Advanced search think that my (childless) therapist can't understand my PND as well as someone with kids would?

(82 Posts)
MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:11:36

Sorry - very clumsily put, but I can't think of another way to say it.

I'm 6 weeks in to a course of psychotherapy for prolonged Post-Natal Depression and have discovered that my therapist has never had kids.

I had felt that she lacks empathy with the trauma and relentlessness of childbirth and early parenthood. When I told her that we had had no visitors or support of any kind in the first months of my son's life, she told me that most people experienced the same and that she didn't know anyone who had been looked after in any way by friends or family when they had newborns.

This is just one of many causes of my (possibly clinical) depression but I find it frustrating that she has an (IMO) unrealistic impression of what life with a newborn is like.

She is in all other ways a very good therapist and I do realise that it's a bit late to change now.

I was thinking of discussing it in our next session. AIBU?

WorraLorraTurkey Mon 10-Dec-12 13:14:40


What if she had 5 kids and sailed through effortlessly?

Surely that's the same...if not worse because her impression of having a newborn will actually be her reality.

MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:15:45

Yeah, you're right - that would really suck.

EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy Mon 10-Dec-12 13:16:43

When it comes to therapy, it's less experience of specific conditions or situations that matters (indeed can be a hindrance in some circumstances) than therapeutic attitudes or techniques that span conditions/circumstances.

Your therapist might, in making that comment, have been hoping to show you you aren't alone and not have understood that you wanted empathy/sympathy. Have the people in your life been unsympathetic/let you get on with it? It is always worth communicating to your therapist, at the time or later, if a particular thing she says makes you feel a particular way.

Psychotherapists' job is to gain an understanding of what it feels like to be you - not from being able to empathise directly, but from sensitive, present listening and acceptance. From that basis, they can gently guide you towards alternative perspectives.

What kind of therapy is it?

BettySwollocksandaCrustyRack Mon 10-Dec-12 13:18:45

YABU - it isn't the fact that you have children which is making you depressed. She is qualified to know about depression, about how the brain works etc etc - whether or not she has kids herself would not impact that at all.

MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:19:03

Evenifyouseeapoppy - I dunno - so far, it has seemed to be just me telling her the story of my life, crying a lot, then going home. I told her last week that i didn't feel that it was very constructive - and that it was making me feel worse, if anything - and she agreed that we could try a more constructive approach. I'm not sure what this is going to entail.

That's a very good point you've made, especially the first paragraph. Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:19:42

Thanks bettyswollocks (LOL)

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Mon 10-Dec-12 13:19:56

I am sorry you are having a hard time,
I do think YABU though.. under no circumstances would I feel that the therapist I saw would have to have suffered child abuse to be able to help me.
Nor someone who was happily married be unable to work at relate.

MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:20:49

Yes, good point. I'm not depressed because I had a hard time with my son. If anything, I had a hard time with my son because I was depressed.

CailinDana Mon 10-Dec-12 13:21:05

She just sounds like a rubbish therapist tbh. She basically belittled your feelings by implying that you had no right to feel the way you did, which is absolutely not what a therapist should do. She might not personally agree with your expectations of motherhood, but it's not her job to get you to accept her version of reality - it's her job to listen to and acknowledge how you feel without criticising. She could challenge what you say, perhaps by asking questions, but to simply state that "most people experience the same" (ie you are overreacting to something normal) is really unprofessional.

UnacceptableAmountOfSherry Mon 10-Dec-12 13:22:32

I've had children but haven't studied depression and methods of dealing with it so I think I'd be of much less use to you. People who have suffered PND would be able to empathise and maybe tell you what worked for them but it's likely to have been a professional who helped them in the first place.

You've said yourself that she's a very good therapist so part of you obviously thinks she is helping. I'd continue to see her and get you empathy/inspiration right here on MN

Good Luck Mama hope you continue to progress and get through this

SamSmalaidh Mon 10-Dec-12 13:23:18

Definitely raise it with her. Tell her you feel she is being dismissive/unrealistic.

I have had a child, but didn't experience PND. However I did have lots of support from my mum/family/friends (as did everyone I know actually) - so my experience would still have been very different to yours.

And of course having children is why you have PND hmm

CailinDana Mon 10-Dec-12 13:23:40

To add, it's not at all necessary for a good therapist to have experienced what you've experienced, they just need to be able to listen and let you explore your feelings. Your therapist didn't do that, which is a failing on her part.

KindleMum Mon 10-Dec-12 13:23:55

I don't think you've thought this one through. If she's a good therapist her personal experiences won't affect how she treats you. And I also think that on average, people who've had no kids are likely to be more sympathetic that those who had kids and no PND. I never had PND, I have 2 kids and had no family or friends help due to having moved a very long way away during pregnancy - I don't think my experiences would help me understand yours as mine were entirely different. For similar reasons, I've always found male docs to be more sympathetic and clinical about "women's problems" than female ones.

Please also bear in mind that you're there to discuss you, not her and you don't know that she's childless by choice. For all you know, she may have a history of miscarriages.

Best of luck in getting through this.

LaCiccolina Mon 10-Dec-12 13:24:21

Personally I don't think u r bu no. I've found most professionals (midwives, hv, GP, etc) are very unhelpful in regards to newborn issues. Everything I read or researched or attended (classes) prior to birth gave very pleasant views on babies and birth. It's all perfect world stuff. Baby will know how to bf. it will find the breast. If its bottle then baby will naturally take that fine too. Everything I read really described my baby from about 3-4 mths old. 2hr naps, regular patterns, settled feeding, less colic etc. the newborn phase was never mentioned! I felt so trapped and helpless and vulnerable. The ONLY place I found solace and any useful advice was this website. Dear god it saved my sanity on a few occasions and is why I continue to come back, incase I can help at any point someone who felt as bloody lost as I did.

I had no idea what birth was like before I did it but now even I'm not honest with prospective mums. U can't b. it's so personal u just can't preempt it and negatives just make u sound horrible. It's much like describing losing ur virginity to a mate when young, the idea and reality are miles apart!! No one is very honest about that either! They are often comical but rarely very truthful.

Now I say all this bit wonder if a person with kids might be better? Depends when they had them. Maybe they were fab at newborns. Maybe they would have less clue what u meant than this person!

I think u need a conversation to air this and if u dont feel its resolved then a depression specialist. Maybe her expertise is in some other area?

merlottits Mon 10-Dec-12 13:27:20

Most people don't get any support after having a baby though do they?
Just their partner for a few days/weeks and then their on their own. I don't know anyone who had loads of help.

Maybe she feels helping you 'wallow' in self-pity is less helpful than other ways of dealing with your depression. There certain is, in some types of therapy, a movement away from dwelling on the pain and focusing on moving forward and reframing the problem.

I suspect you are suffering from depression, anger, sadness, loneliness, perhaps guilt, maybe fear. All these are universal emotions that occur from all sorts of life experiences. She doesn't need to have had a baby to understand them.

MisForMumNotMaid Mon 10-Dec-12 13:27:24

Not the same but I had bad SPD with my first. My consultants registrar had just got back from maternity leave with her first and told me to pull my self together pregnancy doesn't hurt. I ended up in a wheelchair for a while, then post birth many months physio, having not pulled myself together.

No one knows how its effecting you - except you. Some one with an open mind who has experience of, and exposure to, lots of people who have PND and what has helped/ worked/ not worked for them is in a good position to make suggestions to you.

I don't find her statement that she doesn't know people who've been looked after by friends/ family that unusual. I guess it depends who you know.

I'm sorry that you feel you've missed support. Virtual support and a good moan on here when things feel too much isn't as good as physical in person but it has really helped me at some low points.

I think that discussing concerns with your therapist isn't such a bad idea if you can couch it in a non aggressive/ confrontational way. I find making notes helps me to stick to the point. She may well be able to help you more for your openness.

Good luck

Chelvis Mon 10-Dec-12 13:28:45

I think that, no she cannot quite understand what PND and small children are like unless she has had them, but a good therapist should be capable of showing some empathy and understanding that it is often a really challenging time. I have never been an elderly, lonely, widowed person, but I can imagine it to a certain extent and show sympathy/empathy to someone in that situation. I would raise it, i think she has let you down, not through her lack of experience, but her lack of kindness/empathy.

EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy Mon 10-Dec-12 13:29:59

Cailin, I think we can't condemn this therapist of being rubbish before we can be sure of the spirit the comment was made in. The OP (sorry OP to talk about you in the third person) certainly heard it that way and it had that impact, but the therapist might have been attempting to indicate to her how common that experience is so she feels less isolated. What is needed here is therapist/client communication - the client needs to tell the therapist, who after all is human and not an infallible fount of all wisdom, how the comment made her feel - which will help her identify what she wants/needs from this stage of the therapy. OP, it sounds like you are badly in need of some acknowledgement of the fact that those first months in particular were very hard for you, and if your therapist cam be made aware of that she can give you that acknowledgement and explore what went on for you during that time. Of course, if she then continues along the lines of 'Oh, everyone has to get on with it' or whatever, then Cailin may be right.

Can you ask her what her training is - analytical, CBT, client-centred? Ask her to be a bit more explicit about the model she is using?

Therapy can be a very gruelling process indeed - it often entails feeling worse before one feels better. It sounds as if there are other issues as well as your PND which are difficult and painful for you. You may need to anticipate improvement coming slowly and gradually, and with some pain on the way, rather than all at once. I know how daunting that possibly sounds and I don't mean to put you off - good therapy, combined with taking as much care of yourself as possible and listening to how you feel, can help enormously.

CailinDana Mon 10-Dec-12 13:35:56

I'm not familiar with all types of therapy but from my background in psychology I know most types are very clear that a therapist should avoid giving his/her own experiences of things - it takes the focus away from the client and because there is a trusting relationship there is a danger that the client will start to accept the therapist's version of things without actually exploring their own thoughts and feelings. I mean, if the OP had said "I find sex really daunting" and the therapist said "I don't know anyone who feels that way" would it be appropriate? Absolutely not. It is irrelevant whether the therapist knows someone who's experienced the same thing or not - totally irrelevant. The OP experienced it, and it had an impact, and that's what matters.

EvenIfYouSeeAPoppy Mon 10-Dec-12 13:40:35

I would argue that this isn't so much the therapist's own experience as a generalisation. And I don't think the sex example (and that would indeed be inappropriate, I agree there) quite works as an analogy, as the matter at issue in the OP is more a circumstance than a feeling.

Of course it may have been said in a pull-yourself-together kind of way. It may have been a therapeutic mistake. We don't know. But neither, I think, can we condemn it out of hand and by making sweeping statements such as 'she sounds like s rubbish therapist' undermine any relationship of trust there may be between therapist and client.

(Declaration of interest - am not a therapist myself, but a fairly long-term client)

BoerWarKids Mon 10-Dec-12 13:41:59

I would definitely bring this up with her in your next session, otherwise I fear it will impede your progress with the therapy. There can't be any unspoken niggles or annoyances, IME.

Therapists haven't necessarily experienced all the circumstances that they counsel; divorce, bereavement, rape, child abuse, PTSD, phobias, etc.

MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:42:30

"Most people don't get any support after having a baby though do they?"

What - seriously? No-one visited you when you had your baby? Or phoned to ask you how you were feeling? Or offered words of encouragement? Or made you a cup of tea?

I know not everyone is (un)lucky enough to have their mum or MIL to come and stay for a few days to help with housework or the older children, but everyone I can think of at least had someone on the end of the phone they would ring to hear them say 'it will get better'.

Rollmops Mon 10-Dec-12 13:43:04

I have DTs and had the most easy pregnancy, fantastic birth, found the early years most easy and enjoyable and it's just getting better and better. I wouldn't be able to relate to your experience.

MamaLazarou Mon 10-Dec-12 13:44:56

Are you a therapist, rollmops?

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: