Is therapy helping?

I’m hoping my mood is going back to normal again. What a weekend from hell. Sigh. Therapy is making me worse.

I finally emailed two of the trauma therapists I’d researched the last time things got so bad – a few weeks ago. Of course, I’d like an instant response. However, on the last day of a long week-end, that’s not going to happen. In fact, being August, they may be on vacation at the moment.

As soon as I emailed them, I felt some relief. Maybe it is a good step to get out of my therapy situation. I am not sure at all. But should therapy leave me so much worse, I don’t want to be alive?

I care about Ron a lot. I believe he cares about me also. I think I’d recommend him to anyone who didn’t have the early trauma issues that I have. I think his therapy is probably a really good thing for many kinds of issues that people have.

The last session, I did get angry at him, but our conversation on the topic of therapy was really brief. I know I need to dig in and stick with topics longer in therapy. I was wondering if the therapy is helping, and I may have said something about how I’m tending to feel worse, though I can’t remember. I wish I recorded sessions, so I could check what I actually said. Then he said the same thing he always says – So the marker of whether it’s working or not is whether you feel worse after a session.

Now I’ve been to therapy several times before. I’ve read about it, I feel I’m informed. I know that when you explore issues, and especially memories, it is going to feel like crap. I expect it to. I understand that with this type of therapy, you are in fact going to feel bad. Especially with dissociation, in order to break down the dissociation, you have to feel the stuff, and it feels bad.

And I have consistently felt bad after therapy. I’ve suffered a lot.

So when Ron said his sentence of ‘the marker is whether you feel bad’ I saw red. I raised my voice and spoke sharply. No it’s not. I understand therapy. I understand you have to go through stuff. You always do this – you reduce what I’m trying to say to this stupid statement.

What I mean to say is, when the therapy, the feelings, are too severe, I don’t think I can process them. I shut down instead. I need them to be actual feelings, not states where I can’t feel.

And he has not much idea what I’m trying to say. He says, as he has in a previous session, that trauma can’t be parcelled out in bits – it comes back altogether.

And – I switch the subject. I feel unheard in what I’m trying to say. I feel he doesn’t understand what it’s like for me, and doesn’t want to understand. Plus he’s not recognizing how my life is falling apart, when I need to spend days in bed recovering from a session.

Which is odd, because Ron is actually usually eager to understand. The only way I can explain it is that I’m bumping into some deeply held beliefs of his. He really seems to hate mainstream psychiatry / psychology. He doesn’t want any part of diagnosis or treatment plans. I believe he thinks they take away from clients’ humanity. He wants to treat everyone as the distinct individuals we are, not as ‘cases’ or ‘diagnosis’.

And I sympathize. I don’t agree with the mainstream medical system way of looking at mental injuries either. I think people get labelled, get dosed, and don’t get better there.

But – in a way, I also don’t care, because it doesn’t affect me. I’m not in it. I just need my therapist to have some ideas of what is going wrong for me and how to help.

So there’s that whole issue.

Then there’s my anger. This is why I’m not so sure I’m right to leave. I have this anger with men, and the way I feel it when we get into these interactions reminds me a lot of other times I’ve been angry. It’s actually reminding me of every break-up I’ve ever had. Complete with trying to get the person to change, like when I loaned Ron my book on dissociative disorders. One boyfriend, whom I felt was passive aggressive, I tried to get him to express anger directly, and then to learn meditation. Neither of which he had any interest in whatsoever.

With my ex, I of course tried many things to try and get him to change. Counseling, theories, books, take a walk when you start to get angry. None of which helped.

Back to Ron. I’m trying to change the therapy, slow it down, make it more nurturing. Since I’ve been doing that, Ron has more or less said several times that I’m ambivalent, or I’m avoiding. He’s stopped offering me check-in calls. He seems to be less interested.

I wrote to him about how I’ve been feeling, in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. It’s been so severe. He hasn’t bothered to reply to me. I didn’t attack his method of therapy at all. Just said how I’d been feeling, and then that I don’t understand what’s happening, why this is happening to me.

I am ambivalent. Sometimes I feel the physical sensation of being held. Or is it an energetic sensation? This happened this time, in the evening after the last session. I felt as if I was being accepted and held somehow. It was a nice feeling. But….that went away. But there is a way that energetically, our back and forth, arguments, whatever, is OK, and that to me is healing. On that level, I can see therapy is a good thing. If only this specific early trauma crap didn’t keep coming up, because for that, the therapy isn’t helping.

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24 comments
  1. It’s such a complicated mess! There is a lot to be gained from working with Ron, but at the same time, you keep on running into his limitations as a complex trauma therapist. I wish that there was a clear path that would lead you to the help that you need and deserve.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks for understanding the messiness of it all! :-/ It is a difficult situation for me – like you say, an unclear path. Somehow I’ll work it out. I’m hoping.

  2. e.Nice said:

    I think its good that you contacted some other providers. We tend to treat our therapy relationships like we’re “monogamous.” Probably for good reason, including financial and the investment of time, energy, emotion, etc. But its not like we’re their only client, so branching out to see whats out there, or creating a more open relationship might be advantageous. I don’t really know where I’m going with this comment, it made sense in my head, but not so much writing it out. LOL. I guess what I’m trying to say is go see if there is someone else out there who fits your current needs better. You have changed since you started with him. Maybe you have learned all you can from Ron and are ready to take that into a new relationship where you can heal more. Perhaps a comparison session or two to see if someone can help you feel contained and safe both in and out of yours sessions. Yes therapy sucks, and I am hypocritical, but I don’t know that it has to be this bad.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks e. You are making a lot of sense. 🙂

  3. Rachel said:

    I see you well on your way to working it out. The writing seems to be helping, seems therapeutic for you. As does communicating about what is going on, no matter if you understand or not. Communicate the confusion and it might just become more clear. Good work, Ellen. Lots of insight in your post, and you sound very open to viewing it from all perspectives. Which I think will help you come to the most helpful decision that is based from a wise place versus a reactive place.

    • Ellen said:

      Thanks Rachel. I don’t really have an impulsive bone in my body – I do tend to try and think things out, sometimes too much so.

  4. Therapy always makes me feel worse. Isn’t it to get it out. That is hard.

    • Ellen said:

      That’s true – therapy does feel bad when we work through tough stuff – it’s part of the process. Thanks

  5. Meep said:

    The feeling I get from this is that somehow you feel you owe it to him to stay. To change it. To make it better.

    You don’t. The fact of the matter is that he may be the best therapist in the world at what he does, but that *doesnt* (necessarily) make him the best therapist for you, right now.

    Listen to your gut. Your gut is showing you relief about moving away from Ron, and perhaps, if between you you can manage the ending well, he may well be a therapist you want to come back to in future.

    But I suspect you can’t ‘think’ your way out of this.

    I agree, therapy often makes things feel worse. But my own experience is that there should be some easing In there somewhere also. It doesn’t seem like you feel that.

    Is it possible to say to Ron ‘I’d like to experience a different way of working on the understanding that I can come back to you if it doesn’t work out’? Here in UK I often get clients who have gone to their GP and been signed to a waiting list for CBT and then decide to pay to see me. Then their name comes up for that CBT and they usually leave me, go to CBT and then come back, with different insights and new ways of working. It’s a win for both of us.

    • Ellen said:

      Actually, it’s kind of the opposite. My mind says to go. My gut is screaming blue murder – it wants me to stay. Though yes, I felt a slight OK feeling when I emailed the other T’s. But last night I couldn’t sleep, I was so upset about just the thought of leaving. I’m attached to Ron. But I don’t want to stay just because I feel attached, if the therapy isn’t helping. However, I don’t feel any obligation of any kind to stay with a T, whom I am paying quite a bit for, if I want to leave for any reason.

      What you’re suggesting about maybe coming back to him is interesting. Maybe that would be possible. It will still be incredibly painful for me to leave though.

      Thanks for commenting Meep.

      • Meep said:

        🙂

        It’s interesting to see how wrong I was! I never got a sense it wouldnt be difficult though- I can see how much it would be. The truncating of most relationships is difficult. Does he know you’re considering leaving? If not, I wonder if that would open up any conversations…

        • Ellen said:

          I’m sure the way I wrote the post led right to that conclusion.

          I have floated the possibility…but we never discussed in depth. He can’t really help me decide to leave – in his view, the therapy is not finished, which is true enough. But maybe it would be worthwhile to try and discuss. Thanks

  6. This is a really tough situation.

    If what he says in the session is that trauma can’t be parcelled out in bits, but comes all at once, that sounds to me like he’s saying he believes what you want him to do is impossible and he isn’t going to try to help you with that. Now, it can be parcelled out in bits. I’m quite sure of that. Maybe not always comfortably-sized bits, but mine is definitely getting parcelled out in bit. If that weren’t the case, I don’t think I would have made it this far. It does seem to me that you are bumping up against his deeply held beliefs: clients are ambivalent about getting better and you just have to ride out their ambivalence until they surrender to the process; processing kind of takes care of itself if you just keep talking and feeling. Which might be true, but there’s an easier way to do and a harder way to do it. At least I think so.

    It does seem like you’re getting better though, in spite of that pain, but there is more that could be done that isn’t being done and it keeps raising this issue: Why aren’t you helping me? No one helped me as a child. You are still not helping me. You still think you have all the answers and cannot respond to my pain. At least it sounds that way. For me, I really felt that way for a long time. I was seeing therapists for years and years who might have been a bit like Ron. They cared. They did their best, I think. I didn’t get a lot better very fast. And later I felt all this anger about, because the world had so emphatically abandoned me. Therapy worked for me more when I lowered my expectations. It was one part of an overall program I had for myself–no longer the main event. I stopped trying to process anything in therapy. I set aside time outside therapy to process. Therapy was for those things I felt I needed a witness to. But therapy can do a lot more than that with the right person.

    • Ellen said:

      He does think this is impossible, exactly right. And yes, that’s likely one of his beliefs. He also resists very much any ‘manualized’ types of approaches, such as CBT, or the various approaches for BPD there are now, as he thinks they’re superficial. So I think he’s throwing my comments into that pot, of gimmicks, which he doesn’t believe have lasting value.

      I’m glad you think I’m getting better – I don’t feel I am, at the moment. But the one real difference I see is how I interact with people – that has changed a lot.

      We’re definitely similar in that I do feel that the world has abandoned me and isn’t seeing my pain. That’s how I felt as a child, and that feeling gets triggered by Ron when he doesn’t seem to understand.

      I admire your ability to heal so much on your own. I just don’t know how to do that, beyond trying to be kind to myself on a daily basis, though that’s a big step in the right direction I think.

      Thanks Ashana for sharing your experience with me.

      • I think it helps a lot here because I see very clearly that people do help me. I am not abandoned. I wonder if it feels this sense of having been abandoned is completely stuck.

        • Ellen said:

          I can see how being a part of a very small tight knit community would feel helpful. I know it is a huge problem for me that I have little support – people are not necessarily abandoning me on purpose, but there just aren’t many people around. So when I get thrown into these holes, I pretty much have to climb back out before I feel I can usefully interact with anyone. It is still a lot like it was when the abuse happened, for me. Except much safer of course. Thanks

  7. Cat said:

    I’ve always understood your concern to be around the processing of the trauma, or the fact that you don’t seem to be doing much of that. Although, I do wonder how much of our early trauma we process through sessions like this, where we don’t necessarily focus on the trauma, but maybe we’re dealing with the effects in those general therapy interactions…. If that makes sense?

    Is there a connection between trying to get close men in your (past)life to change with what is going on with Ron’s theories? And would this tie into a subconscious desire of wishing you could have changed your dad? BTW did Ron mention the book you loaned?

    I’m glad you emailed Trauma T’s, not necessarily because I think you should change Therapists, but more because it might help you decide either way and then you can get on with “the work”.

    • Ellen said:

      Yes, dealing with the after effects of trauma is definitely also helpful. I’m sure the trauma informed my way of relating to people – especially when it comes to anger.

      Now this whole area of my relationship to men, starting with my Dad, is fraught with difficulty. I’m sure some of my issues with Ron are about my feelings about men in general, and it could be productive to keep going and figure this out. I have had no successful relationships with men in my entire life.

      And no, Ron never mentioned the book. I doubt he’ll read it. To be fair, it’s a dense, academic type style that would take dedication to read. I just loaned it to him because most books I either have on Kindle or borrowed, but this one I have a copy.

      Thanks Cat.

  8. Andi said:

    This is a tough situation for sure. Perhaps Ron has ultimately taken you as far in your journey as he can. You could always interview and check out other candidates while seeing Ron, just to allow yourself space to explore other options while not losing the anchor you have with him.

    • Ellen said:

      I think that’s what I’ll do. Thanks Andi

  9. I can tell you’ve been really thinking about this. But you know what? You sound like you know what you want. You know yourself and what is and isnt helping. Only you can change things and I think you know that too. Its good you emailed the two therapists. I hope one or both of them will respond. Good luck sending our support xxxx

  10. Sirena said:

    I recommend a trauma support/therapy group. They are hard to find but if you have one in your area, that usually complements individual therapy and can help with containing and living with all that is being brought upYeah, it is an additional expense though. Wishing you some relief!

    • Ellen said:

      I may look for that, thank you. You never know what will help, and anything that does help is worth the money to me.

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