23 Jun 2020

A Q&A with Anne Power about her event: When the therapist says ‘Goodbye’- Using attachment theory to explore endings imposed by the therapist

Anne Power will be with Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training on Saturday 11th September 2021

Anne Power has qualifications from The Bowlby Centre, Westminster Pastoral Foundation, Tavistock Relationships and Relate. She has taught on supervision and therapy trainings at The Bowlby Centre, WPF and at Regents University London and has a private practice in central London for both couples and individuals. Her book, Forced Endings in Psychotherapy, explores the process of closing a practice for retirement or other reasons.

She will be with Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training on Saturday 11th September 2021 to deliver her workshop: When the therapist says ‘Goodbye’- Using attachment theory to explore endings imposed by the therapist.

Your book ‘Forced endings in psychotherapy and psychoanalysis: Attachment and loss in retirement’ was published in 2016, why do you feel it is important for counsellors to understand the impact of a ‘forced ending’?

As practitioners we aim to provide a reliable, consistent space. This frame is an important element in the container within which our clients are able to explore themselves and risk some redrawing of their internal worlds. If we impose an ending before the client chooses to end, we are interrupting their process. Sometimes, for example in cases of illness, this cannot be helped, even if it is detrimental to clients.  I feel strongly that we must minimise harm to clients, firstly through foresight and planning and giving suitable warming of imposed endings, and secondly, once the ending has been announced, by working with careful attention to the impact and meaning of our withdrawal. 

 What are your feelings about the C-19 pandemic and how this might have brought about a ‘paused’ ending for clients who are unable to work online or via telephone?

This is such an interesting question and touches on some very painful cases. Most practitioners have examples of clients who could not find enough privacy to continue their sessions from their home. Sessions taken in cars and in parks seem to have worked for some but whenever there is anxiety about being overheard, we must expect the therapy to be adversely impacted. We might imagine a couple who, before the pandemic, were working to their counsellor about their sexual relationship and the loss of desire in one partner. This couple have three teenage children and when they close the door to have their session they have great anxiety that one of those children might just be wandering about in the corridor trying to get a sense of what his parents are up to. Imagine a young adult who lived independently prior to the Covid-19 but is now locked down in the family home with her parents. They know nothing of her sessions with a counsellor or the self-harming behaviours about which she was beginning to open up. She can’t think of any way to continue sessions – her parents are too interested in everything she does and during lockdown she could not make up. These clients may ask to ‘pause’ their sessions but it will take great courage for them to return and finance may also make that difficult. In their unconscious they may well feel let down by the therapist who had ceased to provide that safe space. The face to face space where for fifty minutes they were assisted to slow down, to try out this new kind of relating, and to listen inwardly to the of succession of feelings which this novel kind of connection threw up. 

What brought about your interest in this subject which is very rarely discussed in therapy?

I was supervising a therapist whose partner was quite keen for her to retire so she needed a space to think about whether that was what she wanted and then, having decided that she would retire we needed to think together about her plan and her timetable for that. I felt a little guilty that I had never given a moment’s thought to the question of how one closes a private practice in order to retire, but I thought confidently ‘I’ll go and read a paper on this, to give me some ideas’. I found that there was almost nothing to read, almost nothing had been written. As I had to do some serious thinking, I decided to take it further and interview therapists who had closed their practice.     

What are your hopes delegates will take away from your training day in 2021?

I would be really happy if people were both more confident and also more curious about the process of whatever ending they are having to manage

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