Being The Perfect Therapy Client

I know this is a bit like the London double-deckers; for a long time there’s not a single bus, and then there are five all at once. The Heinz Ketchup effect.. But, you see, one of my readers commented on the post I uploaded last night, and in responding to his comment I realised that it could well be turned into a blog post in its own right, so here I am again, updating my blog merely hours after my last offering. You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot and all that.. I hope you don’t mind.

Anyhow..
The comment was in reference to my mentioning that five years ago, following an initial psychological assessment, I was deemed to be too high risk and unsuitable for psychotherapy, and the commenter said that “From the posts I’ve read by you, you certainly seem like the sort of patient that therapists are delighted to have.” My initial reaction was to feel flattered by this comment, and I instantly thought that I rather agree, biased as I am; I do think I make a good client. I have a bit of a chequered past, quite a few things in my baggage – obvious material to work with so to speak – and I am also reasonably self-aware, rather analytically minded and fairly articulate. Not a bad prospect for a psychotherapist.

Then again, I am no different to any other psychotherapy client; I think we all want to see ourselves as good clients – interesting, intelligent people – who therapists are happy to work with. And we all wish to be the favourite client, the one our therapist is really looking forward to seeing, because we challenge them just the right amount without being burdensome or draining. [If you’re in therapy yourself, I’m sure you will know what I mean.]

Yet, having been turned down by the NHS for therapy I really struggled to find someone who was willing to take me on. Naturally I had to give up on the idea of getting free therapy on the NHS, but I figured that outside of The Service there had to be plenty of privately practicing therapists who would want to work with me.

In reality it took me quite a few months to find a therapist. I had to go to many ‘first appointments’ and found myself being repeatedly rejected. Many of the therapists I saw, said exactly what the NHS assessor had said; that I was simply too high risk, what with my recent serious suicide attempt and my habit of using self-harm as a coping strategy. And I can understand that. I imagine it can be quite challenging – scary even – to work with, and in a sense – be responsible for – a client who may well choose to down a litre of anti-freeze rather than turn up to session. Naturally, not everyone will be up for that. But, at the same time, the way I always saw it – and I would always make this clear at assessments – I’ve always seen therapy as the way forward for me, the thing which will eventually help me manage my past in a more positive way, and also – while I have many times become depressed while in therapy, I’ve never made an attempt to end my life when I’ve been in therapy or had counselling. That has only ever happened when I’ve not had a place to take my thoughts and emotions, when I’ve felt I’ve not been able to share what’s going on for me.

The other reason given to me, when therapists declined taking me on, was that they felt they simply didn’t have the experience they needed to be able to work with someone with such a complex background. There are quite a few aspects – issues, if you will – to work on; I was adopted, so a high potential for major attachment and abandonment issues and possible identity crises. I was sexually abused and suffer from intense flashbacks of this, and so more than one therapist said that I should probably look for someone who specialised in this area, perhaps a therapist trained in EMDR or TF-CBT. I have one parent who is gay, I have another parent who has struggled a lot with the rollercoaster that is bi-polar disorder. So lots of different things to work on in therapy, perhaps too many, for some.

I also suspect, although I don’t know this for sure, that I probably came across as someone who might be a bit of a handful to manage in session, because I happen to be ridiculously well read on the theory of psychotherapy, particularly psychoanalytic and psychodynamic therapy, which was also what I wanted to do. I am not someone who will hold back on commenting if I feel that the therapist is ‘text booking’ me. And also, there is a definite barrier to get through; the fact that I often, knowingly or unknowingly, intellectualise and theorise in order to not have to deal with actual emotions. Hiding behind my theoretic understanding of things, so as to not really have to deal with anything. I don’t do it so much anymore – in fact, these days I tell myself off if I notice that I am slipping back into this pattern – but five years ago, that was certainly something I did a lot.

In the end, having tried for a good few months to find myself a therapist and failed, I asked the house therapists in the therapeutic community I had recently moved in to, to set me up with one of their trainees, because I felt I would never be able to get anyone to take me on on my own.

Long-term readers of this blog with remember that this turned out to not have been a great idea, as the person who was ‘assigned to me’ wasn’t a particularly good match for me and the chemistry just wasn’t there. Having thought it through, I ultimately decided to terminate with her, as I felt that I could probably carry on seeing her for years and still never get what I wanted from our work together. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but, I always felt it was the right decision for me. I’m sure B. – my previous therapist – is a great therapist; she just wasn’t the right one for me.

As it turned out, I actually managed to find a therapist that seemed a good fit for me before I had even let B. know for sure that I was going to move on. Almost as if by magic, I had completely by chance contacted two different therapy organisations, both of which A. happened to be affiliated with, and already the first time I spoke to her on the phone, I felt she could be the right person for me to be doing this very important work with. Going for my first initial appointment with her I was nervous, but also felt decidedly positive. I had a good feeling about it.

I have since asked A. how come she decided to take me on – thinking about the many people who had turned me down – and, although she slightly dodged the question in her funny little way, she did say that she never considered not taking me on. I am still not entirely sure why that was, but maybe she saw it somewhat similarly to how I saw it; I seemed like someone she could work well enough with me to give me a chance.

We’ve certainly had our moments over the years, A. and I, and I know that I can definitely be more than just a little challenging at times, and not always in a nice way, but I do think that we speak similar enough languages to be able to communicate well and to work things through. I also know that A. can stand up to me, and that she won’t be cornered or pushed around by my intellectualisations or red herrings, something I really appreciate. In fact, only the other session, she was challenging me and I commented that she’s asking very difficult questions, to which she responded Good! and we exchanged a quick smile across the room.
And I think that illustrates our relationship quite well.

I don’t know if I really am that magic Favourite Client, and by now that doesn’t even seem all that important anymore, but I do feel that we have a decent enough relationship that I could be.

And that’s enough.

xx

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Uncertainty – An Entry About Dealing With The Unknown

I often don’t know what I’ll be writing about when I sit down to blog. Today is one of those times. It’s more a case of finding myself overwhelmed by a need to write; that there are a lot of feelings swimming around inside of me, and somehow they need to be expressed or at least explored. It helps me figure out what’s really going on in my mind.

This morning I spent about forty-five minutes trying to find a suitable psychotherapist to help me do this in a more controlled environment, since sometimes when I write I take things a step further than I was actually ready for. So, deciding on a therapist is a pretty important thing. Especially since the person needs to be someone who can read you well enough – gauge where you’re at – to be able to help you decide what you are and aren’t ready for.

The thing is though, that although there are absolutely tons of psychotherapists about, well – until you actually meet them you can’t possibly know that they are the right one, can you? Sure, I have a wish list of sorts at the back of my head (has to be female, have a certain amount of life experience, preferably be interested in a psychodynamic approach, and so on), but, as I said, until you’ve met a person, how can you know?

So, that’s something that’s definitely weighing on my mind. The fact that I haven’t yet sorted out a therapist, even though I know that the last session of counselling with D. is drawing rapidly nearer.

And of course, that in itself, the ending of counselling, well, it’s a pretty big thing. I really don’t like endings. I accept that they have to happen sometimes, but I really don’t like them. (On the other hand, I can’t say that I know of anyone who does like them). For me an ending is like, I don’t know – it’s just enormously frightening. Particularly when it is the ending of something which I have experienced as being very positive. It gives me a feeling of being abandoned. Or maybe abandoned isn’t the right word. But something similar to it. And it makes me feel incredibly alone and vulnerable. Especially when I don’t know what’s round the next bend.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. That one of the things I’ve really been struggling a lot with in life is the fact that there are so many loose ends. So much uncertainty. Both in my present situation and in my past. And I think what I want to get out of therapy is some sort of closure. Not in a done and dustedsort of way – I don’t believe that’s possible, since life is a journey and as a person I am constantly changing, constantly evolving. A better way to put it is perhaps that I would like to have a bit more order in amongst the loose ends. And I think psychotherapy could help me with that.

I think I’ve made a pretty good start in this round of counselling. I feel a lot more aware of how things hang together, how they all interrelate. At least on a surface level. I guess, with psychotherapy, I hope to get a deeper understanding of it. How the finer (or often not so fine) details have lead me down a certain path, has steered me into a certain way of behaving, of dealing with things.

Apart from that, what else is going on? Well, Christmas is getting closer by the second. And Christmas means going home.. My mother now knows that I will be in my hometown over this period; she was told earlier in the week. What I don’t know is what her reaction to that was, but, me being me, well – I do worry. I worry that it was really hard for her, I worry that I’ve really made her upset this time. And also – yes – I worry that my decision hasn’t had much of an impact at all. Because that would probably be the response that would mean the most..

Still, I am going home. It was my own decision. And I think that, as challenging as it will be, it is the right one. I think I need to reclaim my turf a bit. I also think that I am a lot better equipped to do so now, compared to earlier in the year.

I just hope I won’t forget it once I’m there.

xx