I've somehow missed the social Dear Abby column, but today's is shrinky, so why not?
My Shrink (Gasp!) Has Shrunk
After not seeing my therapist for several months, I returned to find her a wisp of her former self. She was never fat before, but she looks like a marathon runner now. It seems strange not to comment on such a significant change. But even my most innocuous questions — like “How are you?” — are either ignored or turned back on me. Should I be quiet, or can I mention the weight loss?
Elizabeth, Berkeley, Calif. "
And the Social Q person responded:
"Oh, how I envy you! My therapist hasn’t changed so much as his shoes in all the years that I’ve been seeing him. And there’s only so much hay you can make with a scuffed-up pair of Bass Weejuns.
So speak up. Successful therapy requires you to share your thoughts. It may be the one office on earth where unedited candor is a good idea.
There will be consequences, though. If you compliment her on her weight loss, you will spend the balance of your session dissecting your body image. And if you sound a note of alarm for her health, the subject will turn to mortality — either fear of yours, or how the prospect of hers triggers your abandonment issues."
So I think I practice another brand of psychiatry. When patients comment on my appearance, I usually just mutter "Thank you" (or whatever might be my version of socially appropriate) and move on. I'm not sure I've ever cured anyone by insisting they fully understand their motivations behind noticing that I've lost weight, had my hair blow-dryed to a different style, or am wearing a new outfit. I'm not saying there is nothing to be gained from exploring these issues, I'm just not sure that it's worth the trade-off of taking the time away from talking about things going on in their lives.