Saturday, February 05, 2011

Couch Surfing

I've never really understood the concept of therapy. Probably because I'm a repressive, secretive freak of nature. There have definitely been a handful of times in my life when I really should've sought help, but for some reason or another didn't. I've always had this impression that therapy was only for rich eccentrics, so I recently asked a friend of mine who is a big proponent of therapy some questions. I hope you find this as interesting as I did.

What are your general thoughts/experiences regarding therapy?

W&M: What qualities do you look for in a therapist? Education? Good looking? Good furniture?
I think a lot of people are already acquainted with therapy these days.  But, saying that, I know I could have used some advice when choosing a therapist. I think it would have saved me a lot of time (and money). Most people/websites/books are hesitant to say what is right or wrong or best or worst when it comes to therapy because there are many different schools of thought, and different types of therapy work for different people. Some people just want to be listened to in an accepting environment, some want to be told what to do.

I found a therapist through the Psychology Today website. I wanted a woman because I didn't want to be attracted to my therapist or have him be attracted to me. And if a female therapist was attracted to me, I figured they would be better at hiding it and I'd probably never even know. I also wanted to talk about my period all the time (har har). I also sometimes hate men (lol, no but really I do). Then I narrowed it down further by their self-proclaimed specialties."

W&M: How old were you when you saw your first therapist?
I saw my first therapist in my junior year of high school. I had been battling depression since 7th grade and things came to a head when I broke up with my first serious boyfriend. He was even more mentally unstable than I was and the breakup was not amicable. Even though we attended separate high schools, he began dating a girl at my school, which in turn led to an entire year of harassment by this girl and her craaaaaazy friend. Physical threats, verbal abuse, being ostracized by those you thought were your friends, etc. It made my life a living hell, my grades dropped, I skipped a lot of school and the school refused to do anything about it. I begged, demanded actually, that my mother take me to a shrink. She agreed but I saw him only a handful of times and he told me I was fine.

My second try was a woman whom I only saw one time because she spent most of that time asking me repeatedly if I heard voices coming from the TV and if they told me what to do.

My third therapist was nice and let me talk to my heart's content. This was fine for a while, but eventually I realized "Fuck, I am so boring. I have nothing left to say. Why doesn't she say something?" But she wouldn't say anything. I saw her for over a year because I didn't know any better. I thought maybe this is how it's supposed to work. Except it wasn't working. I needed some coping skills besides sarcasm, I needed something in my life to change, I needed someone to give it to me straight.

I'd found this therapist through the Psychology Today website. I wanted a woman because I didn't want to be attracted to my therapist or have him be attracted to me. And if a female therapist was attracted to me, I figured they would be better at hiding it and I'd probably never even know. I also wanted to talk about my period all the time (har har). I also sometimes hate men (lol, no but really I do). Then I narrowed it down further by their self-proclaimed specialties.

I was unhappy with the way my therapy was progressing (it wasn't) and a friend recommended my current therapist and I LOVE her. At the end of the very first session, she'd already come up with a plan of attack. She talked about skills!! She talked about getting my hormone levels tested! She gave me what I'd been craving from my other therapists all this time - she made me feel better after talking with her.

W&M: What do you wear to a session? Comfy clothes? Regular clothes?
It's funny you should ask about clothes because I don't give it much thought, BUT I always put on make up and make myself presentable so my therapist doesn't think my mental health has taken a nosedive when really I'm just being lazy/didn't get enough sleep because I was up all night boning.

W&M: What general themes do you talk about in your sessions?
We talk about FEEEEEEEEEELINGS and try to deconstruct what I'm feeling and why and if what I'm feeling has a basis in reality or not. And if not, we work on getting the tape-loop in my brain to play back more realistic, helpful messages. For instance, my mind says "No one likes me. No one has ever really liked me." Is that true? No. I'm just feeling sorry for myself. Of course people have liked me, and I've even broken some hearts. It goes both ways. 

The reason I have to deconstruct what I'm feeling is not because I'm stupid, but because I've worked so hard for so long to ignore or cover up any real feelings to protect myself from being hurt. Whenever anyone said something hurtful to me, I'd either pretend it didn't happen or pretend I didn't care. Pretend pretend pretend. "Fake it 'til you make it." Or, in my case, fake it until you don't even know what you want out of life or who you even are and you've given yourself horrible self-esteem. Cool, finally something I've been successful at *eye roll*

W&M: Is it difficult to open up to a complete stranger?
It wasn't too difficult opening up to a stranger because I really wanted help. I was desperate for answers. I'd been sad for so long that I would've done anything to stop feeling that way.

W&M: Are there things/secrets you keep from your therapist?
I did once keep the secret from my therapist that I'd gotten back together with a boyfriend. I thought the reconciliation would be short-lived, therefore I would never have to admit I'd been weak and gotten back together with someone whom we'd decided in our sessions wasn't good for me. I was embarrassed. But when he didn't go away after two months, I told her. I felt more stupid for lying than I did about the boyfriend. I was paying her to help me feel better, and then I was going to pretend that I didn't need help? It made no sense. 

W&M: Do you talk mostly about the past or the future?
We talk equally about the past, present and future. What's gone on since our last session, how my mood has been, any realizations I've come to, if I did the "homework" she'd given me. We mostly focus on what made me the way I am and how I can act differently in the future.

W&M: Do you consider your therapist a friend?
I don't really consider my therapist a friend, but my most recent therapist is definitely more "real" to me than the others have been. She's the only one who's ever given me outright advice, and I follow it because I trust her judgment; it's pretty spot-on and her suggestions seem to be working for me so far.

W&M: How long do you anticipate to be in therapy?
Asking how long I plan to be in therapy is like asking how long I plan to be on antidepressants. Forever if it helps me not hate life. Forever unless they come up with something better. Some people like to go once a month or a few times a year, even if they're feeling okay, just to keep them on track. Ideally, the more you go, the better you get. You go once a week at first, and if you feel better you go every other week, then maybe once a month, etc.

W&M: I've always thought therapy was for rich eccentrics, any truth to this?
I definitely think therapy is no longer for rich eccentrics. With the popularity of Oprah, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew, etc., it's much more accepted in society these days. Kind of like online dating ;-) Couples go for relationship counseling, entire families go together, people go for eating disorders, drug addiction, depression, ADD, you name it.


  1. This is really interesting.
    I'm a little obsessed with therapy.

  2. Therapy is the BEST. No really.

  3. I think all kids should have a therapy account and a college account.
    I know I needed both!

  4. amanda is right. it is the BEST. i haven't been since my mid twenties, but i went for many years. it's nice to a) get an unbiased opinion because let's face it, your friends and family will NEVER give you an unbiased opinion, and b) learn to handle situations in your life more logically vs. emotionally. in most cases now, i can look at a problem i have and really dissect it for what it is and not let "crazy celia" get all wrapped up in it.

  5. As someone who is almost done with grad school to become a therapist, I highly recommend it. With the right fit, it can work wonders. Never settle if it doesn't feel right though. You rarely meet your soul mate on the first try, and the same goes for your ideal therapist.

    I'm in school for my MSW, after taking my exam I'll have my LSW, and after I get my clinical hours I'll have my LCSW. I know I may be biased, but I truly believe that social workers make the best therapists. Their training and approach is very comprehensive and well-rounded. I also respect MFTs, but their degree is limiting.

    Look for me on the Psychology Today website in a couple of years ;)


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