In Part One of this Series I talked about how to go about finding a therapist and what qualities to look for in a mental health practitioner. In this article I will discuss what happens when things don't work out exactly as you had hoped for with the relationship you have with your therapist. I personally hope that you have such a wonderful therapist that you don't have to worry about prematurely ending therapy, but things do happen.
I was very fortunate in my early twenties to find a fabulous therapist who was both knowledgeable and skilled in knowing how to treat depression. More specifically he was a good match for my personality and for assisting me with my particular life issues. I had good insurance back then and was able to partake in long term therapy, as in years. Nowadays you are lucky if even the best insurance will cover more than a half a year of sessions. Most of the time you will be paying out of pocket for deductibles as well. So it is all the more imperative that you find someone good. Remember that this is your time and money. Make the best of it!
In later years I used my first therapist as a gage and it seems difficult to find anyone who measures up. The focus nowadays is upon short term therapy and short term methodology. When I was in my late thirties I sought help from a therapist who said his methods included behavioral and cognitive techniques. I am going to call this therapist, "The Green Man" and you will soon know why. I soon found that his techniques were not a match for me and neither was his personality.
One day I came to for a session and found my therapist very interestingly attired. He was dressed all in green. I am not just talking one or two articles of clothing here. I mean his shirt, his pants, his tie, his socks, and yes even his shoes were green. Imagine how hard it would be to find green shoes. And it was not St. Patty's Day. When I asked him about his affection for the color green he grew irritated and defensive. It was then that my gut said that this might not be the right therapist for me. I wanted a therapist, not a leprechaun.
And then there was the fact that he categorized me and my issues without ever getting to know me. I came to him wanting to deal with how to handle my son's diagnosis with autism and also some phobias I had including the fear of driving and he told me that these problems were due to a mid-life crisis. I failed to see any connection.
The "Green Man" was also keen on my dealing with anger. So he told me to buy a notebook and whenever I felt angry, I would write a log during that time of what provoked me. I thought it silly and came into the next session reading from the log, "It makes me irritated that my therapist is giving me ridiculous homework assignments instead of really talking to me." Needless to say that didn't go over so well with him. He also had these peculiar mannerisms of a flourish of his hands when he drawled out, "Sooo how does that make you feeeeeel?" This usually came after I already had told him how I felt about a particular issue. It made me think he was either dense or that he just wasn't listening.
How was I feeling? I was feeling like he was wasting my time!
I lasted for about six to eight sessions before I called to tell him that this was just not working out and I was met with absolutely no resistance whatsoever. I guess I will never know the secret to his mysterious green fetish.
How long should you give therapist to see if they are right for you? I am going to give a rough estimate of five to six sessions. In some instances maybe your gut knows right away but to be fair, give it a little time. That way you can say that you really did try. One thing to know as well is that therapy is not easy. It is hard work. It will bring out emotions you would rather not deal with. There will be a point even in good therapy where you may feel angry at your therapist. These feelings are normal. It is a relationship and in normal relationships people will disagree and there will sometimes be friction.
However, if you feel that your therapist is not listening, is way off base with his or her suggestions and techniques, and you just don't have any connection after more than several weeks it may be time to move on.
Before you go to even one session with a therapist, I feel it is a good idea to have a small interview on the phone. Ask questions that are important to you. Some questions may includ: What are your credentials? How long have you been practicing? Have you helped patients with similar issues as mine? What is your general philosophy regarding therapy? What methods do you use? How long do you generally see people?
Remember that the therapist is working for you. You deserve to have good quality help. Your mental health is of utmost importance. You need someone who is a good match for your personality and issues.
If it is just not working for you, cut your losses and begin again. You are worth it!
I would be most interested to hear your personal stories about therapy. Have you ever had to fire your therapist and why? What are the deal breakers for you with regard to therapy? Share your stories here. We want to hear them!
Published On: January 28, 2009