Things I Learned from Bad Therapists, Part 3


As you may have surmised by now, I’m actually a big believer in therapy.  I’ve suffered from mental health issues (mostly anxiety and depression) for the better part of forty years, so I’ve seen a LOT of therapists.  Some of them have been helpful, and some not so helpful.  Everyone looks for something a little different in their therapist. I want a therapist to be more like a close friend than a doctor, which can be challenging because I don’t have many close friends.

The “bad therapist” i’m thinking about today actually wasn’t bad at all – he just was more like a doctor than a friend (not his fault).  But he taught me a couple of things:

Treat your depression like a medical condition

and don’t be afraid to get a new therapist

This guy (whom I’ll call Steven, because that’s his name) is a psychiatrist, and I was seeing him for major depression.  I was self-employed, and my business had experienced a major setback, which led to feelings of extreme anxiety, despair, and self-recrimination.  Steven prescribed an anti-depressant, as well as anti-anxiety medication, taking great care to check on any side effects and adjust the dosages as necessary.

I had been on and off medications for years, often relapsing into depression.  Steven told me that I should treat my depression like any other medical condition.  I think he compared it to diabetes.  I had read this before, and I didn’t disagree, but for some reason when he said this to me it stuck.  I have continued to take medication, and to see him for checkups, ever since.

Unlike any psychiatrist I’d seen before, Steven also made an earnest attempt at talk therapy.  Our appointments, instead of being just med checks, also consisted of me telling him how I was feeling, what thoughts I’d been having, and him listening, asking questions and making suggestions.

The medications helped, but even though he is a really nice guy, I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of the talk therapy.  I didn’t tell him, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.  Luckily though, he recommended I see a therapist in his office who specialized in talk and couples therapy.  I still see this therapist now, and she has been great.

He realized that I needed more help than he could give, and by doing so he gave me a valuable gift.  However, many therapists might not act the same way.  They either might not be able to sense that you’re not getting better, or may not want to refer you for fear of losing business.  If I’m in this situation again, I hope I’ll have the courage to seek our additional help on my own.



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