Dear Mrs. Bluth,
My sixth therapist just asked me to find another professional to work with, as she feels she can no longer be of help to me. Six therapists in the span of nine years and not one of them could help me? I have lost all faith in therapy as a means of solving my problems and have decided to write to you.
Have you ever told a client that he or she is beyond your ability to help? Have you ever yelled at him or her for refusing to co-operate in the therapy process, causing him or her to break down in tears and leave the office feeling a thousand times worse?
Well, that is what I have experienced with nearly every one of those so called mental health healers. They are nothing more than business people with medical certification that enables them to rip you off. They either spend an hour just nodding their heads or being insulting and condescending and making you feel lower than dirt.
All my problems began when my mother passed away ten years ago. I had just lost my job, gotten a divorce and moved back into my childhood home. All of the pressure caused me to have a breakdown of sorts. I stopped taking care of myself, cut off ties with friends and relatives and just wanted to be alone. The rav of our shul was very concerned and took it upon himself to arrange an intervention with my relatives. My family was shocked to see what I and the apartment looked like. Imagine a garbage dump with four months accumulation of refuse covering every inch of floor space, and I, unshaven and unshowered for the same length of time. My family had me committed against my will and I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. After three days, I was released into my aunt’s care – after I promised to seek counseling on a regular basis.
How do I summarize the sad and often degrading treatment I received over the past nine years in my search for peace and an escape from dark moods and bleak existence? I am not a child with behavioral issues. I am not an uneducated person who cannot see that I have problems beyond my ability to cope with on my own. I am a fifty-two-year old adjunct college professor who has had to weather, simultaneously, the harshest blows in life. I so want to shed this blackness that hangs over me and inhibits me from living. Is there anything left for me to do? I feel that I have exhausted every avenue of help and I am now facing a brick wall.
The road of return to mental health is littered with misconceptions, tears and a misguided notion that just by visiting a psychologist or psychiatrist all of one’s problems will be fixed. Some think that just sitting in hourly sessions should seemingly guarantee a miraculous release from fears, problems or psychosis – or that they will receive a magic pill or potion that will instantaneously make their heavy-heartedness disappear. Sadly, this is not the case. Therapy is a road hewn from hard work and careful direction, and sometimes the progress comes painfully slow. There must be a unique trust in your therapist’s sincerity, empathy and ability to help you regain your quality of life and return to a stable and satisfying place. However, and most importantly, it is the client who must commit to the work and the time, however long it takes. It all translates in taking baby steps of progress through committed hard work under the guidance and supervision of a caring and encouraging therapist. That is what brings about lasting and satisfying results.
As you pointed out, you have suffered a great number of disappointments, setbacks and losses in a short space of time. Your subsequent release from the hospital with an order to seek outpatient therapeutic care indicates that the prognosis for your success in treatment was regarded with optimism. However, it appears that you expected to achieve this remarkable recovery by simply keeping your doctor’s appointments. Your failure to be an active participant in your recovery may well have frustrated your clinicians and angered you into leaving each one – and the cycle continued. It is a syndrome I have heard of before and experienced on one or two occasions.
I will say that no matter how frustrated a clinician may get with a patient who is uninvolved in his/her treatment, there is no right to berate, embarrass or degrade. This is the antithesis to successful treatment and breaks the bond of trust which is the catalyst to achieving any kind of progress. A therapist who cannot extend empathy and demonstrate sincerity is doomed to fail. You are absolutely right to have left the care of any therapist who made you feel belittled in words or actions. However, you must understand that if you don’t actively participate in your treatment and choose not to use the tools a caring therapist offers you, then you are responsible for sabotaging your chances of recovery.
You asked me what I think, so here it is. Take a long, honest look at how you approached your therapy and decide whether you want to return to a happier, healthier state of mind. Should the answer be “yes,” then understand that the road to recovery will require a great deal of mental muscle, determination and the ability to celebrate even the smallest signs of progress. As you move forward and realize the inroads you are making, it will give you the encouragement and the will to see it through. And life will become brighter, more peaceful and satisfying. It all depends on how much you want this and how hard you are willing to work to get there.
Put away the clock and the unrealistic expectations and choose to return to life and good mental health. We pray for your recovery and are all cheering for you.