Eight years ago, after many months of frantic searching, I finally found a photo of my therapist with her family on the internet. I cut her face out and stuck it on her business card and carried it in my handbag. Every so often, when I was feeling insecurely dependent, I would take it out and look at it until it became rather worn around the edges. It was a great source of comfort to me and kept me connected with her through some very dark times. She never knew about this.
Perhaps it would be a good idea, especially for therapists who conduct Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to have a business card with a photo – a professional one not a personal family photo. This way clients do not have to ask, beg or grovel and debase themselves asking for a photo from their beloved but reluctant therapist, nor spend hours furtively searching on the internet for an illicit image of someone they are perhaps pathologically attached to. When you have a legitimate source of something private the guilt and shame of dependency, something which regressed clients seem to feel a lot of, can disappear or at least lessen in intensity.
When I was very mentally unwell and suffering from akathisia from the wrong medication, my therapist gave me several meditation tapes she had recorded. During the three months of living hell Zyprexa put me through, her voice; her honeyed mellifluous vocal tones would settle my raw nerves and almost send me off to sleep.
Many clients ring their therapists phone number just to hear their voices on the answering machine using this audio transitional object to calm, connect and help them deal with the fact that they still have six days, two weeks or three months till they see them again.
It’s a lucky client whose therapist has an active, dynamic website that is constantly updating and changing with new information. The even luckier client has email/fax/phone privileges or 24/7 contact with their therapist, even when they go on an overseas holiday. This however, is most unusual, and should not be expected. Nor is it a good idea.
There are not-so-hidden dangers with extra-therapeutic contact. Never facebook or twitter with a client. Never “friend” your therapist on facebook. It is not wise to find out who else gets their twitters or facebook status updates. It is not wise to know who their friends or family are. These things should always remain private. I do know of some well-meaning but irresponsible therapists who have done just this and then expressed surprise when it all goes pear-shaped on them.
Transitional objects for clients are life-saving. A rock, a stone, a business card with photo, a piece of paper with the therapists handwriting, a pen or a flower given or a book borrowed. These things are very precious to a client suffering from attachment issues. I have a few small gemstones my therapist gives me when she goes on holiday. I keep them in my handbag (the business card with the sellotaped photo was thrown out years ago) and take them out and polish them every so often. It keeps me connected to her when she is 13,000kms away.
I would like to ask people’s, especially other therapists’, opinion on whether or not it would be a wise idea to have photos on business cards. How would that feel for them? Or would it feel kind of creepy and weird? Would you feel as though you are giving away part of your soul to a client you may not particularly like? Or would you be happy he/she has something concrete to focus on which means you don’t get those 3am suicidal phone calls.
I would most appreciate your feedback.