Helping a client achieve healing is the goal of every therapist. It is not always the easiest achievement. Its takes a therapist years to feel they have mastery over this task. Each client has their own story, history, environment, challenges, motivations and commitment to the process of therapy. Sometimes it is not even their idea to come to therapy, instead the idea of their parent or spouse. Eventually, every therapeutic relationship ends and the client goes forward on their own. Often, a therapist never really knows the true impact of their work. Did the client really find therapy valuable? How effective was I to the the client in this process?
This week, I have been reminded several times of past clients who return to therapy. I was explaining this phenomenon to a provisionally licensed clinician I am supervising while trying to teach the importance of the therapeutic relationship with the client. As a new clinician, she had not ever experienced this and had limited insight about the ways in which she could learn about her professional impact on others in the future. During this conversation, I was reflecting about how it felt as a therapist to have a client reach out to me when they found themselves in need of therapy a few years after our initial clinical treatment had completed. This has happened a few times a year in my practice and most recently, I had 3 clients return requesting appointments in the same week- quite an occurrence!
There are literally hundreds of thousands of therapists in Charlotte, probably a thousand within 5 miles of their home- why reach out to me again? The profound sense of honor and responsibility bestowed on me by their very act of thinking of me again was immeasurable. There are times I end my work with a client wondering if I could have done a better job or it I did everything I could. Sometimes when I am working in highly conflictual situations, one of the parties will gladly share with me their assessment of my shortcomings or failures! I try to find learning experiences in every relationship I have with a client, noting what went well, what I would have changed. However, it is in these times, when a past client contacts me and asks to return to therapy, when they consider their past relationship with me so genuine and beneficial that they choose me again, when they find them self in need- that it is reflected back to me that there has been a positive impact. This is the ultimate compliment for me.
The parents who once had me work with their child, contacts me again to work with another of their children. The child with whom I once worked, contacts me again when she becomes an adult and needs to work on a new issue. A teenager whom I believed hated therapy and didn't take much if anything away from the process, contacts me to tell me how he now uses the skills I patiently taught as he pretended to ignore me and he wants to return now that he is more mature to learn more. The adult who worked through a trauma who wants to return and work on issues that are present after motherhood and marriage. The man who was urged into therapy by his wife because he was so emotionally distant, contacts me now years after he has divorced and wants to learn to connect and communicate for his new love. The woman whom I helped overcome her fear of dogs after an attack, contacts me years later to help her overcome a new trauma from a car accident.
While each and every person who entrusts a therapist to help guide them on their personal path of healing is special and unique, a returning client brings with them an affirmation and living testimony that the clinician made an invaluable therapeutic connection with them that mattered in their life.
If you are a returning client to McCloud Acosta Clinical Services, please let us know when you call or email so we can reschedule you as quickly as possible. We are so honored to have you return. Entrusting us is the greatest compliment!