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Is this Therapist Right for Me?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From a young woman in the U.S.: I need advice on this subject pretty urgently because I can’t seem to get it out of my mind and it makes me feel like giving up completely. This probably isn’t the place but I don’t know where else to put this …

Most recently I had a bad week and came into my therapy session that I had written down on the calendar , only to be told I wasn’t scheduled that day for an appointment. I wasn’t feeling great anyway day and honestly I could have probably declared an emergency and talked to someone in emergency services…But I decided against that ,since the girl at the counter told me I could wait and see if the next appointment showed up or not and I would see my therapist if they didn’t show . So I waited …while I was waiting really heavy thoughts started getting to me and I kept repeating it was all my fault this happened in my head …it’s always my fault ….i should die … Stuff like that ..I worked myself into a emotional state.

Anyway the appointment never showed so I was able to go into a session …the first thing she said when we sat down was “so did we really have an appointment today or did you just want to see me so you showed up?” Those words to me were confirmation she thought this was my fault too…and it felt like she was verifying everything I was telling myself in my head …so I began to cry … I said between tears that no I had written it on my calendar and I was sure we had an appointment that day . She said that’s fine she must have messed up . But I already felt like an idiot …and I was balling in my therapist’s office in front of her face . She got stern with me “why are you crying I told you it was my fault”

I felt really ashamed and stupid …I told her that my head was telling me it was my fault and it will always be my fault …
She said “that doesn’t make any sense I just told you it was my fault “. And in an effort to make her understand me I told her I didn’t believe her …those might not have been the right words …but it was the only way I could express myself ( I’m not very good with articulating my problems) …

she was offended by this …she told me how was she supposed to help me if I didn’t believe her, how was this supposed to work if I didn’t believe what she was saying …I couldn’t get words out because I was crying so hard and I was such an idiot for crying so hard …I told her that no that wasn’t it I just had a hard time believing it wasn’t my fault just because she said it wasn’t my fault not because I didn’t believe her …. She said “well I don’t take kindly to being called a liar “

I told her but I didn’t call her a liar …but she snapped at me asking if she could talk or am I going to cut her off the whole time… I felt so ashamed of myself …crying and failing to help her understand my feelings …

I withdrew the rest of the session was just as awful …I told her that I was sorry I was worthless because that’s how I felt …and she scoffed and yelled “I’m tired of arguing with you about the same thing”

I’m so confused about this session … I don’t understand is this just me making a big deal out of nothing ? …or if not what should I do I’m the worst at confrontation …and I’m not good at spreading out all my emotional baggage … Just wondering if I could get some advice.

This may be a good example of how tone of voice is just as important as what is said. I have no way of knowing just how the therapist was communicating. Was it as you described? Or were you so upset and in your own head that you “heard” everything she said as an accusation or as minimizing of your feelings?

The most reasonable thing to do is to have another session when you aren’t so upset to try to talk about what happened. Since you have trouble expressing yourself, it may be helpful for you to take your letter and this response along with you to show the therapist. Hopefully, the two of you can explore how the incident at that session relates to how you generally handle your feelings and times when you are in conflict with someone. If you can do that, then the incident was painful but useful to your therapy.

But if the therapist is defensive and discredits your feelings, then maybe you need to ask for a transfer.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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