Well, I tried therapy. Again.
I’ve come to the conclusion that therapy is just not for me.
I’ve tried so many different therapists and they were all worthless or harmful, never helpful.
I refuse to waste my time and money on a therapist when I have read and meditated and prayed and learned and changed and healed my own self over the years.
I know there are different kinds of psychotherapy, but either the therapists I’ve been exposed to weren’t very educated or experienced, or just chose to use certain aspects of talk therapy.
My first taste of therapy was when I was twenty years old.
I was locked in hospital for about a week and forced into group therapy after my suicide attempt. Then I was assigned to outpatient therapy – both group and individual for another week or more. It wasn’t helpful. I was scared and at the mercy of ignorant “professionals” who didn’t know me, didn’t know my history, didn’t know my parents. I was blamed for my own distress and for being an ungrateful only child to my parents. I was medicated against my will on Prozac, and that didn’t go well, serving to make me even more wary of meds to the point that I don’t want to try them anymore.
I tried Christian therapists during my first two marriages.
This is what the church, the elders, his parents and family and friends, the husbands themselves told me I must do. Secular therapy was a slippery slope and led to humanism and independence. It was all very harmful. I was told never to show anger so as to be a good, submissive wife. I was told to be available for sex at any time to ensure my husband wouldn’t stray. I was told to endure abuse and pray harder. I was supposed to echo requests to ensure communication was improved.
My first husband is a sex addict, porn addict, pedophile, abuser of his nieces and our daughter. He has abused his second wife too. His entire family protects him and they’re all in denial.
My second husband admitted he had been fired three weeks ago in the therapist’s office and I had to bite my tongue and cheeks so I wouldn’t physically attack him, I was so enraged at the deceit of still getting up and dressing and disappearing for so many hours each day – for three weeks – and his cowardice at having to tell me in front of her, in the safety of her office. He later accused me of contracting HIV and passing it onto him, though he was miraculously and instantly healed during a church service.
A thing I am thinking about today is how when abusers get therapy that isn’t specifically centered around the fact that they are abusive and need to change their behavior (which usually requires a therapist who specializes in this), it often just makes them more adept abusers. Therapy is generally focused on helping the patient achieve their own goals. If a therapist helps someone develop strategies for navigating interpersonal conflict but doesn’t clock that the nature of the conflict is their patient abusing people, they will become an abuse coach.Annalee
Everybody talks about men and abusers needing therapy but few people acknowledge the frequent and real opportunities for abusers to weaponize therapy language and their therapist against you.Jane Shui
My sins, faults, shortcomings were constantly addressed while men were upheld as incapable of doing any wrong and never being held responsible for their own actions or inactions.
I still fall into these mind traps since it was drilled into my head for so many years from so many sources.
The military medical community won’t even serve their own military members, much less spouses or dependents.
There is no continuity of care in the military. We are forced to move around so frequently and even though there is surely a database of our medical history, it is still hard to start over every few years.
When we were stationed in Hawaii, my eldest was “diagnosed” with ADHD at age eight or so, we were required as a family to attend therapy with an active duty military member. It was soon obvious that these doctors had an agenda. They put my daughters on meds that suppressed her appetite severely. They threatened us with abuse for homeschooling and coerced us to put her in the base DOD elementary school. My husband was worried his career would be at stake – and no matter if anyone says otherwise, it is absolutely a thing that spouses’ and dependents’ issues and behavior do reflect a military member’s career options. It was a miserable time, frightening and disheartening. After one month, I defied everyone and removed my child from the school and stopped the meds, and we returned to homeschooling and a healthier lifestyle. It took me years for us to heal from those few months of meds and indoctrination. I became further jaded about the medical and mental health community.
We were stationed in Germany for three years when we most desperately needed some assistance when our eldest child was a young teen and we couldn’t really get any help with medical or mental health issues.
We’ve tried to see several therapists now that we are back State-side, in Ohio.
I was encouraged to get a free app sponsored by the Air Force to help me learn to breathe and meditate. I was told to fill in a chart with a support plan when the entire issue was that I do not have any support. I have been offered numerous pills to alleviate stress, anxiety, depression. All bandaids that don’t even scratch the surface of military spouse mental health issues or my history of trauma, abuse, and mental distress.
I was required to meet with my PCM for referral to the behavioral specialist for three different appointments before then being referred to an in-network off-base mental health professional. The mental health professionals at the base hospitals and clinics are only available to military members, not spouses, and they only really discuss PTSD, not any issues with relationships or anything unrelated to the military job.
Getting referrals for mental health is so complicated and time consuming and there is no guarantee the therapist will be a good fit. There are six-month-plus waiting lists everywhere. It’s so much time, stress, money, and paperwork to shop around.
Two of my kids have experienced some trauma and need some mental health assistance. One therapist completely undermined my authority and suggested my child ask us to attend public school, then she would not follow up with me about my complaints, but just completely ended all communication. We were referred to an outpatient daily facility for a few weeks and the therapist, who seemed ok at first, shamed me into buying a guitar to help my child heal better – that has since gone untouched. Thankfully my two kids have found therapists we all trust and respect now, but it’s been such a hard road.
After being encouraged by my kids, I tried therapy – once again.
My kids have concerns that I need a therapist to continue working through some of my issues. They also were curious if I could get tested for autism.
We have contacted everyone in the Dayton-Cincinnati area and no one will perform autism testing on an adult or teen.
After many weeks of being on the waiting list, I was called to make an appointment.
I went with just a little bit of hope, but not too much. I typed out a timeline to save us time and help her remember who’s who in my life, so I didn’t have to constantly repeat myself and clarify.
First impressions matter. Her office looked like a social media prop or magazine spread – all pink and gold with plants by the window and a dozen or more of the “proper” social warrior bestselling books in tidy stacks on various surfaces. It was just so staged. The therapist earned a Psy.D., but she looked like a child. I had specifically requested someone older, not someone young enough that I could be her mother or teacher. Maybe she just looks young. She’s only worked in this field for about five years, so not a whole lot of experience and this is her second clinic, so I wonder why she left the first one. Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but I wonder if she’s married or even has had a long-term adult relationship or has any children. How can she even understand my issues then?
She was quite abrupt at the first meeting, explaining the cancellation policy rather severely (I kinda get it: don’t be late or skip appointments, but wow). She seemed very aloof and cold and clinical. I tried so hard to keep an open mind. She liked my outline and it saved time at intake. She was impressed that I finished my master’s degree despite all my issues – ha! She asked me why am I even still with my husband as she shooed me out the door at the 45-minute mark. So I thought about how harsh that question is for two weeks. I almost didn’t go back.
I had told myself I will go to at least two appointments before I make up my mind.
I went to four appointments! I figured the first meeting was just intake and not a real example of what it would be like and I really, really wanted to give her a chance.
I spent almost the entire second appointment defending my reasons for staying in my third marriage. It’s obvious that she didn’t think before asking me why and she stumbled over apologizing and saying she didn’t mean it that way.
This man is not abusive. He’s neglectful. He’s often thoughtless. I feel I change and evolve and grow while he is stagnant. There are way worse sins than being boring. We have history. We have duty. We share eighteen years of highs, lows, depths, cross-country and overseas moves, deployments, births, deaths, sickness, pain, joy. How can anyone understand or judge?
At the end, she asked what I wanted to work on most at the second appointment, and after these last few months, it seems most relevant to get an objective view about my parents’ ongoing tantrums and abuse and their ignoring me when they imagine I have slighted them. I also mentioned some marital concerns. And of course, I have doubts that I am a good enough mother.
The only helpful comment is that I should let my eldest find her own way now that she’s almost 22 and on her own. I have mixed feelings about this because I cannot just watch her destroy her future.
She all but scoffed at my husband’s issues, because surely I can see he has PTSD and I should be more understanding. OK, wow.
She doesn’t offer much insight about my parents and their behavior. She suggests that a superficial relationship might be better than any relationship at all. Really?!
After sitting with those two statements echoing in my head for two weeks, I just canceled this week’s appointment. I am hurt and confused that these are the only takeaways I have from four appointments. I feel like I just rambled on and on about pretty much nothing and how could she even follow what I said when she didn’t take any notes? There was no plan, no suggested reading, no skills to practice. I don’t need to pay someone to listen to me drone on when they offer nothing. She is not personable and I don’t need someone who’s touchy-feely, and I don’t want hugs, but she is just wooden. She made it a point at the beginning of each meeting to find something about my appearance to compliment and it just felt so scripted. Maybe I’m expected to suck it up and push through for a few months, but I just don’t have the energy or heart space for that.
I should just take more neglect and abuse and this is the best I can ever hope for?
I really do not want to waste more time or money being told that I am the problem and no one else has any responsibility at all to have a healthy relationship.
It’s hard when everyone around me is in denial that there’s anything wrong and they only desire toxic positivity and refuse to work through anything or admit any past shadows.
What even is the point of therapy? Mostly, it is to help people fit well into society. I absolutely do not want to fit in when society is so ill – racism, sexism, capitalism, for-profit healthcare. Often, therapy is to heal from horrible trauma, but I have done a lot of that on my own and I don’t see anything a professional can do that I haven’t found for myself.
I’m also thankful that I have time and money to find therapists for my two children who need and want it and to have tried it for myself, even thought I don’t think it’s a good option for me. I worry so much about people who don’t have resources and access to mental health help. We are a sick society.
We hear constantly: “Go to therapy!” but therapy fails so many individuals and families. It’s not always the best answer or only way.
Books That Have Helped Me:
- Gabor Maté
- John Gottman
- Harriet Lerner
- Susan Cain
- Elaine N. Aron
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk
- Jesus, the Gentle Parent by LR Knost
- Motherwhelmed by Beth Berry
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents: How to Heal from Distant, Rejecting, or Self-Involved Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
You might also like:
- Grieving Family Who Are Still Alive
- Parenting with Depression
- Living with Depression
- Books about Depression
- What Depression Feels Like
- I Attempted Suicide
- Emotional Health
- Introvert Holiday Survival Guide
- Memes as Therapy
- What If I Don’t Have Friends?
- I am not insignificant
- Teaching Kids About Healthy Relationships
The pillars of traditional healing were 1) connection to clan and the natural world; 2) regulating rhythm through dance, drumming, and song; 3) a set of beliefs, values, and stories that brought meaning to even senseless, random trauma; and 4) on occasion, natural hallucinogens or other plant-derived substances used to facilitate healing with the guidance of a healer or elder. It is not surprising that today’s best practices in trauma treatment are basically versions of these four things. Unfortunately, few modern approaches use all four of the options well. The medical model overfocuses on psychopharmacology (4) and cognitive behavioral approaches (3). It greatly undervalues the power of connectedness (1) and rhythm (2).
In Western psychiatry we like to separate them, but that misses the true essence of the problem. We are chasing symptoms, not healing people.Dr. Bruce D. Perry in What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
Something missing from “go to therapy” discourse is that most therapists are not very good?Raquel Benedict
On privilege and therapy. People often ask me if I go to therapy, I don’t. Not because I don’t think therapy is helpful. I know it is. It just didn’t work for me. A THREAD:Jo Leuhmann
Linking up: Eclectic Red Barn, Silverado, April Harris, Mostly Blogging, Create with Joy, Pinch of Joy, Random Musings, Ridge Haven, Shelbee on the Edge, Penny’s Passion, Katherine’s Corner, Try it Like it, Slices of Life, Homestead, God’s Growing Garden, Jenerally Informed, InstaEncouragements, LouLou Girls, OMHG, Simply Coffee, Life Abundant, Fluster Buster, Being a Wordsmith, Answer is Chocolate, Momfessionals, Modern Monticello, Imparting Grace, Joanne Viola, Lisa Notes, Pam’s Party, Pieced Pastimes, Suburbia,
Donna B Reidland says
Jennifer, I’m so sorry to hear about all that you have endured. I can’t blame you if you are not willing to try anything else. And I share your concerns about what is often referred to as “Christian counseling.” But there is a difference in what I would term Christian counseling and what is called “biblical counseling.” They are two very different things. I would encourage you go to go to the Association of Biblical Counselors website at biblicalcounseling.com. You can read about the counseling philosophy and even listen to podcasts. It will cost you nothing. There is a link to find a counselor near you if you were to be interested. Very few biblical counselors charge anything for their counseling though they may ask you to purchase a book or some materials, many don’t even do that. I frequently give my resources away for free, even though I pay for them out of pocket. (I”m retired and just do it because I love it.) I’m always reluctant to offer this kind of advice when it’s not asked for so forgive me if it’s unwanted. If you do nothing but listen to some podcasts, perhaps it will be of help. Praying for you.
Jennifer Lambert says
I appreciate the link and I’m sure you are a great counselor. I always follow up on your advice. The counselors I saw in the past used the words “Christian” and “biblical” interchangeably and were sponsored and employed by the churches I attended at the time. These “counselors” abused their authority and position while spouting the hateful concepts those churches taught. I have heard it all when it comes to “not all Christians” and “everyone is a sinner” so “we should all forgive others’ transgressions.” But these counselors and pastors know exactly what they’re doing and how to keep their members docile and under their cult control while using pop-psychology and fear of ostracization. I’m just so, so disheartened by being told and feeling like there is something wrong with me because I want to be emotionally and spiritually healthy and I want the people I love to be healthy too. It’s like banging my head on a brick wall.
Donna B Reidland says
It is true that there are churches with bad doctrine and people do get hurt by them. The Bible even warns about those things. I’m so sorry that has happened in your life. If you ever want to talk, I would be happy to give you my phone number. You can email me at email@example.com.
Paula Short says
Jen, I was so disheartened to hear you had to face sub par “Christian ” counseling. And I can definitely understand your hesitanc and would not want to try any counseling at all myself. I’m a retired Social Worker (BSW&MSW) and have held a few counseling positions myself. I love the wealth of information Donna provided.
I’ve been in therapy a few times myself. The last time was in 2016 when my chronic illnesses and disabilities took me over and I had to take early retirement at age 45. I thought I lost my purpose and I mourned the “old me “, that took 3 years of therapy to work through to accept new me. Along with new me came a new purpose, Jesus called me to write.
I Love and appreciate the resources you listed at the end of your article.
Thank you again for linking up with Sweet Tea & Friends this month my friend.
Jennifer Lambert says
Thank you so much for sharing your story with me.
Lauren Renee Sparks says
I am so sorry to hear this has been your experience. I have been in therapy a few times myself. Some good counselors and one not so good. Thank you for honestly sharing your experience.