health

6 women share exactly why they "broke up" with their therapist.

Taking the first steps into seeking support for your mental health can be daunting.

Even more so if you’ve had negative experiences working with mental health professionals in the past.

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It doesn’t mean therapy isn’t for you, or that you’re somehow unfixable. Everyone has mental health issues that are different and will require treatment catered to them with the person they feel most comfortable with.

Like any relationship, there needs to be a good dynamic between a psychologist and patient. They are the people you are trusting with your problems, your recovery, and your mental wellbeing.

But it’s not always easy to get it right the first time.

It’s a process, one many people have been through. Sometimes, it’s as simple as just not “clicking” with the therapist you first sat down with, leading to the need to part ways and find another.

Here, six women share how they “broke up” with their therapist, and how it ultimately helped them find the support they needed.

Trudy*, 31.

I’ve seen three therapists throughout my life. The first two were very ordinary and that meant I kept putting off getting professional help until my late 20s.

The first therapist was found by my mother when I was a teenager. I had severe depression (or we thought it was depression). This psych was mediocre. She would often ask me ‘on a scale of one to 10 how did I feel’ and I didn’t find that particularly helpful. I ended up not seeing her anymore and I was prescribed antidepressants, which I took for about a year.

The second therapist I used was when I was in my early 20s, following a period of restlessness and anxiety. I was referred by my GP and only saw this psych once. During the session, he accused me of ‘making up names’ as apparently all of the males in my life have very common names.

This got me quite angry and I battled it on my own, not seeing another therapist until me late 20s. At the time, my relationship was breaking down and my partner basically gave me an ultimatum. I was referred to a third psychologist, again by a GP, but this time was different.

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I saw her once a week for about three months and then once a fortnight for another three months. We worked through some assumptions I had, and she eventually diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder (which actually isn’t anything it sounds like).

Cognitive behaviour therapy and coming up with real time coping mechanisms helped with this. I’m now in my early 30s and feeling very mentally stable.

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Emma, 34.

I had a really traumatic birth with my first born. It was so bad, I had PTSD from the birth and it was very challenging for me. Whenever I laid on my back, I would have flashbacks of the birth, being out of control and being a blubbering mess. So I went and saw a psychologist. When I saw her, she just told me: “That’s from you being raped as a child”. But I never was. She kept telling me I was in denial and didn’t want to face the truth. I was so upset I never went back.

Last year, I started getting dizzy. After seeing my GP, he put me on a mental health plan and suggested that it was anxiety. I was devastated I’d have to talk to another psychologist. I remember calling one of my best friends crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t face being told that again.

But luckily I went, and this psychologist was flipping amazing. She helped me find so many ways to deal with my anxiety, and when I told her what happened with my last psychologist, she was completely mortified and we worked through it.

She helped me see that nothing had ever happened to me, it was just a seed that the other psychologist had planted for some reason. But I’m so glad that I went back and gave psychologists another go.

Michelle*, 36.

I first saw a psychologist after moving out of home for the first time. I should have gone earlier, as the year before that I failed some uni subjects (I’d never failed anything in my life before that; I was always a high achiever), and had some family issues.

When I moved into a sharehouse with other girls, one of them suggested I needed help, as I was feeling really anxious, disconnected, tired, foggy and I wasn’t really able to relax.

Basically, I think my perfectionism/fear of failure and lots of unhealthy thought patterns finally took its toll on me physically.

I had six sessions with my first psychologist who was recommended to me by my GP. In some ways, she was helpful, for example in explaining the difference between depression/anxiety and explaining psychology theory. But I thought she was condescending and treated me like a little girl. I was probably 26 or so at the time.

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After that, I saw another psychologist for six or more sessions. I didn’t mind her at first, but again, I found her to be condescending. She was a part time psychologist, part time theatre director, and would spout lines from movies/plays to me like: “It ain’t necessarily so”.

Some of it was helpful, and I do like the arts, but I got the feeling she didn’t really like being a psychologist.

Finally, a friend recommended I see her psychologist (this time over boy troubles and self esteem issues) and I gelled with her much better.

She wasn’t condescending, and she seems to love being a psychologist. I’m still unsure if she’s the best person for me, as her method is less about writing things on a whiteboard like my first psychologist (which I liked) or giving me notes (like my second).

My current psychologist just sits and listens and doesn’t say much, but I have had some big breakthroughs with her.

When I left sessions with previous psychologists, I would feel “unworthy”, but I don’t feel that with my current psychologist.

My advice would be to ask around for recommendations from friends, and research psychologists online to see what their areas of expertise are to find one who matches your needs.

Don’t give up on the field of psychology completely if you’ve had some bad sessions with a psychologist, just as you wouldn’t give up on the hairdressers entirely if you had a bad haircut.

I’ve even had arguments with family members who would benefit from clinical psychology, who say they don’t feel comfortable talking to people, and seem to look down on the whole thing. But does anyone feel comfortable talking to a psychologist at first? You get used to it, and if you find the right psychologist, it can be a really rewarding experience.

Paula*, 25.

I went to a number of therapists as a teenager. My parents went through a nasty divorce and my mum had a number of suicide attempts.

As a result, the force of my mental anguish was unfortunately directed at my mother.

Our relationship rapidly deteriorated and she often told me I needed help so she began sending me to therapists. They gave my Mum inappropriate titbits from our sessions and she would tell me about the specific advice they would give to her after speaking to me about an incident at home.

This happened A LOT. I lost all faith in therapy until I witnessed a very violent attack on a patron in a pub where I was bartending at 19.

I found a psychiatrist I vibed with and she treated the PTSD not only from that incident but equipped me with the strength and tools to work through the trauma from my childhood.

It’s so important with mental health professionals – just as with GPs, midwives, etc. – to find someone you are “compatible” with.

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There is so much at stake with mental health treatment we should absolutely try and try again.

Marie*, 28.

I’ve seen four psychologists since I was 14, and one psychiatrist to treat an eating disorder.

The first was specifically for teenagers and I saw him after a close family member attempted suicide. He was great, but as I grew older, I needed therapy for different reasons, so I didn’t go back after we worked through those teenage issues.

The second was at 17, when I was diagnosed with Bulimia. We worked together for almost five years. I relapsed a couple of times and it was great knowing I could get the help I needed from someone who knew my background and who I trusted immensely.

At 22, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after a relationship breakdown. I was prescribed antidepressants, which I took for about a year, and saw a woman my mum recommended. We didn’t gel at all and I found her extremely patronising. She would put words in my mouth and speculate that I was feeling a certain way. I found myself feeling defensive whenever I was talking to her.

I tried to see her a few times but we never got anywhere, so I stopped.

I went about three years without therapy until 25. I wasn’t sleeping and was extremely anxious all the time. I started seeing a woman referred through my GP for anxiety again. We got along really well, but it felt very “by the book” and I didn’t feel I could open up to her as much as I could with my psychiatrist who had treated my eating disorder. I didn’t need treatment specific to my eating disorder anymore, so I felt going back to him would be pointless.

I was beginning to feel like because my background working solely with him, I would never find someone who could measure up and treat these new issues that had come up in my mid-late 20s.

About four months ago, I was assaulted and referred to a trauma counsellor through the hospital. She’s incredible. We get along so well, and she’s helped me work through a lot of things to do with my family, low self-esteem and of course dealing with what happened to me.

I don’t think I’ll see her forever seeing as we’re working specifically to get through this trauma, but it’s been so reassuring to finally find another good fit. It’s definitely restored my faith in therapy.

Hannah, 21.

I was diagnosed with anxiety at age 12, and since then I’ve been through three psychologists and my fourth psychologist has been “the one”. I also now have a psychiatrist.

My parents had noticed symptoms in me for a while as a child and enrolled me in the ‘Cool Kids’ program at Macquarie uni at 12, and I was diagnosed there. That program helped me a lot, especially with social anxiety and OCD.

When I was 16, I went to a counsellor who didn’t help me at all (she was a lovely lady but just didn’t understand my problems and I didn’t feel as comfortable sharing things with her). I knew I really needed help, on my own accord, and so my parents took me to a psychologist when I was almost 17. I had her throughout year 12, for about 18 months in total. We did a lot of cognitive behaviour therapy and while it was good, it wasn’t great.

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She felt very clinical and I didn’t love CBT. I knew I needed it so I kept going but I didn’t find it that successful.

Once I’d finished the HSC, I took a break from seeing her, as my anxiety was really good by the end. However, over the summer holidays before starting uni, I felt very moody, sad and irritable. I kept thinking this was all just anxiety. I knew I needed to see someone again so I went to someone else instead, this time a man.

I went to him for six months but not only did he not help, I became progressively worse! I then was at my GP to do the mental health program plan and ‘test’, and my anxiety was off the scales and it said I was in the depression category. I couldn’t stop crying when I even just sat down with my GP, which was a clear indication from the start that something wasn’t right.

Soon after I had a complete breakdown at home. My GP then sent me to a psychiatrist who said I’d been undiagnosed with severe depression for six months. The male psychologist I was talking about, when I told him “I don’t look forward to anything anymore, I just feel so sad all time”, responded with, “Well, you can’t feel happy everyday!” No you can’t. But you shouldn’t be depressed every single day either.

She has been brilliant and she prescribed me antidepressants which I’m still on now. That was when I was 18, almost 19. My psychiatrist then sent me to a psychologist, who is absolutely BRILLIANT.

I can’t explain how relieving and hopeful it feels to have found someone who you click with and who can actually help you, and has proven to help you. She knew that CBT wasn’t working for me so she used other strategies and methods instead.

I’m now almost 21, and I still see her regularly, although it has gone from every week to every month over about 18 months now. Not all psychologists are equal and I thought I was the problem in the beginning when I didn’t click with my first psychologist.

I know I don’t have depression anymore (I still get very down days, but not like before).

Throughout life your mental health needs change as well, and she has proven to be adaptable to that, whereas others haven’t. It just goes to show that if you know you are not okay or if something’s not right, you should either go see someone or see someone ELSE.

 *Names have been changed.

If you think you may be experiencing anxiety or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Tags: mental-health , news-stories , psychology , therapy
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