Have you or someone you know had a bad experience with therapy or a not so good therapist?
Unfortunately, bad therapists are out there, so I can’t argue that they don’t exist. I also can’t argue the fact that therapy isn’t right for everyone. It’s just not. However, I can argue that if based on one bad experience with a bad therapist or a negative response to a particular style of therapy or therapeutic technique, you decided that there isn’t any merit to the therapeutic process at all – you are using bad logic. Bad therapists doing bad therapy and bad logic used to make bad choices both make me so mad I could kick a baby kitten!
I write quippy humor and blurbs of profanity laced nonsense, but goddammit, it’s mental health month and because I’m also a therapist, I cannot resist the opportunity to write these mash ups about mental health and wellness! I’m sure some of you are counting down the days until mental health month is over so I can get back to distracting you from the shit show that is your life and write and post blogs full of bad words and random, offensive observation. I will. I promise! In the meantime, thank you for humoring me and reading what I write and sharing it with your effed up homies on social media sites.
Psychotherapy: 10 Fibs and Facts by ME
Fib: Therapists don’t really care about anyone. It’s just a job to them.
Fact: We are paid to listen to you, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about you and what you have to say. We could have gone to school to study anything, yet we chose psychology (or social work) and then went on to a careers as professional listeners. Why? We care about people. We believe in the healing power and process of healthy, therapeutic relationships. It’s not just our job, it’s our lifestyle. We are naturally curious, human-loving healers.
Fib: Therapists can’t be trusted. They will tell your secrets.
Fact: We take your privacy very seriously. We consider the space we share to be very sacred and want you to feel safe in that space. That being said, the law requires us to disclose certain things. Your insurance company requires some minimal disclosure in order to approve your treatment. We will violate your confidentiality if you disclose certain things, such as a plan to harm yourself of another person, or if you report child abuse. We will discuss privacy before we chit chat about anything else so that you understand the limits of confidentiality. Once we get that squared away and you understand the boundaries, we will talk about some specifics that apply to your situation. You should expect for this to be an ongoing conversation.
Fib: Therapists think they know everything.
Fact: No, we don’t think we know everything, but we know a lot about the things we do know about, and we do know a lot about helping you help yourself. We went to school and worked hard to learn and practice the skills you see us use in sessions. We are required to receive ongoing education in order to stay licensed and employed. Also, most of us seek professional support and assistance from a colleague or two who we know well and trust implicitly. This is called clinical supervision or clinical consultation. More often than not, we consult with another clinician when feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Holding the pain and privacy of others close to our hearts and minds all the time isn’t easy. We can’t do it well without support, continued education and collaboration, but it’s important that you know that we can do this while maintaining strict confidentiality.
Fib: Therapists don’t really listen.
Fact: We hear your words, all of them. We are also listening to all the things you don’t say with words. Your tone, body language and level of interest and investment in the therapeutic process usually tell us a lot more about you and what is really going on than your words do, especially at the beginning of our time together. We also hear you in the words of others and we hear others when listening to you. The sum of our experiences as therapists and human beings is a part of how we interpret the things you say, and the things you don’t.
Fib: Therapists don’t DO anything to help you.
Fact: When we are not with you, we don’t stop hearing and thinking about what you have said. When you are our client, we spend time away from you considering your unique persona and situation and working for you by gathering resources and tools that we can use during our time together. We work for you by thinking, acting and doing. When we share things with you, know that we have done a lot of work specifically with you in mind.
Fib: Therapists either want to tell you what to do or they won’t tell you anything at all.
Fact: Our job isn’t to tell you what to do or to give you all the answers. Our job is to ask you the right questions and hope that you will provide us with honest answers. It’s actually pretty simple. We ask a question and you answer the question. There are no wrong answers as long as your responses are truthful. We start with conversation and hope for collaboration. We want to provide you with choices based on the information you reveal when answering our questions. We are interpreters, not instructors. We aim to collaborate, not to dictate.
Fib: Therapists expect you to constantly talk and cry about your problems.
Fact: It might or might not take some time for you to feel comfortable being truthful and forthcoming with us. We do not expect you to disclosure of all your secrets and tell us all of your fears. We do expect you to be a consistent, collaborative and cooperative part of the therapeutic process, which does mean engaging in a conversation and setting goals. We share the same goal, which is helping you reach your goals, whatever they happen to be. If you don’t talk, we can’t listen. If we have no information, we can’t help you. Therapy is a collaborative process. Crying and telling secrets are strictly optional.
Fib: Therapy is all psychobabble.
Fact: Yes, there is a lot of talking in therapy, but talking is only a small part of the therapeutic process. Therapy is a lot of doing. You will have homework. You will be given tasks to complete, skills to practice and ideas to consider. Therapy is work. Therapy takes effort and motivation, openness and discipline. Therapy is an activity.
Fib: Therapy often makes problems worse.
Fact: You come to us when you are at your worst, when you have having some significant problems. You want to be better, do better, feel better and act better, yet you haven’t been able to do so on your own. The truth is that things often DO get worse before they get better, but they usually get a lot worse if you don’t at least try to make them better. The hardest part of our job is to not work harder than you, because no matter how hard we work, how much we care and do our part to collaborate, the bulk of the responsibility falls on you to act.
We get paid to provide you with a service that is invaluable, despite its seemingly intangible nature. The goal of therapy is to help you make the best out of the worst types of situations. Therapy gives you the tools and teaches you how to use them. Using these tools is how you develop the life skills and coping skills to tackle the best and the worst life has in store for you. In therapy and through homework, you practice these skills. Or not. That’s up to you. When therapy is over, you incorporate these skills into your everyday life. Or not. That’s up to you as well.
You get out of therapy what you give to the process.
Fact: If you are considering whether therapy is a good option for you, it’s important to separate fib vs. fact so that you can feel informed, empowered and encouraged.
Fib: I fibbed to you about wanting to kick a baby kitten. I have never wanted to kick a baby kitten. No kitten kicking for me. Sorry for fibbing about that. I do get really mad sometimes though. I have felt mad enough that I wanted to kick a combative client. I have yet to do so, and that’s a fact. I’m not sorry about that. I should probably talk to a therapist about this. I know what will make me feel better right now though….
This photo of a kitten in a pile of marshmallows!