I decided to see a private therapist for the first time today, and after the session I felt like it was pointless (I have met with a school psychologist before, and she was absolutely amazing, & professional, so this made me question today’s experience.)
I am only 17 years old and, Im not close with my parents, so I had to seek help without my family knowing. I emailed multiple psychologists in the area, and made sure to let them know that I was only 17, and would appreciate fee deductions etc. I also said in the emails that I wanted to work on building confidence to open up to my parents so they can help me pay for therapy in the future.
out of the 4 psychologists I contacted, 2 hadn’t responded yet, and 1 said they couldn’t help me because I needed parental consent, and did not want problems for seeing an underage secretly. The only therapist who replied said he would be happy to give me a promotion by like 30% , and also suggested we meet in the following days. He seemed really keen and the price was reasonable so I confirmed it without asking much info since I really happy to get help.
when I arrived, I was confused because it was just a house. I rang the bell and a women casually dressed opened. I apologized thinking it was the wrong house. But she says if I’m here for therapy it’s inside. I go in and sit in a living room. Then my therapist comes in and guides me to another room. shakes my hand and introduces himself. I sat down and he asked about what problems I was facing etc. and we discussed it and I shared some of my life events. On multiple occasions he would share anecdotal stories of himself that resembled mine. on the chair he sat with one leg folded up and the other on the floor playing with the carpet throughout. we also ended up talking 40 mins overtime. Unlike my last experience with therapy, he didn’t talk about our info being confidential or how the therapy process would work. I basically felt like we just had a conversation for 2 hours. He seemed quite nice and laidback, making compliments or siding with some of the things I was saying. Although I find this nice, It seems like he’s not helping much. We talked about my fear of seeing people, and he had forgotten the word for this. Which he remembered later to be ‘Agoraphobia’. In the end he handed me a book, and said read this for next time. But, there was no conclusion or summary of the session. I felt like I had just payed for a conversation basically. Not much guidance or direction. Or even questioning what I want out of this. I told him I was moving out soon for uni, and he giggled and said ‘thats when your life ACTUALLY gets serious’. does this suggest that my life isn’t serious now??
Anyway, on the way out he spoke to the lady I saw earlier – turns out she was his girlfriend ..who was just watching TV outside our therapy room this whole time. I’m not sure what to think since I don’t feel like this was helpful and I fear that the little money I have is going to waste if I give it a few more sessions. but then I also feel forced to go back since I have his book now, and because he said see you in a week. This experience was quite laidback and I’m not feeling too hopeful for my situation, although I don’t want to hurt his feelings since he seemed really friendly. Any suggestions please.
A. I don’t know anything about this particular therapist. It seems like you and I are similar in this regard. I don’t know how much experience he’s had. I don’t know what education he’s had. I don’t know what degrees or training he has completed.
You and I differ in one very important detail: you’ve had the experience of sitting through a lengthy session with him. The result of your session is that you have little trust for him, little confidence in him and serious reservations about returning. That’s enough. Any one of those things is a more than sufficient reason to find another therapist. You list a number of other reasons why he might not be the right therapist for you, but the only important one is that you are left with serious reservations after your long session. It is these reservations and those alone, that say you should look for another therapist.
It is the therapist that matters, not the surroundings in which he works. Many of the most successful and highly paid therapists in the world, conduct therapy in an office at their home. I’m equally sure, that some of the worst therapists in the world also conduct therapy at their home office. In many ways it doesn’t matter where the therapy is conducted. It only matters how good the therapy is. Many well-known celebrities and wealthy members of a community, seek out a therapist who does not have an office and waiting room in a public building. They simply do not want public exposure. They don’t want to be seen opening a door that says “therapy, therapist, counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc. They don’t want to be sitting in a waiting room with other individuals and hear their name called out. They seek out privacy and anonymity.
I cannot say that they are either right or wrong to prefer privacy and anonymity. If they prefer it that way, then that is certainly the right way for them. If entering a public building for purposes of counseling or therapy, is in any way anxiety producing for them, then by no means should they do so.
You have no obligation to return to your therapist. Forget the book. Mail it back to him, have a friend drop it off on his porch, place it in his mailbox or simply donate it to the local library. The fact that you feel somewhat compelled to return, due to the possession of his book, shows an unhealthy power balance. He should have no power over you and you should feel no need to continue with him. You did not ask to borrow the book. He handed you the book and said read this before our next session. He did not respect your wishes as to whether or not you would want to have a second session. He never asked. Would I say this is unethical? Yes, I would.
The next time you look for a therapist, make sure you get all the answers to the questions that I have listed above. Expect that often you will have to try two or three or even more therapists before you find one that you like and respect. The therapist that you had chosen, was the only one that offered you a discount and agreed to see you. That is not a basis for choosing a therapist. Don’t feel bad that you made the wrong choice. You tried and believe me, trying is the most important thing. Keep trying. I guarantee you that there are good therapists out there and I also guarantee you that there are poor therapists out there. Choosing a therapist is not like buying a loaf of bread. You might say “all white bread tastes pretty much the same, so I’ll just buy the one that is cheapest.” Sometimes, you just can’t afford to buy anything other than the cheapest bread. When that occurs, you might ask yourself if you really need bread. If it turns out that you don’t really need the bread, then perhaps it would be best to wait until you can afford a better loaf of bread. Also remember, that often times the best bread is not the most expensive one. Find a bread you like and find a therapist you like. Neither has to be the most expensive one. It just has to be the one that you find, you like the most. Good luck and don’t give up on your search for good therapy.
Dr. Kristina Randle