You know that a while ago I experienced discomfort during a session with my therapist when it came to self-injury. I felt that she was being judgmental and disapproving despite her stance that nothing I do should be judged. It was very difficult but I decided to broach the subject with her, especially because I was in fear that she would stop seeing me if I didn’t immediately cease the self-harm.
The conversation we had was very eye-opening, a little scary, a little disappointing and yet good at the same time. How?
Well first off I recounted our session and I told her what I had been thinking while I had been talking about self-injury and while she had been responding to it. I told her that I felt she gave me the company line, the standard therapist response instead really listening to me. I told her that I felt judged and I thought we weren’t supposed to do that. I also told her that adapted my behavior during the session because I believed that she would stop seeing me otherwise.
The scary part was her response after I was done. She said, “Well your observations were dead on.”
Initiate meltdown procedure!!!
In my head I was shocked. I thought she would say that I was wrong. So I’m kind of freaking on the inside while smiling on the outside and then we started to talk. I found out that my therapist has some sort of hangup when it comes specifically to cutting as a form of self-jury. She says she doesn’t get the whole concept of self-injury but something about cutting really gets to her.
Okay, so what do I as the client say to that???? “Um…sorry?” No that’s not it. I felt like saying, “Well maybe you need to get over that because it’s not helpful.”
I didn’t say that either. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a “normal” person and I know that self-injury must seem insane. But it doesn’t seem insane to me, not at all. I get it and I understand why we do it. Is it healthy or good for us? No and I know that too but I told my therapist that I already knew the speech. What I needed was for her to LISTEN, not preach, not put her foot down. You could say that I was disappointed in her. I told her that this experience was making feel like I couldn’t be completely open with her.
I felt the need to ask her straight out if she would stop seeing me over this issue if I didn’t stop right away. She seemed genuinely surprised that I would think such a thing and she said very vehemently that it wasn’t true. I told her that I remembered an early conversation we had back when I was first seeing her and I was pretty sure that she had implied that self-injury was deal breaker. She thought about it and she admitted that she may have said something like that, but that in my case it wasn’t true. She then told me that she’d had a patient, almost two decades ago I believe, that she did stop seeing because they wouldn’t stop self-injuring. She explained that this particular patient showed no interest whatsoever in therapy and that self-injury was a way of life they were not willing to work on. She added that they were manipulative and she felt the need to end the relationship. Apparently their particular disorder (not bipolar) lent itself to manipulative behavior and other issues.
Whatever happened, she promised me that I was not going to lose her over anything that I did. I felt better afterwards because I believe her. She’s in it for the long haul, so thank goodness for that.
So that visit was very all over the place for me. Learning that she has a problem dealing with self-injury was disappointing and caused anxiety but we talked it out.
She told me that I need to tell her when she’s giving me textbook answers instead listening and we discussed what I needed from her instead of the Therapy 101 answers. It was very good to see once again that I can tell her anything, even about her, and she listens and doesn’t get mad at me.
Strangely I felt bad for the unknown past client. I wonder if they ever found someone to help them or if their disorder prevented them from getting the help they needed. It makes me sad to think that some mental illnesses make professionals hesitant or feel like they can’t help a person. I mean I respect my therapist and I know she wouldn’t do something like that without thinking about it first but I still feel bad. What if that had happened to me?