The Endless Search For The Right Therapist

When I left sobbing it wasn’t from a breakthrough — it was out of annoyance and hopelessness. Image: Thinkstock.

My therapist, Jane, wasn't the person to help me at this point of my life. Someone else will be.

My first visit with Counselor Bob was super weird: tiny office stuck in 1979, lots of discussion about Bob’s marital problems.

Apparently, he is envious of happy couples when he sees them. His wife is biding her time till their last child graduates from high school.

I can’t help thinking what this woman would say if she knew he was spilling the details to me.

I’m still not sure if he was trying to seem relatable, make me feel less alone in my concerns. He talked for at least ⅔ of our 50-some minutes together.

I sat there wondering if this is how he always handles clients.

In all that time, he said only one thing that struck me as useful: You are allowed to be angry.

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I still remember that, years later. Not sure why his “permission” meant something to me, but it helped me work through some issues.

Needless to say, one visit was enough for Bob and me. No connection, no vibe of wisdom, no vision for long-term usefulness.


 

I waited out 45 useless minutes of... being read to. From cut-off photocopies from a 1980s book.


 

It had taken so much effort to figure out the logistics of seeing a therapist, let alone admitting I needed help. Having it fall flat was absolutely devastating and exhausting to me. I’d arranged for babysitting and geared up for emotional drainage.

When I left sobbing it wasn’t from a breakthrough — it was out of annoyance and hopelessness.

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I was treated for Major Depressive Disorder for more than a dozen years by neurologists; I got a great one at 18 who targeted my headaches and realized there was a whole lot more going on. I stuck with that neurologist and never ventured into the talking or therapy route for a long long time.

When I decided to try again, I was at a stable place with my medication and general life coping.

I thought I could make some progress — with a little help.

I scrolled through the two dozen names in my insurance network hoping that one would call out to me. Check. A little Googling to see if the name I had in mind has any red flags. Nope.

So I made an appointment.

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I walked past the office several times before noticing the small sign. I was confident in how I wanted to guide the conversation — not the dump-it-all-and-let-her-sort-it-out strategy I might have gone for earlier.

Visit one: aimless, unimpressive. But nothing wrong.

Social Worker Jane Doe reminds me of my grandmother, who actually was a social worker. This is neither good nor bad, merely surreal.

I was neither repulsed nor angry — a bit tired maybe. I made another appointment.

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In the week between appointment one and appointment two, I never once thought about what we discussed in therapy. I didn’t think about progress or topics or anything.

I was skeptical, but I headed to our second visit ready to feel... something.

I wasn't nervous heading back. Instead, I felt something like positive and apathetic. This was all external to me, hadn’t sunk in in any meaningful way yet.

Within minutes, I realized there was nothing here.

 

These two non-matches have taught me something.

 

I should have left then, but I waited out 45 useless minutes of... being read to. From cut-off photocopies from a 1980s book.

Whenever Jane paused, I did my best to make this a discussion rather than a lecture — but she always brushed it off and resumed reading.

The difference this time around? I’m not broken by this therapy failure.

Jane wasn't the person to help me at this point of my life. Someone else will be. When I walked out of the office, I wasn’t upset. I was a little peeved at having wasted time and money, but it was humorously bad, rather than devastating.

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As I look for a new therapist again, I realize that these two non-matches have taught me something:

  1. It's just like dating or finding friends — some people are ridiculous and vile, but lots just aren’t a good fit.

  2. I may be a mess, but life isn’t done yet.

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