Choosing and Using a Therapist: Part Two
This SharePost wraps up the focus on therapy that began with choosing and using a therapist.
First I'm going to tell you about my own experiences and then I'll give some objective suggestions. In the fall of 2005 I decided to return to therapy and stayed with a male therapist in my neighborhood for four years. I felt the issues I
took with me to his couch had been resolved.
Also: after awhile, it felt like we covered no new ground. He was fond of saying my ambition was double-edged: I was at once driven and capable of achieving things yet I was also hard on myself and needed to let go.
A simple yet profound comment he made was this: "You are normal. Respect your nature."
Yet while in therapy with him it began to sound like a broken record. I felt I didn't need to keep hearing the same thing nearly every week. Close to two years after ending the sessions I feel I've made progress on the issue that brought me to the therapist's room. Can I say it was the therapeutic relationship that got me to this point? Possibly.
In June I joined a support group instead and Friday I attended the topic meeting about finding a better sense of self. I intend to go there on the nights I can leave work early.
With the recent therapist I ended the sessions with three-weeks of notice. How did I know to end? It wasn't that everything was tied into a bow and pretty right away. The change in my tune took a couple of years to blossom into a beautiful melody. Since ending therapy I took action and that is what you need to do: commit to working on improving yourself throughout your life.
The PsychCentral web site suggested that for mental health concerns like depression, anxiety and bipolar cognitive behavioral approaches work effectively in short amounts of time. See my SharePosts on cognitive therapy part one and cognitive therapy part two for details of my own 10-session mode. After the end of this kind of therapy you might in the future feel the need to go back for a booster session or two. I have decided not to return to that kind of therapy.
Research shows that a lot of people with common mental health issues experience positive results in as little as six to twelve therapy visits, or in two to three months of weekly sessions. In reality, long-term gains and lasting improvement could take six to 12 months.
My recent ex-therapist pointed out for a mental health concern like depression, therapy coupled with medication is the most effective treatment. The role of exercise and daily physical activity is a kind of therapy that needs to be life-long, especially for those of us with schizophrenia.
Some signs it's time to end: you chat with your therapist about the latest movie you saw or other events in your life that have nothing to do with the problem that brought you there. Such "laundry lists" signal a natural point of closure. Yet it is possible the visits will take on a different focus from the original one. This departure is fine if you relate the new topics to your own concerns and your life and how it connects to you emotionally. Discussing the plot of Avatar might not count.
One possibility is that you clash with a new therapist who has a different personality, differs in her way of handling issues or isn't supportive of your needs. You must bring this up early in the next session because it could be time to bow out.
The best way to end ongoing therapy is to set a definite date in the future to end. The last visit could be emotionally draining. You might feel a sense of loss as well as victory. It is not recommended to schedule a follow-up visit two months down the road to check in.
As your life changes and new needs arise, you can always return to therapy then. As for me, I wouldn't go back to the same therapist I saw recently. I would find a new one perhaps a female therapist should it be necessary.
I have one last word of wisdom: talking about things isn't always the solution. Sometimes you need medication. I know a guy who gave therapy his best shot for a long time because he was out of sorts and it didn't seem to benefit him or lead to improvement. He was in a funk for the longest period and it wasn't until his primary care doctor prescribed a low dose of Prozac that he felt better and could name his struggle: depression that no amount of talk alone could cure. Today the black fog in his brain has lifted and he has not returned to that prior level of distress.
As for me: I consider myself a work in progress as we all are as human beings. I kind of have an inside intuition about my future and know I will have to cope with certain changes. I much prefer the status quo and don't like when change is imposed on me; I prefer to be the one to initiate things at my own pace.
So what can I tell you in parting? Standing still is not an option. Therapy can be the catalyst for positive results. Just remember that when you fear exposing yourself to someone else, you need to work through this worry.
As I've said before: in recovery as in life there are no guarantees.
So I've decided that I can't agonize now over something that is yet to happen and might not ever happen, or might turn out a different way from how I expected.
That's okay: I trust the future will take care of itself.
The present moment is the true domain of our happiness.
We must as Ram Dass is quoted: be here now.
Therapy can make our now livable.