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Just had first therapy appointment. Can someone talk to me about it?

(35 Posts)
Atalanta Wed 09-Jul-14 13:29:31

I have never had any counselling or psychotherapy before and I don't know about different techniques etc. So I am wondering whether perhaps it's just the wrong person/ wrong style for me. Or perhaps actually it's all fine. I don't know.

I went along for a first assessment appointment, having asked for a short course of 8 sessions. I've been v anxious but also was concerned that I can feel myself desperately looking for someone to look after me a bit, which is inappropriate in most situations.

Anyway, she was a bit cliched therapisty and I could hear things I'd said reflected back at me as statements or questions, and some things speculatively used to describe what I felt which were completely wrong. But on the other hand she did pinpoint some things quite perceptively. What I'm worried about is that she seemed to feel I should be angry with my mother. I can't see the benefit of that. My mother has made mistakes and is a rather messed up person, but she has done her best. She doesn't do all the things that in an ideal world a mother might do, but she does her best.

And the therapist also suggested that I am very unhappy and isolated. But how does that help? Is it going to help, going back? I do want something/someone to help me but I don't know if this will?

Lottapianos Wed 09-Jul-14 13:36:16

Hmm, someone said therapists are like pairs of shoes - sometimes you have to try on a few until you find one that fits! I'm 4 years in with psychotherapy and I did find it very odd at first. It's such a different experience having an interaction with someone who lets you set the agenda and who listens to you so deeply.

If the therapist suggests something that you don't feel is accurate, do feel free to challenge her on it. My therapist often suggests things but its always framed as 'maybe blahblahblah, or maybe not?' so I do feel that I'm in control and that she's not forcing me into agreeing.

Your comments about anger are interesting - you said you don't 'see the benefit' of feeling angry. The thing with anger is, you feel it or you don't, it's not something you can choose to feel. It's one of the hardest emotions to get in touch with because we all get so many messages, particularly as women, that it's something we shouldn't have. It took me 2 years of therapy to be able to admit that I was angry at all, and then even more time to allow myself to feel it. I'm not saying it will definitely be the same for you, but it might be worth thinking about anger a bit more deeply.

It's entirely your choice but my advice would be to stick with it for a bit longer. The first few sessions are often a bit odd but it may become clearer to you what you want out of it. Bear in mind that therapy is often uncomfortable and even painful, but overall, it should help you feel freer and more content and like you are moving towards a better place. Good luck

Atalanta Wed 09-Jul-14 13:43:08

mmm, thank you. Interesting.

I like the idea of someone prefacing a suggestion with 'maybe'. That might not annoy me! She kept saying 'you feel xxxx'. And then yes, I would say if I didn't, but it felt a bit odd.

And she left EPIC pauses after I'd said things. I didn't know what to do with them.

I dunno about the anger thing. I don't think I am angry about the things she seems to think I should be angry about. How can you be angry with a young mother who leaves her baby locked in a room to cry because she doesn't know what else to do and the GP has told her that's the right thing? It doesn't seem helpful. I feel quite sympathetic. It's not what I would do myself, but it doesn't seem something to be angry about.

mrsjavierbardem Wed 09-Jul-14 13:47:54

It's very hard to judge someone else's first therapy session as resistance is the norm. And resistance is unique to each person!

Also it is hard to distinguish between a therapist that maybe aint right for you and resistance.

those statements sound quite leading for a first session to me. I wonder why she is heading straight for your mother in session one. What is her training in?

But she may be brilliant. The best thing is to make clear what you hope therapy might achieve and then let the therapist say what is realistically achievable. 8 weeks of therapy with a good therapist with a willing client who is in the right place in their life to listen and act and able to do so; that could be helped by 8 sessions.

It took far more than that for me, but everyone and their work is unique and every therapist too. There is real trial and error. Sometimes a therapist you don't even warm too can be brilliant. It depends on the nature of what you need to address.

The most effective therapy is when the client is super honest. Try to say some of what you really feel, the therapist then has a chance to do their work. What you tell her is what she has to work with so the more honest you are the more she has to work with. But also you need to be ready to be honest, that is only known to you.

But it may help if you ask her a little more next time.

Good luck!

Atalanta Wed 09-Jul-14 13:57:05

Thank you. Ugh, I can't tell whether it's me being resistant (I am. very.) or her/this being wrong for me. I desperately want some help but I don't know how this is meant to work. She said she thought it was important because the unexamined life is not worth living, but that doesn't really tell me how it's going to help.

Her training is in psychoanalytically based counselling.

I tried to be honest but I was so insanely tense and uncomfortable about the whole thing. She said, 'do you generally have problems relating to people?' and I said, 'no,' to which she replied, 'Oh, just me then!' blush

squizita Wed 09-Jul-14 14:07:50

My gut reaction would be to be wary of a therapist who wants you to feel certain things. This may be because it is easier for her, rather than beneficial to you.

If you feel anger don't repress it.
If you feel another emotion don't repress that or force yourself to feel angry to 'please' your therapist or be 'right'.
That won't help you and a good therapist works with your emotions, not the emotions they assume you should have.

Atalanta Wed 09-Jul-14 14:09:32

Thanks squizita, that's quite thought-provoking.

Lottapianos Wed 09-Jul-14 14:09:36

'How can you be angry with a young mother who leaves her baby locked in a room to cry because she doesn't know what else to do and the GP has told her that's the right thing?'

Do you mean that you were that baby? If so, you have every right to be angry. I'm in therapy mostly because of my parents - part of me can see that they 'did the best they could' and 'didn't know any different', but a huge part of me is absolutely enraged and furious with them for not taking care of me the way I needed. The adult part of you can rationalise it, the neglected child part of you can't, and may still have very strong feelings about it. It sounds like you feel you shouldn't be angry with your mother, but there's no right or wrong when it comes to feelings, they just are.

Her last comment really doesn't sound very helpful though - I can imagine that didnt' make you feel good.

Namechangearoonie123 Wed 09-Jul-14 14:09:53

It might be helpful to think of separating out how you feel towards your mother and how you feel towards self.

So for example you seem to be saying you feel sorry for her/can understand she felt powerless and didn't know what to do.

That is separate from how you might feel angry on behalf of the baby (ie. you).

In therapy you try to prioritise self and how you might be feeling. It's fine (obviously) to feel empathy for and understand others but the feelings you have towards yourself deep down might not reflect that.

So if for example that 'abandonment' led to you feel isolated or alone then you could work through feeling annoyed about that

It's not about blaming your mother or being angry in the present with her but instead offering yourself some kindness and understanding for the way you are. smile

Don't stick with her if you don't like her though or you feel she's not interested in you. Therapy is uncomfortable to start with though. Most people don't prioritise themselves, think of themselves first, or focus on how they are.

Atalanta Wed 09-Jul-14 14:23:12

Yes, Lottapianos, that's what I mean. Hm. I dunno. She kept telling me I was very protective of my mother, for example in not telling her about the fact that I'm finding some things quite hard atm. But I was trying to explain that actually I need to manage my mother's feelings in order to protect myself. Because if I can't orchestrate things so that my mother is on side, she won't be supportive and helpful, just upsetting.

Interesting way of thinking about it, namechangearoonie. This is v odd to be thinking about at all. I don't know. I don't think I can access emotions on behalf of myself as a tiny baby. There are one or two events from much later on that I was/am cross about, but really not very many.

I suppose what I want is a nice quick way of making me not feel as though I'm desperate to run up to every kindly older lady I encounter and asking her to look after me! I'm not certain that feeling cross with my mother is going to achieve that?

squizita Wed 09-Jul-14 14:28:10

It's not about blaming your mother or being angry in the present with her but instead offering yourself some kindness and understanding for the way you are.

But this could be anger or self pity or envy of others or mourning sadness...
...I'm just slightly wary of the way the therapist almost 'wants' OP to be angry (and says things about do you not get on with people... oh just me) almost as if it's like if she's angry, she (therapist) will know what to do.

Helping someone to work through anger which wasn't the root problem probably won't help them in the long run.
Not to mention my major bugbear with some therapy providers you have mental health problems so we'll ignore what you say about where it (psychologically) hurts because we know better...

Sillylass79 Wed 09-Jul-14 14:31:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sillylass79 Wed 09-Jul-14 14:33:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lottapianos Wed 09-Jul-14 14:36:40

'I think a lot of the time the anger is just a mask for sorrow or fear or abandonment anyway.'

I do agree with this - anger can feel safer in some ways that sorrow or fear.

Pico2 Wed 09-Jul-14 15:31:55

I'm not sure that you have found the right therapist or type of therapy for you at the moment.

I once went to a therapist who wanted to unpick my childhood. That wasn't of interest to me at that time - I wanted something more CBT like to let me get on with the here and now. I only did one session with her. Another time, I saw a counsellor who used a primarily humanistic approach, which was perfect for me at the time as I had been through a traumatic event and needed to be able to accept that my feelings and reactions were normal, CBT wouldn't have suited me then.

I'd say either try one more session and re-evaluate or just ditch her and try someone else.

Trampampoline Wed 09-Jul-14 15:56:08

There's some really good (and interesting) advice on this thread.

OP, what do you want to get out of this therapy? This could affect whether you decide to stick with it or not.

If for example, you want to feel less anxious or depressed, then CBT might be a more appropriate therapy for you at this time. 6 - 10 sessions would be the norm for a non-complex presentation. Whilst CBT is informed by your past, its focus is on the present and the future and developing helpful tools for dealing with difficulties.

However, if you feel that there are things from your past that you want to unpick, then it could be worth sticking with this therapist and seeing if rapport develops. My understanding is that psychoanalytic therapy is usually a more long-term commitment.

FWIW, your therapist's cliched approach would drive me nuts, guaranteeing resistance!

MajesticWhine Wed 09-Jul-14 16:05:31

It doesn't sound like a great 1st session. I wonder if CBT rather than psychoanalytic would suit you better. It might be worth going back and saying. "I'm really not sure about this. I don't feel these things that you say I am feeling, and I don't know how any of this is going to help." Being brutally honest is the best way to get results.
Psychoanalytically trained therapists tend to be not so goal oriented (sorry, sweeping statement) and so it is more about the process than goals and targeting particular problems symptoms. I find a less goal oriented approach is great if you have the luxury of long term work, but not necessarily what I would want over 8 sessions, where I think you need to be quite focussed.

Atalanta Wed 09-Jul-14 17:15:00

I'm just stunned by all the brilliant advice. Thank you everyone, it's amazing.

I think I'm beginning to have a clearer sense of what I'm after really. I think I can probably handle the anxiety by myself. It's a response to some quite specific things that are going on and feels more like low-level panic than anxiety. I think it will go away on its own as things resolve themselves and if it doesn't I can do mindfulness exercises and breathing and all that.

I think what I really want is to specifically stop myself from wanting to (and sometimes actually blush) let myself visibly fall apart in front of people who seem kind in order to elicit some concern and kindness. I think that's kind of an embarrassing trait and although I can probably control it, it would feel much nicer not to want to do it. I do recognise and accept that it is probably because my mother isn't a motherly mother. But she's the one I've got and she does love me in her own slightly emotionally cramped way.

So is that the sort of thing CBT could help with?

Pico2 Wed 09-Jul-14 17:23:49

I would imagine CBT to be great for that sort of problem. You want to change a behaviour and possibly some of the thoughts triggering that behaviour.

mumtosome61 Wed 09-Jul-14 17:24:58

CBT, or emotional regulation, may help you feel more able to deal with emotions you either feel, or want to feel - it's not embarrassing to want to be cared for, and if it was absent in childhood it's an entirely normal thing to want to recreate. It asks you to take control of your own recovery/therapy, rather than the "You're angry because of this this and this" and then leaving open statements that can be inferred a variety of ways.

Everyone has contributed sound advice here - some therapists don't always work, either because their style isn't compatible or because what they asking of someone isn't the right therapy at that particular point in time. I remember having countless sessions of counselling and sitting there feeling worse than better, mainly because there was nothing concrete I could work with when I left. I recently completely 5 months of cognitive analytical therapy, which made me look at the process of my feelings and how to better direct them to healthier outcomes. I have to admit, I wasn't sure about my clinical psychologist to start with based on my pretty unhelpful past experiences (linked to misdiagnosis of my MH condition) but once I could see journey ahead of me, I was able to extrapolate the right things to say at the right time. I'm all for professionals offering me scenario's that "could" be why I feel the way I am, but I'd take affront at being told it was 'definitely' because of xyz - especially if they do not know me or my back history.

To me, it's best to deal with how we manage the way we think first, rather than why it is we think that way - it offers more stability and a better foundation at which further exploration about scenarios and theories can be offered.

MajesticWhine Wed 09-Jul-14 20:20:48

OP, I recognise your issue with wanting to elicit concern and kindness. I kind of have an issue a bit like this myself. I'm sure your experience is different, so I won't harp on, but for me it is quite a long term entrenched thing, as it relates to early attachment experience, and not something that can easily be resolved in a short term therapy. I have actually had shed loads of therapy and haven't been able to "fix" it, but I can now deal with it better. It's good that you know mindfulness, because I think the principle of mindfulness is really helpful actually. It helps with noticing thoughts and feeling, and noticing when you feel like this will help you identify the triggers. Mindfulness also allows you to create distance between your thoughts and feelings. i.e. recognise the feeling of pain and longing and accept it, be compassionate towards yourself and move on. Hope this makes sense.
I think CBT could potentially be helpful, but a therapist with an integrative training, who can offer something else, eg mindfulness and/or perhaps a knowledge of attachment theory would also be good.

Atalanta Thu 10-Jul-14 14:33:40

Oh thank you everyone.

I am going to have to think about whether to go back to her or not. I am feeling horrible today. Really low. She said she thought there were two of me and I was pretending to be something I'm not, and suggested that I am denying my talents by doing the things I think I'm supposed to do. And said she thought I was v unhappy.

I just thought I was feeling a bit anxious and overly needy. I feel miserable.

I was hoping she would be kind and make me feel a bit more looked after. But perhaps that isn't a role she should be filling anyway and I shouldn't be looking for that?

I have so much to do and I can't focus on it because I just want to curl up.

mrsjavierbardem Thu 10-Jul-14 23:04:48

Hi Atalanta,

In my experience any beginning of therapy is very likely to stir up all sorts of feelings and if they have been laid down awhile it can feel a bit overwhelming.

FWIW, and I am someone who had years of therapy and did a foundation course for a psychodynamic training, I think you sound very self aware in lots of ways and brave to venture forth into your own subconscious to maybe heal or seek to change old ways to new ways for your own benefit.

Opening up this much to one other person, and certainly to a mums net group, even such an understanding one, can leave a person feeling raw and unprotected. I have to say what you describe sounds very very normal and I wouldn't be alarmed at all.

Psychotherapy can be a bit like stirring up a long left pond. You don't know before you stir things what will float up but in my experience that ill ease is just the sign that you are wanting to do some work on yourself.

Maybe a comforting visualisation might be helpful that you can call on when you feel low. I used to imagine my beloved therapist who was just incandescently loving coming to give me a hug under the table where I was hiding. I literally closed my eyes and pictured her coming to a young me and reassuring me. Obviously every person needs a different image. But maybe you have someone you associate with a sense of unconditional love. Maybe even an older, wiser version of yourself, whatever works. That image could come and support you when you need it maybe.

But this kind of work is brave and it can feel lonely. To an extent we go where we go alone. Maybe a good therapist helps you pack, gives you some maps and some self belief that you have what you need to go into that strange landscape.

A good therapist can be like a good midwife, you have to have the baby, but she makes you believe that you can. Of course they CAN be he, but I've always worked with 'shes'.

Feeling low is par for the course, I think, and it may be proof that you are doing good work.

I wish you well and I wish you as kind and loving to yourself as you can possibly be. I also wish you great empathy. You are not alone in having this experience but it is an experience only you can have on some level. But sometimes feeling this pain might be old stuff just needing to be cleared out and the space sometimes can get filled with new energy and new things, it can be hugely exciting and positive to just dump some of the sadness out and let in new emotions and feelings and positive things.

Atalanta Fri 11-Jul-14 13:40:19

Thank you for your very thoughtful post.

I think I will go back and see what happens. I can't decide what I think about her yet. I can't tell whether when she feels judgemental of me, maybe she's reflecting back things I've given her rather than expressing her own opinions. I don't know.

AbbieHoffmansAfro Fri 11-Jul-14 13:53:21

Do go back.
Do be honest with her about how you felt after the session and ask questions about why she phrased things the way she did.
Do understand that what your therapist may be trying to get at is for you to stop rationalising, as an adult, about what your mother did and simply explore and reflect how you feel about it now and felt about it then.

I did a lot of work on my relationships with my parents in therapy. It was and is a good relationship. But there were one or two massive issues. I had to learn to stop rationalising and just recognise that the anger I felt as a small child had never gone away, and that it was affecting my adult relationship with them. The anger wasn't right or wrong, fair or unfair, it just was. Until I realised that I hadn't made much headway.

You are not me, of course. But I think it is not uncommon when you start therapy to protect the status quo quite fiercely, consciously or not, especially in your family relationships. Let that go. You can tell your therapist anything, the sky doesn't fall in. There is no wrong answer (it doesn't matter whether or not you do feel anger, and there is certainly no 'should' about it) only an inauthentic one (i.e. saying something you don't really feel).

And, it is hard work and you may not feel better after your sessions for a while. But if you are thorough about really examining your thoughts and feelings and honest in expressing them, feeling better will come.

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