When your therapist gets all serious and judgmental


Obviously this week’s therapy session was about my mother and my reaction to how things went. For those of you who may have missed my comments on the last post, we told my parents that we were busy and the response was literally two words: “Ok thanks.”

I don’t know what that means and I have to say that we’re waiting for some kind of evil, angry email at some point. So things don’t feel settled.

Strangely enough I find myself slightly pissed at my therapist. I noticed it during the session but several things kept me from speaking up. First I should setup what we were talking about.

I debated on whether I should tell her that in engaged in SI. I knew that her response would be all the reasons why I shouldn’t and how bad that is, blah, blah, blah. But I also felt like, “Well, she’s my therapist and I should be able to talk to her about anything”.

Of course her response was textbook but here’s where I started getting pissed off. She’s very big on not judging things. She says it ALL THE TIME. Everything I do, no matter how I feel about it, should have no judgement. I’m supposed to learn and stay present and yada, yada, yada. Ok…so why doesn’t that count when it comes to self-injury? Where’s the “No Judgement” rule? Instead, her face turned all serious and I could almost feel the disapproval pouring off of her.

I tried explaining how SI works for me in the sense of what I see in my head and the drive I have to accomplish certain things. I will not talk about it in detail here for the benefit if all of all of you. I felt like I was trying to help her understand why I feel the need to do certain things and I was hoping for some understanding. It never came. Everything she said about it was about the severe “psychological damage” that I was doing to myself and how SI is never the right thing to do and how I’m letting my mother win and saying that I’m powerless and reinforcing that idea every time I do it.

I didn’t need this speech. Ok, I appreciated some of what she said on a rational level but I’d already told myself that I was letting my mother influence me. My therapist compared SI to being a heroin addict and I could not agree with her because the damage drugs do to your body are very different than SI. She disagreed, blah, blah, blah.

I made it very clear that there were absolutely zero suicidal intentions going on just so she’d know. She insisted on writing a list of things I could do instead of harming myself. It felt so Psych 101 and I was irritated by the whole process.

I guess I feel like she didn’t try to hear me. She jumped straight to Therapist’s Textbook page 187: Ten Things You Must Say To Your Client If They Self-Harm and stubbornly stayed there instead of really listening. It made me mad and frustrated.

Another factor as to why I didn’t tell her that I felt this way is that, as I felt that disapproval coming from her, I began to fear that she would get angry with me if I didn’t acquiesce. It made me hesitate when something angry or sarcastic came to my lips. Instead, I watched her face and posture for signs that she was getting mad at me and a fear that she would stop seeing me planted itself. I don’t believe this fear is baseless because if I remember correctly, many, many, years ago when I first started self-harming, she said something to the effect of ‘I can’t help you if you don’t…something, something, something’ which in my memory was basically, “If you don’t stop harming yourself, I won’t see you anymore.” Maybe I misunderstood her or maybe she did imply that but her methods have changed since then. I don’t feel like she’d say that today at all. But the fact my memory thinks she said it once before is enough.

By the end I had agreed to put one instrument of harm back where I got it and I had also agreed that blogging about it when I’m having trouble was a decent idea. She also told me that she would be my cheerleader and to feel free to email her.

Now, I wonder how much of that I did to appease her? She’s so focused on how to handle addictions that I don’t feel like she heard what I really said about the compulsion.

Can a therapist even stop and listen to a client when they express themselves about SI? Or is their training so entrenched that their only goal is to stop it from happening by giving the speech?

So, now I sit here slightly pissed and I’ve noticed an increase in depression. Well, if I didn’t feel pissed and depressed it wouldn’t be a normal week for me would it? πŸ˜‰

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About CimmarianInk

Abuse Survivor Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personalities
This entry was posted in self-harm, Self-injury and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to When your therapist gets all serious and judgmental

  1. Freasha1964 says:

    A couple things… I am glad you told her. I think it would be very healthy if you told her more, the stuff you said here about your feelings about her. It IS a scary thing to risk anything that might lead to losing her. From my perspective, this probably wouldn’t be a risk, but a healthy thing to talk about and get straight.
    I am wondering what you WOULD have liked to hear from her instead of the classic DSM inspired spiel. If you are clear on that, you could tell her that, too. If she is the quality therapist I have the impression she is, she will engage you and find it a step forward.
    I get tripped up, too. I think I am going along fine, and then something happens that challenges my feelings of power in my life, and I find myself on my face. For you, this would be your mother popping out of the woodwork…again. For me when it happens, I start the suicidal thoughts, wish I could be run over by a bus, etc. I am impressed that you can write to us about this. It was hard for me to write that last line, I don’t like to remember/admit that I ever go through times when I can’t see the benefit of living.
    I am proud of you, how you stood your ground and your mother didn’t get to win that last one. (Except maybe the SI part if that is a way for her to win. But she didn’t know about it; she only knew that she didn’t get her visit.) You are heading in the “right” (whatever that is) direction.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Freasha I’m so sorry that you get those feelings. 😦 I can understand though considering what you’ve been through. I’m glad you wrote that statement even though it was difficult.

      I’m considering telling my therapist about my feelings. In the past if there’s ever been any tension or anger from me she always handles it by talking it out. As for what I would’ve wanted to hear?
      I don’t have specifics on it in my head but I think that I would have preferred it if she’d let me talk about the imagery I see I my head and specifics of what I wish to do. Talking about it isn’t going to make me do it more so there’s no reason to avoid it. And I think I would prefer some understanding statements instead of judging ones.

      I’m glad that I held my ground in this mother thing too. πŸ™‚

      • BB says:

        Hi,

        I haven’t posted here before, and hope you don’t mind me posting this. I just wanted to share a little about my therapist, in the hope that it might help you figure out what you want to say to yours. I also hope that this isn’t too triggering. I really understand what you mean about lecturing. That would really be a problem for me. I think it shows a total lack of understanding…and possibly is much more to do with the therapist not being able to handle the information.

        I started with a new t about six months ago, and I have to say that when I read this post, I realized how amazing she is. She has never ever given me the lecture. She asked me about the self harm, in detail, asked me about what leads up to it. She talks about it, like she wants to understand, and I can tell from her eyes and her body language that she’s not scared. Nothing, no matter how badly I do it, shocks her. She asked me if I would like to work on it in therapy and I said no, not right now. It saves my life when things are bad. And when I’m so dissociated that I don’t even believe I have any problems, the marks are a reminder to go to therapy. I need that right now. I told her that I don’t do it to get attention, that I would like to stop it eventually, but that right now, it saves my life, and is way better than alcohol or drugs. I told her that I thought I would probably need to use it less as healing occurred. She told me she respects my process, but to tell her if the intent ever became suicidal. She says we’re in the process together, and so every session, she asks me about self harm, and if I would be comfortable showing her. We then use it as a talking point. It serves as a helpful time marker for incidents that would otherwise be lost in the dissociative void.

        Now, I’m not saying its good, and yes, I hope one day that I will be healed, but the fact that my t listens, doesnt lecture, supports, and even validates everything I tell her has done so much for my trust in her. I really do feel that she wants to help, and what’s more, I feel like maybe she can help, that she can deal with it.

        So I can see why you are upset! Maybe ask your therapist to listen, with an open mind, to why this happens, and use it as a point of exploration. I really wish you all the best in your healing.

        Ps…feel free not to post this.”..I just wanted to share something that migh be helpful…but I realize it’s probably triggering.

      • CimmarianInk says:

        Hi BB,

        You’re welcome to comment and I appreciated your experiences. It’s really good that you have a therapist who’s good at listening. It’s a good skill. My therapist is usually good at that which is why it’s so frustrating to have it happen in this situation.

        I also understand your feelings about why SI *works* so-to-speak. Sometimes we need metaphorial bandaids until we learn other healthier ways to cope. And that’s why I need “no judgment”.

        I’m sure I’ll talk about with her either in email or the next session.

        Thanks for commenting BB. πŸ™‚

  2. Vivid says:

    Grr. I don’t blame you for being annoyed with her; I’d be furious. My old therapist was very similar; he’d sit there with this perplexed, disapproving look and constantly asked why I’d self-harmed. Er, you’re the psychologist here – shouldn’t you have some insight?!

    My new therapist has been great about self-harm (even if he does harp on more about than he should), and it was only through him that I realised they aren’t all so insensitive about it.

    I suppose you should raise your concerns to her, but that’s easier said than done, I know. What about an email or letter, politely stating that you’re scared of losing her but that you felt judged (or at least not accepted)?

    I don’t know, hun – I only know that you shouldn’t have to deal with these worries at a time where you’re having to deal with this crap about your mother too 😦 I’m sorry it’s so rough right now.

    Thinking of you.

    (((hugs)))

    Viv x

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Hey Viv,

      You hit on my thought there which was,”you’re the psychologist here – shouldn’t you have some insight?!” I was thinking similar thoughts to you about sending her an email about how I feel. She actually asked me to email her to let her know what’s going on and that’s an opportunity to express myself. And yes, I did feel like it was just one more stressor added to the pile. I’m thinking that I may end up doing some Polyvore sets and if I do, then I’ll email them to her with my feelings.

      I’m glad you have a therapist who pisses you off less than the other one. πŸ˜‰

  3. Angel O'Fire says:

    Text book standard answer’s is something that really pisses me off, your right you should be able to talk to your therapist about anything, without feeling judged as for their text book approach’s to thing’s I have come to realise that sometime’s therapy is worse than what ever it is that has led us to seek help from somebody, especially when their so called help makes you feel as though they are now the judge jury and executioner in of your life. Well written blog, Hi I am Angel, a new found follower of your blog, you have some great writing within your online journal thank you for sharing, and well done x

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Thanks Angel. I appreciate the validation. πŸ™‚ I know she can’t be perfect but she’s really good in other ways so we’ll have to figure out how to work this out. I hope you find the blog helpful, if just a bit.

  4. castorgirl says:

    Hi CI,

    Self-injury is a tough thing for everyone concerned… T’s bring to the therapeutic relationship some baggage of their own, and sometimes that influences their reactions to things, especially self-harm. It sounds like a good idea to clarify what her boundaries are around self-injury, and an email is a good option for raising the subject. Let her know what happens for you when she talks to you about the self-injury – I did this with Allison, and she had no idea that she was coming across as intrusive and judgemental.

    Just to challenge you a little… self-injury can be like an addiction, and it can be deadly. That’s part of why we need to be able to talk about it freely, as we need to be able to understand the motivations driving it, and find healthier ways to cope with those motivations. Also, if we see our T’s reacting, sometimes that causes a reaction in us… may be it’s not that we’re being judged, but may be it’s that our T’s care, and we’re not used to that accountability?

    I’m really sorry that the incident with your mother, stirred things up to the point of self-injury… I also understand you being angry at your T, regardless of her reaction to your self-injury – she encouraged you to make contact with your mother… I don’t know how you reacted to her doing that; but, I know that I reacted badly…

    Take care,
    CG

    • CimmarianInk says:

      CG you said a lot that I found interesting. I actually smiled at the way you approached challenging me because it was so gentle. πŸ™‚

      One part that I thought about was something that my therapist implies as well and that’s the physical danger of SI. You said that it can be deadly but I’ve never seen that so I wonder why both of you feel that way? I’m being serious when I ask that. I honestly can’t think of a way that it’s dangerous, apart from the possibility that you may make a mistake and cause more injury than you intended. Unless that’s what you meant?

      Second, yes I definitely will bring it up with her because I now feel like there’s a barrier in my feeling ok to talk to her about everything. And actually I feel pretty resentful I think (?).

      Third, it’s a good point that you brought out to consider that maybe her reaction isn’t about judgment it’s about concern. Something to consider and I can ask her to tell me what she thinks when I talk about self-injury.

      One of the most surprising things you said (in a good way) was that you reacted badly when she encouraged me to see my mother. This surprised me because I too was surprised when she suggested it but I didn’t really acknowledge my surprise and perhaps even some feelings of betrayal (?) at the idea. I appreciated you saying that because it validated what I felt. My only allowance with her in that matter was that during the session you could see how badly I wanted those photos, including the one of my uncle. I think that she was trying to help me get what I wanted with the understanding that my mother would no longer be near me anymore afterwards and that I could continue to block her communication when she was gone.

      I really appreciate all of your thoughts on this, I found it helpful as always. πŸ™‚

      • castorgirl says:

        Hi CI,

        Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you…

        To try and answer your questions, without triggering everyone… πŸ™‚ I’m speaking from my own experiences here, so it’s not something that can be taken as a rule, but more of how things can develop. When I started self-injuring, it was fairly minor; but, it slowly progressed, and became more serious. The cause of the worsening of the self-injury for me, was a combination of different parts becoming involved in the acts, and also the addictive element. During my marriage, it became increasingly worse, and violent. Some forms of self-injury, are deadly… I really don’t want to list them, but some people can use highly risky forms of self-injury. Saying that, seemingly non-life threatening forms of self-injury can turn out to be very dangerous – all it takes is one thing to not quite go right, and you could get an infection.

        I’m really glad you are going to bring the issues up with your T… you both deserve that care and attention πŸ™‚

        Yes, I did react really badly to the suggestion by your therapist. But, I didn’t know the full context, so didn’t want to say anything πŸ™‚ I’m glad my comment acted as a further validation to what you were feeling…

        I’m not sure if I’ve covered what you wanted, but I didn’t want to be too graphic about anything on your blog… Feel free to email me if you want to ask anything about my experiences, and check with your T as to what she means by her words and reactions πŸ™‚

        Take care,
        CG

      • CimmarianInk says:

        You don’t need to apologize at all. πŸ™‚

        I think I understand what you mean about the dangers. Your reasons made much more sense than my therapist’s because she kept talking about psychological damage which I practically rolled my eyes at.

        I’m so sorry that you went through so much pain. It makes sense to me why things escalated in your life and I am always grateful that your ex is an ex.

        I did talk to my therapist about my feelings on her reaction and I’ll write a post about it soon. I think the conversation went well.

        I hope that talking about your experiences didn’t cause you more pain. I’m really sorry if it did.

      • castorgirl says:

        Hi CI,

        To be clear, there is psychological damage with self injury. Each time we hurt ourselves, we’re sending a message to ourselves – we’re not safe, worthy, meaningful, etc. so, while I can understand why you roll your eyes at what your T said, I’m also aware of the truth behind her words. Paul from MindParts, has referred to his self injury as self abuse, and as using it as a way to commit psychological suicide. I agree with him… It can destroy us physically, and psychologically. The two are linked… what happens to our bodies, influences our psychological state; and vice versa.

        I didn’t talk much about the psychological impact before, and that was a mistake – my desire to minimize the impact of my actions on myself, and for those around me… Another way to reinforce that I am meaningless πŸ™‚

        It’s complicated stuff…

        Take care,
        CG

  5. Alice says:

    I’m sorry that you’ve been made to feel this way, maybe it would help to show her this post or to write down for her exactly how you feel and how she affects those feelings. I hope you’re ok x x x

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Hi Alice,

      Yes I too thought of maybe bringing this post in and just reading it. I’m ok, thank you for asking. We’ll see how therapy goes this week. Hopefully we can work everything out. I appreciate your concern, thank you. πŸ™‚

  6. Pingback: Working things out with therapist when they have hangups | Living With Bipolar Disorder, DID and Childhood Abuse

  7. ts says:

    I know exactly what u mean! Its the whole trend of “active listening” and ” solve the problem right away” approach that alot of therapists are adopting because they can’t and don’t want to listen. My understanding is that alot of the exam that psychologists take is very academic so the best “student” and “test taker” may be a horrible therapist and they get the credential needed to practice..this is really frustrating because alot of people need help and all they are doing is documentation and lists now. Really a rough approach to someone who is really hurting or on trouble. Why don’t they base the licensing on results! Do patients of the therapist get better and are they satisfied with the therapy…yea textbook is important but if they are just throwing things in your face then why do u even need them???it could actually make things worse!

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