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Death and Resurrection Through Therapy

Death of a spouse, divorce, moving house and losing a job are four of some of the major most stressful incidents that could happen to you.  I’d like to add a fifth one; and that’s making the decision, or having the decision made for you, to leave your long-term therapist.

I don’t need my therapist anymore for therapy – or survival.  I am able to look after myself and be my own therapist.  I can survive in the big, wide world with all the tools and devices I have learned over the years, yet to move on from my therapist would leave a huge hole in my heart.

The more child-like and dependent I was the more I needed her to stay alive, but the more I grew up and matured in therapy the more I relied on myself and less on her.  It’s not about the therapy itself.  That is the giddy part, growing up and away and moving on.  One can only move on in therapy as one gets stronger and eventually that dependence is replaced with independence.  And as one gets stronger one naturally starts to separate, first at an unconscious level and then one becomes aware that the nature of your feelings are changing.

When one is dependent this awareness can seem as far away as Jupiter.  But what about the actual relationship itself?  When I leave therapy, probably at the end of the year, I will sorely miss her presence, the relationship itself.  But loss and leaving and letting go is spiritual growth.  It’s the non-attachment of Buddhism.  Ending therapy is like planning a funeral for someone who is still alive and contactable.  Death (in the therapy sense) is also transformative because it ignites the fire of rebirth and resurrection of the soul.  One can only do this when one is ready.  I can do this because it is my choice; it has not been thrust upon me.  To eject someone prematurely from therapy is to sentence them to a life of pain and suffering.  This is where clients end up with additional trauma, far more than what brought them to therapy in the first place.

I get flickers and frissons of excitement at the thought of independence and freedom and then I get mournful and sad and the cycle continues.  This too shall pass because I am more consumed by my life.  I stay busy and attached to myself so I will not think too hard and I will stay busy so I don’t grieve and mourn excessively.  It is normal to grieve and mourn. This non-attachment is difficult because every breath of warm wind, every flower and tree, in fact almost everything reminds me of someone I love dearly and have to let go.  Even being alive reminds me of what I have lost.  But I now believe that when you lose something, it is replaced with something of equal value or better.

The love for one’s therapist, regardless of the gender dynamics, is somewhere between romantic love and transference love.  It is not all about parental upbringing and reminders of someone we used to know.  There is a brand new element introduced when a client falls in love with a therapist.  No-one to my knowledge, including myself, has ever been able to adequately define it.  Therapists are too close to the feelings, are too much a part of the equation to be able to decide what it is and what it isn’t.  It is something felt that only the feeler can describe.  It defies clinical definition.  It is a new, transformative love that cannot and perhaps should not ever be defined.  It just is what it is.

By giving up what you love you make a conscious decision to invite pain and suffering into your heart, but nothing lasts forever, it is the nature of things.  All things do pass eventually and to pretend otherwise is to be in denial.  It’s called evanescence, the entropy of life and time.  We are not privy to when and how this all emanates.  Even therapists feel emotional pain to the deepest extent that their clients do and not all of them handle it well.  I know my therapist was once a therapee.

But something else always falls into place.  The Universe is not a vacuum.  I used to hang onto my therapist like she was a life support system, because for a long time I could not breathe on my own.  The same as I didn’t know my heart could beat long, strong and confidently outside the therapy room, but I realise now my breathing and my heartbeat has its own vibrant quality.

Living my life post therapy promises to be both pleasurable and painful.  We have discussed what a post-therapy relationship would look like.  She tells me she would disappoint me and I have no reason to believe otherwise.  I would not be the centre of her Universe.  In life and after therapy, there will always be darkness and light, hope and despair, freedom and fear, independence and clinginess, gaining and losing and attachment and non-attachment and that is OK.  But this loss hits me at the most unexpected moment and I wonder will it always be like this?

I don’t believe it will.  I need to know who I am – on my own.  I need a self-reference point without another’s point of view.  I must throw out the old in order to attract the new into my life, new energy to replace the old.  I must let go of the past in order for the future to guide me.

It is a most exciting phase of my life.

Death and Resurrection Through Therapy

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field.

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APA Reference
Neale, S. (2011). Death and Resurrection Through Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 May 2011
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