How Many Therapists Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Only one.

But

That lightbulb

has to be oh so very serious

about wanting to change!

Then again, maybe who your therapist is really does matter, just a bit…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “How Many Therapists Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?

  1. So, how do you know when you’ve exhausted your relationship with your therapist? I wrote to you last year about feeling overly attached to my therapist. That passed, but now I feel like something just isn’t clicking in our sessions anymore. I feel like he, rather than helping me discover the best ways to deal with my problems, just tells me what he thinks I should do. For example (and this is just one of many), today I was discussing my stress over my job. I love my job and my employer, but have many health issues that are making work more difficult. I was discussing how conflicted I feel and he just kept repeating that I shouldn’t quit and that not working wouldn’t do me any favors. I kept trying to explain why I felt like I felt and he just kept telling me that not working would be a poor choice for me. I found myself getting very defensive and I eventually just stopped trying to get my point across because I truly felt that he just wasn’t getting it.

    I don’t know if I should discuss my frustrations with him or just throw in the towel and seek a different therapist. I understand that sometimes the conflicts you have with your therapist are about deeper issues, but is it always that complicated? Is it possible that he’s just no longer the right therapist for me?

  2. When you find your therapist – or yourself – repeating the same thing over and over and over again (I don’t mean telling the same old story, or using the same old phrases. I mean something more like the math teacher who responds to a student who doesn’t understand what’s just been explained by explaining the same thing the very same way, no matter who doesn’t understand what) – well, it just might be time to move on.

    He’s not listening, you’re not really saying what you mean, he’s not getting it, he’s frustrated that you’re not getting it, it almost doesn’t matter. A patient has to have a sense that her therapist “gets her” enough. Not all the time. But often enough. And when the therapist doesn’t get it, the patient needs to feel comfortable enough to say “you just don’t seem to get it,” explain it again in another way, and feel like he’s listening and you’re getting through.

    We therapists are sometimes convinced we know. But if a therapist keeps hammering the same point – whether he’s right and the patient doesn’t want to hear it, or he’s off and can’t seem to understand something important to his patient – the therapeutic alliance becomes frayed. So yes: do tell your therapist about your frustration. And see how he reacts, and how you feel about his reaction. Ask yourself if this seems to be happening more and more, or if it’s an isolated incident, perhaps a particularly touchy point but only one.

    And then listen to yourself. Really listen. You will know the right thing to do.

    Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

  3. Thank you so much for your comments (and your website as a whole… I often look to it for guidance). I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said and I’ve come to the difficult realization that I do need to move on. It’s such a sad feeling. I really do like him, I think he is wise, and he has helped me a great deal over the past year. He most surely saved my life, got me through some very difficult decisions, and guided me through a devastating medical diagnosis. That said, I’m no longer in crisis. I find that the tools he was giving me to get through the crisis phase no longer apply to the long term problems I’m dealing with and I’m just not sure he can even relate to those issues. I guess what it boils down to is that there are certain things I no longer feel I can completely trust him with and, as you said, our relationship has become frayed.

    So now comes the hard part. Telling him. I suppose it’s a bit tacky to just cancel my next appointment and never reschedule? 🙂 Honestly it really intimidates me to have to tell him. What does one say? “Thanks for the help doc, now I’ve got to be movin’ on” or maybe “I just got a new job out of state”… hmm. It’s a terribly sad thing to think about because I will truly miss him, but I can’t see continuing to waste our time (and my money) on something that no longer seems to be working.

    Anyway, I really appreciate the opportunity this site gives me to be able to read your wise counsel and give voice to problems I wouldn’t otherwise be able to express.

  4. Look. It can be uncomfortable, sometimes even frightening, to deliver a difficult message. Particularly so if you imagine it will be ill received, out of the blue. But this is your psychotherapy: one of the very few safe places you are supposed to say what’s real. And in this instance, you have the opportunity to not only say something difficult to the person involved, but to talk about why it’s difficult, what you anticipate/fear happening, what you do and don’t want to convey, how (and why) you’d imagined avoiding the whole thing.

    Don’t! Don’t avoid, don’t sugar coat, don’t lie, don’t do what your fear tells you to do! Take a deep breath, tell your therapist just how valuable your experience has been. Up until ______. And then say you have realized you need to move on, and why. And tell him just how nervous you are to say all this, what you fear, what you wish. If it helps, try using your comments above as a script you precede with a request that he just listen until you are finished because it’s tough for you to get this out.

    Then take another deep breath, get very quiet, and listen. Pay attention to how he responds. How he really responds, not how you imagine he will or fear he won’t. You don’t have to approach this as a confrontation. You needn’t defend some position nor counter anything he says. Talk. Listen. Explain. Ask questions. And do what you need to do for your own best interest. Chances are, he wants what’s best for you, too. Maybe you see that differently, but just maybe you don’t and he will agree. Either way, it’s respectful to tell him how you feel: respectful of him, of yourself and of the process. And it’s apt to give you lots of insight into your anxieties, with someone you have trusted and learned from over the course of a long psychotherapy. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to barrel through your anxiety, share real feelings with someone who knows you rather well (if not completely) and learn about yourself in the process.

    Take a deep breath, remember this is your psychotherapy, and give it a shot. You will be glad you did – and proud of yourself for overcoming your sense of intimidation. Learning more about who you are is an act of courage. Go for it.

    Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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