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Page Contents: Time keeping, clamming up, arguing, and interruptions in psychotherapy.                    

 

Iíve been seeing a psychotherapist for almost 2 months, but I have (minor) doubts about her approach. I originally chose her because she was of similar age and background. Even during this short time Iíve made some important discoveries. Right from the start my psychotherapist took an active role, offering theory/insights that were helpful, although I feel I was very much ready for change with my unconscious working behind the scenes directing me to the truth both inside and outside the therapy room.
   Firstly, thereís the issue of time keeping. The sessions are meant to last 50 minutes, but all of them so far have lasted anywhere between 90 Ė 120 minutes. Good for my wallet Iím sure, but I always thought consistent time keeping was quite important in therapy?
   Then, the second half of the most recent session ended badly with me clamming up/sulking. Whilst trying to relate a recent breakthrough I made reference to what I believed to be a harmless, universal tenet of psychology. She disagreed with the concept I had adopted and told me in no uncertain terms I was wrong. This happened twice actually. Itís not being called out as wrong that bothers me so much, but more the way she did it. This isnít the first time sheís argued with me; despite my protestations she accused someone I knew at college of being a narcissist, which I believed to be a rather harsh assumption. I think she was trying to protect me on the mistaken belief I was being overly self critical or negative.
   Afterwards I raked my brains to discover what really bothered me about that session and I realized that during the first half of the session I had become tired of her interruptions and her rather scattergun approach to repeating/reinterpreting what Iíve said, sometimes missing the pitch all together and making me cringe. I realized this had bothered me from the very beginning. I wanted to relate the important discoveries I had made during the previous week. It was the first time Iíd ever felt that emotional sitting in front of someone else but the interruptions threw me off track and gave me a way of avoiding the emotion I was feeling when all I really needed was gentle shove over the edge.
   (It has to be noted I have issues here. Iíve always felt bullied/infantilized by my family, my mother interrupts everyone regardless, and I have a stammer).
   After the session she called me to apologize, insisted she was the one in the wrong, and offered me a free session the next day to discuss what had happened. I appreciate the gesture and her willingness to accept responsibility, regardless of whether she was at fault, but I declined thinking it was probably inappropriate and somewhat unnecessary with the next scheduled appointment only a week away.
   I would describe her as enthusiastic, likeable and committed, (perhaps a touch obsessive at times). I know a lot of this can be resolved through discussion which I plan to do at the next session, and I am aware I may be perceived as tip-toeing across the rather well worn path of thinking myself superior to my psychotherapist, but am I right in questioning her approach?

 
You say that you are ready for a change, so letís start with the premise that you wrote to me in order to facilitate that change. Moreover, you understand that your unconscious is ďworking behind the scenesĒ directing you to the truth. So far, so good.

But getting to that truth can be a complex process. All of us are entangled in our own unconscious such that we cannot see that truth directly on our own; we all need someone to interpret the things we say in order to point us to the truth that exists behind the scenes of our own drama. Consequently, in psychotherapy everything we say must be reflected through the psychotherapistís interpretations.

Psychotherapy, therefore, is not a simple process of relating your thoughts and experiences to another person; it is a complex process of discovering the hidden meaning of what you are saying. Moreover, in your case, considering your stammer, the psychotherapeutic focus of your truth may be more a matter of what you are not saying, or saying imperfectly because of the unconscious inhibition imposed on you by your mother.

Most likely, because of this unconscious dynamic working within you, you can have a compensatory tendency to focus on what you believe to be right. Being told that you are wrong, as a therapeutic intervention, may be just what you need to get to the truth within you. Similarly, being interrupted as you attempt to relate your thoughts can be just what is needed to point out the importance of what you are unconsciously saying even as you believe you are saying something else that to you has its own seeming importance. Finally, receiving time that you donít believe you deserve can help to show you that the unconscious works in its own time, in its own peculiar way, without regard to any merit on your part.

Now, as for your psychotherapist, I canít tell if she really understands the depth of what she is doing or if she is just a fool who does the right things for the wrong reasons. It will be up to you do discover whether she has a competent plan or not. In my opinion, the path to that discovery will be the path to your desired change; that is, in bringing yourself to ask your psychotherapist about her methods you will be metaphorically asking your mother to account for her behavior. As a child you could not talk to your mother in such a manner—though you wanted to—and so you developed a stammer. Well, now you have your opportunity to set things right. Itís called psychotherapy. And your success will be measured not by your intellect but by the humility with which you conduct yourself in the presence of an unconscious that, by psychological standards of measurement, is ďsuperiorĒ to you. So go, face the emotion of it, and change.

 

 


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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