Not counting Psychiatrist #s 1 & 2, I’ve had 4 therapists in the last 24 years. Psychiatrist #2 kept telling me to enroll into a rehab program, even though I’m not an addict — however, I did abuse and self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, pre-diagnosis — so I finally went just to shut her up!
It’s a good thing I did because that’s where I met Therapist #1, who is my current therapist. I started seeing her in 1994, when I was 25, so she’s practically seen me grow up! Except for the 4 years that I saw other therapists, she’s been a part of my life for almost half of it! That’s how much we connect.
In 1999, I moved to Ohio from Illinois for school, so I had to stop seeing Therapist #1. The university offers student behavioral health services, and I was assigned to Therapist #2. Luckily, we hit it off. She even introduced me to a professor who is also bipolar, and who would meet me for coffee just to talk.
Of course I preferred my regular therapist, who continued to see me when I was home on school breaks. I only saw Therapist #2 for 2 years — until I moved back home and saw Therapist #1 again.
At one point, Therapist #1 switched careers to become a high school guidance counselor. I began seeing Therapist #3. She was really weird. Her practice was located in a suite that had 3 offices and a waiting area. There was also a bathroom.
This woman would not allow clients to use that bathroom. That would’ve been fine if the public restrooms were clean. They weren’t. They literally smelled like a sewer.
But it wasn’t just that. She didn’t have the warm and friendly demeanor that Therapist #s 1 & 2 had. She was all business. She gave me a book to read, called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, MD.
Now. This particular book has evidently helped many people, but it didn’t work for me. One part of it tells you to get rid of black-and-white thinking, and yet the book itself was black-and-white. For example, Burns kept saying that if you didn’t do the prescribed exercises or whatever, then you’re not ready to get better.
But that wasn’t true — of course I was ready to get better! I just found some of the exercises overwhelming. As I continued reading, instead of helping, the book made me feel guilty and confused, like maybe I didn’t want to get better.
By that point in my recovery, I knew I didn’t have to stay with Therapist #3, that I could have found a therapist I actually liked. But I didn’t look for someone else. I think part of it was that her office had a parking lot (depending on the neighborhood, street parking in Chicago can be a nightmare), and it was close to home. I may have been going through an anxiety phase about driving then, and her office was easy to drive to. About 2 years later, Therapist #1 decided to practice again! Yay!
I recommenced seeing Therapist #1. She moved offices at one point, and was often late to my appointments. As in, she hadn’t even arrived by the time I had. She let me bring my dog to therapy, but if she wasn’t there yet, Rudy and I would sit on the floor in the narrow corridor waiting for her. Awkward.
So I switched therapists without telling her why. I saw Therapist #4 just once, because I found the courage to tell Therapist #1 that her tardiness bothered me, and waiting in the hallway made me anxious. It was a good thing that I did, because we worked things out, and now she’s always there when I arrive. It was a good lesson — I learned that I could talk to her about anything, even our therapeutic relationship. And I continued seeing her again, and still do.
I’ve also learned that it’s important to have a therapist who’s a good fit. Otherwise, it’s pointless to even go. I did exactly that for the 2 years I saw Therapist #3, and therapy didn’t help me at all — and I even knew I could have switched therapists!
It wasn’t totally pointless though, because years later, I learned that you should be able to speak to your therapist if there’s any part of your therapy you’re unhappy with. If Therapist #1 had reacted defensively when I brought up her tardiness, I definitely would have found someone else. But thank goodness she was cool, because Therapist #1 remains number one in my book!
Do you click with your therapist, or did you have to visit several to find one you liked?