Thoughts On Therapy

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My opinion is a little skewed when it comes to therapy.  I know I could probably benefit from it after everything I have been through but my short-lived experiences with it have left me cold and skeptical.

First experience – I was about 14 when my mother insisted I see a therapist. I honestly don’t remember why she felt I needed it, especially since I was pretty much a parents’ dream – didn’t get into trouble, not at home or in school, got great grades, loved my parents and didn’t want to ever lose their trust, no drugs or anything like that. To this day, I don’t know why she wanted me in counseling. We went together to the therapist and he spoke to both of us together and then also separately. At the end, with us together, he told my mother that I was a perfectly normal teenager and he didn’t see a need to treat me. Duh!  But, on the way back to our car, my mother told me that the therapist had no idea what he was talking about, although she never took me to see anyone else.

Second experience – the depression I felt just after my son was born was immense, as was beginning to deal with the incest of my childhood which kept me from being a full-time mother. My mom, again, recommended I see someone but this time I felt it might be a good idea. The therapists’ name was Catherine and she seemed nice. But as time went on, I noticed she liked to place everyone into some pre-designated box, whether it fit or not. She did personality testing on me, both ink blots and multiple choice. She thought I was very dark inside because all I saw in the ink blot images was ghosts and monsters. Well HELLO – the ink was black with abstract images – of course I saw monsters!  If the ink had been color, maybe I would have seen something else. And then, an answers I gave on the multiple choice test concerned her – it asked if I thought anyone was out to get me – I answered ‘yes’. She was all over that, saying it was a sign of schizophrenia. She never even asked why I answered that way before going into her spiel. At the time I worked with a girl who told me she didn’t like me (her friend and I liked the same guy) and she admittedly kept doing things to make that guy not like me. Catherine seemed like she didn’t want to believe me. Then one day, she asked at the beginning of the session what I wanted to talk about. Nothing bad had happened that week so I told her I didn’t know. She got very stern with me and said, “Well something must have happened since you’re being so defensive.”  What? I wasn’t being defensive at all – I just didn’t have anything specific to talk about. I never went back after that session.

Third experience – just prior to a custody battle, my son had been exhibiting some behaviors that were unusual for him, even saying that he didn’t want to live (his step-mother at the time was terrible, even abusive to him); my son was 6 years old! As part of the custody hearings, the court required my son to get a couple counseling sessions, in which his father and I accompanied him on the first visit. This therapist’s name was Kristi. She spoke with our son, then Dave, then me. I told her, among other things, how my son had told me that his step-mother insisted that she was his real mom, that he had come out of her tummy. This really bugged my son and he kept telling me that it wasn’t true! He was also forced to call me “Sarah” in their house – he would get in trouble if he referred to me as ‘mom’.  In one of the greater shocks of my life, Kristi told me that those things were normal step-parenting issues.  I don’t think so, you idiot!  She made the situation worse, not better.

Fourth experience – I was really struggling with authority figures on the job, along with other anxieties that seemed to be increasing. I decided on my own to see a therapist. With the bad luck with women in the past, I decided to try a man. I only saw him once – this was the session: he had me sit next to where I had been sitting and told me to look at myself in that empty seat and tell him all the good things about her. PANIC! I can’t do this! I tried and I was sweating and uncomfortable the whole time.  It was similar to role-play (see below) and I can’t do that.  He finally saw my reaction and stopped that lovely little exercise. Along with other things he said and did, this guy was totally not right for me and I didn’t go back. At that point, I gave up on therapy – maybe it just wasn’t for me.

Last experience – the women’s retreat.  Although this wasn’t typical therapy with licensed therapists, it’s still important.  I have a couple psychological blocks which date back to high school and still exist today. One – I can sing in front of hundreds, but not a just a couple or one, and two – I can’t role-play or do visualizations. I literally cannot get myself to do these things. One day during “sound therapy”, the lady wanted me to write a song for myself, just a few musical notes, no words, and to sing them for her. I couldn’t do it – anxiety hit my like a brick and I shut down.  looked at me kind of odd and tried to understand why I couldn’t do it, but I couldn’t explain it. Although she was gentle with me about it, it was the first time that they found me “difficult”. The second time – we were supposed to close our eyes and visualize ourselves doing something we really enjoy. Well, for me, when I closed my eyes, all I saw was black – the harder I tried, the more black I saw. I told this lady that I had nothing – the look she gave me was one of complete disbelief. Then, when were supposed to role play about our future, she told us, “If you do this exercise, you can cross over into happiness and if you don’t (looking at me), then you can stay and drown in your own misery.” Seriously? I looked at her and said, “Well then I guess I will drown!” She laughed and tried to pretend that she was joking but she hurt me none-the-less. Her attitude towards me the rest of the retreat was different than it had been before. All I could think was – I come to this retreat where it is supposed to be safe to be yourself and to not feel rejection or disapproval from others – and there I was, once again being seen as “difficult”, like I just didn’t want to do those things, like I was just being stubborn – they didn’t understand at all that I literally couldn’t – my brain and my body would not let me!  I actually left that retreat feeling like I really was different after all, like I really was bad. If they couldn’t see past what abuse had done to me, how could anyone else?

The past couple years, I have on a couple occasions considered trying therapy again. The truth is, I just don’t see it helping me. How can talking change anything?  I’m tired of being judged and tired of being misunderstood.  I have been through so much, so many things, where would I even start? I know some people have great success with therapy and I am happy for them, really I am.  But me – I just don’t think it would work.

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10 thoughts on “Thoughts On Therapy

  1. To me, the great gift of therapy, with the right therapist, is the ability to talk about the things you would normally repress and never talk about to anyone. You talk about them with someone who is genuinely non-judgmental and also insightful, and over time, the pain and shame or fear related to those things lessons. Added benefit: by modeling compassionate, non-judgmental reactions, you start to have a less judgmental view of yourself and others.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It can be really hard to find a good therapist. It seems like they’re few and far between these days. You’ve had some really terrible experiences with them so far, but I really hope that you don’t give up on trying to find one. It’s a life saver when you finally find the perfect person! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m always amazed at how frequently I hear about really inept therapists and counselors. It’s rather frightening. I’m sorry these people let you down. They should have been better. I think that there is a severe deficit in the therapy world around truly trauma-informed therapy. Someone with knowledge of the impact of abuse would have understood that the generic “do this and you’ll find happiness” exercises are not so simple for you. Most of the “therapy” I’ve had has also been lacking in this area. I think that if you ever do decide to give it another try, it would be imperative to find someone who really understand the role of trauma on development and coping. Otherwise they will just set you up to “fail” or be “difficult” again, which you are neither.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, after 5 tries, you would think ONE of them would have worked. I agree that for me, I definitely need someone who understands the impact of abuse, and even better, one who can understand psychological blocks – it’s a real thing. Thank you for your response – it’s nice to know that someone does get it!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. First of all, ” I was pretty much a parents’ dream – didn’t get into trouble, not at home or in school, got great grades, loved my parents and didn’t want to ever lose their trust, no drugs or anything like that.” – WOW, you sound like me when I was younger.

    I feel very fortunate to have had (for the most part) good counselors. I need counseling, I’ve grown to rely on it. I hate that others like yourself have had such a tough time with it. And I have too, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been able to find good ones and can trust easier.

    Right now I see a male counselor and he’s phenomenal. I have found therapy to be helpful but since you’ve been hurt it might be harder for you to get the benefits. In my opinion (which is only an opinion), if someone is going to start using psychological testing right away (like ink blots) they are too clinical. I have had a couple counselors give me “tests” and usually they don’t actually listen. My counselor right now lets me come in and I am free to talk about anything (without judgment). I’ve said some god awful things in therapy and he’s never batted an eye (or he’s told me it’s OK to feel that way). And another thing, unless it is actually beneficial, a counselor is not supposed to give you an opinion (like you’re defensive… that’s just bull). A counselor is supposed to function like a mirror in front of you, at times even just parroting back what you say, or tweaking it a bit so you can come up with conclusions for yourself.

    A counselor should also never be fearful of being challenged. Once you delve into issues chances are you will project your feelings onto a counselor (you may genuinely get defensive and that’s OK). A good counselor is going to see through that and understand.

    So, should you try therapy again? I think you should BUT it’s your comfort that matters.

    It’s also possible that if you choose to see a therapist the very first issue you may need to work through is your past experiences with counselors. And if a counselor gets defensive and cannot handle your need to do that then they are not good. I have one counselor in particular who in every possible way violated my boundaries. I still have to go through that with my current counselor and deal with it. And my current counselor is OK with it.

    I hope that helps. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such a wonderful response! I am glad to hear you have found one you like and feel comfortable with. I actually like your idea bout first discussing my issues with therapists. LOL. I look at all the therapists in my area, and their specialties, and it is so hard to choose. I know I would need one that is experienced in abuse, trauma, and PTSD, which has proven a little difficult to find. I think my biggest fear is that they would just find me “difficult” like at the retreat.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My counselor specializes in ptsd but I didn’t see him for that reason. I had no idea. I picked one of the only males I found on my list. I do much better with male therapists.

        Liked by 1 person

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