I knew that it was time to find a new doctor after she suggested I lie to my ex-boyfriend (I didn't even want to get back together with him) and say that I was pregnant. Even in my crazy, unstable state of mind — I knew that this was not the advice that seemed helpful.
I've had just about as many psychologists, shrinks and guidance counselors as I have had sexual partners … and all I'll say to that is: I've had more than four and less than 70. Finding a good professional that you can talk it out with is seriously like finding a good hairdresser. The first few times you see them, they want to do their best; it's that honeymoon period of excitement. Both parties want it to work out. They want to make you happy and keep you coming back for more.
Once they've got you reeled in, they might starting getting a little too comfortable and push the limits — (you know, like chopping an extra five inches off of your hair because THEY think it's best for you). Usually one of two things happen: You live happily ever after with your shrink and keep seeing them. OR, things start to get not so nice after they've had a few months to gain your trust and suck you in.
It can be easy to confuse someone being a dickwad with a professional attempting to give you a dose of tough love and reality that you're paying to hear. However the delivery and in the manner which the therapist chooses to do so, can make all of the difference.
I started seeing Dr. S about 3 ½ years ago when I was in the midst of my alcoholism. At first she was nice and gave me a student rate of $50 an hour, and offered me cookies! Then one day she suddenly told me that my rate had gone up to $75 and expected me to fork over the extra cash right then and there (no snacks at that session).
She watched me struggle as I rummaged through my pocketbook for singles and loose change to pay for the sudden price increase, and even suggested that I go to an ATM if I was short on cash. So NOT cool Dr. S!
Our sessions got shorter and shorter. Ending 20 to 30 minutes early. Throughout this whole ordeal it became very obvious to me that Dr. S did not like me. She would scold me for having a water bottle on her couch. If my cell phone rang, she'd get angry at me … but if HER phone rang, she could answer it.
I started rebelling by saying that if my phone rang I could answer it because I was paying to be there and it was MY time. She didn't like that … but I was right.
If you leave your therapy session more upset than when you come in, that's a pretty good sign that your doctor is a douche. A good therapist will make sure you've calmed down so when you walk out the door you won't feel like jumping off of the Empire State Building. And many times, I felt just that lousy after spending a hellacious hour-or less-with Dr. S.
Things came to a head when Dr. S decided to use her time with me as her lunch break. Granted, she did offer me some potato chips from time to time…but still, NOT cool. She also started imposing her personal beliefs on me and became quite judgmental. As soon as she started going off about her adamant annoyance with homosexuality, I knew that maybe it was time to say adios.
This also happened around the time she yelled at me, "You're an alcoholic and you need help!" Words I didn't like to hear, but because of that statement which was so bold, harsh and made me cry, I DID check myself into a program which saved my life. It only took a week of me sobering up to realize that I didn't have to put up with her anymore.
This is what I emailed to her: "Dr. S, Thank you for your time with me. I have decided to take a different direction in how I will approach therapy from now on as I enter sobriety. Best of luck to you." (Feel free to copy and paste if you'd like to send this to your shrink you'd like to fire!)
Dr. S wrote back a simple. "OK. Good luck."
Of course I wanted her to fight for me to stick with her, but by then I knew we didn't like each other. The poor woman really must've needed that extra $75 I gave her each week.
I then started seeing an extremely sweet soft-spoken woman, Dr. A. She told me that she didn't usually work with patients, but evaluated them and placed them with other doctors. In this case, however, she would personally take me on.
Dr. A would make me lay on a couch with a piece of paper over a pillow, in a very bland medicinal room with muted Van Gogh art prints and several boxes of Kleenex. I didn't like laying down. She asked why. She asked "Why" a lot.
I spent our sessions doing all of the talking, spilling my guts out, working myself up into a frenzy, and when it was time to leave, I'd be frustrated. After working with Dr. A for about a month, I realized I liked her a lot as a person, but as a medical professional it just wasn't working. I made the dreaded phone call. "
Hi Dr. A, I don't think I'm going to be able to see you anymore."
"It's just not working for me, and I really wish it was, but it's not helping and I'm not feeling any change in my progress."
"Well, maybe we should talk about it," she said.
"No, I don't want to talk about it because I know that I'm done, and I really am sorry because I think you're a great person, but this isn't working for me and what I need in my life right now."
I heard in her voice that she really was disappointed, but she wasn't going to force me to do anything I didn't want to do. We hung up. I cried. Dr. A was the sweetest therapist ever, but when it came down to it, it wasn't working. If I had her number now, I'd call her and thank her for being a sweetheart.
Now I'm working with a therapist on an as-needed basis. He doesn't force me to come in. If he pisses me off, I tell him, but that's usually because he's telling me something that I need to hear and work on. He gives me a dose of tough love if and when I need it.
Therapists WILL tell you things about yourself that you won't like to hear, but part of therapy is being willing and open to change. Once a therapist personally attacks you, purposely forces you to dwell on something that is traumatic and that you're not ready to deal with yet, imposes and tries to force their personal beliefs on you…that's when there is a problem. Therapy isn't always fun, but it shouldn't be something you dread and walk out of feeling less than.
The most important thing to realize about working with any therapist? They are working for YOU on your dime! And if something doesn't feel kosher about your situation with them, it's your right to cut the cord and find help elsewhere. After all, it's your life.
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