Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

‘Why Do I Want To See You Everyday?’

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 4, 2011

    Luke, twenty-four, comes twice a week and has for six years. He has dedicated himself, with the financial support of his parents, to “working on himself.” He is never late; he never forgets, despite our changing times given his changing work and school schedule. He is my prime example of how our next generation can be responsible, reliable and motivated for self-improvement. Over the past six years he has “hated me,” “loved me” and he has felt that I was “annoying and too motherly” towards him. Positive feelings, negative feelings, neutral feelings never seem to change his commitment to our process. He almost dropped out of high school since he could hardly get out of bed to go to school, but now he is in medical school, soon to be a caretaker of others who need his services. His parents told me that they feared that with all of this psychotherapy he might want to become a psychiatrist, as if that would be a bad outcome. Luckily for them, he is on his way to being a surgeon. As he says, “I have little interest in talking to people. I would hate to have to deal with people like me who yell and scream at you like you are their mother.” I almost felt that to be an apology for our many rough times together, but he has no need for remorse. We agree that we are engaged in an honest struggle of working together, and frustration and anger, are inevitable. Both of us have shared behaviors that make us  wish we could have been more circumspect and controlled.

   “Why do I want to see you everyday,” Luke asks me in a way that was sweet, endearing and challenging. “You are evolving and you are having growing pains,” I say, explaining that he is now going through an emotional growth spurt where he is trying to decide which of his many flirtatious encounters he wants to pursue as a more serious long-term relationship. With a huge smile, he says “gee thanks, Dr. Vollmer. That makes me so happy to hear that.” Suddenly, I framed Luke’s pain as a means to a deeper end, and so suddenly he went from feeling bad about his indecisiveness to good about his thoughtfulness. Luke has had a lot of trouble with relationships. He has often liked girls who like him, rather than considering his own feelings towards them. Consequently, he has grown quickly dissatisfied with most of his intimate experiences. As we explore his own desires in a relationship, he has become more cautious about entering into monogamous love affairs. Now, Luke has to tolerate loneliness in ways in which he defended against before by constantly being in unsatisfying relationships. His perceived need to see me daily reflects his new challenge to manage these difficult feelings. I saw the growth and then commented on it in a way in which we did not have to meet more often; we just had to understand the need.


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16 Responses to “‘Why Do I Want To See You Everyday?’”

  1. Melanie said

    You write: ” ‘Why do I want to see you everyday,’ Luke asks me in a way that was sweet, endearing and challenging.” After 5 years of therapy (and almost 4 years with the same therapist – and going on 2.5 years at 4X a week), I understand Luke’s sentiment. We patients yearn for that exclusiveness from our therapist — the idea/want/need to see our therapist everyday and to be special. We want them to want us to be in their offices as much as we want to be there. When I saw my therapist once a week, I couldn’t “wait” for the next week to get there, and then I would leave “sad” that I had to wait another week. And then when I saw her twice a week (usually every other week), the day in between the 2 sessions seemed like an eternity. And it hasn’t changed seeing her 4 nights a week. There is always a craving for more (except when we are in the middle of a love/hate relationship and I threaten to quit). But as you wrote: “Positive feelings, negative feelings, neutral feelings never seem to change his commitment to our process.” I can say the same thing in my analytic/therapeutic relationship in a bidirectional manner — when patient and therapist are committed to the process where they both “grow” in the relationship together, the up and down feelings about the process, each other, or whatever the case may be, the “idea/want/need” to see each other (at least from the patient’s perspective) continues in a heightened, almost exaggerated, way. And as my therapist always tells me — we don’t always need answers of why the need for something, etc — we just need to try to “understand the need.”

    Wishing Luke best of luck on his journey to be a surgeon.

    • Thanks, Melanie. Your comments are so interesting and so honest. I appreciate your openness and thoughtfulness. I agree with your therapist that understanding the need is where the richness of the process begins.

      • Melanie said

        I have found that over the last 16 months that frequenting blogs like yours and others have allowed me to be open and honest and express things about mental health care that I never thought possible. These “outlets” have been a wonderful supplement to my therapy and have enhanced my therapy because there is no judgment, and I have been able to be freely express my experiences and learn from other people’s experiences. Thanks for blogging.

        • Hi Melanie,
          When I started my blog, I had no idea the impact it would have. It is so touching to read that it supplements your psychotherapy/psychoanalysis. Sometimes unintended consequences are really sweet. Thanks! Shirah

          • jo said

            Like Melanie, blogs like this one (and including this one) have helped me tremendously. I struggle with feeling that something is wrong with me when I crave more from my therapist … to the point where I question the wisdom of the whole endeavor.

            • Melanie said

              Jo, what you have stated is a continual struggle for me — especially questioning the wisdom of the whole endeavor. I had an experience with my analyst on Monday night (yelling and screaming and expletives coming from the room next door from new patients of a colleague of my analyst due to no fault of my analyst — extremely distracting). She graciously said I am not charging you for this session. Monday night I was fine. Last night I wasn’t fine. We talked about Monday night. And I am still not fine because I wanted her to “step up to the plate” more for me (whether she could knock on the door or not). I told her she took the easy way out by not charging me, but then I backed off and said — but it wasn’t your fault. It is a rollercoaster of emotions for me. I have had thought about ending this relationship a handful of times — mainly because of the attachment that is clearly there (a bidirectional attachment) and my feelings that I am “too old” to be attached (will be 30 in January). A fellow blogger from a different site suggested to me this morning that maybe I should make a deadline to end the relationship for when I turn 30 — I don’t use the word “termination” because to me termination is death (the timing being that I always threaten to quit at 30). I was sick to my stomach when I read that. But, I will bring it up in my session again tonight because I had threatened 2.5 months ago to quit for the same old reasons that I always threaten.

              Good luck with your continued endeavors! And in my non-expert opinion, there is nothing wrong with you craving more from your therapist. It is the nature of the beast.


            • Hi Melanie and Jo,
              Thanks for having this dialogue. I know that there can be a lot of pain in the therapist/patient relationship and sometimes that pain leads to emotional growth and sometimes it is just pain. It is hard to know when you are in the pain what to do. You might want to read my Monte and Marla blogs which touch on this issue. Type Monte Marla into the search part of my blog. Good luck to both of you and keep me posted. SV

  2. marie said

    I agree, I find that reading this has helped me see that intense emotions towards my therapist are not unusual or mean that I need to quit but there is a point on the other side of those sometimes awful feeling that can give insight. I also have a pull to want to see my therapist more and sometimes when I’m there I just want to leave. Its confusing but the mess of feelings are getting clear as it often comes back to me and more understanding. Thanks for blogging!!

    • Hi Marie,
      The intensity of the patient/therapist relationship really interests me, because as you say, it can be confusing, but also transformative. The internet has opened us to ways of sharing things which to the uninitiated might seem strange. I am glad that my blog facilitates this conversation. Shirah

  3. Holly said

    Hi Dr. Vollmer,

    This post and the subsequent thread is interesting to me as I am at the stage in my analysis (it’s been almost 8 months since i started analysis) when the issue of mutuality in the analytic dyad keeps coming up. It is difficult for me to accept the asymmetry inherent in the relationship with my analyst and I often wish he would express the impact that I have on him. The attachment I have towards him – strongly erotic in nature- has been agonizing. I realize the necessity of abiding by the boundaries in the our relationship but that does not prevent me from wishing to test their limits.

    I hope to be able to get beyond this stage at some point in my analysis.

    Thank you for providing this forum.


    • Hi Holly,
      Thanks for your comments. I have not discussed the erotic transference specifically, but your post reminds me that that is a very important component of all patient/therapist relationships. Wishing to test the limits is useful, as it is the job of your therapist to manage those pulls towards boundary violations. Those pulls are important to think about as they are rich with intrapsychic material. In other words, there is gold in them hills. Good luck with your analysis. Thanks again for sharing. SV

  4. Holly said

    I am glad that you think testing the limits of an analytic relationship could be useful as I have felt at times that my analyst would rather that I not do so. i know that this feeling may be projection on my part, but exploring erotic feelings towards my analyst is very difficult for me, and the thought of rejection is mortifying. I will however keep in mind that there may be gold in these hills (which feel more like mountains:-).

    Thank you.

  5. Shelly said

    Where do the answers for what is good for a patient in terms of life’s goals, relationships, education, etc… come from? How does the therapist “know” what is good for the patient and how does she direct the patient towards it? Does one learn this in the training as a resident or psychoanalytic institute, etc…? Or do you explore these ideas together and plan the roadmap? Is that why the process takes so long (i.e. twice a week for 6 years)? How do you know when to stop therapy? What if the patient feels as if they can never live without the guidance of the therapist?

    • There are no answers. The therapist never “knows”. The entire process is an art, so there are no solid answers. If the patient feels like they need the guidance of the therapist, then there is a debate about how long the treatment should continue. There are no clear answers about termination. Again, this is all an art, so both the therapist and the patient must live with ambiguity. Thanks, as always for your comments.

  6. danny said

    He almost dropped out of high school , hardly gets out of bed, and now he’s in medical school. Wow !! thats pretty good. Maybe i need your help too ! 🙂

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