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About Psychotherapy

 

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Page Contents: When you close off from your psychotherapist.                    

 

Although I like my psychotherapist and he usually provides me with key insights, I am somewhat intimidated/frightened of him. I also wish he listened more, but find it difficult to get that through to him because he often dismisses my objections/concerns about his conclusions as just being “part of my syndrome and my wanting to retreat back to my safe place.” Because of this (and sometimes he can be sort of cold/abrasive), I find myself closing off from him and really retreating back into myself. So my question is, is it time to find another psychotherapist or am I just experiencing feelings that are part of the therapeutic process? I had a psychotherapist before who was really more mild and seemed gentler, but I didn’t like him because he seemed afraid or incapable of getting at the more painful issues.

 
If psychotherapy is to get at the more painful issues, it must of necessity pay close attention to the unconscious. Unfortunately, the unconscious is not accessible to rational logic. So when a competent psychotherapist, well-trained in psychodynamic psychotherapy, makes interpretations about a client’s unconscious behavior, it may not make sense to the client.

In all of this, however, the client should not be expected to just sit back and accept everything uncritically. Why? Because psychotherapy is not a matter of brainwashing; it’s really a cooperative, interactive process between the client and the psychotherapist.

This means that you have an obligation to ask questions. When something doesn’t make sense, speak about it. “Speaking about it” means to discuss openly your problems in understanding the psychotherapeutic interpretations.

Now, at this point we have to consider what you mean when you say, rather ambiguously, that you “find it difficult to get that through to him because he often dismisses my objections/concerns about his conclusions as just being ‘part of my syndrome and my wanting to retreat back to my safe place.’”

It could be that in raising your “objections” you are simply arguing with him. An interpretation may not make sense, and it may even feel like it has missed the point about your feelings. But if you become argumentative, you miss the point.

On the other hand, maybe you do speak up appropriately to express your “concerns,” and your psychotherapist dismisses your confusion, rather than work with you to teach and explain things. And maybe when he dismisses your confusion you feel intimidated, and you retreat back into yourself, just as you did when your parents, for example, missed the point about your feelings. But in retreating, you miss the point.

So, do you need to find a new psychotherapist? Well, it all depends. There are three possibilities:

1.

If you speak up politely and without arguing and ask for clarification, and your psychotherapist works with you to teach and explain things, then you know that he understands his job, and all is well.

2.

If you become argumentative or if you retreat “back to my safe place” as a defense in the first place—then you are missing the point about psychotherapy.

3.

If you speak up politely about your confusion and it feels like he discounts you, and you don’t retreat into yourself, and you persist in asking for clarification, and still he doesn’t listen to you, then he is missing the point about psychotherapy.

Do you see? It all depends on how you both behave. When either person fails to cooperate, the whole process fails.

 


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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