Therapy – to go or not to go

Yesterday I went for therapy. Her office is in a big old house, but in the basement, so I go down some steps to get there. The office is painted yellow, with a couch and armchairs. There are some children’s toys along one side. It tends to be just a little too warm – the T is in her early seventies, and older people like warmth.

We greet each other. Then I stumble around a bit, not sure what I want to spend this costly hour on. I could mention a dozen issues that trouble me, from mild flashbacks happening on the way to work, to loneliness, to feelings of depression…quite a smorgasbord to choose from. Oh dear.

At the same time as I fish around for what I wish to discuss, I have a hopeless feeling that she can’t help anyway. She can’t stop my flashbacks. Talking to her will not help my depression.

I mention some things, then ask her what we talked about last time. I’m pretty sure she won’t remember, but she says we talked a bit about your family. Then I remember – oh yeah, anger.  I tend to feel a lot of anger and irritation in daily life, sometimes with no cause whatsoever it seems. Two weeks ago, at work, I’d found myself so furious with some things that happened at work that I had to take an hour long break before I could function again. I’d brought that up in the last session.

For political reasons, a certain department where I work is dictating how all documents must be written, following a particular method. Some of that method is fine, and I agree with it, but this group is also laying down the law about tiny details, just because they can. And in some cases, their method makes the documents a lot harder to use.

Anyway, dealing with them makes me furious. The T pointed out that when things get an extra ‘charge’ like that, it usually comes from the past. And then I talked a bit about how my father had laid down the law when I was a child, and there was no room to think differently, and how angry that had made me.

We did a visualization about pouring that extra anger into a balloon and sending off in the sky. Well, since then, I have been less angry at work. Though we didn’t meet with that other group recently either.

This week, the T started asking me questions – when am I moving, how is it going…also she started talking about groups I could join to meet people….I found those questions irritating actually. Once again, I am irritated by my T. It seems she wants to chit chat, while I want her to help me with my issues. And it seems all up to me to bring those issues out. If its up to her, we’ll chit chat the whole hour long.

Well, she noticed I was irritated. She said she thought my feelings may relate to my mother. My mother was not responsive to me. She was unable to be so for some reason. I talk about how once I told her I was being teased at school, and my mother told me to just ignore it, then turned away to do something else. My mother has never been good at responding emotionally to anyone, at comforting, or asking for more details, or god forbid, actually trying to help me.

Well, that is a big issue. The T thinks I was irritated with her because I’m not used to anyone taking an interest in me. Then she gave some theory, and asked me if it rang true. I didn’t feel it did. But I wasn’t sure.

I feel I was irritated with the T because she was being stupid and wasting time. I don’t need her to help me with the practical details of my life. Things are not a mess because I’m not capable. It’s more my emotions that are the problem, that stop me from doing what I need to do.

I’m torn about continuing this therapy. On the one hand, she is providing good insights sometimes into how my family worked and how that made me feel. I kind of have to lead the way though in order to ever get anywhere with her.

On the other hand, I do not feel a strong connection to her. I feel she has to work at it to like me, and it is the same on my side. We are not naturally compatible.

Or maybe I am very untrusting and prickly.

I think I have not done a great job at interviewing therapists. I kind of go to see one, then just keep going to them, instead of checking out a few. But she does have a trauma specialty, which not a lot of them do.

I left the session feeling OK, but sad for having had a difficult mother. How can I overcome that? Well, on the other hand, a lot of us have had difficult parents, and still manage to cope.

Therapy. Some bad, some good. I’m torn.

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12 comments
  1. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,That is a tough one. If its all good or all bad then its an easy choice but if you are getting a bit of both I can understand why you are in two minds as to what to do. I wouldn't even try to offer an opinion. All I would say is that you have to feel comfortable with what you are paying for and whether you think its a worthwhile investment- by that I mean would your money be better spent on another therapist or not. But I can imagine if you are getting even little new things its hard to just discount the T. To be honest it sounds like if there is a problem it may be that she has set up in a distracting environment which isn't too good.Its a shame Ellen that it takes so much testing to try to find the person that caters to your needs. After seeing 3 different nurses here all of different outlooks I can understand how much personality on the part of the therapist plays its part and how difficult it must be to find a match. In fact it would probably be easier to find a match on a dating internet site where at least they are matching needs. Lastly though I have to say you are a very strong person, probably more than you know, and you know inside what you need so with that in mind I think you will feel when things click together in the right way. I do hope that time is not far away but I am sure you will know within yourself when that happens and I hope that brings you the fruits that every effort you have made deserves.All the bestNechtan

  2. cbtish said:

    Therapy works best when there is a strong connection between you, and when the therapist has a clear sense of direction towards your recovery. The balloon thing, the "insights sometimes" and the chit-chat are not really therapy at all, and not worth paying money for, in my opinion. It does not sound as if this therapist really wants you to recover. Trust your instincts, I suggest.

  3. Paula said:

    Ellen, the relation with the therapist in crucial for recovery. Digging to the core of trauma turns the therapist into the most important relation for some time! This relation should be strong, reliable. A therapist has to guide to the core of the trauma and you ahve to do the work. If the relation is shaky you wont let her guide and you wont let yourself face the core! I wonder why you dont have EMDR to work through the flashbacks first. Have you ever considered EMDR? Nechtan is right! You are stronger then you think. Thinking of you and wishing you a blissful weekend

  4. Em said:

    perhaps the t is letting you take the lead on things. so you have to bring things up to discuss, your in charge, unlike many relationships we had as children where others are in charge. maybe this way will give you confidence. or maybe im wrong! hope you ok. x

  5. diver said:

    Therapist in her 70s, well, I suppose that may be a good thing for all the life experience she's gathered? Still, your post(s) rather give the impression that you and she are disconnected – not on the same 'wavelength'. In any case I sure get the feeling you'd be better off with someone warmer, someone more emotionally nurturing.Do you suppose it's possible you're trying to use T as a substitute mother-figure and she's proving as unresponsive (in terms of affection) as your own mother used to be? Maybe this explains the resentment and torn feelings she keeps provoking in you?

  6. I know for myself that I need a therapist that I feel a connection with. I tried one that I didn't feel a connection to and I couldn't do it. I wasn't getting anywhere with her and I found it really frustrating. I think you deserve to get what you need either with her or someone else. But I certainly know it's sometimes easier said then done.

  7. I agree completely with CBTish's comment. And I think sending your anger away in a balloon is the OPPOSITE of therapy. I know therapists call this 'releasing' your anger, but it is really just dissociating it. It is dangerous and very unhealthy to dissociate anger. If a therapist wanted me to send my anger away in a balloon, I would know immediately that the therapist is uncomfortable with anger and would never be able to withstand hearing my rage (and I would also become angry at such a suggestion! :-). And that is one of the reasons I don't do female Ts or elderly Ts. When I have rage and violent thoughts, it seems more likely to me that a man (under 65 or so depending) would be less likely to be frightened by me in that state than a woman or someone older might be. Though I am sure that not all female or older Ts would be afraid of my rage, I prefer going with my gut around the issue. Maybe you can listen to your gut, too?

  8. gniz said:

    Hey Ellen.Good post and good responses from the comment section.Your recovery is truly your responsibility. That means everything from finding the right therapist to reading the right books to doing the things that you know are helpful to the process.You've made big strides and will continue to do so. The journey is a long one but there is no rush. Go steady at your own pace and take a breath, relax. We'll be doing this awhile more yet.:)Good luck and keep working at it!

  9. Paula said:

    Wondering how you are doing?

  10. Jill said:

    I'd say since you're seeing some benefit and gaining insitghts, stay with it for awhile. Especially if you can afford it.I had a therapist once who I used to get really angry at too, she wasn;t addressing my issues. I just wanted to strangle her, I didn't get any benefit and it was draining my wallet.You could also go in with an agenda. Say, for ex, I want to work on my loneliness and depression. She should honor your requests. Good luck!

  11. Ellen said:

    Thanks everyone – what a great discussion and lots of food for thought. Sorry I can't reply to everyone this time.About the 'balloon thing' – to be fair, this was presented as a stop gap measure, until I could deal with my feelings towards my father. But that time wasn't coming anytime soon it seemed. I have now quit this therapy, after going to one more useless session. Once I am settled in the new place, I will look for someone else.It's true that it's my responsibility to screen these T's – but I have no confidence in my ability to do this. They all seem fine on first meeting. It just emerges later that things are not going well. Anyway, I will try to do a better job in the future.Thanks for the 'slow and steady' comment also – it's true, it doesn't have to all happen now. It seems a feeling of connection is key – that's what I'll be looking for. And I'll consider a man – could be I'll have better luck. Take care everyone

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