Posted by Solstice on October 22, 2010, at 14:00:46
In reply to please help, posted by Annabelle Smith on October 21, 2010, at 21:49:54
I am not new here - I've been a 'lurker' for years, but the pain I could feel the pain in your post was compelling. I can relate to what you are experiencing.
Your situation with this new T is a big deal. After experiencing some repeated life traumas that knocked me down, I entered therapy for the first time, seeing a highly regarded therapist (PhD). At first it was ok enough. But when earlier life traumas rose to the surface, I was in way over my head, and was excruciatingly vulnerable. I had never felt so vulnerable in my life as I let him 'in'. I think my therapist intended to do right by me, but I do not think he had the training/therapeutic instincts/initiative/experience to Be therapeutic for my situation. After 2-3 years of a therapeutic relationship that grew more and more toxic, I was in much worse shape by the time I walked out than when I walked in. The deterioration of that relationship harmed me in ways that I still struggle mightily to recover from. Sometimes I wonder if recovery is really even possible.
Many of the things you mentioned about your new T are painfully familiar to me: "He just stares at me-- and it doesn't feel compassionate, but rather feels judgmental and cold. I have so many things that I want to share with him, but feel like what I say is trivialized and not taken seriously..." I didn't feel compassion coming my way with my T either. I also frequently felt he did not understand me. I tried to talk to him about the effect his methods were having on me. I could spend a whole session working up the courage to tell him that something that took place in that room seemed to be more harmful than helpful. After finally getting it out (with my anxiety in overdrive) his responses often left me feeling like my pain was trivialized. That made me feel judged. I was in chronic emotional pain because he was so misattuned... and so unable to protect the therapeutic relationship.
What I most needed from him was for him to reflect, and try to understand the pain I felt. I needed to hear him say "Solstice, I don't want this relationship to cause you this kind of pain, please tell me what I said/did/etc. that left you feeling misunderstood/judged/etc." But he didn't. And when I brought things up, he just disputed and argued with my account - even when I prefaced it with an acknowledgment that I may have misperceived. I saw him for a total of 4 years - and the last three were the bad years. How I left that relationship is another long story that isn't pertinent right now - but I think it is crucial for you to consider whether this T is just a very bad fit for you. He may be a wonderful therapist for other people, or skilled in treating certain issues... but the relationship pain you are experiencing might indicate a bad fit. You had a good therapist who 'got' you and was effectively therapeutic... and then you got a new T who does not seem to 'get' you, and may have a therapeutic stance that is not going to be good for you. I may be reading my own experience into yours, but I suspect it's not so much about your being hopelessly attached to the previous therapist, as it's that you have spent a long period of time in a new therapy that is Not working, and may even have the potential to harm you. You might be obsessing about your old T because you are experiencing a lot of pain, and Old T is where you last felt safe. We all run to safety when in pain. If your new T had a therapeutic stance that left you feeling accepted, cared for, understood.. I'd wager that although you'd experience the normal issues adjusting to a different T person - your new T succeeding at creating an environment where you felt safe, accepted, understood, and cared for would still leave you feeling therapeutically 'held.' This new T relationship is not 'holding' you - and you need to do whatever you can to find a therapeutic relationship that 'holds' you. Your previous therapist's style in handling phone calls is a perfect example of a T knowing how to ensure the relationship 'held' you.
Sorry this is so long, but your situation really struck a nerve with me. I stayed in a toxic therapeutic relationship for more than two years, and on a daily basis, I regret it. I don't think my T meant to harm me, but he was blind to what was happening to me while I was in his care.. in that room with him. I think the naked trust that is involved in therapy is what makes a bad fit so harmful to the client. I have a good T now. You went from good to bad, and I went from bad to good. If I'd have had my current T first, I'd have known that what was happening with Toxic T was not working. Instead, I blamed myself for the problems (and Toxic T also suggested it was 'me' that was the problem).
I'd better stop before I wander around too much. I hope sharing some of my experience is helpful to you.
Take good care...