On Finding a New Therapist
There’s so much to say and yet I haven’t fully formed the words. I’m angry, upset, sad, shocked, bewildered, okay, moving forward, then repeat.
Therapy is supposed to be safe. The place where all of me is welcomed. It was for a long time until it was not. It’s really difficult. I wish my therapist held up their side of the deal. I wish they kept their life and emotions outside of my sessions. I wish they took care of themselves. I wish they hadn’t betrayed me.
I can wish all I want but it doesn’t undo what has happened. Just like I can wish the childhood trauma never occurred or adult trauma or my kids’ challenges or my vestibular disability. All of these parts I’m working to make okay as they are parts of who I am.
All the things I was working on in therapy are also things that protect me, drive me to take action, help me get brave when I want to run away. I’m not trying to replace those parts. I’m trying to understand them better, learn some other ways so as not to rely solely on them, and perhaps find some inner peace along the way.
As I untangle this messy chapter I see that I stayed about 2-3 months too long in that therapeutic relationship. Change is hard. Trust is hard. Fear can freeze you. There’s also the voice that says that maybe this is part of the process or maybe this is all you and given you are in therapy for this voice it isn’t so easy to dismiss it. The thing is my therapist should have seen all these things. I even had said I was feeling judged, unheard, confused. It was never validated, never addressed, never changed. All signs this needed to end it just took me a little longer and I'm giving myself compassion instead of judgment for this.
It takes bravery to seek therapy. To sit in the mess that is your life, pick it apart, process it, examine it up close. Therapists know this. It’s their job.
Every time I walk into therapy I am vulnerable. This vulnerability should be met with kindness, love, and compassion. That’s therapy.
Vulnerability bred from fear is abuse.
My last session with my former therapist made me afraid. Not fear of looking at my life or the fear that my emotions will overwhelm me. It was my therapist who put me into a direct state of fear. I’m so hurt and angry about that.
Then there is the reality of having to start over with a new therapist. It’s overwhelming. To catch someone up on my life, build a rapport, see if they are a good fit, oh and of course, be willing to attempt to trust a therapist again.
I did find someone. I searched, read bios, asked friends about their therapists. I made calls and asked for 15 minutes of the therapist’s time to let them know what I need and to get a sense of who they were. Every therapist I reached out to was happy to give me the time, FYI, so if you are on your own journey to finding a therapist I recommend you do this. The other thing each one of them said was that if I felt that they weren’t a match that it was my choice and there are never hard feelings about that because that’s not what this is about. This is my journey and my former therapist seems to have forgotten this truth.
I met with my new therapist. I told her up front that it’s hard for me because I do better with two sessions per week and I struggle with that. She took out her calendar and said, “let’s find two spots a week that work and get them scheduled for you”. She made it feel so normal. We discussed how I often would leave my other sessions dysregulated with no follow-up plan. That made her angry and she laid out what I can expect: dysregulation happens, she’s going to make sure I’m okay before leaving a session and there will be a follow-up plan, her life happens but she’s a professional and it’s not my responsibility so no asking me hours before a session if I can move my appointment because of her life, emergencies, vacations, and the like happen but she’ll give me a number and name of one or two of her colleagues so I can be in control getting the support I feel I need, and most importantly, I am in no way responsible for her emotions. She has her own therapist for that.
She also knows what it means to be marginalized and othered.
All of this felt as if that’s exactly how every therapist should behave and reassured me that I can keep doing this. I’ve left there feeling lighter and without fear of getting fired as a client. Yes, I am still feeling somewhat overwhelmed with unpacking my life again but I also feel certain I can express this directly. That’s a big sign for me.
The grief and pain of this experience are still fresh but there is also hope. In time, perhaps I will share. I’m not sure. There’s so much of my story I don’t share. Perhaps one day. For now, my hope is that therapy progresses as it should, the alliance is strong, and if I find myself needing a new therapist it’s because of what feels like “normal” reasons for me: moving leaves of absences, or just time to try something different.