First, let’s define psychotherapy (aka therapy). Then I will share some therapy horror stories. Therapy involves evaluating your thoughts and behaviors, identifying stresses that contribute to your condition, and working to modify both.
People who actively participate in therapy recover more quickly and have fewer relapses. Of course, some mental disorders you never “recover” from. But therapy can be very effective in controlling the severity of an illness.
Types of Therapy
Psychodynamic therapy is based on the assumption that a person is having emotional problems because of unresolved, generally unconscious conflicts, often stemming from childhood. The goal of this type of therapy is for the patient to understand and cope better with these feelings by talking about the experiences. Psychodynamic therapy is administered over a period of at least several months, although it can last longer, even years.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on the behaviors and interactions a patient has with family and friends. The primary goal of this therapy is to improve communication skills and increase self-esteem during a short period of time. It usually lasts three to four months and works well for depression caused by mourning, relationship conflicts, major life events, and social isolation. The first therapist I saw, at age 22, practiced this type of therapy. I don’t think he was very good because he said almost nothing while I rambled on about whatever was on my mind.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people with mental illness to identify and change inaccurate perceptions that they may have of themselves and the world around them. The therapist helps the patient establish new ways of thinking by directing attention to both the “wrong” and “right” assumptions they make about themselves and others. I’ve had a few therapists try to get me to do CBT. I am told it works wonders. So I bought the CBT workbook. It looked like a ton of work. Homework. So I ditched it.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy used for high-risk, tough-to-treat patients. The term “dialectical” comes from the idea that bringing together two opposites in therapy — acceptance and change — brings better results than either one alone. DBT helps a person change unhealthy behaviors such as lying and self-injury through keeping daily diaries, individual and group therapy and phone coaching.
There are many other approaches to therapy. Group therapy, music therapy, art therapy, religious therapy and so on. Find what works for you. I wouldn’t put too much credence in the letters that follow a therapist’s name. I’ve had a PhD psychologist who was terrible, and I’ve had a social worker who was wonderful. Don’t be afraid to ask them up front what type of therapy they do, how long they think you’ll need to be in therapy and (my favorite) whether they actually talk, aside from the proverbial “and how does that make you feel?”
My ideal therapist is Dr. Phil. He doesn’t waste anyone’s time. He tells it to you straight. Me, personally, I need that.
Do keep in mind, therapy is treatment that addresses specific causes of mental illness; it is not a “quick fix.” It takes longer to begin to work than medication, but there is evidence to suggest that its effects last longer.
Therapy Horror Stories
I heard about a therapist who talked only about herself. She’d act like she was talking about a friend but it was obvious. She also went out and bought the exact same sweater that her patient had and then wore it at every session. Sounds a little cray cray to me!
Another therapist set her female patient up on a date with one of her male patients. He turned out to be a sex addict. Thanks doc!
Then there was the therapist who, after seeing her patient for six months, forgot her name. As in, called her by the wrong name during their session.
In couples counseling, one couple talked while their therapist fell asleep. And it happened more than once! I don’t know about you but if I fell asleep at work, I’d get fired.
One therapist saw a woman for six months. She divulged her innermost secrets to him. She had four young kids so had to quit therapy due to time constraints. He was so furious, he threatened to have her kids taken away by citing her secrets. Very professional!
And then there was the male therapist who, when his female patient quit, sent her scathing text messages, on the level of “Mean Girls”. I think he may have issues.
What have your therapy experiences been like? I would love for you to leave a comment below! Hugs, 😀❤️💥🙏