How do you know when to stop/take a break with therapy?
November 19, 2010 11:08 AM   Subscribe

When do you know it's time to stop therapy or take a break?

I started going into therapy again at the beginning of the year. Post partum anxiety, hormonal shits, major anxiety, depression, mood issues as well as it impacting the marriage and raising a child. The next step was for me and my husband to get ourselves into marriage therapy--his insistance. And the marriage therapist said we both need individual therapy and it seems I need to be on meds. So I told her I already am in personal therapy and I would try meds. And so far they have really, really helped (despite me being reluctant at first). Both my DH and I noticed a significant difference for the better.

The final step was for him to get himself into therapy for a variety of issues and he went yesterday to his first meeting. Not sure where it's going to wind up since he's very anti-therapy for himself and he feels he's pretty good although he did say he understands him handling stress, communicating, anger issues are things he should work on. So I'm hoping for the best.

However, the last 3 sessions for myself it turned into a total venting session. The only thing my therapist says is "sit with the emotion" and it seems to be a repeated theme. She knows that my initial reason for going to therapy was to help me figure out whether or not to divoce. Well now we're in marriage therapy so that will help determine that. But when she obviously got tired of my venting sh said "well you seem to be just reflective. You need to figure out what goals you want to discuss."

And that's just it. I don't know what goals to discuss because Christ I'm going to 3 therapists? The majority of my issues have been with my DH--our arguing style, having him see his marijuana usage and outlook habit as not parent-friendly, his temper issues, his disorganization (therapist strongly feels he's ADD), and having him really, really see that I"m fed up with all of it and either it gets fixed or I'm just miserable and don't want to be in this relationship.

I'm getting tired of going to three therapists. Leaving my DH is up for grabs and I'm understanding the basics of when to leave an unhealthy relationship. The problem is there is something "wrong" where I just can't. Not sure if it's codependence, something inside of me that's missing, why I can't leave, etc.

We're working on our arguing habits together. But other than that and how to leave a bad realtionship, I have no goals.

So is it time to take a break with the personal therapy until I see how DH is progressing (or not) to go "you know, this isn't going the way I want, I"m unhappy, now teach me how to leave." It's all becoming overhwelming and well, depressing going to THREE therapists. (and expensive)
posted by stormpooper to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wait, I don't see how you're seeing three therapists: you are seeing a marriage therapist with your husband, and a therapist on your own. Who's the third therapist?
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2010

And by giving your our advice, we mefites will collectively become your 4th theraptist - although the cost is very reasonable in our case.

I personally think that having 3 therapists is like a symphony orchestra with three conductors, all conducting at once. You don't need guidance from 3 different sources which may or many not be consistent with each other.

And while it is good for you to resolve problems that exist with your own emotions and thoughts, that does not in itself solve the problems that your husband has. If he cannot go along with you on your journey to becoming a better person and a better parent, then you will, sadly, have to leave him behind.
posted by grizzled at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2010

Don't stop going to therapy because you can't figure out what to talk about.. Venting is part of the process. That's how you figure out what you want to talk about.

From what you said here it sounds like you need to talk about why you can't leave your husband. Waiting to see if therapy changes him into a nicer person/better partner is going to take a very long time and doesn't sound like a good idea for someone who is as unhappy and stressed out as you sound.
posted by amethysts at 11:22 AM on November 19, 2010

You can just stop seeing your therapist. It's not a reflection on you. There isn't a right answer here. Some people have it in mind that there are right answers. That with enough data, enough perspective, enough information...the answer for what to do next will be clear. (whether its about your husband or your therapist).

I'm of the opinion that 1) there's no amount of data or insight that will provide a clear path , 2) this kind of assumption actually keeps you stuck and prevents you from moving forward.

What's the role of hope here? What do you hope for yourself? What do you need to practice in order to get good at having the life you want?

You can practice taking a chance and constructing your future by leaving your therapist. It can't be a wrong move, because you're experimenting, it won't do irreparable harm, it's "undoable" and it impacts the therapist not at all. What a great, safe way to experimenting with "leaving"!

It's practically performance art!

Leave---and delight in the leaving!
posted by vitabellosi at 11:38 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Usually a psychopharmacologist doesn't offer therapy, though, just evaluation and supervision of medication--hence my confusion.

In any case, OP, studies show that medication + therapy are much more successful than either modality alone. "Sit with the feelings" is a really important step for many people; I am not in your therapy sessions, but I would suggest that many many times people who are unhappy with the "sit with your feelings" bit hate it because of their resistance to sitting with their feelings, not because it's actually a waste of time or because the therapist isn't helping them.

Which is not to say that it's impossible that in your case the therapist isn't helping you and that it's a waste of time. Because I don't know. But boy, what you describe sounds like classic co-dependent resistance to me. Have you read Facing Co-Dependence by Mellody et al. Because I think it might really help you.

Best of luck.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:39 AM on November 19, 2010

To amplify on that: if you were in a co-dependent spiral, and you were being challenged to sit with your feelings, and you were resisting that, one of the ways you would be likely to experience and describe that is "This is all a waste of time and I am getting nowhere."

The tricky bit is that if you were really wasting your time and getting nowhere, that is also how you would experience and describe that.

But it sounds like you're in a marriage with someone who's quite troubled and who is using substances in a way you think is unhealthy in his life and you can't decide whether to leave him or not and you're fed up--that's pretty much the textbook definition of co-dependent spiral right there.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:42 AM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @sidehedevil yes it was personal, marriage, and then pharma therapists/docs. I have read CoDependence No More but not the book you speak of.

So what you're saying is the goal should be how to break codependence?

I think the sit with the emotion part that bothers me is the "yea I'm sad, angry, etc. now what? The crazy people I deal with won't change."

Ok I guess that too is codependence. :)

I think I was worrying perhaps I'm too addicted to therapy--having others figure out a direction for me because in all honestly the hell if I know what I'm doing? Coming from a very dysfunctional home all I know is dysfunction, witnessing unhappiness, living with unhappiness, and figuring mechanisms to cope around it (hold a job, have a kid, etc) in short do the responsible thing not the happy, right thing for me.

posted by stormpooper at 11:48 AM on November 19, 2010

Facing Co-Dependence is really by far the best book on the topic in my opinion. One of the things that co-dependent patterns "teach" us is that things can never change, and any of our attempts to change them are doomed to failure and a waste of time.

I don't know, stormpooper. It really sounds to me like that's what's talking to you right now. I might be projecting my own experiences on to you, though, so I really want to encourage you to check out Facing Co-Dependence. I found myself reading through it and shouting "OMG THAT'S ME!" so often.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:57 AM on November 19, 2010

I actually think the personal therapy is more important than the relationship therapy, because you seem focused on What Your Husband is Doing Wrong and not what you want to do to be a happy person. Btw, the decision to be happy can be completely independent of the decision to leave him or not. I would bet that this is where the "goals" conversation comes in; you can talk until you're blue in the face about everything that is wrong in your marriage, but it makes no difference unless you have some sort of pathway to the future for yourself. "I want my husband to fix himself" is not a goal.
posted by desjardins at 11:59 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound like you're addicted to therapy. It sounds like you're frustrated with the expense, the lack of answers about what the "happy, right thing for me" is.

And I'm guessing your therapist is having you sit with those emotions and find your own goals because they think the way forward has to start coming from within yourself, and your negative emotions can be a guide to start seeing where that happy, right way might be.

Put another way, I knew it was time to leave therapy when I was happy with my life and felt that I had the tools and resiliency to deal with daily struggles. (ok, and my therapist pointed all of that out to me). It's ok to quit for other reasons, or to switch therapists, but your happy, right thing is worth a lot, isn't it?
posted by ldthomps at 12:02 PM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stormpooper, it's okay. Take a break, because no harm can come of it. You can always go back to that therapist you've been seeing by yourself, or you can go to someone else. The only downside you might have: if you start feeling worse and you're not coping well, you could "forget" that therapy is beneficial. (This is just from my own experience. When my depression comes on, I tend to believe that therapy can't help me.) The way around this is to do a depression quiz or screening at regular intervals, You can make your own, or use one of these:
posted by wryly at 1:31 PM on November 19, 2010

Response by poster: Oops, I just noticed "hormonal shits". I obviously meant "shifts" because hormonal shits probably would need more than a therapist. :)
posted by stormpooper at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2010

Sorry, here are my links:

posted by wryly at 1:34 PM on November 19, 2010

You're miserable. You want to leave your relationship, but for some reason you can't. Isn't THAT your goal? This seems pretty simple.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:11 PM on November 19, 2010

You said that you were already in therapy and that it is last three session that have just been venting. How many times have you seen your personal therapist. Have they been generally helpful in the past?

I would start by talking to your therapist about your frustration with what is happening. If it goes well, the therapy will be back on track. If not, you might consider a new therapist, rather than just quitting. There are many different styles and personalities and "fit" is very important to effectiveness.
posted by metahawk at 1:03 AM on November 20, 2010

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