J: So, what are we talking about
Me: So….sometimes I wish…..well…I only want to talk about this for 5 minutes or so….I think it would be helpful to know…..more about your therapeutic techniques and what they are supposed to do. I know they are secret, and you don’t have to tell me all of them, but maybe when you are using one you can tell me what I am supposed to get from it.
J: They aren’t secret. And I don’t come up with therapeutic techniques ahead of time, I don’t see you coming and say “Oh, I’m going to use this technique on Harriet today.” (He said this a lot more nicely than it sounds typed out.)
Me: Well, sometimes we are in the middle of something, and I know you are doing something, but I’m not sure what, and then because of time limitations we end and I leave not knowing what just happened and what conclusion I was supposed to come to, and then it never comes up again.
J: I believe that if things are important they always come up again.
Me: I mean right away.
J: Just now I was at my computer and I saw your car pull in and I thought “I wonder how Harriet’s five dinners last week went” but I don’t bring that up because maybe you want to talk about something your sister did, for example.
(I am always a little freaked out that he can see me outside, but I can’t see into his office because of the way the blinds are tilted. I am also glad that he said he was wondering about my dinners because it means he remembered what I told him last week and he was curious about how it went. I think it might be hard for therapists because clients start something one week, and may not get back to it, and the therapist is left wondering what happened.)
J: Can you give me an example of when this happens?
Me: Yes, I certainly can. Last week we were talking about how my husband didn’t ask me about my appointment with the oncologist and that hurt my feelings, and you said maybe he was in a meeting, or had important things on his mind, and it was my fault because I didn’t worry enough about the appointment so he didn’t think it was important and I didn’t even call him after the appointment to tell him what happened. So I know you were trying to be unsupportive, like I feel other people in my life are sometimes, even though I know it’s because my expectations are too high, and you wanted to get me to react the way I react when other people aren’t being supportive, and how I react is not to say anything, so I didn’t say anything when you were being unsupportive and I don’t know how that could help me.
J: I don’t purposely play the part of other people in your life, and I don’t try to be unsupportive and I didn’t want you to think this was your fault.
Me: So it was just an accident? I thought you were being mean on purpose. I’m sure they had that class in school – Mean 101.
J: I think I missed that class.
Me: You weren’t really mean, I am exaggerating.
J: Trying to get you to react sounds awfully manipulative.
Me: Exactly, but I can kind of understand if that is what needs to be done.
J: (Blah blah blah, he lists my issues, we all know them) When you are thinking negatively about yourself I try to play devil’s advocate.
Me: Well when you tell me reasons people do things like my husband did, I understand it in my head but I still feel the feelings of being let down.
J: You could say that to me.
Me: I can’t say “What you are doing isn’t helping me”. I wouldn’t go to the doctor for knee pain and tell me he isn’t helping me when he takes my temperature. He is a professional and knows what he is doing.
J: (Something about how we are on this journey together….) Last week you did say to me right away that I was taking your husband’s side.
Me: Yes I did. But you continued on.
J: When you said that I knew that you weren’t in a place where you could hear logic (so why did he go on and on? I might be confusing this part of the conversation, but I do remember being confused right here.)
Me: And you couldn’t tell that I didn’t want to hear that stuff just then?
J: I don’t know. I think you could say something like “I understand what you are saying in my head, but I still feel my feelings.”
Me: Maybe instead of me having to say all of that we could have a code word.
Me: Sure, and if we aren’t in a vegetable mood we could use banana.
J: Why do you think you still feel the feelings even though you get the point intellectually?
Me: Either I something or something (I gave two reasons that made sense, but for some reason I can’t remember them right now.)
J: Maybe it is because you shut down emotionally because it is difficult for you to be emotional here.
Me: That is true.
J: You are an intelligent woman, but I think you do a lot of thinking and not a lot of being.
Me: Yes, that is true, I am introspective and I analyze things in detail. I can’t change that I do that, but maybe I could change what I am thinking about.
J: Why might it be bad to overthink and analyze things?
Me: Because I come to conclusions that could be totally wrong and I am convinced of my beliefs.
J: (Telling me the story he has told me before about passing a test and thinking you are great, and failing a test and thinking it is the teacher’s fault. Or passing a test and saying it is easy and failing a test and saying you are a failure – which is me) It’s good to be somewhere in the middle. I know you think a lot about what we talk about during the week.
Me: Yes, you told me that you don’t know anyone who writes out their therapy sessions like I do, but there are plenty of people who do that, and even write out their thoughts about their sessions every day – you can look on the internet.
J: Yes, I’m sure there are.
Me: And maybe some of your clients do it and you just don’t know.
J: That could be true.
Me: I know most of your clients come in and talk about their week. How many talk about things like we are talking about right now? What percentage?
J: Maybe 10%. Why do you want to know how many?
Me: I want to know if I am normal.
J: There is no normal, everyone’s therapy is different.
Me: There are times when I do talk about things in my life, like when I had my medical issues. I don’t want to talk about therapy in therapy all the time, but I like to know what is happening. Are you getting away from psychodynamic therapy and more into cognitive behavioral?
J: (Squirming…a lot) It really depends on the person, if someone comes in for smoking cessation, or substance abuse then I do a lot of behavioral stuff with them. And for some people it gets mixed together. Your issues (and he lists them again) aren’t like a substance abuser’s issues.
Instead of 5 minutes, this went on for 30 minutes. I remember him saying something about his training, and something about projection (which I definitely can see), and the way he and I relate, etc.
Then I changed the subject and I told him that I had talked to two of the family therapists that he recommended and we are seeing one on Thursday and one next month. I am not crazy about the one on Thursday just based on our phone conversation, but I like the one we are meeting in January. We talked about why I picked them, and how I think it will go, and how I know it’s not just me that needs to click with the therapist, that there are three of us. The one I liked on the phone seems warm and fuzzy and nurturing, and I like that, but my husband probably wouldn’t. So we need to try out a few.
I brought up that going through my son’s old school records and psycho-educational testing and school meetings for his IEP brought back bad feelings, but we didn’t really talk about that.
I think this session was productive, I think I expressed how I feel about the therapy itself, and how maybe it could be better for me, and J was very cooperative and I felt connected. I think I should tell him to give me a warning when he is going to try to change my viewpoint like “I’m going to play devil’s advocate” or “Let’s see how we can look at this another way” rather than jump right in with “Well that person did this because of abc and you didn’t do xyz….” And maybe if I am not in the mood for devil’s advocate or looking at it another way I can say so right then. Which doesn’t mean he shouldn’t continue, because I know I have to do things and hear things in therapy which are difficult, but maybe if he knows I am feeling resistance we can incorporate that into the process.