A tale of two therapists

I debated whether or not to write about this but figured it was worth updating after previous discussions of my previous experience with therapy.

It may be too soon to make an official pronouncement but I saw the new therapist yesterday and my gut instinct based on her background seemed to have been correct.

She was right in all the ways the other one was not, at least in terms of what I’m looking for. After going over the basic terms of what her obligations are (HIPAA, legal issues, etc) she actually interviewed me about my background and took extensive notes. That didn’t happen with my previous therapist and I liked it, so we were already off to a good start.

I was already planning to tell her what I hoped to gain from therapy, which was something I realized I hadn’t done with the previous therapist and should have. But the new therapist asked me what my goals from therapy were before I had to bring it up on my own.

I told her that I’d been doing a lot of work on my own, but that I still was having trouble with coping mechanisms (especially regarding fear) and self-esteem issues. What I really liked is that she’s very solution-focused and used the things I told her about my interests in giving me suggestions for coping mechanisms.

The previous therapist had me down for the same weekly appointment indefinitely until I decided to stop. This therapist said that she typically sees people every week in the beginning, then usually begins to taper off to less-frequent sessions as the client feels ready to do so. I really liked that a lot because it seems more like she wants to give me the tools to manage things on my own, which is exactly what I want.

As another point of contrast, every appointment with the previous therapist had me sobbing as I talked about my problems. Other than the catharsis of crying, I didn’t find that helpful–especially because she then gave me completely inapplicable advice because she didn’t understand my background or interests.

I personally don’t find it helpful to talk about my problems a lot, and that was one of the biggest issues with the friendship I had to end. I certainly can and will talk about my problems at length in a setting where that seems expected, but I find it doesn’t ever help me feel better. That doesn’t mean I’m stuffing down my problems or refusing to deal with them; it’s just a state where I don’t find it helpful to be stuck.

By contrast, I only choked up once and had to blink away tears as I told the new therapist about my husband’s stage IV cancer and how scared I felt. There was no drawn-out sobbing like with the other therapist. I didn’t feel like I had to suppress it; I just didn’t feel like it would have been productive to break down. She did have a box of tissues in her room, but not right on the couch like my other therapist did.

She actually gave me actionable tips at the end of the appointment of small steps I could take before the next appointment, which felt very helpful. I was also surprised that she validated social media as a legitimate source of friendship and support in conjunction with face-to-face contacts, too. She wasn’t trying to strongly push me into being more extroverted than I’m comfortable with.

I’m sure these are just two different approaches to therapy and some people would feel more comfortable with the first therapist’s style. It just wasn’t a good fit for me. And this particular therapist made me think again about the possibility of becoming a therapist myself someday if I need to go back to work full time in the future.

I’m more of a solution-focused type of person so it makes sense that I would want a therapist to help support me in that. And I’m relieved to know that not all therapists have to be the same, because I know that if I were to ever become a therapist, I’d want to be more like the new one I’ve found.

5 Comments

  1. I’m so glad you found a better fit therapist! Yes, there’s a million and one ways to be a therapist and as long as we’re being ethical it’s all to the good. I tend to be a pretty casual therapist and my next door colleague (who I adore) is much more formal. I’m also less structured than she is and do less homework. We refer to each other all of the time because I can usually tell at the first contact with a potential client whether or not we’re going to click or if I think they’d be happier with someone else’s style/modality. If you decide to become a therapist, (which by the way totally lends itself to part-time work — if you do contract work or private practice you can usually make your own hours more or less) you can be whatever kind of therapist you want to be.

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    1. Thanks! I know therapy does lend itself well to part-time work and that’s appealing. I just have to see if I’m allowed to go back to school on disability and I know that part of the program may require full time externships or full time jobs to gain experience.

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      1. No, they require a practicum and an internship but they aren’t full time. It’s X number of hours and most of them are unpaid (I think maybe three people in my program had paid internships). Then once you graduate you have X number of hours to get your independent license but there’s no limit (except you can’t take less than 2 years in Ohio) and that’s paid.

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      2. Sorry, I thought I already replied to this! Thanks for the info. It’s good that the practicums aren’t full time. I don’t know if I’d have to work full time to get my hours to get my license, but it’s good to keep in the back of my mind as a possible option.

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