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Day Four: Graduating With My PhD in Me

This morning I saw my psychiatrist Dr. Bob for the first time since May 16. One month ago.

“My exit strategy”…

We’re spacing out our appointments. Seeing each other monthly. This is all part of my “exit strategy” from my psychiatric psychotherapy.

Dr. Bob and I began seeing each other in 1990. That’s 22 years of life-changing therapy.

This past February he spent six weeks at Addis Ababa University teaching psychiatric residents through an exchange program with the University of Toronto. Initially I was concerned about him being so far away for so long.

I was meeting with my psychologist Kim Watson and working on recovery from my eating disorder. So I was not working entirely without a net.

When Dr. Bob returned he couldn’t believe the change in me…

“You’ve done it,” he said during our first session on March 29. “You’ve been working very hard.”

That was when I began for the first time in my life to entertain the idea of what until now was unthinkable for me.

Leaving therapy…

I’ve often “joked” that I’m working on my Ph.D. in “Me,” from which I will never receive any degree. I wasn’t really joking, though. That’s how I’d always felt.

Psychotherapy is a rich, profoundly fascinating, all-inclusive and stunningly demanding education. I haven’t changed, but I certainly have more insight. It’s a remarkable experience.

I’ve learned so much during my years in psychotherapy…

I first began seeing psychiatrists in 1960, when I was 12 years old. Almost 52 years ago.

There were lots of other psychiatrists, a couple of social workers and another psychologist, but the major body of my work has been with Dr. Bob. I never imagined, ever, that it would come to an end or that I would be ready to leave him.

I never thought I would ever stop “needing” therapy. That’s not necessarily true, I’m learning, and during our last few sessions Dr. Bob has marvelled at how dramatically I have changed.

I feel overwhelmed. Stunned by his comments. They’re hard for me to believe. I cannot see any difference in me, but here’s what he says.

“There’s a phenomenal difference in your sense of comfort with yourself,” Dr. Bob observed today. “Never before have I seen the degree of comfort you now have. There were periods of this before, but they were not as solid and consistent as they are now. Your sense of ‘okay-ness’ with yourself was more fragile. Now, it’s solid.”

Researching “Exit Strategies”…

When I realized that my formal therapy with Dr. Bob was going to end, I began researching exit strategies and discovered that there should be a plan. You can’t leave cold turkey. That’s unhealthy.

In March we discussed this plan. I suggested a gradual process. Seeing Bob every month. Then every two months. Finally every three months. These quarterly appointments are actually “Oil checks.”

I take two medications ~ Carbamazepine for mood stability and Clonazepam, as needed for sleep. I need my blood levels checked and prescriptions filled. We agreed that these ”oil checks”  every three months were the best strategy for me.

Today, we booked my next appointment for August 2.

This feels unbelievably liberating…

There’s no convocation. I won’t receive a diploma. I won’t defend a thesis dissertation. Who cares?

For the first time in my life, I feel okay-enough.

And that’s perfectly okay with me.

Image: Georgetown University Medical Center


Day Four: Graduating With My PhD in Me

Sandy Naiman

Sandy Naiman is a Toronto freelance journalist.

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APA Reference
Naiman, S. (2012). Day Four: Graduating With My PhD in Me. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 14 Jun 2012
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