Tag Archives: Psychotherapist

You and Your Therapist: Part IIa. Therapy Love, Revisited

Sometimes I feel like there’s a wall between me and my therapist.  And sometimes I wish there were some sort of wall between me and my therapist!  It doesn’t make any sense to me.  And I worry:  does it mean she can’t help me?

It’s making me so uncomfortable!  How do I stop falling in love with my therapist?  It’s making me so uncomfortable! How do I keep my therapist from falling in love with me? 

Sometimes I think I don’t even like my therapist.  Do I have to for therapy to work?  I don’t think my therapist even likes me.  Does she have to for therapy to work? 

I hate it when my therapist is mad at me.   Why does it bother me so much? What do I do?  I hate it when I am mad at my therapist.  Why does it bother me so much?  What do I do?

Questions like these just keep rollin’ in to us here at Feeling Up in Down Times.  In the initial installment of Therapy Love, we addressed those good  (sometimes confusingly so) feelings:  loving your therapist – or wondering if your therapist loves you.  But what about all the uncomfortable negative feelings:  worrying if your therapist secretly hates you – or if you secretly hate your therapist?  Worrying if your therapist is angry with you for not acting on what you’ve supposedly been learning in your therapy.  Worrying if you’re too angry with your therapist for therapy to be helpful.

When you come to trust someone as much as you can the therapist you share so much of yourself with, when you come to trust your therapist “gets” you, you’d think you’d feel comfortable, safe, free to be yourself.  And that is usuallythe case.  But in a cruel twist of fate, it can also mean that whatever negative feelings do come up seem particularly meaningful and important.  And that, in turn, makes it both more uncomfortable to share them with your therapist – and more important to do so.

Maybe those negative feelings are so uncomfortable because the relationship comes to matter so much.  Because therapy love just feels so real, almost like the real thing.  Therapy Love is a real thing, it’s just not the realthing.  Therapy love is a state of heightened emotions in a situation where your every emotion is under a microscope:  one you and your therapist share and look through together.  Or – often and –  a microscope you’re uncomfortable having anyone else look through, especially your therapist.  All in an intimate relationship that looks and feels just enough like a real life relationship to make you wonder:  what’s going on here, and what do I do about it?

You take a deep breath.  You bring it up, into the light of day.  You explore the realm of contradictory feelings, the juxtaposition of loving and hating.  Because the one thing you can count on if you do risk sharing those tough feelings with your therapist  is that you’ll learn an awful lot.  About yourself.  About yourself in relationships. It’s rare to have a dedicated person and place to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly – with the very person you’re feeling those things about, when you’re feeling those things.  Unlike the other people you may love, your therapist doesn’t have any vested interest in the outcome.  Your therapist is working for your insight, in your best interest.  It starts in the relationship between you, but it extends beyond that, way beyond that.

Even with any fears or anger or disappointment.  Even better than any fantasies.  And  that just might be the best thing about Therapy Love.

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

I’ve Hit a Wall. Help!

When I began this blog, I intended to focus on the psychological effects of the economic downturn, and to provide tools for the stress the roiling markets produced.  Who would have guessed just how often I’d get requests for advice on how to manage the therapeutic alliance!  How to get your therapist to like you.  How to get your therapist to love you.  How to leave your therapist.  How to make sure you don’t have to leave your therapist.  How to handle it when your therapist leaves you.

But one of the biggest surprises of all is just how often the search that brings someone to my blog is “How to mess with my therapist’s head.”  I admit I am stymied.  Why in the world would anyone want to do that?  Why spend your money and your time supposedly seeking treatment from a professional when what you really want to do is pull one over on him or her?  Assuming you’re in a bona fide psychotherapy, which you pay for with your hard-earned time, money and commitment to self-disclosure, isn’t it a waste to focus on subterfuge, misleading your therapist, playing games, even vengeance?

Help me out here:  what, exactly, is this all about?  And why are so many people interested in how to do the best job undermining the very therapist they pay to help them?  Any thoughts would be most appreciated.  There’s clearly something here for me to learn!

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

Can’t Be Said Much Better Than This…

Life’s never easy.  We can decide what we want.  (Well,  some of us can;  for others, even knowing what we want is not so easy). 

There’s much we can choose, if we are fortunate.   And we are all, all of us, quite fortunate (even when, on those bad days, we don’t feel that way).  And though there’s no sure-fire path to getting it all, good psychotherapy can help find – and clear – the path to happiness.  Search, question, focus, discipline, know what matters, meditate, learn about and face oneself honestly in the company of a therapist who listens and “gets it”: safe landing, real contentment and true happiness are indeed possible.

Even if there’s no guarantee of getting/having even what we (think we) need.  Even if it’s finding and traveling the path to, not being and staying at some desired destination.

Sometimes therapy’s about listening – both the therapist, and the patient – to the felt need.   Permitting the feelings, the desires, the sense of urgency:  wanting what we want, when we want it.

And then accepting that it is however it is.  And if we share our most private wishes with someone who hears, gets it – and accepts us as we are – well, sometimes, maybe, that’s really as good as it gets.  And it’s quite good enough.

Is it any wonder people fall in love with their therapists?

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash.  All rights reserved.

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.

Reasons to Leave your Therapist, Part I: The Good Experience

Ok. So I lied: not ready to “go fishin'” yet. You see, it’s August, the traditional month most therapists take off (hit a beach on the Cape and you’re apt to see yours in a bathing suit). I, on the other hand, generally stay in the city and see patients. I figure just because most therapists take a break in August, psychological needs and interpersonal issues don’t necessarily.

So here I am, with a lighter load (many of my patients are off for part of August, too), thinking about the process of therapy. What helps, what makes it less effective, and, today especially, how to manage and understand the breaks: illness, vacation, I-think-I-need-to-try-this-alone-for-a-while. And ending therapy.

How in the world do you know when to end therapy? There are a number of scenarios, depending on you, your therapist, and your course of treatment. So let’s start with:

Part I: Leaving a good therapeutic experience. You’ve been in therapy what seems like forever. You look forward to your regular Monday afternoon sessions with Dr. Whoever. You save up stories during the week to share, you note things you need to discuss or get opinions on, you’re comfortable and always enjoy your sessions. You trust your therapist, even like your therapist (except, maybe, for that horrible taste in office furniture). So why in the world would you even think about ending therapy (we call it termination – but since neither of you are not terminating your life, just the therapy, it’s not a word I find myself using…).

If therapy’s gotten too comfortable, and you find yourself sharing views on the markets’ rise or fall, discussing the relative merits of one sort of restaurant (car, clothing line, gardening tip…you get the drift), or inviting your therapist to your son’s middle school graduation, it’s time to reassess. Maybe, hold on, even time to leave your therapist.

What! Leave, just when I’ve gotten comfortable, when I really trust this person?

Yes, leave. Graduate, perhaps. Or switch to another therapist with a fresh take, a different style, maybe even a different approach.

Therapy requires trust, a level of comfort, and communication to be effective. But really useful therapy, the kind that helps you learn about yourself and change, becoming more and more the you you want to be, that kind of therapy starts there, but moves on to so very much more. It’s not enough to get support, to feel understood and accepted. Crucial, but you can do better. And you should.

You should leave your sessions often feeling challenged to think in different ways, uncomfortable because you’ve felt emotions you haven’t in years, awkward because you are trying out new behaviors, angry because you’ve been pushed to confront something you’ve been avoiding, teary-eyed because your therapist ‘got it’. More than comfortable: growing, learning, taking therapy into real life, facing the hard stuff, sharing your fears and taking risks.

If that’s no longer happening in your treatment, bring the subject up in your next session. What have I learned and accomplished so far? What work remains to be done? What are my goals? What issues haven’t we tackled – and why? Do you think you can help me with the next phase, or have we done all we can together?

And then decide. Ending therapy. Ending therapy with this therapist and beginning anew. Getting a consultation. Or just taking a break and giving it some thought; maybe even with the help of the meditation you’ve been practicing.

Part II: The Not So Good Experience to come…stay tuned…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

All Therapy, All the Time…

girl lookingIf your 45 minutes in session is all you’re getting from your therapy experience, it’s one very expensive use of your precious time and money. Too expensive.

You uncover things about yourself during the session, learn new skills and perhaps try out new behaviors. All good. But therapy is meant to be more than just what happens in your therapist’s office. It’s meant to be an ongoing process, a way of thinking and learning about yourself and your connection to the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean the sort of “Woody Allen” therapy you stay in (seemingly) forever. It means you are meant to ponder, to practice, and to let it all penetrate – both within – and outside of – the therapy hour.

On the way to your session (sort of like how you sometimes feel you have begun your vacation the minute you buckle your seat belt?). When something about a habit you’ve had for years somehow feels different. When you notice yourself feeling something in an otherwise ordinary everyday encounter that reminds you of something you’ve been working on in your therapy.

Therapy happens between therapy sessions, just as much as it does during session, perhaps even more. Because it is between sessions that you make your therapist’s brilliant insights your own, drop the particulars you can’t really make your own, and take your own insights out for a test drive. With consequences.

Because therapy is meant to help you make your life work better. It is not meant to be a substitute for, or a place to hide out from, living your life. It’s a way of looking at the world, your way of looking at the world: clarified by information, enriched by insight, enhanced by openness, and uniquely your own. And that takes practice. That is an ongoing practice…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

You and Your Therapist: Part III. On Hating and Loving Your Therapist

This week’s therapy challenge, thanks to all you questioning patients* and potential patients out there: What happens when you not only love your therapist, but you hate her, too? Or when you not only can’t stand her, but you unfortunately find yourself actually listening to her, hearing her voice in your head when you’re not in the therapy session?

Remember your parents? Remember how you thought they were stupid, told them they were stupid, rolled your eyes and didn’t listen to the stupid things they said? And then you found yourself telling your friend, “My father says…” or asking yourself what your mother would think before you made a big decision, or – the worst – acting just like them?

It’s tempting to either love someone or hate them. If you’ve got kids, you know that’s what they do: don’t do or give something they want, and its “I hate you!” Bring home a toy and you get, “Daddy! I love you!” But the truth is that mature relationships are always more complex and contradictory than simply good or bad.

It can hurt, and we really hate, hearing the very things we most need to hear for our own good. And it can be particularly tough hearing it from an authority, or someone whose opinion of you matters to you (even if you wish it didn’t). Kind of like hearing you ought to stop eating junk food or have that colonoscopy or something. But worse. The good, healthy, in our best interest stuff is sometimes the most difficult to face. Because its often about confronting a part of ourselves we don’t much care for, or wish weren’t there at all. Because we don’t want someone whose opinion we care about to see our “bad stuff”. It’s embarassing, shameful maybe. It hurts. And since no one wants to hurt, we tend to protect ourselves automatically: we disagree, we back away, we accuse the other person of not getting us or of ill intent, we get angry.

And so we feel hateful, sometimes even act hateful. We want to “kill the messenger,” lash back, leave treatment. But then we feel guilty: because we really do know – and feel – our therapist’s concern (if you’ve made a connection, she’s trying hard, and she’s any good at all at listening to and understanding you. If you don’t feel that, for the most part, she really is on your side, you ought to seek treatment elsewhere). And sometimes facing the guilt we feel about our own hateful feelings seems too much to bear. So we don’t; we convince ourselves it’s her fault. Or we bolt.

Tempting. Don’t want to hate yourself. Don’t want to face your resentment or anger toward her. Don’t want to accept that love comes packaged with bits of loathing, if you’re honest about it. Tempting, but a huge mistake. This is not the time to put up a wall, retreat, or leave! This is the time when the real work starts: when you tiptoe out onto that trust you’re building together, take a risk, and say what you’re feeling and thinking as if she were really listening and trying to “get it.” This is the time you remember she’s working for you, caring about you, trying to help you. You try to listen as if she were giving you a gift: understanding and accepting the “not so good” parts, a chance to go through the scary stuff with someone else, learn about and accept yourself, come out alive and still be in it together.

She can take it. And she’s not going to punish you for it. The therapist in her will appreciate your courage and honesty and the gift of your trust. Oh, truth be told she’ll hate it a little, too (the human being part of her, that is. No one likes to feel on the wrong side of someone else’s fury). But she’ll get over it. So will you. If you’ve chosen a therapist you feel comfortable enough to be honest with, and uncomfortable enough you know you’re getting to the real issues. If you stick it out together and remember you’re in it for a shared purpose: to help you learn about yourself and become the best version of you possible, out loud and with someone else hanging in, even when they’ve seen the worst (and the best) of you.

Love and hate. Hate and love. What a combo!

* All of whom gave me permission to use their anecdotes – slightly disguised.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.