Working things out with therapist when they have hangups


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?

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About CimmarianInk

Abuse Survivor Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personalities
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10 Responses to Working things out with therapist when they have hangups

  1. Angel O'Fire says:

    wow, reading through this part of me started to skip ahead in my mind saying what I would of told her if it was me on the other side of the desk, although my replies would probably of ended the therapy straight away ending the whole therapy thing for me, the way you reacted was nothing short of brilliant! well done
    As for her past client, well in all parts of life I guess we all live and learn, come across thing’s we don’t know how to deal with or what to do even profesionaly,
    Your thinking later on of the past client,is a good thing, it shows empathy, which is a selfless thing to have, maybe when your through this part of your life, and you have stopped cutting complelty you will be able to put all that your life has taught you, along with therapy, and how exactly you feel about cutting and bpd, along with everything else into helping others who are misunderstood or turned away by therapists.
    they say that a good teacher learns from their students,
    and who better to teach someone about what they are going through than someone who has not only lived through it, but a person who has come through the other side, and knows/relates to how the person is feeling who is cutting and using impulsive behaviors as a method of coping with what they don’t realize to be underlying issue’s that are only come to the suffice as you get into learning about yourself through therapy,
    it helps when you have a therapist who is human and doesn’t actually use the stock standard replies and Que card answers in a text book.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Hi Angel O’Fire,

      Yea, there were many things that I could have said to her that probably weren’t very polite. 😉 It is good to remember that she’s human so that was a positive. And she’s told me before that I help her to learn so therapy is good for both of us. I guess it’s just important to keep communication open when things don’t go as smoothly between us.

  2. Freasha1964 says:

    The thing about you, CI, is that you have made some significant progress, even in the few months since I started reading your blogs. (Or does time fly and it’s been longer?) It seems you are engaging less in SI, but you have some set backs, and your mother is inspiring in that arena.
    I am very glad that you have had the courage to ask your therapist hard questions, even though the answers could have been painful. (That also points to progress.) And even more glad that the answers were positive.
    Trigger alert:
    I once saw a young man self injure, right in front of me. I was in another country, could barely speak the language, and had no clue why he would do such a thing. I know better now. I had asked him how his week had gone. He showed me some cuts on his wrist and said something about his girlfriend leaving him. Then he pulled out a razor blade and made another cut on his hand. I felt mortified and helpless. I am not sure what I could have done, even with what I know today. But I think I understand better. Your therapist no doubt has the hang-up you describe. It is not a pleasant thing to watch, or hear about. But she needs to get over it and it sounds like she just might.

    I am very proud of you that you undertook this discussion with her. I bet it was very hard to do. I am sure she sees this as an encouraging sign that you are healing.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Wow Freasha! I wouldn’t have known how to handle that either even with my personal experience. SI is such a personal, private thing that I wouldn’t understand why someone would do it in front of someone. I’m really sorry you had to see that. 😦

      Being reminded that my therapist is an actual human being is never all that pleasant (how dare she!) but it is necessary so that my expectations are reasonable.

  3. meredith says:

    What an awesome post, CI!

    One of the things I learned over time with my therapist is that she suffers a form of PTSD from treating survivors of severe abuse, and she shares (from time to time) how she has to step back, reassess, and be mindful of the way she makes choices as a therapist.

    Therapists aren’t gods, they don’t have all the answers, and it takes two to have a meaningful relationship regardless of the type of relationship. It takes strength from both parties to admit to limitations and mistakes… and to confront limitations and mistakes.

    You’re an amazing woman. I love this post.

    ~Meredith

    • CimmarianInk says:

      I absolutely agree with you meredith, because I don’t know how someone, no matter how much training and experience they have, can be unmoved by what they hear from their clients. The stories we tell are hard to hear and they should be. Actually it seems to be necessary for a therapist to maintain that humanity so they can feel compassion. It’s a difficult profession I’m sure.

      She always tells me that she leaves work at work but that’s gotta be hard.

  4. castorgirl says:

    Hi CI,

    Yes, T’s are human and they will bring their own baggage into the therapeutic relationship… but, the main thing is for you to both identify when it happens, and look at the effect it has. It sounds like your T is aware of this being a long-standing issue for her, but is she doing anything to address it?

    It sounds like it was the best option for your T to stop seeing that previous client… it sounds like it was a bad therapeutic fit. That’s nothing against your T, or the client, but rather where they both were at that time…

    It sounds like you’re feeling a little more assured about your T’s position, but still wary??? If so, I can understand that… it can be scary to hear that from your T. Can you put that into the overall context of your work with her? Is it something that needs to be addressed further? It’s ok to keep asking her questions… 🙂

    Take care,
    CG

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Good questions CG. I don’t know if she’s actively trying to address her issues but hopefully if she does it again I will remember her suggestion to tell her so she can be aware of it. I think she and I are okay, but yes, knowing what she thinks and what she’s done in the past might cause some hesitation in the future. But I also believed her when she promised that she would never stop seeing me. She’s been my therapist for over 10 years so I feel like I can trust that.

  5. curious212000 says:

    Hello CimmarianInk,
    I have never self harmed so I cannot feel how desperate you must become.
    Your therapist must be put in very difficult moral and ethical situations in helping to treat you as a client.
    Trust and confidentiality are paramount in any relationship as sometimes they have considerable power, in my case my driving licence was revoked without my agreement, resulting in great difficulty in remaining in a Professional Career.
    The ultimate fate, is to have your freedom and liberty taken away from you, for the safety of you and the public, which can be very disturbing, from my own experience of a voluntary admission to a closed unit.
    Therapy is a two way form of communication and I hope you have resolved your issues.

    David.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Hi David,

      Yes you’re right that trust and confidentiality is very important in therapy. I’ve been admitted to psych hospitals at least four times and I know how disconcerting that whole process is. It’s a terrible thing, even if we require the safety. Especially since not all facilities around the world are good.

      I think my therapist and I have resolved the issues. I’m sure we’ll keep learning and other things will come up as they always do, but we have a good record now of dealing with them.

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