I’m a huge proponent of therapy. I think one of the most powerful and generous things we can do–for ourselves and for those around us–is to deal with our issues and gain a deeper understanding of ourselves. This past year has been really rough, and I’ve been looking for a counselor to help me deconstruct my emotional responses and navigate some difficult family dynamics. I’m in a place where I genuinely want to improve my mental health; unfortunately, the process of finding a counselor is driving me insane …
In college I had a really good counselor. She struck the perfect balance of warmth, guidance, and pragmatism. She challenged me but gave me time and space to process things. She was direct but not too direct. Alas, she moved away, and since then my life has turned into something resembling a painfully bad movie called “50 First Therapy Sessions.” There was the one who talked about me as if I were 12 years-old. The one who was way too into Freud. But as much as I can see the logical reasons why each therapist didn’t work out, each time an appointment fizzled I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe the problem was me.
A therapist-client relationship is weird because there’s a huge imbalance of intimacy. The client tells the therapist everything about themselves; the therapist tells the client nothing. I’m a warm, outgoing person but it definitely takes me awhile to trust people enough to open up to them, and one of the best ways to build trust is to build intimacy–on both sides. The therapist-client dynamic doesn’t allow for that, and it freaks me out. When I don’t feel an instant connection to my counselor it’s really hard for me to talk about anything other than what nice weather we’re having, so that’s what I do, and then I pay them for talking about the weather with me, I go home feeling sad and defeated, and I don’t go back.
Part of this, I know, is based on fear. I’m hesitant to open myself up in therapy because I’m afraid of what might come out. But I’m starting to realize that therapy, like everything else in life, is what you make of it. There is no magical counselor who has the key to unlocking my psyche. That’s my job. And by showing up to a counselor’s office closed off and jaded, I’m not creating a real opportunity for growth and change. My college therapist was good, but my habit of comparing every therapist to her doesn’t do anyone any favors. My life is different now, and I need a different therapist to help me navigate it. To find that person, I need to go about this differently.
Over the weekend a friend recommended a therapist to me. I’ve decided that no matter how the first meeting goes, I’m going to stick with it for 3 appointments. I’m going to try my best to be open and vulnerable. I’m going to give the relationship time to develop and get a bit more comfortable. I’m not going to judge our dynamic based on a first impression. I owe that to the therapist, but more importantly, I owe it to myself.