Therapy Recap Times Two

First I saw Art T this morning, and I had last seen her Wednesday, then left for a road trip with my daughter on Thursday to take her back to school, and didn’t get back until last night. So I talked about how nice the trip was and how great it was to be with my daughter, and we laughed and talked, and it was good. Art T asked me questions about my daughter, and asked if my daughter knows me well. That was a good discussion, but at one point she asked what do I think my daughter would think about me if she knew about my issues. I quickly changed the subject, I was getting emotional and didn’t want to go there.

Then I told her I was going to see J in the afternoon and we spent the rest of the time talking about that, and what I would like to have happen, and what I want to tell him, etc. It was a good discussion.

I was very anxious about seeing J. I was meeting with him for an hour and a half, since I asked for a double session, and I had been so confident about what I wanted to say, but when the time actually came, I wasn’t sure I could say it.

It was nice to see him, and nothing in his office was changed. I did forget to look at the bookshelf to see if my box and my rock were still there, and he didn’t say anything about it. It has been almost 6 months since I last saw him. I told him that I wrote him emails, but he didn’t get them because I didn’t send them. And that I had two directions that I wanted to go in during the session.

So I started out telling him what had been going on in my life, and the problems with my husband and our financial stuff, and selling our house, etc. That lasted an hour, and it was a really good discussion, because J is good at problem solving, and he didn’t defend my husband like he had in the past. He definitely thinks there is a gambling problem going on, and he knew my marriage wasn’t great before, but it wasn’t terrible so there was really no reason to leave, but now things have changed and I have to decide what to do. We talked about addictions, and I asked him if he had been to rehab, something I always wondered. He said he had been twice, once in college when he partied a lot, and rehab didn’t work because he thought it was a just a physical thing. But the second time he went he understood that he had to deal with all of that feelings stuff, and that made his rehab successful. I told him that I didn’t picture him partying in college, and he said that I knew about his drug problem. But I thought he was addicted to pain killers from an old football injury, and he said it started in college, since he was in pharmacy school he had easy access to the drugs.

Anyway….the conversation about my life lasted an hour and then I asked if we could go in the other direction. I started by saying that every time I would see him, for 4 years, I was anxious. And I thought about therapy all the time, and analyzed everything, and ruminated, etc. He said that he knew that. I said when the break first started I was feeling great about it, like a weight lifted from my shoulders.

I asked why did I keep coming back? I said that I rarely felt better after a session, even though he said his other clients did, and I always felt the need to explain more which is why I sent emails. And that I was totally shut off from emotion and felt like I was reporting.

I brought up the old thing about how he intimates me, and I know he doesn’t like to talk about it, but it is like this giant elephant in the room. And I explained how when I was young, people like him didn’t talk to people like me (by the way, he said he was captain of the football team, but not prom king). And I said that I have no idea if he was nice to girls like me in school, or mean to them, or if he even noticed them, but my experience tells me he wasn’t interested in talking to them at all.

Then I talked about what I wrote here the other day, how I wanted my son’s T to be my son’s father. And I repeated back to J all of the things he said over the years, about worrying about his wife and daughters, and playing games with his daughters, and getting up in the night to check on them when they were sick, etc. And how my husband didn’t do any of those things. I said that whenever he would say something like that, it would be all I could remember from the session. J said he was just saying those things incidentally, and I said that I knew that, but they made a big impact on me. And I said that I don’t want him to take this the wrong way, but he was like a substitute husband to me. And maybe that was why I kept showing up week after week. He said he didn’t take that the wrong way at all, but he wanted to know how the intimidation fit into that. Did I think I wasn’t worthy of a husband who did those things?

Now that I think about that, it could be right, but I said that the intimidation factor wasn’t related to that, it was more about the leftover feelings from when I was young. That after 40 years I still believe what I believed then. And I thought if I continued to see him it would get better, like exposure therapy, but that never happened. He asked me how I was feeling in session today, and I said that I felt a lot better than I normally do, and he said he noticed that as well. I said that when I was sitting in the waiting room I thought to myself how stupid I am to be intimidated by him, basically I am paying him and he is working for me. Not exactly, but kind of, and he agreed. I told him that I got my car washed before I came over because his car is always so clean. But today his car was filthy. And it was ridiculous that I felt that I had to have a freshly washed car to go to therapy. He obviously didn’t care if he had a dirty car if he was seeing me.

Then I talked about finding a new T. I didn’t like the way he looked when I was talking about this, and this part of the conversation didn’t last long. Art T told me that she was afraid I would tell J that I found a new T because I needed a participating provider and I wanted a woman, when actually what I wanted was a different kind of therapy. It would have been easy to go that route, but I did tell him that the therapy with her is very different, and not so much problem solving, which I think leads to dependence on one’s T. And how he is very good at problem solving. He told me that everything that a client comes in with is a problem. He asked me what Art T’s profile said on the website, and I explained that she said that she likes to work with people who have difficulty with emotions, and poor body image, and self harm, and existential issues. I did kind of lie and say I had only seen her for a couple of months and I didn’t know if I would keep seeing her.

This second discussion lasted about a half hour and it was time to wrap up, and J asked what I thought we would do next. I asked if he had any clients who came in periodically, rather than weekly, and he said he did, and that is fine. I said maybe in 3 months? He said, “no”. I said, “Six months?” He said, “No.” He said he didn’t want to put a time restraint on it, if I want to come in in 6 weeks that is fine, or in 6 months. Then he went on to describe 4 or 5 clients/couples who would come in periodically for various reasons.

I did ask him if he ever thought of telling me I should find a different therapist since it was so hard for me, and he said no, he never thought of that. He said that first, someone who has issues with self worth could have a strong feeling of rejection if their T referred them to someone else. And also he said he never gives up on anyone, that what someone first comes in with may not be what ends up being a problem. He gave an example of a woman who came in because she was having trouble with the death of her 80 year old father after three months. After a while in therapy it turned out that she was really having trouble getting over her divorce which happened 12 years prior, and once she figured that out she only had to come 2 or 3 more times and she felt better. He gave another example of a teenager who is sent to therapy by his parents and he doesn’t want to be there, but after a while he opens up and starts to like therapy and benefit from it. And he said he had a couple of people who didn’t talk at all for the entire 45 minutes, but he just waited and they eventually opened up too. So I guess after 4 years he still had confidence that it would get easier for me.

I said that I thought having 90 minutes was really good too, because it is hard for me to get started. He said he had never done a 90 minute session before and I was surprised by that. He said, “I know you, I respect you, and if that is what you wanted, it was fine with me.”

When I left I didn’t feel that there was anything left unsaid. I felt a good connection, and no defensiveness from either of us. He didn’t freak out when I said he was like a substitute husband. I thought our discussions about both of the topics went really well, and even though talking about Art T was a little weird, it wasn’t terrible.

I am happy that it doesn’t have to be goodbye forever.

8 thoughts on “Therapy Recap Times Two

  1. Congratulations, it sounds like it went very well.

    As to J’s, “everything a client brings is a problem”. Really??? Not a dilemma? Not an inevitability that we do our best to live with with dignity? (a loved one who died too young). And for some reason not the beauty of themselves (Thomas Merton (from memory, so approximate): There is just no way to tell people that they are walking around shining like the sun). Good grief! End of vent.

  2. As I read through this, I remembered meeting with Aster a year after I left.

    And all I can say at this point, is that I am glad you don’t have to say goodbye, and that he is open to working with you again anywhere down the road. What a relief that must be.

    It sounds as though you two were able to connect a bit, and that you were able to speak about what was on your mind. I’m so glad for that. So so glad.

  3. Evan – thank you, it did go well. But of course you pick out the negative part! I also found it a bit weird that J said that every client has a problem. How about a client who comes in for personal growth? But I suppose since he is so problem focused and solution oriented, that he can project or imagine or find a problem with every client that he sees. It seems like it might be kind of nice to view any negative emotion or experience as a “problem”, because then you just need to come up with a solution and ta-da, you are cured! Simplistic, naive, but not as fraught with drama as my method. I wonder what it might be like to view the world like he does. And I just want to say that J is not terrible. He is a good person, and I can even admit that he might care about me. I know you don’t like him, and I will admit that we were perhaps not a good fit, and he was a jerk at times, which he admits. But how can you not like a golden retriever?

  4. Amanda – I am so glad that it was not goodbye, that would have been very difficult for me. Even if I don’t see J for a long time, just knowing that I can see him whenever I want is comforting to me. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for you when you ended with Aster. It must be like having part of your heart torn out. I suppose that is a risk of getting close to anyone. When you think about it, every relationship we have will end at some point.

  5. hi Harriet,
    I’m glad he made it as easy for you as possible, to say what you came to say. I was surprised that you didn’t bring up the intrusive thoughts and try again to get some help on that. Seemed like you wanted or needed to keep it light?
    Hope you can talk to Art T about your relationship with your daughter, that sounds like it would be fruitful.

  6. Harriet, you are literally the bravest person I know. I don’t think a lot of people would be so willing to critically look at their lives and all the reasons behind the way they respond to issues. You are not only doing this, but you’re taking control of your life and putting things in order by expressing yourself so well to J and to Art T. I would never have the balls to do what you have done.

  7. Laura – Were you surprised that I didn’t bring up the intrusive thoughts with J? I have talked about it before with him, and this session wasn’t really to get into that kind of thing. I will talk to Art T about it, but this week it didn’t seem like a priority I suppose. Thinking back on the session with J it didn’t really seem light, maybe that is how it came across when I wrote about it. True the first hour was more about what is going on in my life, but the last half hour we got into some pretty important stuff I think.

    I have a really good relationship with my daughter, I’m not sure where Art T was going when she asked what it would be like if my daughter really “knew” me. I don’t think it is always a good idea for children to know certain things about their parents, at least not until they are adults themselves.

  8. Sanity – I don’t feel brave, honestly. You know what they say about an unexamined life and all that, although not everyone believes that. I am trying to express myself more verbally. In this session J did mention how I express myself well when I write, he even almost said that I express myself “better” in writing. I’m not so sure that you wouldn’t have the courage to talk to your t this way though.

    I am somewhat surprised that I was able to say all of that to him though, I was doubting my ability to do it before I got there.

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