I’ve been seeing a therapist since 2002 when I had a PTSD trigger that almost debilitated me. Before I decided on my therapist, I tried two others. While I’m sure they were highly competent, not everyone is a good fit. Perhaps a patient is more comfortable with a therapist of the same-sex, the opposite sex or a different age group. Whatever the reason, I think an integral component to productive, therapeutic counseling is trust and confidence in your therapist.
Because of childhood sexual abuse, I felt more comfortable with a female. We were both in the same age group which I found helped me to express myself more proficiently. The treatment modality she uses for PTSD is TRI (Traumatic Incident Reduction) which I’m still on the fence about. However, compared to EMDR I prefer it because EMDR did absolutely nothing for me.
My therapist had a quirk that annoyed me however; she often didn’t return phone messages. I don’t mean one message but several. She was also lax about getting paperwork completed – another annoyance. However I was able to overlook these two issues because I felt comfortable with her and I trusted her, both keys to a successful outcome.
After several years of weekly sessions I felt that I had journeyed as far as I could at the time so ended our sessions for a few years. Unfortunately, when I reported an employer for violations and they retaliated by accusing me of theft, I regressed in a matter of hours. Although my former therapist had changed locations she was still accessible so I began weekly sessions again. I really felt like I was making progress. Not as fast as I would have liked but with the childhood I emerged from I’d probably need therapy for a century so was content with baby steps.
The first thing that went awry was her session notes. She knew I signed a legal release for her to share her notes from specific dates with the attorneys involved in my whistleblower case. While I did not ask or expect her to withhold anything, I also didn’t expect her to make a random entry about my childhood – something we were not covering in therapy during this time frame. That was all the defense attorney needed and she ran wild with it, thinking the event my therapist had noted occurred when I was an adult when in reality I was 9. Her firm sent a list of questions and when I refused to answer, forced a hearing in front of a judge. They asked that he instruct me to answer and if I refused, that I be jailed. What she was asking for was a recipe for disaster because one of my worst childhood traumas occurred when I was 9. God was with me that day because the judge denied the request.
When I went for my next session I asked my therapist why she made that particular entry and she admitted it was an oversight. I was still angry at the defense attorney but respected my therapists honesty so as they say, life went on. A few months later I learned the defense attorney was still hell-bent on getting this information even though my attorney reiterated it was related to events that were literally decades old. I spent a panic filled winter because I knew that after 3.5 years, I would be given a trial date sometime in 2016. The defense attorney had waffled on the subject of settlement until she read that entry. After that it was definitely going to trial. My panic level rose when I learned the defense used a little known law to have my case moved from federal court to superior court. In essence, my trial will be in the town where I shop, walk, worship – you get the picture. Not sure how I’ve kept it together because I know as surely as the sun rises, the defense attorney will ask questions about an event that had zero bearing on what happened in the workplace in 2012. She is going to ask about the most horrific part of my childhood that I’d never shared with anyone other than my therapist. When I reached a certain age I left and never looked back. My own husband doesn’t know about my past! I asked my lawyer how the defense could do this to me, that I thought someone’s childhood was off-limits. He explained that the judge would make the decision as to how much latitude he would allow the defense.
I prayed, thought and prayed some more. With trial in a month I decided to tell my adult children and husband (a condensed version as opposed to every violent detail). I just didn’t want to take a chance of having them read something in the paper; I preferred it came from me. Telling my family, but specifically my adult children was never part of my life agenda as it had no purpose. Just because you give birth to someone doesn’t require that you share every detail of your life with them but in my situation I felt somewhat cornered.
At the same time my beloved German Shepherd, who is my Prozac with 4 legs, developed some major health issues which required treatment several hours south. I am a HUGE animal lover so opted to put my therapy sessions on hold for a few weeks so that I was free to travel with my dog to the neurosurgeon. The last week of my dogs treatment I planned to call and make a new therapy appointment when the unthinkable happened ~ our dear friend whom I loved like the brother I never had, committed suicide. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I was so grief-stricken that I literally didn’t leave the house, respond to emails or accept telephone calls. Suicide is always extremely difficult to process but when it’s followed by a complete lack of respect for the deceased or their life’s possessions it’s even worse.
I called my therapist and tried to control my tears as I left a voice mail. When several days passed without a call back I tried again. I was a wreck over my dear friend’s suicide but was unable to process my grief in a constructive way because of all the “craziness” in the wake of his suicide. I’d tried (6) times and was shocked when I suddenly said to myself “No more”. In the interim I made an appointment with another therapist who, although I’d only met socially, believed we could mesh well together. As an older gentleman in my parish says “I can feel it in my bones”. Heck, she returned my call! That in itself is worth points.
Before I can continue in my journey however I had to close out the chapter with the first therapist, a chapter that with the exception of a few years lasted over a decade. I called this afternoon and as expected, reached her voice mail. When It was time to speak I just calmly said that all of my calls had gone unanswered, even the two where I was crying about my friends suicide. Since she chose not to respond to them, I could only draw the conclusion that she was either no longer able or willing to be my therapist and as such, I had found a new one. I thanked her and hung up.
I thought I would be upset or at least heavy-hearted but in reality I was quite happy. While I like her very much as a person and to a degree will miss our sessions, I can’t help but think if she hadn’t admittedly made that “oversight” I might not be sitting in a courtroom next month, being questioned about things that should never be discussed outside of a professional therapist’s office.
However, at the end of this day, as I look forward to my first session with the new therapist tomorrow, I AM thankful for everything my original therapist did for me. Grateful for her patience, understanding, kindness and most of all for helping me find the key to unlock coping mechanisms that I never realized I had, coping mechanisms which I’ll carry forward in my journey. Thank you J.