So... after an extensive break from blogging regularly of exhaustion, life events, and a summer sun that just won't allow me to escape it's glorious grasps... I have decided to try and start writing again. The inspiration? An experience that rendered me speechless at the time that now leaves me bursting to express my recent encounter with a therapist that would put Dr. Kevorkian out of work.
My first attempt to find a therapist put my on a waiting list at school and a backup option of participating in a volunteer experiment where doctors in training provide unofficial therapy sessions. In reality this was an opportunity for doctors to use people seeking help and support as guinea pigs mainly as an outlet to build their bedside manners. Although the woman I saw was nice at the time, I provided her more coaching on how to conduct a therapy session than the should provide me support. A dangerous venture in my opinion.
The second experience, I tried a woman recommended by my doctor. I spend an hour trying to explain why I had come to her while consistently trying to shift my gaze and look comfortable while trying to understand her "trained approach" of starting me down in silence. Argh. It was so bad I emailed her, told her how unhappy I was with the session and tried to negotiate paying her half of what I owed her. I broke down and had to pay the whole thing.
The third experience, a man this time, left me feeling like I'd come out of a first date. When I expressed myself, he would say things like "oh, I like that" or "oooh, that's a very special quality"...the room was tense, he rarely made eye contact and when he did it was "hungry"... I later email him also and told him I could not continue sessions as I felt like our meeting was like a first date. He responded with a swift "good luck in the future." Had to pay him too.
It wasn't until this most recent experience, however, that I reached my tipping point and decided to write. This time it is a about a teary eyed PhD student seeking support and counsellor who evidently should give up the chair.
I arrived to the counselling office to be her first patient of the day. It was 10:00 by the time I sat down to wait for her. Around 10:15 a tall woman came around the corner to call my name. She was slightly overweight, medium length frizzy black hair, and slightly awkward. She peered over her glasses and introduced herself and apologized for being so late. A bit surprised she was running so late, I tried to think nothing of it. I stood up to shake her hand and introduce myself but she turned and started walking down the hall leading the way to her office. I put my hand down and followed her.
When I got into her office we both sat down, and she asked my about why I am at the University. I began to explain my schooling.. my dept.. the usual story when you first meet someone. As I explained my academic history (somewhat irrelevant given she was already 15 minutes late for a 45 minute session) she started moving around the office. Turned to the filing cabinet and started looking for papers. She went to her purse and fumbled around. The whole time half listening and half asking me questions. At one point she said, what did you do before here? And I explained my undergrad and masters... "I have a Masters in Education Technology" I said.. she asked what school I went to here, and I said "OISE" ...her response "don't you have to have a masters in education or something?
"Hmmm.... something isn't right here" I thought.
Then she cut straight to the wound... "So why are you here?" Now, first of all, a good therapist eases into the conversation. But they ALSO don't make you feel like they're distracted settling into their office, half listening, and not spending any time to tune into your energy or where you might be coming from. Nope! No tact.
Swallowing my shock I started to explain a bit of what brought me there.. but as I was doing so she was typing on her computer... fiddling with the mouse. "Odd" I thought, "this isn't right?!" So I'd say a bit.. pause... say a bit... pause.. nothing. So, eventually I cut off mid sentence just to see if she was listening and no response from her end. She was still screwing around on her computer.
So, I shut up and sat there. Sat there in silence. Waiting. Waiting. She just kept fiddling away on her computer.. typing.. squinting through her tiny little glasses at the keys... two finger typing.. odd. I continued to wait and started to get annoyed. About ten minutes later, still not having said a word to me about what was going on.. she picks up the phone "Hi there" she says "I can't seem to log into my computer, can you give me the number for tech support?" Ooooh man, I was not NOT impressed. She hangs up the phone and calls tech support, has to leave a message. She was helpless, just kept trying her password over and over again. I was getting more and more angry and also very disappointed at the same time. "Why can't this woman just pickup a goddamn piece of paper and take notes manually for this session and deal with the computer later?" I thought to myself. I am a techie, there's no doubt about that, but in this case? there was no need for technology. And in fact, I don't think that therapy sessions are the place for technology.
Nonetheless, the non-confrontational, patient, optimistic person that I am.. I kept waiting. I tried to help her log into her computer, but no luck. And her response? She just kept trying.
There was maybe one apology during this time.. but she didn't make any efforts to come up with a plan b.
It was about 10:40 maybe at this point and tech support finally calls. They spend maybe five to ten minutes on the phone troubleshooting while I continue to wait. I am not happy at this point. But, she finally gets off the phone and lets out a sigh of relief that she was able to get into the system. She opens up my file from my pre-screening I'd had done over the phone when I first contacted the clinic in the fall and was placed on a waiting list.
She starts into "ok, let's go a bit deeper into why you're here." Trying so desperately to be optimistic that this woman could provide a bit of help on a day where I could barely keep myself together, I responded with trying to explain more. As I did so, she faced the computer... reading on the screen. I continued.. and she interrupted me to tell me what the notes said and that I was there for that. Explaining the notes no longer applied to my situation and what I was going through was relatively different than before, she insisted on telling my why I was there.. all the answers were in the notes apparently rather than in the actual words that were coming out of my mouth.
Anyway, I kept correcting her to tell her the situation was different.. what she was reading no longer applied. She finally stopped.
And so I explained a bit more, she started typing. She asked a question, again half listening, and I responded.. hesitantly as she typed. As I kept talking she was completely unresponsive, and so, again I stopped mid sentence. No response from her. Just typing. At this point I might add, tears had welt up because I was so upset about what I was going through.. and she hadn't even turned to look at me to notice. She kept typing. I sat there in silence feeling increasing humiliated and frustrated.
She speaks up again "ok, so tell me about your family.." "What?!!" I thought to myself? She just totally changed the subject - didn't ask anything about what I was talking about, take the time to try to listen, nothing. In complete shock, I stumbled and started explaining a bit. She asked if I had issues with family, etc.. all standard therapy questions, which are relevant I get that, but given the context of our meeting so far she'd not heard anything yet to relate this history too. Grrr. Anyway, I began to explain. And AGAIN she kept typing... and stopped listening. I stopped mid sentence again. No response. Waited. Waited.
Finally, she spoke again "ok, so let's try and get more to the bottom of things so we can give you a bit of help in leaving today." Of the mindset that there is always something positive that can be taken from every meeting, I thought "Ok, at least!! At least let me take something away from this!" She asked me to explain more about what I was feeling and why. I started to explain more of my history.. which I know is very VERY important information for her.. I got very teary as I started to get into it. At first she listened, defended my side as I went along, but turned again and started writing. I kept telling the story (as it's a good one).. but given her response, or lack thereof (again).. I stopped midway through my story. She kept typing and typing. Didn't respond.
That's it I thought. I'm never seeing this woman again. I felt so exasperated... so objectified... my emotions so trivial... this woman took me when I was incredibly down and just kicked me further. I thought to myself "you know? if I was suicidal? after this meeting - today... today would be the day. And this, this is the hour!"
She kept typing.. and then spoke again "Ok, so if you want to book another session, I'm free wednesdays..." I thought to myself "should I lose it with her and tell her how disappointed and unimpressed I am with her?" Oh boy, I so wanted to lose it.. but I was so overwhelmed with emotion I knew I'd blow.. so I told her I'd have to think about it. She gave my a piece of paper and told me to look up Mindfullness-Based Cognitive Therapy classes. I took the paper and left. It was 11:20, approximately 35 minutes after we were supposed to finish
Immediately I went to the front desk, told them the session did not go well, and placed myself back on the waiting list for another therapist. I subsequently biked home, feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me and more alone than before I walked into her office. I came home, sat down on my bed and cried. To feel pain is one thing but when the very source that is supposed to give you support makes you feel embarrassed or guilty about your pain... suddenly the escape seems more distant, and you're left feeling hopeless and helpless.
This, this is how this woman made me feel.
I saw another therapist a few weeks later.. the one referred to me next on the waiting list. The session was ok, but she definitely "wouldn't get a second date." I think it was her starting off the session by reading out loud why I was there off her computer screen instead of just asking me. The funny thing? She was reading me the notes from the previous therapist. And what did these notes entail per se? Given the amount of typing she did in my session, I expected a volumes. But as the therapist read out the notes, I was summed up in five sentences...... grr.
Now?! All I can do I shake my head, keep my chin up and my running shoes running for my sanity.. and keep trying. In many ways find a therapist truly is like dating. You have to find someone you truly connect with, and much like a first date.. you know in minutes. And so I keep searching. There is another one coming up in a couple weeks. Hopefully, this time.. this will be the one.