The recently published article, ‘Why Do I Still Feel Guilty for Ghosting my Therapist‘, got me thinking. As a counsellor, I have an insight into the professional frustration of a client ghosting you. As a client, I have bucket-loads of experience ghosting mental health professionals myself. I realised while mulling this over that it all comes down to the relational aspect of therapy. Back when I was a recurrent ghoster, I had zero positive regard for those who were supposedly trying to help me. The medical model saw me as a problem to be solved, or more easily, to be medicated. Therefore the power imbalance between me – a sedated patient – and the professionals meant that there was no form of relationship taking place. And as such, my borderline traits of being absolutely awful at human interaction played out in my encounters with psychiatrists and nurses. They didn’t seem to have basic respect for me, so I didn’t show any respect for them.
The one professional I have never ghosted is my therapist. At first, this was simply because contractually I would be obliged to pay for any session I was MIA from. But it didn’t take long for it to be more than just a financial decision to not ghost him. It was a relational one. He was modelling to me boundaries, stability, and open communication. He was clear about timing, and he was up front about holidays and breaks from our routine. There has never been a power imbalance; while I see him as a highly skilled, highly intelligent individual, I also see us as journeying together. He works with me, alongside me. Whereas the medical model repeats the patterns of the trauma of the past, the relational approach heals it. The medical model puts an adult, often male, in control of my life. They have the power, I don’t. It is disempowering, and how has disempowerment ever led to healing? The relational model gives me an adult male who doesn’t have power over me but instead interacts with me healthily. THAT is what can spark healing, the incongruence of that present with my past.
I’ve realised that as a counsellor I am not modelling as healthy a relationship for my clients as my therapist does for me. While I’ve been praised for being very boundaried, I struggle to communicate forthcoming holidays, projecting my own resentment of my therapist ‘abandoning me’ onto my clients. As such, I invite clients to share in this less healthy relationship. It’s still miles healthier than the experiences they are healing from, but that doesn’t mean it’s my best. Self-awareness is the most vital tool for a a counsellor to provide their very best. So now I’ve realised the importance of what I model, I can take action to make my behaviour even more healthy, and in doing so invite my clients to share in this. It is not just the words and the manner I sit with my clients that affects them, it is how I deal with the banal, with contracting, timekeeping, holiday management. As someone with a previous borderline diagnosis, this can be a little scary to realise. The diagnostic criteria literally stated that I had chronically unstable interpersonal relationships. But now here I am, responsible for modelling stability to my own clients. If this doesn’t show the extent of recovery that is possible then I don’t know what does. That is why I’m a counsellor.