Is it true that what I say in therapy stays with the therapist?
There is a third person in the loop. The therapist is in supervision with another therapist for guidance that might help improve my treatment, without revealing my identity. To my mind, this arrangement is the bedrock of great clinical psychotherapeutic work. Moreover, it helps to know that the therapist does not have to carry the burden of my story, suffering and secrets alone.
Coming to said “story, suffering and secrets”. What all do I share with the therapist without having to check myself?
I can confess anything to the therapist. They will never tell on me, or tell me off. They will know when to let me wallow in self-pity, give me the tools to release the pain I have pent up, even allow me to report a family member/co-worker/teacher I resent. They also know when I am ready to face constructive feedback and criticism from them, to be shaken out of narcissism, to be shown the mirror if I start enjoying being mentally sick and taking advantage of it.
I can reveal my darkest and most mundane nightmares or daydreams, share my most painful moments and uneventful days, report on misdemeanours I have been a victim of and those I am responsible for, even talk about suicide. They guard my secrets fiercely unless doing so could encourage self-harm in me, in which case they make sure I am protected.
What else should we not hide from our therapist?
There is place for honest feedback, even dislike and anger, in the therapy room. We can tell the therapist how we feel about them; they can handle it. We don’t have to fake a liking for them, agree with everything they say, or respect them like they are someone to look up to or impress. We will never let them down because they are treating us, not judging us. If your antibiotics don’t work, does your physician blame you?
Not every therapist is a good fit. We can break up with a therapist. Using the space to tell them what didn’t work out for us and that we won’t be returning will help bring closure, which in turn will help find a better fit subsequently.
Four times in all, I found the right psychiatrist and therapist. But before that, I ghosted four others. I wish I had honestly shared with them why I didn’t feel like returning to them. I wish I had not fooled myself into thinking that I was being unkind in rejecting them and they would hate me for it. Had I been frank, I would have gained clarity and same is true for them. But then again, sometimes life presses down so hard, you just slip out of uncomfortable situations barely in time to come up for air. So, it’s alright. I forgive myself.
Next time you think you stumbled upon the wrong mental health practitioner, ask yourself if you can afford to do an exit interview of sorts.
Disclaimer: Psychotherapy is extremely unique to every individual and CANNOT be generalised. This blogpost is merely intended to convey that if it helped me in some way, I recommend you consider it for yourself if you need to. Do not read into it with a personal checklist and think, oh this is exactly what I needed and this is how it will pan out for me as well. It doesn’t work that way. That is also why you should give it a shot. Discover your unique journey with it; your journey of healing will be so much richer with therapy.
Written by Nishtha Singhal