When to dredge up the past and when to let it lie?

Yesterday I was working with two clients who both had complicated and painful childhood family issues.  After months of struggle, both were doing very well. Both of them had stopped going to therapy.

Both were thinking of going back to therapy to deal with some childhood issues, one of them wanted to explore possible childhood abuse that could be impacting her ability to be intimate in her relationship now.  She wanted hypnosis to figure out exactly what she was blocking out about her childhood and had only pieces of memory about.  The other one continued to experience almost PTSD like responses to any conversations about her mother.  Both of them were in a place of good functioning for them.  It was nice for me to see them feeling better and more in control of their lives, and they were asking me what I thought about them pushing forward.

The question of therapy can be a complicated one. Looking at past issues can certainly help one live more fully in the present, but it also involves looking at a lot of ugliness that is very unpleasant.  After a long period of instability and stress, taking a break from therapy can be a good thing, to just try to enjoy the newfound peace and equilibrium.  I think it’s appropriate for clients to decide when they feel it’s a good time to open up and look at these things, and when it might be healthier not to.  Timing is pretty important, and it’s a challenging choice to make.  It’s also a challenge for therapists to know when to push forward and when to help the person regain equilibrium in the present.  Part of therapy is also to take time to appreciate and acknowledge the newfound gains and accomplishments.   I always tell my clients that in this situation, you are the employer and I am your employee, you be the one to decide.

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When to dredge up the past and when to let it lie?

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