“If you don’t feel it, don’t play it”. – The Funk Brothers
I recently had lunch with a couple of girlfriends. We spent a breezy two hours talking about everything from current events to parenting and from careers to religious beliefs. We laughed a lot. One of us mentioned that we should just meet once a month for lunch instead of seeing our therapists, since we seemed to get a lot more out of our conversation than we do from therapy – and we had way more fun!
One of us mentioned how therapy was helpful at first but lately she felt she was wasting her time. “I do all the talking and my therapist just looks at me and nods”, she said. Another woman said that she had been seeing a new therapist recently and while she seemed to have a wealth of information about how the brain works, her ability to listen – and listen without judgment – was sorely lacking. She would ask the same questions over and over from session to session as if she had no recollection that they had discussed them previously. If my friend complained about someone the therapist would immediately roll her eyes and reprimand her for saying something negative.
This reminded me of my high school theology teacher, who, while having an excellent command of all facts theological, used to scream at her students pretty regularly. That seemed so incongruous to me. Was it odd to expect someone who studied god to somehow be more kind than the rest of us? By the same token, shouldn’t a therapist be someone who has figured out a few things about life after 20 years in practice?
I went to graduate school for a degree in Counseling in Secondary Education, which is similar to a Psychology degree. One of my professors told us that some students were attracted to obtaining such a degree because they needed a fair amount of psychological help themselves. Their thinking is that they will solve their own problems through education and then learn how to help others with the same problems. I understand that logic, however, I don’t think it always works out that way.
I had an epiphany at lunch that day with my friends. Instead of second guessing my feeling about not connecting with my own therapist, I should heed it. My therapist seemed kind of depressed. I felt her attitude was rather helpless and frankly, she seemed to be a bit of a man-hater, too. This was not someone from whom I could really expect an objective view on romantic relationships, I surmised. Too often I felt like telling my therapist a joke to get her to lighten up. That was pretty much the final signal I needed to start looking for a new one. Priests aren’t the holiest people in the room, doctors aren’t the healthiest and lawyers aren’t the most trustworthy. Therapists are no different.
Even if you’ve experienced frustration with finding a good therapist, a good therapist can be absolutely wonderful to find. The therapist I began seeing when I was about 14 pretty much saved my life. She became a surrogate parent and she saw me through my major life events over the next fifteen most formidable years. I credit her with so much and her wise guidance remains a constant in my life even today, many years later.
If you are not feeling the love with your current therapist – especially if you feel happier than your therapist does – go ahead and find a new one. It may be the best effort you spend to really change your life for the better. Trust your intuition!