my error! I would correct it in the text of the post were it not for the fact that these comments would then not make as much sense 🙂 I was aware that there hadn’t been as many posts but for some reason I also had the impression that the blog itself was finishing, so many apologies for my misapprehension! And I am VERY glad to hear that I am wrong and that you haven’t ghosted the blog 🙂 I need to check I am properly subscribed (which I thought I was) and I also need to try and convince my Facebook feed to actually tell me when you post (I can never understand how FB decides what to show you when….!).
I also wanted to say I am hugely honoured and excited that you read this post and that you think I captured the sentiment well – thank you so much. Your blog was the first blog by a therapist that I ever read, and I did so in the early stages of my own therapy and found it immensely helpful. It was particularly valuable when I was trying to sort through the feelings I was having, and learning about transference. I have referenced you and linked to your posts a couple of times in my blog, for example here: https://lifeinabind.com/2015/07/21/mind-the-gap/ when I wrote about my summer therapy break in 2015. Thank you so much for your writing and the expertise, thoughts and wisdom that you share, and most of all, the compassion with which you share it. All the very best!
June 17, 2016 at 4:43 pm
It’s no problem at all — sometimes I take so long between posts I wonder if PT will keep me on! Yes, I enjoyed this post and several others, you have such an honest and sincere voice, I’m sure you bring hope to many people. Be well and keep up the great blogging (more often than me!)!
June 17, 2016 at 9:36 pm
Thank you! I’m glad I didn’t cause offense and I hope your spot in PT is an indefinite one, and an open-ended invitation…. You’ve made my day with your lovely words and by saying you’ve enjoyed some of my posts 🙂 I intend to keep up the blogging – though in fact I think that one can become almost a servant not a master of one’s blogging habit, and so the ability to come and go with less regularity is, in many ways, an enviable one! All the very best, and I look forward to your next post, whenever that may be!