Psycho-Babble Psychology Thread 866019

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Dealing with a blank slate T?

Posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

My new T is of the 'blank slate' variety - I know nearly nothing about her. My last T was also of this sort, and it was one aspect of the therapy that always bothered me. For that reason, among others, we never had any sort of alliance or connection. I was quite young when I went to my last T, so I regret to say I was not confident enough to confront her with these issues.

Cut to the present, with another relatively blank slate T. I asked her last week what school she went to for her doctoral degree and she asked "Why did you ask that?" My response was that I was simply curious (which I was). I know it all depends on the personal situation of the client, but for me, I would personally prefer a little more disclosure - I feel I will be better able to relate to and open up to my T if I knew a bit more about her. Nothing too personal of course, though I didn't think asking about college was a particularly personal question.

Regarding transference - that's probably some aspect of it, but I think it's more simply my curiosity. I don't want to be friends - but I wish she would be more 3-dimensional than a blank slate! For example, I want to ask her about her theoretical orientation, but I fear the time for that has come and gone as well (and it's likely psychoanalytic... lol). I also want to ask her simple things like where in that state she is from or how long she has lived in the city.

So has anyone been able to get their therapist to disclose a bit more over time (if that was what you wanted)? Or is it pretty constant throughout? I know the proper thing to do is just talk about this situation with my T, but I fear a negative reaction. Just wanted to get some input from others who may have been there.

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently

Posted by JayMac on December 1, 2008, at 2:04:17

In reply to Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

Hi Recently,
I can relate definitely your yearning to learn more about your T! You know, I think it depends on your T. If they a T is psychoanalytic does not mean that they never disclose. Even if a T is humanistic doesn't mean that they disclose more than others. From what I've read and experienced, a T does not respond unless it is beneficial to the patient.

Every patient is different and therefore your T should treat you as an individual. Some patients benefit from having more disclosure than others. For others, it's best that they aren't told too much about their T. This is not to say that you belong to either one of these groups, your T would have to make the decision of what's best for you to know. Sometimes the question is a simple question and other times it's a complex array of unconscious anxiety in the form of a qustion.

For example, my T made a casual reference to some aspect of her health (nothing really that big of a deal, but to me it was) and I didn't say anything at the time, but the next week I was really upset. I told her that I didn't need to know about it and that she shouldn't have mentioned it. Well, this made for a really good talk about how her the information she gives impacts me. And of course we spoke about all the transference stuff.

Many times I'll ask a question and she'll respond with a question. Other times, I'll ask a question and she'll ask me if I really and truly want to know. I'll answer that I do, but then I'll make some sort of comment that suggests that I really want to talk about X and Y, instead of being told the answer to a question. It seems like my T is pretty quick to mention certain things but not others. At first, I think it was a matter of trust. I wanted to know all these answers to my questions because I hoped it would jump start my ability to trust her and especially attach to her. Everyone is different though.

What I'm trying to say is most Ts have very good reasons for why they do(not) disclose. Your T may be curious why you're asking because you are just beginning to get to know each other. As are you, she may be asking you in order to know you better.

This may(not) not work, but I just thought of this: I suggest that you make a list of all the questions you have and then rattle them off in session, without expecting an answer. She may answer some of them or none. But she might find a common thread and ask you a question that would probe deeper into why you want to know the answers to the questions.

When it comes down to it, express to your T that you want to know her. I know how hard it is to do this, but let her know how you would feel if she were to answer your questions. Tell her how you would feel if you were to know her better. Tell her about your previous T experience. This would all be extremely helpful so that she can better help you.

I hope some of this helps! =)

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently

Posted by seldomseen on December 1, 2008, at 8:14:37

In reply to Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

I've been with my T for a while. Eventually he just started talking more about himself.

The reaction about your inquiry into her training was unusual. Did she ever tell you?

Seldom.

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?

Posted by rskontos on December 1, 2008, at 9:23:07

In reply to Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

Recently,

I am of the variety that I just plain don't want to know. My t does psychoanalysis and is the drier type by nature I believe. He does though answer questions if I ask. I just don't usually ask. For me, knowing too much isn't helpful. I think knowledge of my t will come when I can handle it. For example, he went into a deep example of a belief of his early in therapy that just freaked me out. I had to email how I felt. I was unable to tell him directly. Now I can tell him when he oversteps but now he rarely does.

I recently found out more personal information, due to his helping my son with a school project but I was ok with this.

This is why I think the information should be disclosed slowly. Just like in any other relationship. You find things out naturally.

JMHO.

rsk

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently

Posted by Wittgensteinz on December 1, 2008, at 12:31:09

In reply to Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

As mentioned by Seldom, your Ts side-stepping the question as to her therapeutic orientation seems a little unusual. I think as a patient you have a right to know this information - afterall, you are paying for a service and you should know what that service is i.e. CBT, analytic, schema... this seems to be something that by necessity should be transparent - just as she has to tell you where to come and meet her and at what time!

I think the main thing is you talk it through with her - especially this similarity you see between her and your previous T. Perhaps this time you can get to the bottom of it and really express your concerns.

Disclosure is a difficult thing for therapists I think. The wrong piece of information at the wrong moment can really trigger a patient, yet holding-back can give the impression of being cold. I do notice that a couple of your questions ask for locations - where she studied, how long she's lived in the city, where she comes from - why is this do you think? Can these questions be broken down into more questions? i.e. what difference it would make to you whether she studied at X or Y. Perhaps you imagine she studied at the same place as you did, or that she has visited your home town, or a wish to help her settle into life in the city if she has newly moved here... etc. etc. - I mean to say that questions usually have a sub-text, a story/fantasy with underlying wishes/desires. A desire to help someone settle into life in the city might reflect a need to take on a role as caregiver... and so on and so on.

I think therapists also have the task of keeping the focus on the patient and not letting it shift to them. I imagine some of us are rather good at shifting the focus, perhaps as a form of resistance/avoidance.

I see an analyst. We've never discussed which school he went to, although he did tell me at the beginning what approach he has. He isn't a blank slate but he isn't overly forthcoming with personal information either. At times it might feel cold but in the long run it's something I really appreciate. I know what he tells me is important to me and my healing, and those questions he does not answer would not 'help me go further'.

Witti

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?

Posted by Daisym on December 1, 2008, at 12:38:26

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently, posted by Wittgensteinz on December 1, 2008, at 12:31:09

I think the most important thing here is your fear that you will get a negative reaction because you are curious and want to ask questions. It seems important to bring this up - talking about asking questions and her style will probably be revealing in how you will work together and perhaps some of your fears and issues. You might start with, "my past therapist did not seem to like questions..." and take it from there.

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?

Posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 12:58:44

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently, posted by seldomseen on December 1, 2008, at 8:14:37

To everyone who was responded - I do truly appreciate your input and and insights. Your suggestions have helped me put things into perspective.

After I asked, she did tell me where she went to school - but it seemed like it was made into more of a deal than it needed to be. I know that everything asked/said in therapy is probably for a reason, so it is natural for her to question my motives. But in this case I was just curious, being a student myself. But I also like the point you made, Witti, there may be another aspect to my questions I am not fully considering.

I definitely understand how a T's self-disclosure might help or hurt, so I totally respect her boundaries in what she will or will not reveal to me.

As many of you suggested, I might bring it up this issue when I meet with her tomorrow. Especially a question about her therapeutic orientation, which I something that a client has a right to know, as many of you mentioned. I should probably not be so fearful, since I have discussed my not-so-great experience with my last T previously. One of the [many] issues I am working on in therapy myself is trust and my own self-disclosure, so this might be a good jumping off point.

I'll keep you posted!
Recently

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently

Posted by lucie lu on December 1, 2008, at 18:55:20

In reply to Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

It also seems unusual to me, and frankly not quite fair if you want to put it in those terms, for your T to not openly disclose her training and orientation. As twinleaf notes, you are paying her for a professional service and you should understand at least in general terms what her treatment plan is for you. You could be spending thousands of dollars on her, would you accept less than full disclosure from any other professional you'd hire, especially for that amount of money and time? While I believe that psychotherapy is both a skill and an art, it stops short of mysticism. To explain the essentials of how she would approach your problems is neither black magic nor rocket science, and IMHO she should provide an adequate and satisfying explanation to you. I do not feel this information falls under the "self-disclosure" category, which is more variable among practitioners and disciplines.

Another consideration is whether her approach is a good match for your needs. It has been well documented, for example, that the outcome for clients/patients with trauma backgrounds is frequently poor with "blank slate" therapists. But such therapists may be very appropriate for other groups - that's how the technique got started, after all, it worked well for some patients/clients.

Good luck,

Lucie

 

p.s. welcome to babble :) (nm) Recently

Posted by lucie lu on December 1, 2008, at 18:59:22

In reply to Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 0:54:52

 

sorry, meant to say witti, not twinleaf (nm)

Posted by lucie lu on December 1, 2008, at 19:01:37

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently, posted by Wittgensteinz on December 1, 2008, at 12:31:09

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? lucie lu

Posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 20:22:48

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently, posted by lucie lu on December 1, 2008, at 18:55:20

> It also seems unusual to me, and frankly not quite fair if you want to put it in those terms, for your T to not openly disclose her training and orientation. As twinleaf notes, you are paying her for a professional service and you should understand at least in general terms what her treatment plan is for you. You could be spending thousands of dollars on her, would you accept less than full disclosure from any other professional you'd hire, especially for that amount of money and time? While I believe that psychotherapy is both a skill and an art, it stops short of mysticism. To explain the essentials of how she would approach your problems is neither black magic nor rocket science, and IMHO she should provide an adequate and satisfying explanation to you. I do not feel this information falls under the "self-disclosure" category, which is more variable among practitioners and disciplines.
>
> Another consideration is whether her approach is a good match for your needs. It has been well documented, for example, that the outcome for clients/patients with trauma backgrounds is frequently poor with "blank slate" therapists. But such therapists may be very appropriate for other groups - that's how the technique got started, after all, it worked well for some patients/clients.
>
> Good luck,
>
> Lucie

You hit the nail on the head. What bothered me about her reaction to my question about her education was that it seemed to me that I was asking about a professional credential, and not something personal.

However I must admit I never asked what her theoretical orientation was. I definitely should have done this in the first session. I'm going into my 2nd month here now. However, to be honest, I don't know if just from descriptions alone, I would know what orientation was best for me... I mean, I know the therapy I'm in now is not CBT. If it's psychodynamic, feminist, relational... I don't really know. Even though I was in therapy for many years, it's been so long, I feel like an absolute beginner! I guess I have a lot to talk about tomorrow, in addition to my usual 'big' stuff. :-/

Recently

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently

Posted by lucie lu on December 1, 2008, at 21:41:45

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? lucie lu, posted by Recently on December 1, 2008, at 20:22:48

>
> However I must admit I never asked what her theoretical orientation was. I definitely should have done this in the first session. I'm going into my 2nd month here now. However, to be honest, I don't know if just from descriptions alone, I would know what orientation was best for me... I mean, I know the therapy I'm in now is not CBT. If it's psychodynamic, feminist, relational... I don't really know. Even though I was in therapy for many years, it's been so long, I feel like an absolute beginner! I guess I have a lot to talk about tomorrow, in addition to my usual 'big' stuff. :-/

Actually I didn't know enough to ask either! My T brought up the subject himself one day and told me about his background and training. He "named" his orientation - insight-oriented psychodynamic - in response to my asking him some time later. It is not surprising that you didn't ask, it is surprising that she didn't want to answer when she was asked.

L.

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?

Posted by rskontos on December 2, 2008, at 11:07:16

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T? Recently, posted by lucie lu on December 1, 2008, at 21:41:45

Recently,

I was too much a beginner to ask either plus I was in a crisis mode when I went to my now T who is also a p-doc. Luckily for me, my Dr. S as I call him is one of those T's that seems to just what a person needs. I guess I am one of those that needed a blank slate T to a certain extent. Outside of that one time he has never given me more than I needed in personal information. I get what I need when I need it even when I ask. I don't know where he lives, I do happen to know he is married but I asked. Again I know stuff because it just comes up naturally. Again, if I ask he answers but only enough for me to know.

He seems to get how much I need. Thank god because if he freaked me out I don't I would go to another t.

But you need to ask of yours what you need, and if you don't get it push. Because fit is important because trust will only come if you are comfortable. And even then it comes slowly.

rsk

 

Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?

Posted by Wittgensteinz on December 2, 2008, at 13:52:04

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by rskontos on December 2, 2008, at 11:07:16

A couple more things...

Firstly, I can relate to what Rsk said. When I started seeing my Dr. S (!) I was in a crisis - I needed to get started with a good therapist and quick - I found him through an analyst/psychoanalytic psychotherapy institute, so I knew his orientation, but I didn't think to ask about his background, experience, specific professional interests etc. After I'd seen him a couple of times I looked him up through google and read his page on a university site and that gave me a better idea.

I think it can be quite a brave thing to do to ask ones T at the start what their credentials are - I would find this difficult, so you shouldn't be hard on yourself for not doing so earlier. I still think it's fine to ask these questions after 2 months and I hope she answers them fully.

The other thing... when I think about my therapist and my pdoc, my therapist definitely discloses more about himself than the pdoc. In fact I don't think my pdoc has ever disclosed one single detail about himself (I've seen him 5 or 6 times, so not that long). He is also an analyst, and although I see him just for meds, we do also 'talk'. What is interesting though is that to me he is far warmer and compassionate than my T.

I should say however that I have a much closer bond and more trust for my T than pdoc, and I'm glad things are as they are (the pdoc tends to trigger me by being overly direct with his questions and observations, which is fine once in 3 weeks but if I saw him twice a week that would be too much). What I'm trying to say though is that disclosure doesn't necessarily mean that the T is warmer - one doesn't necessarily have to know a lot of personal details about a person to know them as a person - to know their mind, their personality.

Witti

 

UPDATE.

Posted by Recently on December 2, 2008, at 17:51:13

In reply to Re: Dealing with a blank slate T?, posted by Wittgensteinz on December 2, 2008, at 13:52:04

So I asked.

I intended to bring it up first thing, but I did not have the guts to do it initially (I also came to my T in crisis mode, which may account for my not asking before). Anyway, I managed to slip the question in midway into the hour, by discussing my old T a bit. So, she responded when I asked her what her orientation is. It's psychodynamic, as predicted. Though she didn't really elaborate... I also then asked her if she wouldn't mind answering my questions about herself if I had any. She said that therapy was about me primarily, but she would be happy to answer any questions I might have. So I guess that's as good of a response as I could hope for.

The points you make are well-taken, to a certain extent I think I have conflated self-disclosure and general 'warmth.' My T is very warm and compassionate. I guess I am struggling with the whole "you know EVERYTHING about me, I know NOTHING about you" dynamic of therapy. I guess what I truly need is compassion and understanding from a therapist and that's more important than self-disclosure. I think me and this T may be a good fit, generally, but time will tell I guess.

Recently

 

Re: UPDATE.

Posted by onceupon on December 2, 2008, at 22:17:02

In reply to UPDATE., posted by Recently on December 2, 2008, at 17:51:13

Good for you for asking her outright - even if it took awhile to steady your nerves. I struggled a lot with feeling like I didn't know anything about my therapist early on in therapy. The imbalance was really unsettling for me, as if she had all the power, or something. And there is a power differential there, no two ways about it. I still experience periods of wanting to know more - usually when I'm wanting to feel closer to her - but overall, that uncomfortable feeling around the imbalance has settled down.


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