Therapy Friday – difficult group

Healthwise continuing sluggish with bouts of pain and indigestion. Well. Par for the course.

I want to get down the outlines of therapy at least, otherwise everything seems to dissolve into the ether. Let’s see. I drive to therapy with a light grey snow falling. I walk slowly slowly to Ron’s office, extra careful not to slip, like someone thirty years older. Ron smiles when he sees me. Very unusual.

R. Nice to see you walking around!

E. Thanks. I’ve been up and about for a week at least. Thanks for coming to visit me in the hospital!

R. You’re welcome.

We discuss the previous night’s group, and what my family is like, switching between the two topics several times. I’d found group to be a bit of a nightmare, and I am angry with Ron. It was the first meeting since mid-December, and a new person was there. We all knew M from last year’s group. However I’d been told we are a closed group – no one was to leave or join. Ron didn’t introduce M or make any comment at all – she was just suddenly there.

In addition, M was in a major crisis. She had just started cutting again after a year of not doing so, and was going to check herself into hospital the next day because she is suicidal. The group basically revolved around having her tell her story, and Ron doing extreme first-aid, trying to get her to feel whatever it is that is making her act out.

In the group, I felt like my boundaries were not being respected and I was furious with Ron. It would be different if one of the group members had gone into a crisis, but this was a new person, and I felt overwhelmed and used, basically. It seemed like a last-ditch effort by Ron to keep one of his clients out of hospital by using the group without any concern about the existing members.

Normally this kind of thing can be worked out in the course of the group. If I could have expressed some of my concerns, I would have felt better and better able to try to help M. Because I did want to help her, and was desperately upset and sorry for her. However, it really didn’t seem the time to express any of this. M seemed likely to take anything anyone said, turn it against herself, and go home and slice herself to pieces. So I tried to be helpful as best I could and then just sat and endured until the end of the meeting.

I have since worried every day about M – did she go into hospital, is she OK….We never were close in the group, but I do care. But I don’t have her info and can’t check on her, and Ron is bound by confidentiality, so won’t say anything.

So in therapy, this is what I said.

R. I did say in October that someone else might be joining us in January.

E. I never heard that. I heard you say there was no break this time in the group where people could leave or join.

R. So you feel it’s against ‘the rules’?

Ron has a special tone of voice when he says ‘the rules’. He doesn’t want the group to have any constraints.

E. No! It’s a problem with boundaries – the container. Which you are usually very keen on yourself by the way.

Ron doesn’t say anything. He never does admit that there was anything to do with boundaries here, or that he should have at least said something about the situation.

Well, I calm down. I at least got to say my piece, and Ron didn’t attack me or anything. I also tell Ron he did what he always does with M, trying to do in-depth therapy with her while ignoring the group. What is the point of being in a group then? So I attack him, and he listens.

Later in the session I start to feel guilty about having been angry with Ron and some of the things I said, so I tell him.

R. So you feel I’ll only like you if I hear you say nice things about me, otherwise I won’t?

E. Yes, that’s how I feel.

R. Do you think that’s what your family is like?

E. Yeah, probably.

One thing about the group, you could see how very committed Ron is, how much he cares and wants to help.
…to be continued

  1. Bourbon said:

    Eek – no wonder it threw you. I think someone turning up to the group completely unannounced before hand is going to throw everyone! I do think R could have planned that a bit better especially as it seemed she needed one on one crisis intervention and not group therapy.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for understanding Bourbon. It’s not just me then.

  2. Good for you telling Ron how you felt about the group. You are learning that he is ok with you being angry and disagreeing with him. Took me a long time to understand that I could be safe being angry with my counselor. It was so foreign to me. I think there were several good points of progress. Also congratulations for being up and moving around. You are amazing. cyber hugs ((((Ellen))))

    • Ellen said:

      It is freeing to be able to disagree openly with someone and express anger, even if I feel guilty afterwards. I think it’s not as huge a challenge for me as for some women, but it’s still good. The group / therapy were the first things I got back to actually – in fact, I haven’t been up to much since. It’s important to me. Thanks for the good wishes Ruth. Hugs

  3. laura said:

    I can completely understand that you were pissed and felt you couldn’t express it in group – and probably every other person felt the same way! It seemed to me though that you confronted Ron only on the technicality – where perhaps you felt safest and most justified – and that’s why you didn’t get much satisfaction.
    How was it seeing him in the hospital? wow!

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for understanding. I wonder if they did feel the same. Probably I’ll find out next group – if M is better, I’m going to talk a bit about how I felt. It was maybe a technicality, but it affected me emotionally a lot, and I talked a bit about that, though didn’t capture it here. What else should I have confronted on?

      It was real nice having Ron visit. He looked cuter than usual, more relaxed in his weekend clothes. And we got to chit chat, so I found out a few more things about him. We never chat in sessions. I was a little worried about him bumping into my family, and we had a story prepared, but that didn’t happen. He only stayed a few minutes, but it was nice.

      Thanks Laura.

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