Remodelling the past. How not to choose a counsellor.
I am considering what to do next as regards the talking therapies that once seemed like the great solution. I think the route I’m heading down with my current CBT counsellor and life-coach D, seems like it might be a bad one. It’s been over a week since we last met, and I still don’t feel enthused by the thought of what we can do together in the future. There is nothing wrong with her offering, indeed it incorporates many of the things that I actually feel I would profit from hugely, like understanding biorhythms, incorporating a zen approach to life, using chakras to strengthen the mind, hearing the inner voice, developing coping methods. But somehow I find my heart sinking with the thought of returning to a practitioner that I can see doesn’t believe in herself.
However I have decided I will give it one more session and will try and tie in both a counselling session and a life coaching session. I will go to the session with an open mind and believe that this person can help me. After that session, it will be make or break and if it’s break then I will have to begin the arduous task of searching for a new therapist and trying to cultivate something from the ground up.
I realise now that the spiritual/ alternative route of talking therapy is really what I need. It was D that helped me see that. This kind of person is hard to come by, and you won’t find them in the conventional directories such as that provided by the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy – however it’s a good starting point. I think you need to try a few therapists until you find the one you really gel with. Shop around. Don’t feel bad about dumping your therapist if you aren’t getting a) a really good feeling every time you finish a session with them 2) what you believe in your heart you personally need from the therapy process. After all, you are giving so much of your energy (not to mention time and money) to this person, you have to be getting back at least what you put in.
The very first counsellor I tried on this particular journey was A, who I came across on the website above. She focuses on Humanistic Integrative Therapy and uses different approaches such as psychodynamic theory (looking to the past) and humanistic theory (a holistic approach based more around the whole person in the here and now).
However the main reason I chose her was her proximity to my house! This isn’t the right reason I know, but I hoped that the convenience aspect might somehow make me more determined to have a profitable relationship with her. I remember the heavens opened on both occasions I went to visit her, at her practice in her home. The short walk was little mercy, it still left me soaked to the bone. So I always have that (somewhat irrelevant!) association in my mind.
In December 2013, during my time with A, I was still very much in the midst of ‘the bad times’. Thinking back on it now, I recall how raw my hurt was – and I didn’t want my session to be about any specific incidents, but they kept coming back even when I was talking about general matters like growing up. I was in a very negative headspace then and still going through the cycles of anger, hurt, withdrawing myself, feeling ignored etc which made it very hard to focus on anything good.
Those two sessions with A, we talked about my relationship with my boyfriend but it kind of felt like I was ratting on him or something – I felt bad to be talking about things he’d said and done without him being there to tell his side of the story, but I was at my wits’ end. I painted a pretty bleak picture of some of his actions, which saying out loud made me think at the time that I was stuck in a damaging relationship. We also talked about my parents’ relationship and how their patterns were repeating with me. We talked at length about my anger issues which were exacerbated by alcohol. She said that something needed to change on that front and she really told me off about it to be honest, and since then I haven’t really wanted to drink at all much – so that’s one good thing.
If I can really try and pin down what wasn’t working for me I’ll say this. Her approach is a little too soft for me. I need something more results-focussed and I’m seeking it. What else I didn’t get on well with was that she is very conventional. That was something of a problem for me. When I was telling her about stuff, such as experiences from my childhood, she sat there, mouth agape saying things like “oh that’s terrible”. I don’t need to know her opinion about whether something’s terrible. I am telling her things because she’s asking – these things have no power over me now. And just for the record, I did not have a terrible upbringing.
I guess I didn’t give our rapport with one another a chance to develop, because I felt that after just two sessions it wasn’t what I wanted. Too mundane, being ‘shocked’ by things that are not worth being alarmed and judgmental about, they’re part of life and we have the power to move on. The past doesn’t have any power over us except that which we give it. And I guess the timing was all off for me, as I hadn’t yet learned any coping mechanisms whatsoever.
Today, with a very different mindset to that which I lugged around with me those two rainy December evenings, I look back on everything that has happened to me with affection, understanding and acceptance.