Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My therapist said...

I've read a lot of posts from people who are thinking of seeing a counselor, and I always have TONS of opinions about what they should do. And I'm like blah blah blah blah all over their comments. So rather than clogging up comments with my opinions, I thought I'd put them all in one place. That way I can just be like LINK.

Some of you know I'm a psychologist, but I'm not that kind of psychologist. I don't deal with people's problems, I try to figure out how the mind works by conducting experiments. You know, making people pretend to be prison guards and keeping them locked in cages with only a cloth mother and so forth. But as a result of my professional training, I do know a bit about basic processes in human cognition. And I've seen a therapist for a few months at a time, a couple of times in my life. So it's my informed opinion that therapy is a good thing. I know it's a very stigmatized activity for a lot of people, but if you think you want help, don't let the stigma stop you. Also, therapy may be covered by your insurance. I've got no coverage for IUI or IVF, but do have coverage for therapy. The common questions that I see in blogglyland are:
  1. Do I even qualify as someone who could profit from seeing a therapist, or do I have to be super fucked up? I mean, I have no real problems, I'm just miserable all the time.
  2. How do I find someone who is not scary?
  3. I hate the person I found. What do I do?
  4. I think therapy is stupid
So I'll voice my opinions on each in turn. Keep in mind that while these are just opinions, I am obviously right about all of this. If you disagree, you'll receive an electric shock when you try to click away.

1. Do I even qualify as someone who could profit from seeing a therapist, or do I have to be super fucked up? I mean, I have no real problems, I'm just miserable all the time.
Yeah, you totally qualify. Infertility is something therapists specialize in. I know what you mean, though. When I most recently went to see someone because of the IF shit and my dad's death, I had that same sense of not being entitled to take up someone's time. But I shared that with her first thing and she was like, Dude, you have a right to be here. You are dealing with serious stuff. Plus, you're paying me, and if you find me helpful, that's all I need. I guess I also think wanting help and wondering whether you deserve it strangely resembles Mel's Pain Olympics, where we rank the horribleness of different varieties of suffering. If you're hurting, you deserve support.

2. How do I find someone who is not scary?
While your clinic may have a recommendation, I think it's nice to have choices. Go to Psychology Today's find a therapist page. Enter your zip code, select IF from the pull down menu. (Or loss /grief, or do both and see who's experienced with both). Read the profiles of people who are conveniently located, choose someone who doesn't completely creep you out. My personal preference is for cognitive/behavioral therapists. They deal with mind-body relationships, and there's often a scientific basis for their practices. For example, a cognitive/behavioral therapist might tell you that your limbic system (a set of brain structures that deals with emotional regulation) is hyperactive as a result of the stress of IF, which is why you feel so anxious and unhappy. She might give you some coping strategies and exercises to reduce limbic system activity. She might also offer you DRUGS. I personally am not going to take drugs for something that is situational, even though they might make me feel better. This is totally my own deal. There's nothing wrong with drugs. (Hear that, kids?) There are some safe drugs to take while trying to conceive. If you don't want drugs, tell her you don't want drugs. If she keeps forcing them on you, kick her to the curb as she's no good.

3. I hate the person I found. What do I do?
There's nothing wrong with ending a relationship with a professional. But I totally get it--it makes me really anxious, too. I suggest you tell the person, I've gotten enough out of our session(s) that I don't need to come back. That's a bit easier than saying, We're not a good fit, which is another option. Then go find someone else.

4. I think therapy is stupid.
That's not a question. But okay, that's a fair view. The most useful thing I was told by the person I saw about IF was that I was going to feel like shit until the IF was resolved. That while she could help me cope, nothing I could do (unless I wanted some of her DRUGS) would fix me, because the problem was situational. Did I need to pay someone to tell me this? Well, yes, actually, I did. Otherwise I would have continued blaming myself for not being able to snap out of it. And learning about the typical experiences women in my situation go through was very useful to me, as was being told that my distress was real and valid. But therapy is obviously not for everyone, and I'm aware that a lot of people have a negative experience that leads them to the view that it's stupid. I'm not here to change your mind, man, but consider this:

People undergoing prolonged stress need an outlet for expressing their feelings. That sounds all patchouli-scented, but there are good neuroscientific explanations for why talking about your feelings helps to regulate them. Blogland is awesome for expression and support, but the support is only semi-objective and doesn't come with any professional training. For those reasons, a therapist may be able to contribute something.

Want me to express my opinions about anything else? Because I totally will.


  1. this is really helpful!! i've been tossing the idea around in my head for a few months now, but have been too lazy to do something about it. hubby has been pushing me to go to therapy, i just didn't know how to go about finding someone (i think i'll be picky). i want a female who must be at LEAST in her late 30's, but preferrably in her 40's or older than that. if she had 5 kids, that is a no no. i want her to have struggled with infertility as well, otw i don't think she'd get me.

    am i asking too much? me suspects that i am. i just know that if ivf #2 doesn't work (ugh, typing those words are hard), then i'll need someone to catch me as i free fall. but i imagine i have to establish the relationship BEFORE i fall.

  2. This post is awesomely helpful. I have encountered 1, 2, 3 AND 4 myself! I was afraid I wasn't fracked enough for therapy. Then my therapist KEPT ON WITH THE DRUGS. Which made me really sad, that she was so sure I needed drugs. I was like, LADY! I am here for emotional tools to get through this. I wanted to feel better without medicine. (My personal preference, not a judgement on drugs.) Because she didn't get it when I kept shoo-ing the drugs, I finally emailed her and said I was "really busy with work and can't meet for a while." It was a total cop out and she immediately read between the lines and very kindly wished me luck. And I have not gone back to the drawing board for a new therapist since then (April)...

    A number 5 for your list. It feels weird to talk about yourself for an hour. I mean, I know we do that on our blogs, but it's different in real life, out loud. Does that make sense? It's something I never got used to in three sessions.

  3. As a fellow psychologist, I love you for this post!!!!! And, I am that kind of therapist. I see patients all day long (not for IF stuff). I have seen my own therapist for over 3 years (and yes there were many therapists prior to this) and she is an IF expert, having her own IF battle and finally adopting 2 children. My husband is in therapy of his own too (hey he is married to a shrink, what do you expect).
    Many IF centers have therapists on staff who can either see you or find you a referral. Some centers run support groups as well. Resolve is also a good place to check, many IF therapists are professional resolve members and are listed on their site by location. Resolve also has info about peer and professionally led support groups.
    If you read my blog, you will certainly know I that I have no idea what I am doing nor I pretend to have my shit together, this sometimes makes my job really hard to do. But, I could not imagine not having therapy. I have seen studies that likens the emotional stress of IF to that of cancer and other long term illness. We need and deserve help too.
    If anyone has any questions about therapy, please please email me at:
    or visist my blog
    Thanks again Bunny for raising this issue.

  4. Wooohooo for chatting about therapy! High-five! :)

    cgd, I firmly believe that all therapists, counselors and social workers should have the experience of therapy. I think it serves to deepen one's well of empathy. And, seriously, being a good therapist/counselor/social worker is all about being aware of your own shit so that your perosnal values and demons don't color your treatment of your patient. Amen.

    And regarding, "Do I Even Qualify...": you would see a doctor for a broken leg, wouldn't you? You'd go to a doctor for a sinus infection, right? Well, treating your mental health needs is the same thing. You're TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF.

    With regards to "I Hate the Person I Found..." I tell people ALL THE TIME (as goofy as this sounds) that you don't necessary buy the first pair of shoes you try on. Sometimes you have to try on a few to find the perfect fit. You may have to try a few therapists to find the right fit, too. Keep trying, find someone new. Advocate for your needs... If you're not getting your needs met with Therapist A, try Therapist B.

    I waffle on CBT sometimes, depending on the presenting issue, but it is a very valid treatment model. And, seriously, you want someone who is PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED in the mental health biz, someone neutral and objective, someone who's sole motivation is to help YOU...

  5. It took me 3 years of off and on searching to find my current therapist. And now that I'm in the right therapy relationship, it's amazing! She's able to give me advice for how to cope with this that is productive, but not accusatory and judgmental (like my mother's). As much as I love my bloggy peeps, we are so invested in supporting each other, we won't often say "You need to think about this more" or "Maybe you'd be happier if you tried this."

    Sienna, my real life IF friend in NYC sees a therapist who is a woman in her late-30s/40s with experience with IF and she LOVES her. If you need help in a few months, e-mail me and I can find out her name.

  6. Thanks for this. I'm kinda of one of the "therapy is stupid" - but I know you and all the other bloggies who have sought help from a therapist are right. It helps. But unfortunately I'm totally lazy about it, or maybe I'm worried that finding a therapist and the time to meet with him/her would stress me out even more. But, I'll tuck your thoughts in the back of my mind and hopefully one day I'll come around and book an appointment.

  7. This is a great post, and an equally great conversation. I started seeing a therapist about this stuff when my husband basically said that I needed someone to talk to who (a) wasn't him and (b) knew what the hell they were talking about. It's been great. But now? My therapist has just told me she is moving (AAAARGH) at the end of the summer so I might need to glom onto the NYC referral bandwagon. Because I believe in having options in case the referrals I get from my therapist aren't quite the right fit.

    Thanks again, Bunny!

  8. This was a really great entry, thanks for writing this.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I think I am going to have your answer to #1 tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. I also really appreciate your last paragraph. It is so important to me just to be able to talk sometimes without having to worry about the other person's emotional well-being or what they think of me or whether I'm doing a good enough job...and I don't think I realized that until just now.

  10. Great post, Bunny, thanks for posting it. Number 1 I am sure I qualify for, but 2-4 are the ones I most have problems with. Especially #4. But I have come to realise it might be time to see someone about IF.

    I would love to hear your opinion about lots of things! Although my recovery-drug addled brain can't think of one right now.

  11. xxxx thanks bunny. I especially like Q1 as thats how i felt before I went to counselling (this was a few years ago, i'm not currently seeing anyone now) and I almost cancelled my first appointment because I felt like I was going to turn up and she was going to send me away because I wasn't broken enough. Turns out I was more broken than I thought. Still am no doubt...!
    I think the number 1 thing that helped me with my sessions was that my counsellor/therapist had intimate knowledge of IF. Without that knowledge she would not have gained my respect and trust. She had been there and done that and so knew where I was coming from, it was important for me to know that she knew my feelings from a personal level. I know she was being paid to help me so could have probably been just as efficient if she'd not had those personal experiences but I am all about personal connections, even if the relationship is a business one. xxx Love your work, keep it up.

  12. This was hilarious (and helpful), thanks!

  13. You know, the timing of this post is almost eerie. I've thought about seeing someone, just to talk things out, but I had NO CLUE how to go about finding them. So, thank you, Dr. Bunny!

  14. Awww Bunny - the cloth-monkey-mama-baby-monkey-experiments are just too kruell for words. I feel so sorry for those baby monkeys.

    Anyhoo, I, as a provisional psychologist, agree wholeheartedly with all your rightitude.


    As for the DRUGS, if I'm in a situation like the one I'm akshully in and the drugs aren't recreationally fun, then they can go get stuffed up someone else's hooie. Presently, I'm'a likin' the vino. And the fentanyl, that was particularly speshal after my disastrous retrieval.


  15. Great post bunny, and I have to say you writing gave me the push to get back to researching therapists - because I KNOW I need some help. I hope I can find a good one and have a consult setup early next week.

    Also, only you could make advice about therapy hysterical. And I love u for it.

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  17. Love my current therapist who is for me only and loved the therapist my hubs and I went to for a brief time after our first two losses when our method of coping was to take it out on each other :) She gave us much better methods of coping and we are much closer. There are bad therapists - I've had one of them as well...she wanted me to bat a pillow and get my anger out - that didn't work for me so I found someone new, who made an effort to understand what did help me. She's now one of my favorite people in the world for what she can do to help me out of a funk. This IF is stressful and sad and sometimes horrible. I deserve help just like anyone else to deal.

  18. Bunny, I loved this post. Very thought provoking for me.

    My one therapist experience was back when I was about to graduate from college. I was working in the university library and my boss told me that she found therapy very beneficial and that even if I didn't think I needed it, it would help me. She said that student health insurance covered it up to a certain number of sessions. At the time I was about to move from my mid-western city to a large coastal metropolis with my then boyfriend of 6 months. I felt unsure about the decision, so I thought maybe a therapist would help. Well, the first session I broke down crying. All my worries and fears for the future came out. I realized how unsure I was about everything. After that initial session I became an emotional wreck. Beforehand I had what felt like lurking doubts about my decision, but afterwards I was questioning everything. I was scared to death. I think I might have actually gone back for a 2nd session, but if I did it was more of the same. I stopped after that and then tried my best to push all the stuff that had come out deep back down inside so that I could just get on with my life, bad decisions and all. And I've been afraid to go to a therapist ever since. Cuz I know I got some bad stuff in there, and I do not want to see it again.

    So, that's my therapy experience.

    Anyway, your post is making me think again about whether therapy could help me.

    Oh, and a year after moving to said coastal city, and after my boyfriend lost his job and started sitting around in his underwear all day smoking pot while I went the most boring 9 to 5 job every day, and after I ended up in $10,000 of credit card debt supporting his lazy ass, he broke up with me. So, maybe that therapist was on to something after all!