Thank you so much for your weekly column, I really enjoy the panelists’ responses. I have decided to seek therapy because of my eating habits and low self-esteem. I started seeing a therapist with whom I was very happy and I enjoyed going every week. After around two months the therapist informed me that she will be opening her own private practice and referred me to a different therapist. I had a very hard time with this as I felt rejected, and that I was part of the reason she was leaving. How do I let go of this?
It can be difficult to take the plunge and open up to a therapist about our issues and insecurities. It’s unfortunate that a seemingly positive therapeutic relationship was abruptly terminated.
I assume that you were seeing this therapist in a clinic setting. There are many reasons that a therapist might leave a clinic to open a private practice. These include financial compensation, control of the office and therapy environments, disagreements, and the interest in focusing on particular issues or populations. I wonder if your therapist knew when you began seeing her that she would be leaving in the near future. If so, this is something that should have been disclosed.
I don’t know whether your therapist described her reasons for leaving or the reason that she cannot see you in her private practice. If you were not given an adequate explanation, you can ask her to better clarify. If you feel comfortable discussing it (and feel that it would be helpful), you can explain to her that you feel rejected and hurt—and that you’re not asking for her explanation to be confrontational. Hopefully, her responses will make you feel more comfortable with her decision.
You mention that you felt rejected and that you were a part of the reason for her departure from the place where you were seeing her. I wonder if this means that on an intellectual level you recognize that your therapist had no intention of rejecting you and that her reasons for leaving are unrelated to you. If this is the case, you’re acknowledging that your sense of rejection and hurt is emotional in nature. If so, you have likely felt this way many times in the past.
You speak of low self-esteem, which can make you hypersensitive to others’ actions. Someone who has true self-esteem feels good about himself regardless of external factors like possessions, accomplishments, or others’ opinions. People who don’t feel good about themselves (based on intrinsic qualities) are often constantly focused on any clues as to what others think of them. When external factors define our feelings toward ourselves—and ultimately our happiness—we feel the need to continually monitor those factors in order to have some sense of self.
If you recognize that your feelings of rejection and hurt are due to your own insecurities, acknowledging these insecurities can help you to begin to resolve these feelings. When we consciously associate negative feelings with something other than their true source, we wind up spinning our wheels trying to deal with them. In addition, this sets the stage for the same emotions to be constantly transferred from one artificial “source” to another, thus never resolving the underlying cause.
I hope that your feelings about your experience in therapy don’t prevent you from continuing your work with someone else. Remember that it is your right to understand the therapy process and to air any concerns that you have. Hopefully, you will find someone whom you trust and with whom you feel comfortable so that you can increase your self-esteem and resolve your eating issues.
-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
psychotherapist in private practice
Brooklyn, NY | Far Rockaway, NY
author of Self-Esteem: A Primer
www.ylcsw.com / 718-258-5317
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