Discussion in 'Wellness' started by Erie, Aug 21, 2017.

  1. Erie

    Erie Florida AF

    I couldn't find a good thread where the overarching issue of therapy and/or counseling seems to be addressed, but if I missed it definitely feel free to move this!

    I just made an appointment with a therapist for the first time in my life, for next week, and I'm slightly panicking. Mostly just because I've never done this before, and also partially because I am not a "talk it out" kind of person. I'm all about shoving things down and never looking at them again. I'm not sure I want to get into what all's led up to me deciding to do this quite yet (though I am in awe of and impressed with those of you who are so willing and open to share on here, it's helped me a TON in getting to this point) but I wanted to kind of get some input on what to expect, anything I should do ahead of time to mentally prepare, etc.

    What have your experiences been with therapy/counseling? What are things to look out for to know if the therapist is or is not right for you? Just looking for general info on the whole thing based on your experiences.
  2. yesmaster

    yesmaster North of the Boarder

    Make notes before going in! I have a bad habit of making the appointment in a moment when I feel like I really need it, and then by the time I am actually sitting across from her I make believe like everything is fine and I don't know why I am there. Write out what you need to talk about, even just bullet points. If you feel you are clamming up hand over your notes.

    I have seen two different therapists. One was very quick to tell me my anxiety didn't sound all that bad and I clearly had strategies to deal with it already, he ended my appointment just 20 minutes in (it was an hour long slot) by saying that we had covered everything. I didn't know how to argue with him that just because I had done some googling before my appointment did not mean I was fine. I specifically asked for someone else the next time I made an appointment and I really like her. She listens and asks a lot of questions, she gives me homework and talks about known studies that I can look up.
  3. shakespeer

    shakespeer Basic Pirate Lesbian Aesthete

    So, I haven't regularly been in therapy for years, but it was crucial to me at one point in my life and I'll try to give my insights.

    A good therapist is someone who pushes you just beyond what you're comfortable with. It's not helpful if they let you stay in your safe zone, it's not helpful if they start throwing things out there you're unprepared for and make you panic. You should feel able to trust them with anything - not that you're going to tell them your deepest secrets on visit one, but to feel like if you did, they would not be repulsed but work with you toward solutions. It can be helpful to write a list and tell your therapist at the beginning of the appointment, for example, "I have X function coming up and I'm nervous about it because Y and I'd like to explore that further" or "Z thing happened recently and I'm not sure how I feel about it, I'd like to discuss it."

    You don't have to be a "talk it out" kind of person. Therapists understand silence, they'll read when you're uncomfortable.
  4. redredrose

    redredrose Chicken

    Therapy is excellent, but do not be afraid to end a relationship with a therapist if you actually feel like they don't give a shit. Bad therapists are out there, just like in any profession.
    Miss Skunk and MagnificentCat like this.
  5. BigFatGoalie

    BigFatGoalie Chicken

    I had therapy when I was around 13, and I found it very difficult to get started in sessions. I began bringing journal entries and she would read them and start the conversation based on those. It took the pressure off me to get things started. If I ever do therapy again, and I'd like to, I think something similar or at least notes would really help me, and it might be useful for you.
  6. Erie

    Erie Florida AF

    Thanks for all of your input! Great things to keep in mind.
  7. megatron

    megatron Wordsmith

    Here's a few things. Sorry it's long, but I think all are worth mentioning.

    You need to feel like the therapist is someone you can tell anything to. If you are a little uncomfortable (beyond just the nerves of trying therapy) or find you are filtering your thoughts and what you tell the therapist, then it's probably not a good fit. Don't give up - just try to find someone else. There are greatvtherapists out there, but some just aren't a good fit, and that's ok. It's no reflection of you.

    Be open minded. The therapist will help lead you where they think you need to go, but it's also good to provide them with direction and specific items you may want to work on in a given appointment.

    In my experience, a good therapist also recaps your session at the end, and highlights (or asks you) what you've learned or realized that day. It's also good to review anything else you can work on or any other exercises/tasks/coping mechanisms/etc. to try before your next appointment.

    The first appointment is really going to be a "get to know you" and why you are there. You may get some initial feedback or things to work on for next time, but if you don't feel like you achieved much, that's not unusual for a first appointment.

    Your therapist should challenge you. To get through whatever you are dealing with and truly come out the other side, you will have to face the ugliest parts of yourself and your situation. In my experience, this happens in several stages. First you will feel shitty because you have to rehash everything. Then you will start to feel better, after getting it all out and getting some coping mechanisms or tools to start helping yourself. DO NOT stop therapy here, even though you think you feel better. Things will seem better for a while, but you haven't really addressed the root of the issues (been there and it came back to haunt me two years later when my depression/anxiety hit rock bottom and my marriage nearly fell apart for good).

    Things will then get "worse", likely worse than when you started - this is where the hard part happens. You deal with the really ugly shit and have to face the worst parts of yourself and what's happening. But this hard work is where the healing begins and you start to accept and embrace/internalize the learnings that will stick with you going forward.

    Once you have done the hard work, you will begin feeling better again (and eventually much better than you felt initially), but a lot of the work will be ongoing stuff you do on your own to keep yourself on track. You may have little back slides, but for the most part, it's easier to recognize your triggers and the signs in order catch yourself before you slip under again. You can always do some additional follow-up with your therapist if you feel you need to do some periodic check-ins to stay on track.

    Good luck! I have personally had great success with therapy (several individual therapists as well as a couples therapist), and I hope you find the help you need too.
  8. BigFatGoalie

    BigFatGoalie Chicken

    What do you chickens think about men vs women therapists? I don't know which I'd prefer. I tend to prefer male doctors.
  9. I prefer female therapists just due to the sensitive roots of my anxiety and PTSD. I don't trust men so I try to get female doctors and therapists.
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
  10. megatron

    megatron Wordsmith

    I've had success with female therapists personally. The one male therapist I've tried was a couples therapist, but my husband and I didn't like his personality and approach to therapy, so we switched to another therapist (female) who was a much better fit.

    I'm not opposed to either though - it's the personality and therapy approach that's most important to me.
  11. Erie

    Erie Florida AF

    I wouldn't even look at male therapists when trying to find one. I can't see myself opening up to a guy like that. I have a hard time opening up to K even.
  12. Red Cardinal

    Red Cardinal Chicken

    The first time I went to a therapist I just freaked out and cried. And she let me. So, it's okay if that is what happens, or if you just sit there in silence. Listen to yourself and pay attention to how your body is reacting, too. Are you just nervous or is there really something there to indicate this isn't a good fit? It's okay if you want to meet with a few different therapists to see who is the best fit. Don't settle - this is about taking care of you.

    And everything @megatron and @shakespeer said x100.

    I've always felt more comfortable with female therapists.
  13. bluevalentine

    bluevalentine Statler or Waldorf

    I personally feel more comfortable with a female therapist. I think there are so many aspects of the female lived experience that men can try to empathize with, but can never truly understand.
  14. NerdLady

    NerdLady Chicken

    Some key things that made me realize my previous therapists were not working (I'm on my 3rd one as of late):

    They seemed completely disinterested in things I was saying, they offered no feedback and just nodded their way through the session, made some notes, and rushed through it. My last therapist was charging me $150 a session and spent all of 15 minutes with me. They would insinuate that my feelings weren't valid and just told me not to worry about x, y, or z. I had one therapist make me take a quiz and then told me to read a self help book.

    I agree with making notes and taking those. I also tend to bottle everything up and push it down and just don't want to deal with it, so having talking points really helped. I tell my therapist I'm bringing notes with me so if I stop talking, they ask for my notes and will go over things on them with me so I don't feel like it's all me doing the talking.

    You should feel comfortable with a therapist and don't feel bad about dumping one if it's not a good fit.
  15. shakespeer

    shakespeer Basic Pirate Lesbian Aesthete

    My therapist was a woman, my psychiatrist is a man. Only discomfort I felt was that they were my dad's colleagues.
  16. ClamJam

    ClamJam Chicken

    Because I started therapy to address issues related to childbirth and sexism, I felt I needed a female therapist. Otherwise, the gender of my care providers is unimportant to me. For the first few visits, I booked double sessions because one hour was not long enough for me to unload. Good for you for getting started on addressing whatever is troubling you instead of pushing it down!
  17. A. Ham

    A. Ham Chicken

    I only care about the gender of my gynecologist because my old male one didn't give a shit if it hurt or not. But I had a female therapist. I only did a couple of sessions and didn't feel like I needed them anymore, but I don't really think the advice was helpful and if I wanted to continue I think I would have looked into changing. This was when I was living with my parents and she gave me advice like 'Find a corner of the house that is not your bedroom to make your own, and make it into your personal sacred space' blah blah blah. One of the main problems with that was that I was there because I was too stressed to sleep and there was nowhere to go in the house because it was too small and my parents made it clear that everything belonged to them, including my room. So even if you think they mean well I wouldn't be worried about changing if the fit isn't just right.
  18. yesmaster

    yesmaster North of the Boarder

    I have seen 3 therapists in my life. The first was a woman. I was able to open up with her but I found her very quiet. There were a lot of awkward pauses and it was mostly just her asking me questions rather than giving me anything to work with. The second was the man I described up thread. I got the sense he didn't think my "problems" were worth coming to therapy for and he sort of rushed me out. I really like the woman I am with now.

    FWIW my male friend who is going through a really nasty infidelity related divorce right now is seeing a female therapist and he loves her.
  19. redredrose

    redredrose Chicken

    I had a wonderful male therapist in Dallas, and I have a wonderful female therapist in NYC.
  20. Erie

    Erie Florida AF

    So I had my first session tonight. I like her but I'm not sure this will be helpful or useful for me. I have a habit of downplaying everything that could be wrong and I'm doing it with her too.

    Her: "but contracting for the government is stressful right?"
    Me: "sure but [rattle off all the things that make it ok at the end of the day] - really I'm lucky to have a job!"

    This isn't going to get me where I need to be I think. I'm not sure how to open up. I hope it comes with time because I am so uncomfortable talking about myself and my problems or feelings.
    TaterTot and Canaligator like this.
  21. Canaligator

    Canaligator Barbie Police

    I'm glad she's at least asking good questions. It's not shocking that you would not spill to someone you just met. I would give it another couple of sessions before you make a decision.
    fantasynerd likes this.
  22. Erie

    Erie Florida AF

    I definitely will @Canaligator I just realized that if I don't try to be a bit different in my approach to this then I'll just be sabotaging it. I have never ever in my life talked about this stuff with anyone generally. It's so hard for me to discuss emotions in general. We will see, I'm hoping I open up a little.
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  23. BigFatGoalie

    BigFatGoalie Chicken

    Tell her you tend to downplay. It will help her ask the right questions.
  24. Erie

    Erie Florida AF

    Good idea @BigFatGoalie. I'm skipping next week's session but will be going back in two weeks. I'll try to pull together some notes ahead of time. This was definitely more of a "get to know you" thing this first time, but I was already realizing what I was doing.
  25. megatron

    megatron Wordsmith

    Recognizing that you are downplaying this quickly into your sessions is good. I agree, tell her you do that and that you have struggled talking about your feelings and emotions. You could even ask her to not let you off the hook if she suspects you are downplaying your answers, so she'll keep digging and asking questions. If you are used to doing that, it's basically a habit and you aren't just going to stop overnight because you are in therapy. That might even be step one for you because you won't be able to dig into whatever you need to if you aren't able to say it all truthfully or openly.

    The first sessions are pretty introductory, so I would try telling her this at your next session and give it another session or two to decide if the fit isn't right or if your initial feelings are more because of the downplaying you were doing than because you can't open up to her.
    MagnificentCat and Canaligator like this.