Let me set the scene:
It’s 2:45 in the afternoon. You sit, waiting nervously, sort of twiddling your thumbs and rocking your foot back and forth. You think to yourself “what a great start. She’s 15 minutes late.”
You’ve never met her before. So maybe you give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’s tied up with something important.
Another few minutes go by, and she comes through the door. You’re the only one sitting in this section of the room and she walks over.
“Erm, yeah, yes. Yes, that’s me”
“It’s good to meet you, my name is Ellen… Let’s chat some more”
You awkwardly follow her to a more comfortable sitting space, proceed to choke, and just not know what to say. There is an awkward pause as you both sit down. “Make yourself comfortable,” she says, “I’m eager to get to know you. But first thing’s first, I must ask, do you have any thoughts of harming yourself or anyone else?”
What? Did you think I was talking about your latest Tinder meet up? My apologies. I’m referring to that first meeting with your new therapist.
So is this Post about Therapy or Dating?
This post is to demonstrate why finding a therapist can be worse than dating
Finding a new therapist can can be worse than dating because it is a clinical necessity; at least in the States. Here, we have the freedom to see multiple therapists within a “short” time frame. This is a luxury that some in other countries are not afforded; but, that is a conversation for a different day.
Just like dating, there is the first meeting. You’re not sure about this stranger. How they are as a clinician, or how they will react to what you’re going to say. Heck, you don’t even know where to start. After all, you’re just trying to unload your ample amount of dysfunction and feel like you need to do it all today, in this session that you may have waited months for; and if it doesn’t work out, you just bid them adieu and go through the process again with the next one.
Therapy can be worse than dating for sure. At least with dating you find a match and go on a date within a few days or a week or so. You do this time and time again until you find them. The one—and it can take, like, a year or more.
My Experience with Finding a Therapist
For about 10 years, after my diagnosis of BPD (you can find out more about BPD here), I saw a cognitive behavioral therapist. For 10 years I talked about my day to day as if my past didn’t much matter. Over time the BPD faded away and gave way to psychotic and dissociative disorders that were out of the range of what CBD could handle.
I was thinking about changing therapists for years and just kind of stayed put because I had an established relationship with this therapist. This therapist already knew the whole story. Better the devil you know that the one you don’t, right?
Wrong. Soon I would find out why finding a therapist can be worse than dating.
A Break-up that Puts Dating to Shame
Sometime in 2018 or 2019, this therapist called me and told me my appointment was canceled because she no longer took my insurance. That was it—no referral, nothing. Ghosted by my therapist of 10 years. And this was my first taste of how finding a therapist was worse than dating.
I was faced with the daunting task of finding a new therapist all on my own, with developing mental illnesses that I did not understand and not knowing who or what I needed.
And there it began; being hot on the market again.
I tried the first practice I came upon with decent reviews and just asked them to put me with a therapist, any therapist. Letting the universe take the wheel, I hoped I would find the right one by luck of the draw. Because finding a therapist can be worse than dating, I saw this as sort of a “blind date,” except with someone I had to give a good idea of what my life was about and that I had to assess for clinical effectiveness.
By the end of the first session, I was talking to someone incredibly inexperienced about how making smoothies in the morning would make my life easier. Smoothies. I, Glory Conway, with all my childhood and lifetime sexual, emotional, physical, and psychological trauma, was talking to a man about smoothies.
After my first session, I knew this wasn’t a good match. I tried to just disappear by the wayside and not make another appointment, but he emailed me about continuing the therapeutic relationship. Because finding a therapist can be worse than dating, I had to let him down easy. Tell him I thought it wasn’t a good fit. What I really wanted to say was that his skillset was no match for what I had going on.
On the Hunt Again for a Therapist
From there I went back to the practice from which my old therapist, the ghosty therapist, held sessions. This time I was equipped with a better understanding of what I needed. Well, more of an understanding of what I didn’t need. Smoothies were a far cry from what I really needed. I needed trauma work.
I figured I would benefit from someone who has years of experience, at least. Also, I am not keen on male therapists; so, I asked, putting my therapy in the hands of fate once again, what female therapist had at least a Ph.D. and a good amount of experience under her belt.
A New Beginning… Again
I was placed with Dr. C. It was great because she led me through getting to know me instead of me just sputtering out whatever I thought was relevant on our first meeting. She complimented me on sort of “knowing the ropes” about what to say in a first session.
As it turns out me and Dr.C got along famously. She understood, after listening to me for a couple of sessions, that I would need extensive trauma work. Though this isn’t always important, we found that we had been on a similar religious journey, which was immensely helpful for her to understand, firsthand, some of the origins of my thoughts and feelings.
Things were all well and good, but one day the receptionist called to tell me that Dr. C got a different job offer and would be moving on from treating patients. At least this time around, I didn’t get straight ghosted. Dr. C left me a recommendation to a new therapist, Dr. B.
Could you imagine being told that the person you are seeing is moving away or something of the like…but not by them. From their receptionist. Another way that finding a therapist can be worse than dating.
Me and Dr. B: A match Made in Therapy Heaven
This time around, its seemed the therapy gods had smiled upon me.
Dr. B was not just a woman, but she was a Black woman. I never knew I needed that. She understands small things like racial micro-aggressions and what it can be like in the education and vocational system as double minority. I felt safe. She felt familiar.
Within the first few sessions with Dr. B, she not only helped me identify that I needed trauma therapy, but helped me conclude, on my own, where the true source of my trauma came from. (In case you were wondering, it wasn’t the babysitter. It was family. My trauma came from severe and pervasive abuse from my immediate family)
She asked me questions about how I was being medicated by my psychiatrist, and for what. She drew upon those factors to ask just the right objective questions to get me to open up and feel comfortable.
Sometime into therapy my repressed trauma began to bubble up. I started having dreams with images I had never seen before with people I never considered as predators, that left the most disgusting body memories. She was the first therapist that deemed me a fit for a therapy called EMDR—eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. This is a trauma therapy used to help me acknowledge past trauma so that if I remember it, I won’t always be adversely affected by it. I will definitely explain more on that in another post
A Sort of Epiphany about my Previous “Dating” Scenario
You see, I had basically been in an arranged marriage with my previous therapist of 10 years. This kind of therapy was definitely worse than dating. It was not dating at all. I was placed with her by my parents when I was 19 and it was good for them because CBD does not focus on the past. That marriage left me unfulfilled and in the dark about my own history, my trauma, where it came from (the very people that placed me with this therapist), and therefore my own healing.
To this day I see Dr. B. I have learned important things about myself and grown so much with her guidance and have been able to assemble and set boundaries I never knew I needed. Still, I grapple every day with my illnesses. I have schizoaffective disorder and dissociative identity disorder. Dr. B has helped me break down walls, understand the origin of some of my delusions, and bring forth parts of my system to learn how to live stably.
J/K Here’s Some Thoughts and Such
O.K. It is a little weird that my therapy journey reads like a romance, but somehow that is the way it goes.
It’s like being on a dating website, only it’s a google search for therapists in your area that may be the right fit. Once you find a practice, you can look at bios, see how much experience your therapist may have. You can even find Google reviews.
The parallel is oddly apparent. Just like dating you search the web, read the provided information, and go out on limb to meet with a stranger. Only you may wait months to meet this stranger and you tell sensitive information to them. I wouldn’t recommend that on an actual first date.
You may find your new therapist flaky or may find them apathetic, harsh, inexperienced. Perhaps you find that one that shows up for you just enough, that asks the right questions, and that understands you. It’s all a process.
On Being Discouraged Because Finding a Therapist can be Worse than Dating
I’ll tell you, even though I was no stranger to therapy, I found the process of finding a new therapist exhausting. I almost wanted to give up. I mean how many times can I tell my life story to the wrong one, you know?
For this reason, I can understand how daunting the task of finding a therapist can be. I had been in therapy for years and still felt like I should just throw in the towel and deal with my illnesses by myself.
Sometimes it can take months to even set up an appointment all to lead to disappointment; And then you start again.
As I mentioned, I can understand someone new to therapy being off put by this process. But I say to you, do not give up on the search. Do not give up on yourself.
Something that I have found, in realizing finding a therapist can be worse than dating, is that having a list of things you need is a necessity. When I dated, I would compile my failures and had a long list of things that I didn’t want in a partner. I had the most luck and most sound discretion when I asked myself what I do want and do need out of a relationship.
On the same note, I advise you approach finding a therapist in the same manner. Assess what you need for yourself and think about the work you need to do in therapy to accomplish your goals. This can help you ask the right questions to reach the right therapist and your therapy goals more quickly without all the mumbo-jumbo.
Yes, therapy can be worse than dating; but, I charge you to not give up on love. What I mean by that, is do not give up on loving yourself. Do not give up hope that there is the right help out there for you or that you don’t have to shoulder your ailments alone. You are deserving of proper care as much as you are deserving of love itself.
PS: Web Resource:
4 thoughts on “Why Finding a Therapist Can Be Worse than Dating”
I hope the opening to this post wasn’t based on a true story, because that’s an unusual way to start a session. It doesn’t really set the scene for building a good therapeutic relationship to start a session by asking if they’re dangerous.
Also, the insurance model doesn’t seem to work well with ethical treatment. You can’t just terminate sessions like that. There’s a whole process for ending sessions
Oh yes it is based on many, many a true story, unfortunately. And yep! It was terribly unethical. Like actually against the APA code of ethics. If a therapist terminates the relationship, they are supposed to have a transitional session and give recommendations to other therapists.
Asking the harm question and being thrown out on the sidewalk— true stories. And not unheard of around these parts
I dunno, maybe it’s just a thing common in this country. When taking my senior classes for my bachelor’s we were introduced to general therapy practices. Among them is assuring the patient doesn’t have any suicidal (o homicidal) thoughts
I have found it horribly frustrating finding a therapist for myself as well as my mom. Going through Medicare is a mess. I managed to find help through online therapy but my mom has been going through different therapists since hers retired with no referrals.
That’s awful. Our system is so jacked up. I’m sorry momma has had such a hard time. Glad to hear online therapy is working for you, love!