Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mad insights

I started therapy a month ago.

I know, I know. Lots of people think it's quack science. Hell, I went to school for it for two years and sometimes *I* think it's quack science. The goal of this therapy isn't to lie on a couch and revisit the pain my mother has inflicted on me. We've moved a long way away from those Freudian days, thank God. Can you imagine, laying on some man's couch alone for hours revisiting every perceived slight so he can tell you that you wish you had a penis? Then he leaves to snort a line of coke? No offense, Freud, but you were quite the man.

Instead, I get to visit with Scott. No couch, no coke. Once a week, I visit his office and bare my soul. I've been there twice, after I decided my life was taking me along for the ride and I felt I had no control anymore. His office is in a training facility, which means everything is videotaped. One of the basic tenets of therapy is confidentiality between patient and therapist. So the videotaping is still a bit unnerving to me. Sometimes I find myself talking to the videocamera, and wondering what that looks like on the other end. Do they think I'm nuts?

I've been in therapy many times before. You can't go through life with a mother as a social worker and not find yourself in therapy at some point or another. As a kid, we went to family therapy, and as a teen, I had two therapists who made a deep impression on my life. The first was my individual therapist. I will never forget the day that I was raging against my mother in the therapist's office. She listened quietly, and finally made the following statement: "At some point, you have to stop blaming your mother for your life and take responsibility for yourself." God, I was angry at her. Didn't she know her job was to support me? My mom was being selfish and I had every right to be angry! That worked until I figured out she was right. The second therapist that made a big difference to me was a family therapist we had at the same time. Through her gentle ways and explorations, she brought me to more understanding about myself and my family than I ever thought possible. She went a long way in mending the relationship between me and my father, which had always been strained. Because of her work, and our desire to have a positive relationship, we now have a loving relationship that I'm proud of. I had struggled through college, and I remember as I was getting ready to graduate, the doorbell ringing. She had sent me a gorgeous bouquet of flowers to congratulate me. In therapy circles, this type of thing is severely frowned upon, but in this instance, I think it was incredibly healing. I still remember her with fondness because she was able to recognize the struggle I had gone through to get to where I was at.

Which brings me to Scott. I had always sworn I would never have a male therapist. Men don't understand women, I thought. How in the world can you understand what my life is like? I do believe that gender differences, especially in the part of the world I live in, play a huge part in disparities between the sexes, discrimination issues and women overall being viewed as second class citizens. But my experiences with my son have led me to understand that there ARE many men in the field of social work that understand children and family issues, as well as therapeutic interventions necessary for healing. Because I perceived that many of my stresses are due to the relationship between my son and myself, I wanted someone who could help me develop more strategies in working with him. So when I called to pick a therapist, I agreed to see a man.

Enter Scott. He's younger than me, which made me uncomfortable right off. He also looks like the dad of a kid I used to teach, which kind of made me giggle on the inside. Our first session he spent most of the time looking at me with his best empathic expression while I poured my soul out to him and went through more than my fair share of Kleenex. But he was nice, and I agreed to come back.

I'm a talker. Give me an hour and I can fill it easily with all of the things going through my brain at any given time. I know I must drive my friends and husband crazy when they have to listen to me. Not only do I talk, butI talk in circles, as worry encompasses me and I'm convinced how terrible things are going to go. Within five minutes of our second session, Scott had nailed this. We began to talk about worry. How I worry, why I worry, what the purpose of my worry might be. He asked me questions and pointed ideas out that nobody--NOBODY--had ever pointed out to me before. And I don't mean the kind of stuff that often comes out in therapy--you know, the same stuff your mom or husband, or best friend said to you gently and you huffed back, "Yeah, right!". No. Scott introduced ideas I'd never even thought of. Give the man a prize.

I left our session this time knowing that I will make progress toward my goals. How? Because this guy isn't just sitting around giving me his best empathic impression and nodding his head. He actually thought about me. He thought about how I think. He thought about how I process things and that I have reasons for the things I do. And he has serious mad skills working with children like my son. So we're a good fit.

It's always a gamble to tell people, "I'm in therapy". I see therapy as a tool, like any other, to move yourself along when you get to a point that things aren't working for you. For me, I need clarity. I need to make decisions and I need better coping mechanisms in my personal life. So now I have a date, once a week, with my own personal insight guru. And as scared as I am to think about things in new and different ways, I'm excited about what I am going to learn about myself along the way, with the help of Scott.

Go Scott. You rock.


  1. I totally agree, I have been in therapy too many times to count throughout childhood, adolescence and a few times in "adulthood". I'm always amazed at people who DON'T go isn't that weird? When we moved to Abilene and we had a nice schedule and some extra money I told Barrett that I wanted to go to see someone and he was so freaked out. "Are you that unhappy?" "What's wrong" on and on. Frankly I was completely happy I was in one of the best places I had been in in a long time but I knew there was some underlying issues that were hampering me. I mean you can't go through a crazy divorce in the middle of college then spend two years caring for a cancer patient turn sociopath without having some baggage!

  2. No kidding. I always see it as an opportunity to learn more about myself, you know? Kind of cool, kind of scary sometimes, but if you have a good person along for the ride, almost always worth it.