Therapy Recap

Someone asked about whether and in what ways the therapy was helpful, if it was, so I’ll try to go over it a little bit (while also trying to respect the therapist’s professional privacy). I was seeing someone who has a PsyD (doctorate in psychology) as well as being a LPC (licensed professional counsellor).

My understanding is that she’s not an MD, so I’m unclear on what she’s able to prescribe on her own, but I’m not an expert in any of this, so feel free to fill that in. I was figuring if meds came into the picture, there’d be someone in the practice able to prescribe them.

Now let us probe the recesses of my psyche, or as much of it as can be uncovered in an hour. I am not planning to do this for every session, but maybe this first one will be helpful for those wondering if therapy would be useful to them.

*****

She started the session by asking what had brought me in. I recapped a few things, including family health issues and my own cancer stuff, etc., and talked about the possible ADHD diagnosis and the way I often feel very scattered, anxious, and unable to focus when trying to do deep thinking, as for a novel.

Initially, she started talking about multitasking, and how women in particular try to do this a lot, and it’s often a mistake, etc. I agree with all of that, and I’m sure it’s a problem she runs into often in her practice, but I don’t think it’s relevant to what’s happening with me — it’s not generally multi-tasking that I’m having difficulty with. I block out a few hours of time for writing, and don’t try to do anything else in that time — but instead of settling down to it, I get super-avoidant and do all kinds of little other tasks instead. I told her that, and she seemed to take it in and believe me.

She let me redirect away from multitasking (whew), and then she zeroed in on a fear of medical problems occurring or recurring as a possible thing that was holding me back. After some discussion, I said that while I do think about those things occasionally, they’re really not in the forefront of my mind most of the time, and I didn’t think that was the real issue. I was a little worried that she would keep pushing for that interpretation (and I could understand why it would look appealing to her, as that is a deep well to probe, and there’s undoubtedly SOME stuff there worth talking about), but she seemed quite willing to shift direction, at least for now. I did get a tiny bit almost teary for a moment somewhere in there, so hey, cancer is trauma, there’s stuff that I’m still processing in the back of my head, I imagine we’ll come back to this, and it will be generally useful for my emotional health.

But then we settled down to where I’d mostly gotten to on my own before coming in, that my issue seems to be two-fold; the fear of failure (after three failed novels) that is making me avoidant about even trying to work on the new ones, and the way I have spent probably my whole life switching between doing lots of little easy tasks, and having real trouble settling down to anything that requires deep, sustained thought. The only exception to that was in grad school, where for a few years I had NOTHING else to do, and I wrote Bodies in Motion, which is probably the best work I’ve ever done. She agreed that what I’d come up with sounded like a good analysis of what was going on.

And then we were out of time.

*****

So, was it helpful? Well, on the one hand, she didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know, and most of the time was:

a) filling her in on my background
b) redirecting her away from what are probably common issues but not so relevant to my situation, and
c) telling her what I had already figured out was probably the issue

So you could say that I knew all that already, and what did I need a psychologist for? (This is perhaps something that smart people are particularly prone to, thinking that we’re so smart, how could anyone else possibly be smart enough to see things about ourselves that we can’t see?)

*****

And I would say a few things to that:

a) We only had 45 minutes, she had to take a personal history just to get the basic facts (I didn’t even try to fill her in on poly yet, for example), what kind of miracle-worker do you expect this woman to be?

b) It was helpful just laying it all out. I could do that with a friend or family, of course, but friends and family come with relationships, and that’s complicated and sometimes fraught and they’ve known you for thirty years, and they’re just bringing a lot of *stuff* to the conversation.

And I could do it while blogging, and I do that, pretty often, but while it may seem like I tell you guys everything, there are actually a few important things in my life I don’t talk about here, mostly because it would impinge on other people’s privacy, and I try to respect that as best I can. (I am not the best at it, but I do try.)

And there’s also a sort of weird sense of imposing on people by dumping all your emotional stuff on them, and there’s none of that in talking to a professional counsellor, because *that’s their job* and they’re getting paid to listen to you, and if you ramble and are incoherent and it’s all about you for a while, that’s totally okay.

c) And I actually do suspect that, once we do narrow in on the basic area of difficulty (which we may have done today, we may not, it may take a few sessions), she will likely have some helpful suggestions. We are not so different, people, you know? The issues I have are probably somewhat common issues, in some percentage of the population. Which means that there’s a good chance she’s seen this before, maybe several times. Or at least read about it. And as someone on the outside, with no emotional entanglement in it, she can perhaps see what’s going on *more* clearly than I can.

I can often do that for my students, whether they’re writing essays for lit. class or stories for fiction workshop — after 25 years in the field, thinking about writing, I actually do know some stuff that is helpful and relevant to their work, even though I’m not on the inside. Sometimes *especially* because I’m not on the inside.

There’s good reason to think she might have helpful things to offer too.

*****

Now, all that said, maybe she won’t be a good fit. We’ll see — I figure I’ll give it a month at least, four sessions, enough to map out the territory, see if it seems like we’re getting anywhere. If she doesn’t seem to be helpful, then I’ll re-evaluate, think about whether I want to try someone else.

Finally, I’ll note that I’m not very experienced with all this — I’ve only had therapy twice before, both times when I was trying to make a big decision, and found myself paralyzed, having a terrible time deciding. Both times, I was talking to therapists who didn’t really tell me anything, but were skilled at asking the questions that revealed what I really wanted. (In the second instance, it was sort of funny, because it turned out that I really was fine with both options, which meant that I could safely punt the decision to Kevin, which is why we didn’t end up moving to Oxford for his job there.) Both of those were very useful, so I’m inclined to give this a fair shake, at least.

Okay. Hope this all is somewhat helpful to someone. Whew!

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