Choosing a therapist

Do you choose these therapists yourself?

This was a question posed by Missing in Sight to my last entry.  Hmmm… Do I choose these therapists?  Do I really?  With each new therapist, I’ve appeared to go through the motions of choosing a new therapist… I’ve called around, asked whether they’re taking new clients and mentioned my dissociative disorder as a flag.  But that’s really been the extent of my search.  Because in all honesty, I become so grateful that someone is willing to work with such a dysfunctional impossible case as myself, that I go with the first person who will take me on.

This ties into Katie’s comment about rejection and also my fear of ending relationships…  Some part of me sees an initial meeting with a therapist as a binding agreement… almost like, if we stop seeing them, we’ve failed again.  I’m not sure if it’s tied to our need to stay invisible (look, we’re so normal we can fit in anywhere), or our need to not make trouble.  I know this is all tied to the dysfunctional messages and patterns of behaviour that I learned growing up.

It seems as if I become so fearful of being rejected by a therapist, that I do almost everything possible to ensure that they won’t want to see me.  A prime example of this, was an email I sent to a potential therapist…

Hi potential therapist no.1,

Possibly before you agree to see me, I should outline the diagnoses I’ve been given over the years, so you can decide if you want to go any further.  I label myself a difficult client… yes, my dysfunction is showing already 🙂 I’ve been diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Depression, Borderline traits (I’ve been tested, but fail to meet the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder), Anxiety Disorder, and have chronic sleep issues.  I’ve seen four therapists in the last five years – two which were poor therapeutic fits for about 8 months each, a clinical psychologist on a short term contract through ACC and another therapist for about 3.5 years (who helped me through my abusive marriage, but didn’t have the skills to help with the dissociative and trauma issues).

So I come with baggage… I am motivated to change and will work hard at doing so, but I often don’t know how to change or what that change should look like.  I’m often stumped for words in therapy, and will sometimes get lost in the dissociation to the point where I lose most of the session.

You may wonder why I’m writing this out for you… and I know it would make most people turn the other way.  But, I’m hoping to give you an idea of the challenges I may present so you can decide whether you are able or willing to work with those.

If you are, please name a time and place and I will ensure that I am there.

Kind regards

How many people would want to work with someone who emailed that to them?  Not many.  It could be seen as me trying to weed out the people who wouldn’t be able to cope with the challenges that I know I present in a therapeutic environment… but I don’t think it’s that.  It’s about setting myself up for failure and preventing the need to build up trust with yet another person.

But, potential therapist no.1 responded that she is experienced in dealing with what I present, and is willing to try and get my claim accepted under ACC.  Two other therapists have also said that they’re willing to meet with me to see if it would work.  Suddenly I have options!  I’m still a little unsure of how to do this process of therapist selection, but I’m trying to be mindful… trying to check out internally what happens when I read their emails or listen to their voice on the phone.

Today we met with potential therapist no. 2.  We talked for about 90 minutes and went over a great deal… It was scary, but also validating.  We talked about the care I’ve received in the past – what worked and what didn’t; what help I was currently receiving from the Mental Health Team and also what her approach to therapy was.  She doesn’t have any specialist DID experience, this showed with some of the wording that she used (a little clumsy).  But when I talked to her about our Polyvore work and this blog, she was interested in how we could incorporate these aspects of my healing into the therapy work she would do with me…  She talked about how I appeared to have been sort of shuffled around, and put in the “too hard” basket by many people…

It was all going really well, until she mentioned where she works as her full time job… She’s a lecturer at the same tertiary institution I work at…  There was a huge internal reaction to this news.  The whole system jolted… we’d just told this person we were DID and she worked at the same place we do.  If we went and saw her, we’d at some point have to talk about the secrets and then potentially run the risk of seeing her at work.  I’m not sure we can do that.  I don’t know if I can tell someone about my history and then smile at them over the counter later in the week as if nothing had happened.  When she found out where we work, she talked about how we could manage that, if we still wanted to see her.  She was really open and up-front about the issue, and reassured me that if we couldn’t cope with it, that deciding not to see her was not our fault…  We agreed that we’d think it over for awhile and see how it sat within the system…

We see potential therapist no.1. on Wednesday, and will call potential therapist no.3 on Monday morning to arrange a time to meet.  Since we’ve started getting people willing to work with us, it’s been interesting noticing the changes in the system… there’s anxiety about having to meet new people, but there’s also hope.  Yes, I think I’m actually feeling some hope for the first time in a long time…

Maybe I’m not such a hopeless case after all?


18 thoughts on “Choosing a therapist

  1. I’m so glad that you are in control. Being in control has always had a secret “shining armour” effect on me. I agree with #2 in that the “closeness” of where you work can be worked out. I see my T socially. At first, after the secrets were out, I felt like I had a target on my back. It did me great to have T treat me like a friend and not a broken doll. It makes me feel normal to be treated normal, even tho he knows everything. I hope you find the right T who fights for you and makes you feel normal.

    • Hi Ivory,

      It’s honestly scary to have options… I know it’s meant to be empowering, and I know that a part of me feels that (hence the hope)… but it’s still scary. I’ve never been good at decision making regarding my healing. Often, when I do make a decision, I tend to back track on it. I know this affects how my system looks at me for safety.

      I’m not sure I could face seeing my therapist within my work situation. We discussed this quite a bit, and it’s more about work being my structure and safety. So will having my therapist in my work situation, make work feel less safe and blur the boundaries?

      The reason I don’t see the on-site counselling team is that I don’t want to mix my work life with my healing. I fear work finding out about my mental health issues and treating me poorly as a result – my work colleagues have shown themselves to be intolerant of people with mental health issues. So there are many layers of issues that I need to think through and test out within the system. My reaction at the moment, is that it won’t work for me… W reacted really badly to the news during the session that we were talking to someone from work about the secrets – and no abusive events were discussed.

      I’m glad that your situation works for you… and I know it could work for me, but I need to check my options.

      Take care,

  2. hi castorgirl~ i feel so encouraged and optimistic for you. and in all honesty, i love that letter you wrote to your potential therapist. i think a therapist would be glad to see such a letter from a potential client. i think it shows responsibility, thoughtfulness and a level of self-awareness and determination that i would imagine most therapists would hope for in a client.

    for me personally, choosing a therapist in the past has involved primarily making sure i feel comfortable and open talking with them during, and then after i leave and go home. of course i also like to make sure people aren’t super religious or prejudiced and things like that that would give me problems respecting or being able to feel free to be myself and be completely honest with them.

    i also like feedback. i don’t want someone to just sit and nod at me. but i also don’t want a therapist to lack appropriate boundaries and share too much with me of their own personal life. i’ve had therapists do this in the past and at first i felt honored, but then i saw i was just repeating an unhealthy pattern where i was letting the authority figure depend on me, when i was the one seeking help, and not the one who should have been doing the caretaking.

    those are some of my particular issues in therapist-seeking, so in your case i would just say to look within yourself to see what you are most wanting from a therapist and maybe reflect on things you didn’t like with previous counselors, and maybe talk with each of your potentials to see what they have to say. and then you will have a bit more information to go on at that point of who you might feel most comfortable with.

    good luck!! and that’s neat you mention hope. that’s what my post was about this morning 🙂

    • Hi Katie,

      I’ve learned a few areas that I need to explore with a therapist – how do they incorporate the expressive therapies into their practice; how do they deal with written communication; how do they deal with after hours crises; and how do they arrange holiday care for their clients. These were all issues that have arisen with therapists in the past, so it’s about me learning from those mistakes.

      I also know that I need to feel comfortable with the person and their office – it would be good to see them with books of all sorts in their office, as well as toys. The therapist I saw yesterday had neither, but she shares a room with others, so it’s understandable that they might not be there.

      Take care,

  3. yikes! i see that i just wrote i might feel a lack of respect for a super religious therapist. i’m so sorry. i didn’t mean to be offensive. i’m coming from a background in which i have found religious-based therapy really potentially damaging. i don’t feel a lack of respect for religious people in general. just i feel wary of how religion can be used in negative ways.

    but that is just me. if someone is religious, then i can see how seeing a therapist who reflects one’s own values can be very healing and important. and just because a therapist is religious doesn’t necessarily mean they will believe in a harmful version of religion.

    ok, i guess what i’ve said is out there and all i can do is hope i clarified myself well enough and hope that i didn’t offend anyone. i sincerely apologize in case i did.

    • I know what you mean Katie… there’s a difference between someone having a religious or belief system that guides their way of being, and someone pushing their religious or belief system onto you. There’s sometimes a fine line, and it’s an issue that I struggle with greatly.

      Interestingly, every therapist that I’ve seen has been either religious or had a spiritual belief of some kind… I wonder if it’s the nature of the work that has meant that they hold these beliefs, or whether it’s co-incidental?

  4. No, I’ve been telling you you aren’t a hopeless case for a while! Yes, interview them all… and see how they fit. Then think about it a bit and let it settle. Do a pros and cons. And then make a choice. Good for you. I’m glad you have choices. You deserve it.

    I must say, though, I think you judge yourself way too harshly as evidenced by the initial letter you sent.


    • Hi Paul,

      You’ve never had to sit in a therapist chair across the room from me… 🙂 It’s hard not to think that I’m the cause of all of the difficulties in therapy – after all, I’m the one constant in the different therapeutic equations. The therapist yesterday was positive, but I’m not sure of the fit… I’m hopeful that the person on Wednesday will work out…

      Judging myself harshly is a constant pattern of thinking. It’s part of my dysfunction and belief system…

      Take care…

  5. Yeah, great news! I’m soooo glad 🙂 <- = very big smile!
    I love what you have written to the thera. I think, exactly your honest words in this Email has helped, that they gave you a chance and wrote back to you. These words mean, that you are able to reflect and that you can express excellent in words. All thera love this 🙂
    Many safe hugs to you (((())))
    and.. have I mentioned before, that you aren't a hopeless case?? 😉

    • Thank you LSC 🙂 I’m trying to take it one step at a time and be aware of everything that happens internally. I hadn’t thought of the email as proof of reflection; but the thera said that she didn’t know what change is meant to look like either and that it’s not until we reflect that we see that change. This ties with what I think, so I’m hoping we’re a therapeutic fit.

      Take care,

  6. Wow. Three options. I’d probably faint.

    That’s terrific that you are taking the time to “interview” each therapist. I sat down in my therapist’s office and said if this didn’t work I was going to off myself because I’d had enough. When she took that in stride I felt there might be some hope.

    Great letter, too. Were you able to come together as a System and write that? Kudos.

    I was thinking of you this morning as I watched the spring birds at my feeder, and I wondered if it was starting to get chilly down there.

    Just to chime in with the other comments here – you are certainly not hopeless. You are so intelligent, creative, informative, respectful, kind, and positive towards everyone else. Now turn that inside-out and give yourself some credit. You deserve it!


    • Hi Lisa,

      My greatest fear is that none of these options will work. I really don’t know what I’ll do if that’s the case.

      Your therapist sounds good… to take that in her stride and keep smiling.

      The days are getting shorter and the leaves are turning. It’s 3pm here and the shadows are already long. I’m thinking of going out to take some photos soon as the Sun should be in the right spot. My cat is very much noticing the chill factor – she’s looking for the warmth more at night now.

      Thank you 🙂

      Take care,

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