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Attachment And Trust

Question:

I have issues about attachment and trust – almost everybody I came to trust and rely on (especially my parents) eventually became mentally or otherwise ill. This became even harder after a sexual aggression. I decided to consult a therapist since these problems led to issues with intimacy. After a few months, I finally developed trust and felt very comfortable with her. She took a month’s vacation recently. A few days before our next appointment, her assistant called to let me know she needed “a few more weeks” of rest. I can’t take this! On the one hand, I feel the urge to change therapists – this is one too many times. On the other hand, she’s helped me a great deal up to now and I’m afraid I’ll have trouble finding another therapist with which I feel so comfortable. Insecurity about whether she’ll really come back or not is also eating me up inside. Should I wait or find another therapist?

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

I can’t advise you as to whether it is wise to find a new therapist or not, but I can say that you’ve got a legitimate reason to be upset with your current therapist. It is part of a therapist’s ethical duty to her patients that she not abandon her patients. This doesn’t mean that the therapist is unable to go on vacation, but it does mean that the absences are not excessively long, and that there is alternative therapist coverage made available to patients who might experience emergencies. Ideally, when a therapist takes a vacation, the fact that this absence will occur is brought up with patients prior to it taking place, the timing of the vacation is discussed, and the therapist holds to that timing so that the therapist acts as she has announced and there are no surprises. It sounds like your therapist has changed the rules in the middle of the game, creating a surprise absence and this isn’t cool as it plays directly into the very issues you have come to work with this therapist about in the first place.

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p> If you do decide to hire an alternative therapist (you are always within your rights to do so), there is no reason to believe that you won’t be able to attach to a different therapist. Yes – you have attachment issues and yes your present therapist has for whatever reason exasurbated your attachment issues, but given time and a good-enough fit between you and your new hire, it is reasonable to think that you’ll be able to trust an alternative therapist. In the end, the therapist is just the catalyst for change. You end up doing the work that needs to be done to heal and the therapist is just a midwife. While bonding with your therapist is an important part of the healing process, there are many different therapists out there with whom you might successfully bond with to get the work done. Good luck.

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