Well That Was Terrible

Today’s session was terrible.

I don’t regret going, or asking for it back, but it was awful. I knew it would be. I had no delusions about this being a wonderful hour where we were attuned and I’d leave feeling all warm and emotionally validated.

I was angry with her and I told her as much. I told her I thought it was a poor choice to bring up my decision to cancel Monday’s session for a doctor’s appointment during a very short phone call. I was not prepared for that. I thought we would just touch base to acknowledge an email I did not send and to center ourselves a bit before we met again. 

When she brought up the cancellation, I just started to panic. I stumbled over my words, trying to justify my decision in the little time I had to do so. So, to me, bringing up something so important when we didn’t have time to process it was unfair. It left me completely alone with all of those panicked emotions.

I also told her that I didn’t even have to explain myself. I can cancel a session! I didn’t have to tell her it was for a psychiatric consult. I don’t even have to tell her I’m seeing a psychiatrist at all. I am allowed to do things in my life without narrating them to her.

She said it seemed like I had a lot of shame around her bringing up my cancellation. I told her I do have shame around it, but I also feel that her insinuation that I’m somehow not conscientious of scheduling seemed highly misrepresentative of how I’ve historically conducted myself within this space. I said,

“In 90 sessions, I’ve cancelled ONE time…”

She cut in, “Twice.”

“When else did I cancel?!”

“For another psychiatrist’s appointment.”

“No. I rescheduled that. I’ve only ever rescheduled my sessions.”

“Well rescheduling is not ideal, either.”

I could have started screaming.

I did actually raise my voice at this point because I felt so angry that she was now telling me that it’s not okay for me to even reschedule my sessions. I just started yelling. I told her that I have a crazy busy schedule and she knows it. She said that she does know that and she’s been very accommodating around my school schedule.

I said, “This is such bullshit. It is so hard for me to fit everything into each week. But THIS is always my priority! With the exception of the hours I literally have to be in a classroom, this is what comes first. I fill-in everything else around it. But I do have other things to do! I have to somehow fit in physical therapy twice a week and sometimes things just come up that coincide with our session time. So then I have to make a choice and, if at all possible, I ALWAYS choose this.”

She said something about how she knows I do my best and that I’m thoughtful of being able to come to session, but she also thinks it’s less than ideal for me to be canceling or rescheduling sessions.

“Less than ideal? What does that even mean?”

She just looked at me like I was being a petulant child, but I was being serious. There’s a LOT of space that falls under less than ideal and I need to know what exactly that means. Does it mean she’s a little disappointed? Does it mean she’s angry? Does it mean she’ll throw my ass on the curb if I keep changing session times?!

She didn’t answer me.

I told her I felt a ton of added pressure now because my schedule will always mean that I have to move appointments around, so if I can’t do that, this is definitely not going to work. She said,

“I know that you have a hectic schedule, but when we moved to three sessions a week, you made a commitment to that.”

Whatever. I don’t even understand what the fuck is happening anymore. I can’t imagine any way that I’ve veered from my commitment to therapy. It’s something I put tremendous time, energy, effort, and money into. I don’t “half-ass” anything and therapy is no exception. I was so offended by her suggestion that I am balking at my commitment that I nearly walked out of the room.

At some point she said that she could tell I was having a very intense reaction to the idea that I’d somehow done something wrong or disappointed her:

“I’m not disappointed in you. You did nothing wrong. But I get the sense that this experience of imagining you disappointed me is just horrible for you; it’s so painful and crushing. It’s this feeling of being brutally punished or annihilated.”

I nodded and said, “Yeah, but I am the one who has to feel that way.”

“Yes, but we all have our things to deal with.”

That comment did make me get up and walk out of the room. I got some water to give us both a little break.

Later on in the session, she was again reflecting back some of how painful this experience is for me. My response?

“Yes, but we all have our things to deal with.”

She threw her hands up. She couldn’t understand why I’d said that. I explained that when I’d reacted to her empathy by stating that what she had just described were MY feelings, she’d decided to reminded me that EVERYONE has difficult feelings. So when she offered me more empathy, my reaction the second time was to say to myself, ‘You’re not special. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Everyone has things to deal with, not just you.’

She said she was angry. I asked her why and she said,

“Because I feel like my hands are tied; there’s nothing that you want to hear today; nothing I say will be the right thing.”

“Well I guess we are feeling the exact same way then.”

She asked me why I jump so far when she sets parameters:

“When I change the parameters on phone contact, that means ‘never call me’. When I bring up the canceling and rescheduling, that means ‘never cancel. never reschedule.’ Why do things have to be like this for you? What is that about?”

“That is just what I hear you saying. I’m sorry. I can’t be in a different space about this right now. It doesn’t matter what you say, I cannot think anything else. I can only feel today.”

“Well that is a good start. I am not changing parameters or bringing things up to punish you. I get the sense that you feel like you’re being punished in some way, but you’re not. I am doing that because it is my job to hold this space. I know that you are always working to keep boundaries and maintain the space. You are very conscientious around this. But I am trying to take some of that from you; you don’t have to be the one to make sure that this space is kept safe and that you’re not crossing some undefined line.”

I don’t think I even know what that means. How could I ever possibly trust her to hold this space? How can I trust myself? Trust that I’m interpreting things correctly? For example, with the rescheduling: I thought that was okay, but apparently it’s not. I didn’t know that!

At the end of session she told me that she knew it was a difficult hour and that it felt terrible, but that she still believed there was a lot of work to be done in this particular space that we’re in. It just might take some time to find our way back to each other.

I certainly fucking hope so.

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39 thoughts on “Well That Was Terrible

  1. Karen Beth Courcy says:

    WOW is all I can say! WOW … I felt angry reading this, I can’t imagine how YOU felt! I don’t mean to be mean but how she acted was VERY unprofessional! I could NEVER in a million years even imagine my therapist being that crass about a reschedule or a cancellation .. in fact he would have sat down and said “so tell me more about that, and lets make this so that you are comfortable with the time and change” NEVER EVER should a therapist act the way she did about this …. she is damaging your sense of self instead of being gentle and caring about the situation. She should have owed her wrongness in this and been gentle about your feelings around this.

    I would never put up with this kind of behavior from a therapist .. therapist are not in control of clients, its actually the client who runs the show in therapy, we are captains of our own healing.

    I am just shocked at the unprofessional-ism of how she handled this. I am SO sorry you had to go through this today.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Grainne says:

    Forgive me for playing devils advocate here, but I wonder if she is having trouble determining when you are consciously cancelling a session and when an alter is coming up to try to protect you so is making excuses to cancel? You recently cancelled a session without consciously realizing it…maybe she’s trying to ensure you get the continuity you need by being forthright about it? I agree she could have used different words to explain it but I wonder if her upset is coming from a place where she’s feeling like you’re taking advantage or if she’s coming from a place where she’s trying to make sure you are getting what you need from her. She seems quite aware of the failings of your last therapist and quite determined not to repeat them.

    I just mean that sometimes people mean well but say it all wrong. You know?

    Maybe I’m in left field here. Just thought I’d offer another perspective.

    Liked by 3 people

    • jaklumen says:

      Just wanted to quickly know that your reasoning makes sense to me.

      Andi knows I feel fortunate about my latest counselor, of course… I waded through a lot of backdoors for this particular arrangement. But oh yeah, I can relate- I remember cancelling appointments or arriving late with a LOT of therapists, rather than telling them I was thoroughly dissatisfied. 30 years of crap, and all that.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Yeah, I definitely think she’s struggling to make sense out of all of this. It IS the first time this has happened in such an explicit manner, so she may just be unsure of exactly how to proceed. So, yes, I think that her actions, intentions, and my interpretations are all clashing right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. littlevoicetalks says:

    I understand the hurt and outrage and what this brings up for you. I’ve experienced similar sessions for sure. But I really believe she was coming from a position of ‘Team Andi’. She clearly wants the absolute best for you and people only get angry when they care. If she didn’t give a rat’s ass, she would’ve been indifferent and completely non-plussed. I also think her honesty shows you how rich your relationship is.

    Therapeutic relationships are unbelievably intense because of the back catalogue of trauma we bring to the sessions and the micronising of our emotions, actions and reactions. Whilst she was outta line saying about other people having shit to deal with, she is human too and might be suffering on some level herself. Not professional but things do happen in the moment, she may be a therapist but she’s not perfect. At this point I would urge you to think on all the truly valuable work you’ve done thus far because it certainly shouldn’t get tainted by a session like this one.

    I think there is a lot of learning to be had here, a lot of unlocking the hurt in you and setting it free. Your relationship will be stronger if you can move through it.

    I’m not trying to upset you, I just think she’s actually got your back but the way the session went has told you the opposite.

    Hang in there. Xxx

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Cat's Meow says:

    This sounds like it had to have been a bewildering and incredibly challenging session.

    From something that you said in there, it sounds like she doesn’t mean that she thinks that you can’t ever cancel a session, but it definitely sounds like exactly what she means is getting completely lost in translation. I certainly know that I have experienced times when what my therapist and I are dealing with is so challenging that I literally cannot make sense of her sentences. It took me awhile to realize that I wasn’t processing what she was saying though and at first I thought that she said what I expected her to say. She was trying to help me understand the importance of not allowing myself to so thoroughly be drawn into the memories and the experiences that my parts hold, but I always heard it as, “you’re doing something wrong by trying to connect with the parts, you should abandon them.” She actually was trying to communicate that I could better take care of the parts if I remained better grounded in the now, myself. The way that it was playing out, though, it felt like she kept on contradicting herself as to what it was ok for me to do or not do. I don’t know if anything like this (communication wise) could be contributing to what is going on for you.

    I also know that there have been other times when I am convinced that my therapist simply did not say what she intended and what came out of her mouth sounded the opposite (or at least very different) to what she intended. She of course remembers the intention of what she said, so she had to learn to not worry about defending what she “said” but to instead move forward from there to establishing a clearer understanding.

    Whatever is going on, it sounds terribly stressful and painful to deal with. At least it sounds like you now have a therapist who understands that despite how uncomfortable this might be for her, it’s a part of the work that you need to do. Hopefully she has good supervision (or a good supervision group) that will help her to keep that perspective when the going is tough. Remember, it’s her job to take care of herself and despite what you have previously been taught, taking care of herself doesn’t need to mean screwing you over.

    Wishing you some bits of peace in the coming days.

    Liked by 2 people

    • La Quemada says:

      I think this is some of what I have been experiencing with my own therapist lately — I’m not hearing what she thinks she is saying. Otherwise I can’t really explain why we are struggling now when she’s been great for so long. I don’t know Andi’s therapist and what she is thinking. The “we all have things to deal with” comment would have shut me down for sure. I presume it bubbled up out of frustration or something in her own life, because it seems so off-base. In the past, she has seemed to be solid, reliable and caring. I hope the relationship can come back to a more peaceful place.

      Sending you hugs, Andi.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Andi says:

        Yes, that is very much part of what’s been going on with me recently. I am really struggling to her and truly understand what she’s saying. That specific comment probably came from her frustration because she’s constantly trying to align herself with me so that I feel less alone and I stubbornly refuse to allow that. Thanks for the hugs.

        Like

    • Andi says:

      I am honestly not sure what she’s saying, so I think what happens is that I just start interpreting and I am wrong. She tries to course-correct me, but at that point I’m so stuck in whatever place I thought she was going that it’s really hard for me to hear anything else. I think we’ve both been struggling to articulate ourselves lately and that’s caused a lot of tension. I believe she has good supervision (or at least that’s what I tell myself). Thanks for the support

      Like

  5. jaklumen says:

    GAH! This would really piss me off too, Andi.

    Both Cimmorene (@wavemistress) & I are seeing our therapists later today. (Our kids are getting started this afternoon, too!) If we could give you our experiences (mine is #DBT focused, and Cimmy’s is an art therapist), we would. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but is your therapist informed of the DBT approach? If she is, she wouldn’t pull this bullshit– of that I am certain.

    Hugs, if you wish, to you, and Julia too. I will tweet some stuff your way about how things are going with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Jak. My therapist is aware of DBT but she is primarily a psychodynamic psychotherapist who uses a relational approach. She references the concepts of CBT and DBT, but I prefer a less skills-based approach in individual therapy. It works very well in a group setting though. I’m not really sure she’s pulling bullshit as much as that she’s trying to navigate a situation that is very tricky and challenging to track with. But, over time, we’ll both hopefully become more adept at this.

      Thanks for the support 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. SassaFrassTheFeisty says:

    Dislike the frustration and anger you felt. I am appalled at her lack of professionalism regarding scheduling conflicts and that you ARE committed to you therapy. She seemed so dismissive about it and made it about her not you. Ugh. Just U G H! {Hugs}

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rachel says:

    Hi Andi, I’m sorry it was so terrible. I’m torn between wanting to validate your emotional experience of this whole situation, and offering my interpretations and judgments of your therapist’s behavior. Any judgment or observation I make is with the intention of offering you support and validation. I hesitate to make speculations, because they are just that – speculations. I’m having a hard time making logical sense of her responses and comments to you. “We all have things to deal with” and questioning you missing ONE session just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m wondering if she has inflated her own sense of importance here; getting caught in being your ‘savior’ in a sense, so feeling slighted that you would consider placing anything above her. Or, in being so accommodating to you, expecting that you wouldn’t ever place anything above her. This dynamic and her (uncalled for, in my opinion) response and guilting to you reminds me of that post you wrote about your (non-bio) mom getting upset with you for not wanting her friend to stay at your house. It sounds to me as if your therapist didn’t check her own feelings before opening her mouth. I don’t really care why she is feeling a certain way; it is her job to hold that in, deal with her own shit, and not bring it into your therapy. You did nothing wrong, and I am disappointed if that is the case. I am disappointed that you would walk away feeling you did anything wrong, or she was upset. I may be off base. I don’t know, I couldn’t respond last night because it just doesn’t make sense. Hang in there, and keep advocating for yourself. I know it is hard to counter what they say, but you’re not wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Rachel, it really was terrible. I appreciate your ambivalence in regards to commenting. I do think it’s tricky territory and I’m still stumbling to figure it all out myself. I honestly did get the sense that she was somehow personally offended by my audacity to cancel. I don’t know what that’s about, but it does irk me. I don’t owe her anything. And although I think she knows that in general, I feel something else coming through from her, which is triggering me somehow. I don’t know how we’re going to get through this, but I’ll keep showing up and hopefully things will become more clear.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel says:

        I bet, it was terrible enough just reading about it. I trust your perception and intuition entirely. And you certainly don’t owe her anything; explanation or priority or whatever else. Hang in there. We are all supporting you. xx

        Like

  8. Anxious Mom says:

    This post really pissed me off. She seems like such a good therapist in many ways, but her communication can be downright terrible at times. Again, I get the feeling that she is creating issues herself and is intentionally being combative. And, again, when you throw her own logic in her face, the very logic that unnecessarily made you feel shame, she goes off on “well, there’s nothing I can say to you” when she’s creating the problem to begin with.

    I don’t know what her deal is (and I think it’s shitty that you should have to pay for dealing with what are clearly her issues instead of working through your own), but she needs to focus on the work instead of taking you to task over what should be, IMO, non-issues.

    Big ((hugs)) to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks for the big hugs, I certainly need them. I don’t know what her deal is, either. I’m not sure I’ll ever know. My hope is that we’ll be able to work through this rupture and maybe it won’t matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. kat says:

    id have walked out the first time you felt like it. i would have just left, walked, called someone, but i would not have stayed past that point. i am impressed with you for being able to stay in control and continue with the session. i hope this therapist starts working more on the past issues that have lead you here today, instead of focusing on issues from your current life (like cancellations, etc.). good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ellen says:

    I wonder if when she says she has your back, and you don’t have to worry about holding the boundaries because she will do that, I wonder if she means she will speak up if she thinks there’s a boundary issue? Instead of not saying anything, but secretly getting madder and madder? So if she says nothing, you know – oh, the boundaries are fine, everything is good? Sometimes that kind of forthrightness is helpful.

    On the other hand, I find her feelings about your missing one session odd. I guess I’m just going by my own T – as long as I give 24 hours notice, he’s absolutely fine with my cancelling a session. I guess, unless he thought I was cancelling to avoid something.

    It does seem good you discussed this, even though it was difficult.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      I didn’t think about that, but I think you’re probably right. It’s very hard for me to see it from that angle, because it’s so triggering for me, but I can see what you mean. I’m still not sure why she had such a strong reaction to the one cancellation and hopefully we can talk more about that. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. e.Nice says:

    sorry that does sound terrible. But I think you handled yourself really well, able to communicate what was going on to her. I think she is right that there is work to be done in this space. That disconnect is awful though. I’m glad you are able to speak up for yourself and call it like you see it because that can open real, if frustrating, dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Amb says:

    That sounded really freaking terrible. I definitely think it was one of those sessions that just had no win-for either of you. Maybe the fact that it had no win means that it was supposed to happen, though. I don’t know what good came out of it, but perhaps you’ll realize it in the future. I have faith that you can both pull back out of this. You’ve done so much good work and you deserve someone that seems committed to you, which she does. I wish it hadn’t happened like that, because it was horrible and I still think that she was a bit harsh about the cancellation. Sending you tons of hugs and support!!

    Liked by 1 person

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