Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breaking Up is Hard to Do!

A lesson learned early in life - breaking up is hard. It hurts to be broken-up with...but it also hurts to be the one doing the breaking. It's still a loss, even if it's your choice, and you think it will be better for you overall. It's also hard to know you're hurting, and/or letting down someone you've cared about.

Leaving a job is a lot like breaking up - whether you quit, or get fired, one party in the employment relationship is choosing to end it. Feelings stirred up may include sadness, anger, disappointment, rejection, abandonment...maybe even feeling betrayed by the "infidelity" when someone went looking for another employer/employee without letting the other party know their intent.

I'm reflecting on this because I resigned this week. After accepting a full-time job (I'll be at a new eating disorder partial hospitalization program opening in December), I had to tell one job I'm leaving completely, and tell the other I'm cutting way back on my hours and clients. It was nerve-wracking for me, and awkward, and I continue to feel like I'm letting people down.

And then there are the clients. Leaving a job as a therapist (usually) means ending relationships with each of your clients. This is the part of my job transition that is hardest for me. I'm painfully aware that I'm terminating not because it's clinically indicated, but because I'm choosing to leave. I do this work because I want to help people, but now I'm doing something that hurts. Of course, they will all still be able to get treatment...but one relationship doesn't replace or erase a previous one. It's still a loss.

It's a loss for me, too. These are people I've come to know and care about, and for whom I've worked hard. What's harder than the loss, though, is accepting their expressions of hurt, disappointment, betrayal, and abandonment. All while still finding a way to say a meaningful goodbye that solidifies the progress they've made and lays a foundation for the work they have left to do.

Yes, breaking up is hard to do!

I'm spending the next ten days or so making referrals, summarizing treatment, and speaking and writing my goodbyes. I'd love to hear how others thing about, and go about, this challenging part of therapeutic work.

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