My Unfavorable Experiences With Therapists
I was recently talking to my current therapist about my unpleasant experiences with other therapists. It was surprising to me to remember these experiences. Even more surprising is the fact I actually chose to become a therapist myself, considering these unfortunate experiences.
The first therapist I saw was when I was in Grade 7 or 8. I was unhappy with how I looked and wanted to lose some weight. I went to see my family doctor and he recommended I see this therapist. When I went in for my first appointment, I was surprised by how elderly the therapist was. She was probably in her 80s. She had a very gravelly voice, which was low and quiet. She looked small and frail and she never moved from her big chair. She was a hypnotherapist that supported people with diabetes. I don’t remember being explained what hypnotherapy was about or how it would support me. As a minor, I could not give consent, and I don’t remember if my parents ever did. I really don’t remember ever talking about any personal experiences. I just remember doing some hypnotherapy to impart messages into my subconscious to help me not feel hungry and to choose healthy foods. When my eyes were closed during hypnotherapy, they kept fluttering because I wanted to open them to prove I wasn’t hypnotized. I’m not saying that hypnotherapy is not an effective form of therapy, as I have tried it as an adult with beneficial results, but as a 13-14 year old, I thought the whole experience was strange. Did I lose weight? Sure because she put me on a very low-calorie diet that was not sustainable and resulted in a lifetime of yo-yo dieting.
In my 20s, I saw a therapist, who, I believe, was not a licensed psychologist. He was a hypnotherapist. I know, I know. Not really sure how I came to this decision considering my first experience, but there you have it. I was doing really well at the beginning. Probably because I never talked to him about anything too deep. As far as I can remember, we never got into any of my traumatic childhood experiences. I was going through a really rough patch. I was very sad and emotional and started crying in session. He proceeded to say: “What’s wrong with you? You are doing so well. You shouldn’t be emotional.” WTF? Not emotional, are you kidding me? It took a lot for me to open up and be vulnerable, something I had struggled with for fear of being seen as weak. This idiot just invalidated how I felt, re-instilled in me my belief that it’s not okay to show any negative emotions, and reinforced the need for me to create an even greater wall of protection around myself. Needless to say I immediately stopped seeing him.
My final unfortunate experience was when I was seeing an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist. I was hoping to work through the trauma I experienced in childhood and my teenage years. Again, it is surprising to me that I ended up taking EMDR therapy training after this experience, but I know how effective it is. With EMDR you can either use eye movements, tapping, or pulsers that sit in each of your hands. I found out during my training that tapping should be done on the sides of the legs and should be very light and gentle. This therapist used alternate tapping on the top of my knees. She was tapping so hard that it was quite painful and extremely distracting. The EMDR was not effective and, at the time, I thought if this is EMDR, this is crap. She also stated that: “If I don’t heal all my issues around distrust and shame that I’ll never be in a relationship.” Wow, that’s a pretty brass statement to make. I didn’t realize she could see the future as well. She also made another bold statement that she believed I wasn’t really sure about being a psychologist. Since she knew I was a Master of Counselling Psychology student, the final straw was when she talked endlessly in my sessions about the fact she mentored people to help them be successful private practitioners. Oh I’m sorry, is this about me and my traumatic past or about you? And then she had the audacity to charge me for every single minute past the hour.
So why am I telling you my horror stories? How will this help you feel any better about seeing a therapist or finding the right therapist? First, if you have had a therapy experience that wasn’t great, my hope is to normalize that you are not alone. Second, and more importantly, I really want to let you know that the right therapist is out there. Therapy is like dating. You sometimes have to go through a few toads before you find your prince. The point is, there are many types of therapists out there. You may find some that are ineffective or unhelpful or that you just don’t feel connected with. That’s okay. But don’t let that stop you from continuing to seek out someone who can support you. Take my experiences with the therapists above – just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they weren’t effective and supportive and just what somebody else needed. Thankfully, I now have a therapist who is kind, compassionate, supportive, and fits with my beliefs.
So how do you know when you’ve found the right therapist? There are some important factors to consider when searching for your own therapist. Check out Part 2, of this 3-part article to find out.
Want to know if I’m the right therapist for you? Call me at 403-891-1384 for your free 15-minute phone consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!