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What I've Learned From Going To A Lot Of Therapists


For almost as long as I can remember, I’ve been in therapy. I was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) when I was in kindergarten, and from them on it’s just been one long string of diagnoses, therapists, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and any sort of mental health professional that may offer counseling. So I think it’s safe to say I’ve had my fair share of talk therapy.

Therapy is literally so different, all depending on your age (as a kid you get to freaking coloring, reading stories, play with a dollhouse all while an adult tries to slyly ask you questions? No biggie!) and your therapist (man, woman, nice, stern. Therapists and doctors come in all shapes and forms). And as for one who has been in the therapy biz (only, you know, the one being counseled, not the one who is actually doing counseling and has that degree), I think I know a good therapist when I meet one. It just took me a long while to get there.

When I was first diagnosed with OCD, my mom immediately took me to a child psychologist. She was super nice, read me stories about a cute family of bunnies who lived in a tree trunk, and I honestly barely remember anything else about it except for the cute bunny book. So to me, therapy? It was fun!

I was then later sent to a child psychiatrist when my OCD got worse. This doctor not only have an amazing dollhouse to play with, she also had a treasure box filled with cheap toys and trinkets that I could pick out one thing after my appointment. Um, you bet I could sit through those questions while rearranging the dollhouse (the kids before me always messed up the rooms in it. Even as a youngster, I knew how a dollhouse should be set up). Therapy? Still not a big deal.

But as I got older, and new symptoms popped up and new diagnoses were, well, diagnosed, therapy became incredibly difficult. Either working with a particular doctor wouldn’t work out or my insurance wouldn’t cover that doctor, therapy started to get real. I bounced from doctor to therapist, trying to find my way, all the while my mental health issues were at an all time high and as much as I wanted to feel better, the older I got, the more pressure and anger I felt that my parents were pushing me to see people I wasn’t comfortable opening up to. Thus let a long line of therapists and mental health professionals:

I remember seeing a psychiatrist who specialized in Eastern/Indian medicine and determined I had too much Earth and wanted me to take herbs to help alleviate my grounding (you know, to add more Air to my Earth). I remember seeing a male psychologist and lying to his face that I was just fine, because I didn’t trust him one bit (he made my mom cry, so that sealed the deal for me). I once saw a holistic psychiatrist who either wanted to film our session or type the transcript literally as we were having our session, which was very awkward. I even visited a hypnotist once, to help with my extreme phobias. My parents drove me all over, taking me from doctor to health care professional, trying to find one that worked for me. Sometimes they worked for a while. Sometimes we came to a stalemate, and other times, it just didn’t work out. Sometimes it ended with a bang.

The first child psychologist I had when I was first diagnosed ended up treating me as a tween. I confronted quite reasonably and asked her about wanting to change our session from once a week to one every two weeks, and she said no, and proceeded to say I was resisting treatment. I was so hurt by her sudden coldness that I stormed out and never went back. That wouldn’t be the first time I heard that in my life from a therapist. It’s amazing how often a therapist will immediately drop you if “resist treatment.” In the second case, my therapist suggested I do something I didn’t feel comfortable with, and instead of discussing it with me, she immediately threw up her hands, said I was “resisting her,” and recommended I find a new therapist. Literally. Just like that.

Through all of this, I’ve learned a lot about therapists, and about myself too. Number one being:

It takes a while to find a therapist that’s right for you. And even it works out for a while, it may come to an end. Because being in therapy is like being in a relationship, just a very one-sided relationship. Sometimes it works for a while, and then it doesn’t. You change, and therefore sometimes your relationship with your therapist does too. And that’s perfectly okay. It just means you move on to someone else who can work with you for what you’re going through now.

Number two: You have to find a therapist you trust. I tried to trust a lot of mental health care professionals, but being an awkward and embarrassed tween and then a moody teenager who was sick of the constant appointments, it became too much and I just stopped trying. Trusting your therapist is so important. You’re going to be telling them your most intimate, private thoughts and dealing with your delicate emotions and digging deep into your past. That takes trust. Don’t just pick the first therapist you come across who takes your insurance. Shop around, and find one that you click with. It you feel more comfortable with women, go to a female therapist. There’s no shame in it, you just have to do what’s right for you and your mental health.

Number three: Therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors are people too. Sometimes they’re kind and understanding. Other times they’re rude, snobbish, and think they know best. They are the professional, after all. I’ve had to learn that some doctors feel that it’s their way or the highway, and are not going to try to be flexible with their patients. That’s their choice, but I hope that they understand that that might lose them patients. So look out for red flags. If your therapist doesn’t listen to you, talks about themselves, makes you feel bad about yourself, leave. They’re not for you. The therapist I saw before the current therapist I’m seeing now, was tough, abrasive, and I left crying, feeling terrible about myself, after almost every appointment. I didn’t trust her but I tried. It wasn’t until I reached a breaking point that I realized that I could find another therapist who worked for me. The realization was a revelation and it made me realize that I did have a choice in who I had to see.

As for me, after seeing so many therapists, I’ve learned so much about myself. That sometimes, being forced into therapy isn’t the best, but sometimes it’s what was necessary. My parents knew I needed help and did what they thought was best and tried every possible avenue to help me. I just wish that at a young age that I could have been more grateful for the enormous effort they put into caring for my mental health, and tried harder with those therapists, even if it didn’t work out. But in my own way I did try, and as I got older, and my symptoms got even worse, I realized the importance of therapy. It wasn’t until I got my own insurance and realized I needed help, that I looked into finding my own therapist as an adult, that it was all my choice, that I saw how great therapy is. I actually found a therapist that I clicked with and I’ve honestly been working so hard and putting so much effort into my mental health, that I feel that this is the best decision I’ve ever made. And I made it just for me, when I needed it.

Which leads me to the most important part: you need to want to be in therapy for therapy to work for you. You need want to change and feel better and put in the work. You need to try. You can’t half ass it. It will be one of the most grueling experiences of your life, but it’s so worth it.

A lot of therapists led me to believe that therapy will never end, especially the ones who you pay out of pocket to. But my current therapist actually told me that, no, therapy wasn’t a forever thing. You use it when you need help, and then hopefully you won’t need it again unless something else comes up. This was such a revelation to me. I won’t need this forever? No, I hopefully I won’t. But just in case, it will still be there when I need it. And I can’t tell you how hopeful that makes me feel about the work I’m doing in therapy and now, and for my future.

Stay Weird,
Emily



10 comments on "What I've Learned From Going To A Lot Of Therapists"
  1. This is a really great and inspirational post! That's so odd that past therapists would take it so personally if you wanted to step back a little from treatment. I'm glad that you know what makes a good therapist now and that you're on the right path.

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    Replies
    1. Aww thank you!! That means a lot to hear :) Isn't that weird?? I guess it just proves that mental health professionals are human too. I think some of the people I saw had an ego, so maybe that was it. And thanks! I do feel like I'm on the right path, so let's hope I can stay on it and make some progress!

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  2. Amazing post! And really interesting to read your experience too. I've only had two types of therapy for anxiety - CBT which didn't work for me at ALL and then talking therapy with a private counselor who thankfully, I absolutely loved right from the start.

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much!! Isn't it weird what therapy does work and what doesn't?? I think it all depends on the therapist/counselor too. I'm so happy you found a counselor that you love! That relationship is so important. I feel like you can't get better if you don't trust the person who's trying to help you!

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! <3

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  3. This is such a great post, thank you for being so open and honest Emily! Your thoughts are really reassuring as I have had similar experiences. You are so right, different therapists have different styles and not everyone will be the right fit. I had counselling in the past and the style just wasn't for me. But the lady I am seeing at the moment is really helping me feel positive so it seems to be working well. Thank you for sharing your experience and I am glad you have found the right therapist too <3 xx

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

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    Replies
    1. Hi Bexa! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! And thank you! That's such a huge compliment! I've been trying to be more open and honest about my mental health, so I think I thought starting with my blog might be a good way to start :) I'm glad it wasn't just me, then! But I'm so glad you found a therapist who's working for you and is actually HELPING you. That's the key, those two things.

      Thank you again for reading/commenting! You're awesome! <3

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  4. There's so much wisdom in this post. I especially agree that it takes the right therapist to bring about the best therapy. Everyone's different after all, and therapies are a very personal thing. And yes, no one can help us unless we want to help ourselves.

    So happy your current therapist seems decent. I hope the day will come soon, when you no longer need therapies. :)

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    1. Thank you, Julie! It's taken me a long time to come to appreciate therapy but I'm so glad I finally found a therapist who's right for me (at least for right now!). I would highly recommend therapy to anyone who needs it and wants to help themselves. And I hope I won't need it one day either! I'd love a break, to be honest ;) haha!

      Thank you for reading AND commenting!! <3

      Delete

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