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Page Contents: When you panic at the idea of leaving psychotherapy.                    


I’ve been in psychotherapy for almost eight years. It doesn’t feel like I have changed much despite incredible understanding and patience on the part of my psychotherapist. I have come to the realization that probably the most important thing I can do in psychotherapy is to leave it. Yet the very idea sends me into panic—but how will I function? I’ll die! My psychotherapist does not ever give me advice. I make my own decisions about my career, my family, just about everything. Why am I having such an incredibly hard time leaving? Why do I believe I’ll die if I do?

It often happens that clients can spend quite a while in psychotherapy without making any substantial changes. Many clients have such deep unconscious conflicts and fears that much time must be spent working to identify and understand those parts of the personality that fear change. So, as long as progress in understanding is being made, and as long as every session brings some enlightenment, then the time (and money) spent is worth it. There should come a time when actual changes, even if small ones, start occurring, and it is your psychotherapist’s job to encourage you to make those small achievements.

Psychotherapy is not a matter of giving advice, so your psychotherapist seems to know his job on this point; real psychotherapy is a matter understanding the emotional depths of human relationships—and the psychotherapist-client relationship is the primary relationship to be examined. So if your psychotherapy hasn’t examined that relationship thoroughly, then any thoughts of that relationship ending will seem like the threat of death itself—as you are finding out. Maybe that work still needs to be accomplished.

Real psychotherapy should end with a simple, yet profound, release into life, simply because the psychotherapy itself is not afraid to die.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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A Guide to Psychology and its Practice



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