What CAN be done with attachment difficulties?

I’m just thinking about Guy going to his supervisor later this week to discuss the difficulty I have waiting between sessions.

Guy is an attachment specialist, obviously trained in the field, so no stranger to the concept. However, if it’s that much of a common journey I’m on, surely there must be a lot in the literature about it – or is it a fairly new idea in the field of psychotherapy?

All I know is that:

  1. I have a hard time between sessions
  2. I think about what to say in the next session a lot (making notes to take in but not always referring to them once I’m there)
  3. It feels like all I’m doing in life is sifting through to the very core of who I am, my history, those around me, absolutely all parts of my self and my life. As I write this I’m sitting in a cafe watching the world go by, and when a child cries I’m desperate for the carers to see what they are trying to say, to be there for them, probably to be the perfect parent that I can’t even be myself… but my point is, it’s everywhere. There is no escape. My eyes are open to a whole other world and I’m constantly assessing and weighing things up in my mind. This itself causes confusion because I’ve always been a person who notices things around me, but this is like a different dimension now.
  4. I feel that everything is on pause between sessions, it’s like holding my breath while diving underwater. Being in a therapy session is like coming up for air before I dive back down, holding my breath again.
  5. I’m at my absolute best when I’m in session. I mean, I sometimes have moments where I excel better than I do in therapy because I’m not showing my vulnerability and therefore look much more able and confident than I feel inside, but I don’t mean that. I mean I feel churned up and pulled about, like you might feel in a chiropractor clinic, but you know your back feels the best it felt all week and it’s really worth it. Things literally click into place and start to feel better.
  6. I feel the safest when I’m in the therapy room than anywhere else. It’s like a warm secret cave that no bears, tigers or cavemen can come and get me in. what’s not to like about that?
  7. It’s like topping myself up at the petrol station to be able to drive a few more hundred miles, unfortunately by mid-week I’m running on fumes again.
  8. I strongly believe, and always have, that two sessions a week would really help. Just as I’m getting low on fuel I could top up to keep me going the rest of the week. However, I do have the dilemma of needing the double sessions which go much deeper and are extremely beneficial, much more than a single session would be. Ideally I would have a double session each week followed by a top up single session, until such a time as not requiring it any further.
  9. While I don’t know what is going on exactly (I understand it to be attachment related but I don’t know what I can do with that limited understanding), I do believe completely that it is transitional and I won’t always be in this place. It’s been a long time though! And if there is a way to help the angst then I would be definitely up for that.
  10. I don’t think it’s a personality hangup/malfunction (trying desperately to think of everything objectively here!) because this is not how I normally operate at all. Quite the opposite; I love the freedom of relying on no man, but myself! Even though I’m leaning on Guy a bit here, it’s not my usual practice. When I say leaning on Guy, I mean needing to have some sort of contact because he’s the one who’s my therapist, not that I look for him to put shelves up or drive me into town or anything (can do that myself 😋). I mean more trusting his intentions and his clinical judgement, and when he’s convinced my husband is sincere then I’m more willing to give that idea a chance that I would have been, left to my own devices.

I wonder if I just have to put up with it? Or perhaps something can be done to help. My best guess is that Guy’s supervisor will say something like (at best);

  1. She needs to be safe in her own skin and in her own four walls rather than in therapy, so we need to teach her some strategies like meditation. Mindfulness is the new kid on the block so I would expect to be directed to that.
  2. Probably suggest doing EMDR to try and resolve the feeling of drowning and needing to hold my breath, only coming up for air when I’m in therapy.
  3. Scheduled contact, even if it’s to say, ‘Wotcha, I’m fine, nothing to say, thanks all the same’. Haha. You know what? I think I’m actually on to something with that one! I’ve got my fingers crossed this might actually be suggested! 😉

The worst case scenario from where I’m standing would be;

  1. Stop discussing traumatic stuff as it’s too much for her (creating taboo subjects)
  2. Half her sessions so she doesn’t go too deep
  3. Strictly disallow any contact outside of the room

If anyone reading this has any ideas, experience, solutions… anything at all, please feel free to throw your ideas my way.

19 thoughts on “What CAN be done with attachment difficulties?

  1. From my understanding, supervision is pretty routine, and is more likely to focus on clients that are struggling. I also don’t think supervision is as interventionist as your guesses, and it’s more about helping Guy ensure that you’re getting the best possible therapy.

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        1. I kind of knew that but it’s more a concern about what the supervisor methods and experiences might be. I know Guy said he can think for himself, but it’s too much like deciding what colour to paint a room – what if it’s a matter of personal preference. What if the supervisor has a strict policy herself and so comes at it from that direction. I suppose I’m trying to think it all through and try to work it all out again myself!

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  2. I see supervision as a really good thing. As a teacher I am constantly in dialogue with other professionals and superiors that help me figure out how best to support the children in my charge. This is how I view supervision. Both of my therapists have had supervisors. My current therapist sees her supervisor either once a week or once a fortnight. I actually had a check in phone call last week directly after her supervision. It’s a way for her to have a professional dialogue about her clients and the support she’s giving them. She can get ideas for how to better support them. I’m curious about the conversations that happen in the supervision room.

    I’m curious, is there something in your past that makes this feel threatening to you? The idea that Guy could be manipulated by someone else to leave you? You don’t need to answer that here but just a thought.

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    1. You know, I understand everyone is right that supervision can only be a good thing for people and that it’s for support of everyone concerned. I suppose the voice of panic in me is thinking I must be a terrible drain on Guy and the supervisor will spot that and get rid of the parasitic client for his safety! 🙈 I know… as I’m writing it I know it’s not a true picture at all, but when you let people know you have needs it can stir that sort of thing up! The stupid thing is the same part of me knows Guy can think for himself and won’t be manipulated by someone else. I think the IFS team would say my parts are having a huge war over this!

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        1. Guy always talks about how hard I work at this therapy but I don’t feel that it’s hard work, more just a series of knee-jerk reactions! I described it like playing tennis where I just keep whacking the ball back, hoping it lands well on the other side!

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  3. I don’t know, but if Guy works with attachment I can’t see how disallowing outside contact would even be on the table. The reason you need what you need is because you’ve never had a consistent attachment figure (at least that’s what T tells me). When you have a client who has issues with attachment and then you become a cold, detached therapist who disallows contact I can’t see how that is at all helpful. It will only open up all of those old wounds again and will, at least in my opinion, dissolve any trust you have in your therapist and stall therapy altogether.

    For me, I will admit that there were times when I couldn’t even last a day without contacting my T–actually, that still happens sometimes :/ It was like I would walk out of his door and he would just stop existing in the world. I was always allowed (and am still allowed) to text, email or call him whenever I need to including weekends and holidays. His only stipulation was/is that I needed to understand that he might not get back to me right away, but he would always get back to me eventually.

    I try really hard to respect his alone time but sometimes I just can’t do it. I see him 2 sessions a week and have for about 4 years. Late last year because of a variety of reasons we dropped it to one session and I literally felt like I would fall apart. We’ve since gone back to 2 sessions a week and it feels much safer…..not easier…just safer.

    I don’t think he can make you stop talking about your trauma. He may suggest just slowing down so you don’t feel flooded after every single session or going back to the beginning again and strengthening your coping skills before moving forward. One thing I’ve always had a really hard time doing is just leaving everything in the therapy room–it’s not like I can just forget everything we’ve talked about and move on. T always tells me that we can definitely talk about the trauma if I want to, but it’s okay to talk about every day things as well. Sometimes, it’s even okay to say nothing at all.

    It’s not easy but I from what you’ve said, it sounds like Guy is a good therapist who knows how to take care of his own stuff. The very fact that he talks about having a supervisor, to me, sounds very helpful.

    Sorry…this is way too long….but I sort of understand how you feel. It’s just so hard when you’ve never had a safe base before. Have you ever talked about transitional items–notes, pictures, voice recordings?? Maybe something like that will help with the time between sessions??

    I hope things get easier soon…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please never apologise for a long post, especially not a helpful one! You’re right Kerry, when I said once in therapy that I’d heard of therapists who cut people off to somehow train them, he winced like I was sticking a pin in his foot or something! That reaction should say it all really, shouldn’t it!
      I have to say your therapist sounds very… well, therapeutic I suppose! I think because Guy has said before it’s best not to have outside contact, even though he’s allowing it for now, I’m aware he’s doing it to help and not because it’s what he offers routinely, which makes me feel I’m putting him in a difficult place (not of his choosing, even though he chose to offer it).
      To be fair Guy hasn’t tried to stop me talking about trauma. I think in the early days last year he wanted me to have some grounding techniques first, but other than that has never tried to push anything underground. Quite the reverse; he’s allowed me to say anything I want.
      I mentioned your idea to Guy tonight, to see what he thinks, I think the contract he wrote out for me was a type of transitional object; I know it certainly helped a lot!

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  4. it’s so interesting to read this – – it’s such a great list, and i could have written myself at some point. i am also kind of jealous and in awe hat you are honest enough with yourself to name it, and put it out there for Guy to see. i would have been way too ashamed — not that there is anything shameful at all! just that i am ashamed of needing anyone, especially my T. i hid the depth of my need from her, or tried to, which made the whole thing take longer. it all came out in different ruptures and hurt feelings. would have been SO much better to name it.

    what it makes me realize is that i wouldn’t write it now – the combo of time, healing and the deepening of the therapeutic alliance means that some of the anxiety and longing that used to hit me so hard just doesn’t anymore. it’s taken awhile — several years – but it has truly resolved. i still sometimes struggle, but the pattern is clear to me (attachment pangs the night of and day after that even out by the following aft) and i have good techniques (i keep a draft of emails i might like to send my T, for instance) to get me through that.

    I don’t think you need to fear the supervisor — i don’t think they are there to give advice, but more to talk through solutions and approaches with Guy.

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    1. Hi slantgirl and thank you for saying my list is a good one! I adapted some of it and sent it off to Guy today. Poor bloke. He only saw me yesterday!
      I totally get the shame thing though. I think I must’ve been hiding it from myself or something because I’ve been wondering what the heck is going on for months on end now, and only lately have been able to vaguely touch on it with Guy. Actually telling him the full picture once the penny has dropped was toe-curlingly embarrassing, but I think helped by Guy being so willing to write out that contract first. Its nice to hear you got through it, not so great it took years! I’ve written texts and emails I’ve never sent too, but don’t find it makes all that much difference (maybe I’d be worse if I didn’t though?!).
      I think the supervisor thing is that I trust Guy as a therapist but not anyone else! 🙈 Trying to chill more about it and hold on to what Guy said yesterday in the phone call, which helped a lot.

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  5. I understand why this is triggering for you. The fear of being too much for Guy and also that his supervisor will tell him to refer you out without even knowing you. That isn’t the role of a supervisor but I totally understand the fear.
    What I don’t understand is why Guy needs a supervisor to work out why you struggle with one session a week…? I also don’t understand why you can’t just increase to two sessions a week if that is what you need. I understand that any further out of session contact would need to be boundaried which I guess the supervisor can help him to decide what is manageable.
    I personally think that Guy is telling you too much. Or he needs to be more clear about why he is consulting his supervisor about something that shouldn’t be unexpected to a therapist trained to deal with attachment. Your needs are normal considering your experiences.
    I hope none of that sounds harsh because it’s not meant to be.

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    1. Yes I wouldn’t want to be too much for Guy, but he’s a big bloke and I’m sure can handle himself against a tiny ankle-biter like me! I do get the idea of supervisor, I think it was just my fear of the unknown, and of them not knowing me and assuming the worst about me. It’s one thing to trust Guy and it’s another thing to trust his supervisor, but like he said, he is very choosy over who he takes to be his supervisor so he hopefully picked well.

      I can actually understand why Guy has decided to take it to supervision because, like others have pointed out, he’s paying due care and attention to helping his client(s). I can imagine other clients have have experienced the same but just not spoken of it (as Guy supposed), in fact, I wrote a blog about being British AND honest for this exact reason; I can really see how that might happen.

      In answer to you not understanding about just increasing to two sessions, we discussed that recently and I think I mentioned it in one of my blog posts, but we both unanimously agreed the double sessions are too valuable to give up. I know for a fact I will stress over 50 minute and won’t allow myself to delve into anything as I know there won’t be enough time. I’ve said many times the best part of the work seems to take place in the second half of the double session, so without the double sessions I don’t think I’d be as far down the line as I am. The only other thing we might be able to do is alternate weeks double vs, two singles in a week, and it might be we need to experiment with that for a while.

      My blood ran cold with you saying you think any further contact would need to be boundaries because it feels like the amazing gift I’ve been given to make contact could be taken away. I’d find they really hard of they changed so soon, especially as I don’t think I abuse it. For example, last week I wanted to make contact but chose not to because I knew Guy was away on a course. And in the same way I would HATE it if Guy ever felt he was telling me too much. I think his openness mirrors mine in a healthy way, and I am pretty sure I’d clam up more if I felt he was. There something about Guy occasionally giving something of himself away that makes me want to offer more up myself in response. I really appreciate his honesty with me and would hate to lose that. I googled whether it’s okay for a therapist to tell a client they’re seeking supervision, and found so many sites seem to think it’s great practice to be open about it. Guy works in a collaborative way rather than him being the boss and not divulging anything. I think Guy made it reasonably clear he wants to be able to support me in all ways possible, and supervision provides just that for him. It may be his supervisor says he’s done all he can and the rest will happen naturally in good time ,but at least if that happens he walks away from supervision knowing he left no stone unturned. I appreciate that. I’m a bit scared by it but I’m holding on to what Guy said in his phone call and crossing everything until my next session!

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