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Why I Cried Saying Goodbye to My DBT Therapist

I’ve been trying to write this blog post for over a week but haven’t been able to face all the emotion it brings up. Here I go.

Last Tuesday, I had my final session with my dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) therapist I saw for over a year. I’ve said goodbye to therapists before, but this one was different. I trusted her immensely, and our work together truly saved and changed my life. I sobbed at the last session, sobbed while walking home, and will probably sob about it at least one more time in the future.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a good therapist, and it’s even harder to classify what the relationship even is (or was, I should say). You’re not friends, but you talk a lot and tell them secrets. You’re not family, but you can count on them to be there for you in tough times. And you’re not exactly a provider/patient; rather, in DBT, you are viewed as equals working towards common goals. Perhaps this difficulty of putting the relationship neatly in a box is part of what makes saying goodbye so hard.

Here is someone who knows you extremely well, has seen you cry, has helped you face your demons and who you saw every week, but then suddenly, just like that, you won’t ever see them again. You won’t be able to tell them how you are doing, and it’s often right when you’ve started doing well too. It’s a sudden and jarring change. It almost has the emotion of a breakup, but not quite.

So, how do you cope with this loss? Honestly, crying it out a few times can feel pretty good. Writing about it helps. So does relating to others with similar experiences of leaving a good therapist.

But beyond that, I have found solace in a quote from “Nanny McPhee.” At both the beginning and end of the movie, Nanny McPhee explains how she works as a nanny. She says, “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go.” I was resistant to DBT therapy at first. I was angry, impulsive and depressed, but I needed it badly. It was absolutely the right treatment at the right time. Now, I am a huge fan of DBT. I talk about it whenever I can and think everyone could benefit from some DBT skills training. Yet, I no longer need it twice a week, and soon enough I won’t need DBT sessions at all.

I find comfort in the fact that I’m ready. She has to go help someone else.


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Photo by Tiago Bandeira on Unsplash