Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Confronting My Therapist

A little background -- Bill is my husband.  My therapist used to be his therapist.  And even though I have never sworn in a blog post before I swear once in this one.  I tried to find another word to use, but nothing else conveyed the same emotion.  I did try.


Telling the truth to power is difficult.  Telling the truth to anyone can be hard.  Especially if you grew up in a situation where the truth was only appreciated if it was what they wanted to hear.  Otherwise, you'd be punished.

Well, that's the situation I grew up in and today I had to tell my therapist something he might not want to hear.  I had to give him feedback.  There was something he was doing that was counter-productive to my healing.

I was anxious.  But I knew that it was important.  He had done it multiple times and it was a big problem for me.

So today I got to therapy, all geared up and ready to go.  I can do this.  I can do this.  Don't let him start talking about something else.  Dive right it.  Just get it done so we can move on.  I can do this.

Well, he started talking in the hall on the way to his office and by the time we were in the door he already had a review going of my progress.  I went along, wondering how long I could put it off and knowing that it had to be today. 

We spent half an hour reviewing.  Talking about how I'm doing on my regimen and if I feel better and why all of this matters.  It was time well spent.  I covered things I wanted to cover.  But it wasn't what I was dying to say.

As we wrapped up the review he asked what direction I wanted to go today.  He mentioned a few of the things we'd been working on in the past that don't feel finished.

I stopped him.  I told him we could get to that in a minute.  First I needed to address something with him.  I needed to give him some feedback about something that isn't working in our relationship.  Then I asked if he was ready.  He asked if he needed a seatbelt.  I told him no.

I took a deep breath and began.  It went something like this:

"There are going to be times when I need to talk about Bill, to process things.  There are still lots of times he's an ass.  I need to be able to talk about that in order to heal.  Whenever I start to talk about Bill you re-frame what I'm saying so fast that I can't say what I need to say.  Or you say, 'But this is better, right?'  You seem to be defensive when I talk about him.  I don't know if it's because you like him and feel like you need to defend him.  Or if it's because when I tell you he's not doing well you feel like it's an attack on your work because I'm saying he's not cured.  Or if it's because you're both men and you feel like when I say negative things about him it's an attack on men in general.  Whatever it is, it feels like you're defensive.  I shut down and am unable to say the things I need to say."

He said, "Okay."  He pondered for a minute.  Then he asked me if I knew what counter-transference is.  I said I did.  (If you don't, you'll have to look it up - sorry.)  He said counter-transference is not uncommon with therapists and they don't know when they are doing it unless someone points it out to them.  He said that he still didn't recognize it in himself, but that if I'm saying it's happening he needs to believe me.  He's been a therapist long enough to know he doesn't know everything.  Twenty years ago, when he was just starting, he probably would have balked at what I said because he thought he knew it all.  But now when someone says something like that he takes it as truth and tries to fix it.

He told me strategies he would use to try to be aware and stop doing it in the future.  I told him that if it happens again I will tell him to shut up and listen to me.  Or throw the pillow at him.

I told him I'd been nervous about confronting him with it.  He told me it was a good sign of progress that I was willing to stand up for what I needed, especially to a man.  He then told me he knew I would never say anything to hurt him, only to help him or help us do better.  He was right.

This is more evidence that my therapist is a good fit for me.  I trust him.  He's a good man.  I was pretty sure he'd want to know if something he was doing was hurting me.  I was right.

It was a good session.


I wrote about the rest of my session on my other blog -- It Matters When He's Mean.

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Blogger Laura Wells said...

Enjoyed perusing your blog. Your writing is honest, welcoming and not bogged down in details. I love that you confronted your therapist and loved the way he responded. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

May 23, 2012 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Bonnie Atkinson said...

How powerful for both of you. We need the ability to listen and hear when people note something about us that needs improvement. Many people who are teachers or therapists can only deal with correction coming from them - what a healing thing that you both can accept help. What good communication. Thanks for sharing the dialogue.

May 23, 2012 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Student Mommy said...

Good for you!!!!!

May 24, 2012 at 2:23 AM  
Blogger Rubye Jack said...

Counter-transference makes sense. He sounds like a great therapist because he listened to you and then admitted you might have a point and that he would watch himself. Good for you for telling him. I think I would have done the same. I'm so glad you've been able to stick with this guy Robin, and it sounds like it may really be helping.

May 24, 2012 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Frugal in WV said...

I love how honest you are in your posts, I feel as if you could be in the same room talking to me. I'm glad that you found such a great therapist that listened to what you said!

May 25, 2012 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger doseofreality said...

I just so appreciate your honesty. Always. Thank you for sharing yourself and your journey. It is helpful, and I hope you know that. And good for you for standing up for yourself and being empowered. I bet when it was all over, you felt pretty good, right? :)

May 25, 2012 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

Reading a couple posts of yours and I think we need to be friends...5 kids, Mormon (if the 5 kids didn't give it away), depression...yep, we are the same! So excited to get to know you better.

May 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

This post made me smile. I can just picture you asserting yourself by telling him to shut up or throwing the pillow at him. I kind of hope it happens. Good for you... confronting things like this is not one of my strong suits. I tend to hide under the table...literally!

It really does sound like you have found "the right" therapist! That's HUGE!

May 26, 2012 at 5:29 AM  
Anonymous Tanya said...

My mom is a therapist and I know she would want her clients to be honest with her. Good for you. Remember you are paying him! Visiting from SITS.

May 26, 2012 at 6:19 AM  
Blogger Tricia said...

Good for you! So glad it was a good session and that you got to say what you wanted to say.

May 26, 2012 at 6:24 AM  
Blogger Cynthia Hanna said...

Speaking our truth definitely can be hard in some circumstances, but you found a wonderful, positive way to handle it and I love the way you used self-talk and encouragement to get to that space!

May 26, 2012 at 6:36 AM  
Anonymous Melissa Say What? said...

Sounds like a great session and you made tremendous progress! I'm a new follower from SITS, so I'll have to peruse your site a bit to become acquainted with you! Looking forward to it!

May 26, 2012 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

Wow! What determination. I hope you are able to progress and heal now that you tackled that stubbling stone. You are strong.


May 27, 2012 at 12:56 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

Good for you for saying what needed to be said. It is so hard to do. Thanks for stopping by to make my SITS day so fun. xx

May 27, 2012 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger Anitra Elmore said...

Glad you were able to say it. Best to you as you going.

Thanks for visiting me from SITS.

May 27, 2012 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger The Dutch Girl said...

Standing up for yourself is not easy, especially with someone in a powerful position. Good for you.

Thanks for your visit!

May 29, 2012 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Jenn and Casey said...

Good for you! Speaking as a therapist, it's SO SO SO important to speak up when something isn't working for you, because otherwise nothing gets done. Communication is always key :) Great work!!!

May 29, 2012 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Sarah McMurray said...

I LOVE how you write, so authentic, and real. Thanks for sharing!! Visiting from SITS...but I'm also following you now. :)

May 30, 2012 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Running Circles said...

This is huge and I'm so glad to hear that you did it! I hope it gets easier with everyone else.

May 31, 2012 at 3:03 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Wow, good for you for sticking up for yourself! I love the fact that your therapist was willing to reassess how he does things after telling him how you were feeling. He definitely sounds like a great therapist!

June 1, 2012 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger Blond Duck said...

I'm so proud of you for being able to say something! What courage!

June 1, 2012 at 12:05 PM  
Blogger said...

good for you!

June 1, 2012 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Ginny Marie said...

It sounds like you've found the right therapist! That's so cool. When I went to therapy, I never felt very comfortable. I think I needed a new one, but never got that far.

June 1, 2012 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Rachel Cotterill said...

Wow, that must have been a very difficult conversation - I'm glad it went well. I always find things like that hard to do!

June 2, 2012 at 3:50 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I always have the hardest time with confrontation type situations. I avoid it like the plague. :)

I'm glad it worked out for you.

I wish I had a therapist, sometimes. It would be so great to talk to someone and work through issues.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

June 2, 2012 at 11:02 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Oh my totally described one of my sessions! I really don't know where I'd be today without my therapist. She too is a perfect fit for me.
I've enjoyed meeting you through SITS! Thanks for stopping by my place :) Keep up the good work!

June 3, 2012 at 9:06 AM  
Anonymous another jennifer said...

Good for you for speaking up. It sounds like you have a great therapist.

June 3, 2012 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Carolyn said...

Congratulations on having the courage to speak up. It is hard to do sometimes.

June 3, 2012 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Reggie White said...

I must say that I was totally surprised when I got to your blog. Saying that I must say that once I started reading, I was drawn in by your openness. I admire your courage and your perseverance. Stay strong and be blessed.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

June 3, 2012 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Your honesty, simplicity and courage is truly inspiring!

June 4, 2012 at 4:13 AM  
Blogger Laura Day said...

Glad you were able to get the truth out, because, like he said, he wouldn't know he was doing anything wrong otherwise. The rest of your sessions should be much better.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

June 4, 2012 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Eve Stein said...

I just popped in to say hi from SITS... but what an interesting post. I haven't read any of your previous posts to understand what brought you to this situation, but good for you for speaking up - that can be so hard to do in certain tricky situations! And I'm impressed that he was able to take it so well without getting defensive too. ;)

June 4, 2012 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Stephi said...

Well done on facing this. This is a problem that I have had in the past with therapists...they say and do things that were not okay with me yet, I felt afraid to confront them because they were the ones with two or three degrees and years of experience and research. Your post as given me ideas on how to confront this problem in the future :)


June 4, 2012 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Eclipsed said...

How wonderful that you said what you needed to say even though it made you anxious (confrontation makes me nervous too). I'm so glad that he reacted the way that he did, now you can push past it and get down to the healing you need.

And thank you for your kind words on my blog, it's been a difficult time and I always appreciate words from you, friend.

June 4, 2012 at 7:26 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Oh how I understand the fear and anxiety that can go with confronting someone like that. Good for you for taking control of the situation. I’m sure it will be beneficial in the long run - if for no other reason than it shows how incredibly strong and assured you are!

June 5, 2012 at 7:28 PM  
Anonymous Missy said...

Hooooooray! Glad that went well for you. I'm a therapist and would have LOVED that you felt safe enough to confont me. Great, great job!

June 5, 2012 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger Tyler Goodwin said...

Good to hear that your therapist is really helping you out with your problem. And I agree that one thing a therapist must have is the ability, the patience to listen to their patients, regardless of the subject of the conversation. That is the one and only way they can fully understand their patients and their needs.

@Tyler Goodwin

January 3, 2013 at 3:28 PM  

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