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Page Contents: Trusting your psychotherapist after other psychotherapists failed.                    

 

I have been in therapy on and off for six years. My first therapist died unexpectedly between sessions. My second therapist screwed up and did not protect the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship. I am with my third therapist and things are progressing slowly, but I can see the work getting done. I am having a problem trusting her and being willing to open up about what the true feelings going on inside me are. She makes it easy to talk, but I find it almost impossible to trust. What can I do to overcome this and start dealing with the issues?

 
Trust has to be learned. If it isn’t learned as a child through healthy family interactions, then it must be learned outside the family through other social interactions. Unfortunately, most persons who don’t learn to trust within the family are so emotionally wounded that all other social interactions are stained by a general lack of trust. Therefore, such persons are left with a final option: enter psychotherapy and learn how to trust there, through the psychotherapeutic relationship.

Now, in your case, you experienced some previous failures of psychotherapy and your trust was shaken. Nevertheless, what you need to do now is ridiculously simple, and yet emotionally difficult. You must make the clear and bold decision to talk to your current psychotherapist about previous difficulties in psychotherapy and your lack of trust because of those difficulties.

If your current psychotherapist is competent, the work will lead you into an exploration of all the reasons why you find it difficult to trust others, and through the growth of honest, genuine communication you will discover how (a) to trust your own unconscious perception of things, and (b) to trust the psychotherapist. What you learn from that encounter with the psychotherapist can then be applied to other social situations outside psychotherapy.

If your current psychotherapist is not competent, your attempts to speak about your lack of trust will be ridiculed, minimized, criticized, or ignored. Well, in that case you will have to say, “Hmm . . . looks like we’ve got another one of those ‘bad therapists.’ Let’s keep looking until we find someone who’s good.” And then start looking. Just remember that the very process of looking for a competent psychotherapist—with all its frustrations—is itself a part of “dealing with the issues.”

 


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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