Finding Peace in the Acceptance of Therapeutic Limits

I’ve been thinking about my old clients a lot recently. Where are they? How are they doing amidst the pandemic? Are they well-supported?

One of the workplace hazards for therapists is that while we may get to know someone deeply over a long period of time, there will eventually come a time when we have to say goodbye. It’s something each of us needs to accept. We aren’t, nor should we be, friends with our clients. But it seems only natural that someone I met with for over a year would come to my thoughts during a time when we are all worried about the people we care about.

An ER doctor I saw for over a year comes to mind. Her job was traumatizing pre-pandemic, and I can’t imagine what it’s been like recently. I also wonder how the men on parole I used to work with are doing with finding housing and work right now. Are they furious they have to go to state-mandated therapy during shelter-in-place? I can speculate on these individuals and others, but I won’t ever know for certain.

There is a concept in Dialectic Behavioral Therapy called Radical Acceptance, in which we must fully and completely (radically) accept a situation by asking ourselves what we would do if we really accepted it. That means no complaining about it or fighting against it. So if I truly accepted that I can never see or speak to old clients again, what would I do? For one, I might reconsider writing a lamenting blog post.

There’s another concept in DBT called Loving Kindness, in which we offer peace, love, and wellness to ourselves and another person. I’ve recently found that this pairs perfectly with Radical Acceptance, so I’ll ask again: If I truly accepted that I cannot know how my former clients are during this turbulent time, what would I do?

I think I would wish them well and let them go.

So in the spirit of Radical Acceptance, here is my Loving Kindness to the clients who I still think of:

To the ER doctor, I wish you peace, safety, and ease. I wish you a full night’s sleep and acceptance of your limitations.

To the men on parole, I wish you peace, safety, and freedom from oppression. I wish you one week off from therapy.

To the many others, with so many diverse challenges, I wish you love, kindness, safety, and peace.

And to myself, I wish you self-compassion. I wish you acceptance that it’s okay to feel this way and knowledge that it’s okay to let go.

The author is a licensed psychotherapist in San Francisco, CA, who specializes in anxiety and trauma. She has chosen to publish this piece under a pseudonym to protect the confidentiality and mediate risks to therapeutic rapport.

Originally published on Medium.

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