TFP Part three

Friday July 12, 2019

When I began my Transference Focused Psychotherapy (TFP), the therapist asked me if I'd prefer a course of 12 months or 15 months. This was an agonising question for me: I felt so broken and damaged that I wanted the most help I could get; but I hate to be seen as grasping. I wrestled internally, then asked for 15.

TFP begins with a ten-week contracting phase. For me it was like being thrown to the lions. The therapist kept asking me what goals I wanted for the therapy. I was terrified and I pushed back against the terror. It's hard to imagine now why I found this so incredibly frightening. I can only think I felt I was being asked to do more than I could - to become a better person at a time when I had no inner resources at all.

The contracting phase is essential to the therapy so I was motivated to submit, but it was visceral. I often loathed the therapist. I thought she was trying to destroy me. How we got through it I don't know. I can't remember the goals now, but they weren't actually awful. By the time we actually set them, they were OK. It had felt like fighting lions but when the battle was over and I could see what was in front of me, there were no carcasses. I'd been fighting my shadow.

And so the therapy proceeded and although it was occasionally a visceral fight, it was easier, on the whole, than the first ten weeks. Though there was still a lot of crying in the car park. And a lot of sleeping when I got home.

TFP consists of noticing the interplay between therapist and client, and what that says about the ways of relating the client developed when growing up. Once the first ten weeks were over, I experienced my therapist as insightful and sympathetic with this. It wasn't abrasive, like the psychodynamic therapy I'd had in my early 20s.

As much as I cried and took to my bed, I began to notice serendipitous things happening in my life outside therapy. It was spooky, in a good way - as though I was getting messages from the universe that I was on the right track. For instance, just the right kind of support for a certain moment might present itself. Looking back I see that in therapy I was being rebuilt on a psycho-spiritual level and things around me were shifting because of that.

There were cataclysmically painful things too.

It wasn't linear. The magical and the shocking happened at the same time. I left my husband, and was essentially homeless and penniless. I cannot now work out how I got through all the challenges that followed. I have no family this end of the country, but friends were amazing. I learnt to accept help because I had no choice.

I got through all the basics of setting up a new life, and after therapy things continued to improve for me. The therapy set off a chain of improvements. Which isn't to say I haven't worked at them too. The therapy was like magic at times, but I made Herculean efforts to use it and continue what I'd learnt. So I'm proud. And eternally grateful to my therapist who was incredibly skilled and experienced. The last time I saw her was my final therapy session, but what she did for me is constantly playing out in my life.

A Moodscope member.

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