Monday, September 12, 2011

Therapeutic Trust

One of the more peculiar revelations I had with my previous therapist was about trust. About two years ago, [while I was teaching high school, pre-transition] I entered therapy with her and told her that I was a fairly trusting person. After all, I would tell her almost anything she wanted to know. I was very afraid of making her depressed or upset, but past that I would honestly talk about or reveal most anything. And, to me, that was "trust."

But after probably six or seven sessions, she commented that she didn't feel like I trusted her. I was confused. I felt like I did. I didn't think that she'd do anything to hurt me, and, aside from that fear that I'd hurt her, I thought she'd be pretty nonjudgmental. Wasn't that trust?

And it was. In a way. It was certainly significant for me: after all, I wouldn't talk to most people about much of anything, and here I was having an entire hour a week focused upon myself.

But she was right: I didn't trust her. I thought there was an excellent chance I'd say something she would find appalling. I thought she didn't like me for at least the first two months. I thought she'd find me as wretched, weak, and contemptible as I knew I was. I thought she'd be hurt by me, be disappointed in me, hate me, or leave me. I was not safe with her (or, really, anyone).

There's a trust that someone will be honest with you. A trust that someone won't intentionally hurt you. But there's also a trust that you can "be" who you are and feel what you feel with them, and you feel they will still want you and accept you. There's a trust that you can need them, and that they can provide it.

And by those, I did not trust her. It took months before I started to. And it was only after more than half a year or so that I really felt quite close to her.

There are many dynamics of trust, and I can (and will) spend a great deal of time looking at what trust is, how it's gained, and why we're often so scared to do it. But if there's one lesson I can draw from the above example, it's that trust may take a very long time. But once it's gained, it's worth it.

It's worth it because, up til that point, I don't think I'd ever really trusted anyone before. But in forming that trusting relationship with her, I had a model to use in the future *and* the knowledge that such a thing was a possibility at all. Although I still struggle with trusting others, in the very few instances where I have, I've found it easier. Authenticating connecting and reciprocating became easier. I even found that I could need a scant few (with significant limitations, of course). And I've been so much better for it.

My therapist didn't fix me. She didn't save me or cure me. Psychotherapy can't do that; that's something only we, as clients, can do. But counseling and psychotherapy can give us models, give us skills, give us hope. It can show us possibilities for human interaction we never thought possible. And I hope I've come close to articulating how truly significant that gift alone can be.

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