Therapist(s) Recommendations in the Bay Area (CA)
April 18, 2013 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Therapist(s) Recommendations in the Bay Area (CA): Three areas.

This is long. Thank you to those who take the time to read it.

I discovered AskMeFi last year, and have been impressed with the range of experiences, stories, and anecdotes since. There's a lot of profound advice here. I've seen many threads dedicated to therapy recommendations, but none have seemed to touch specifically on the three subjects I'm looking for (simultaneously, at least).

I live in the Bay Area (California) with my partner of two-and-a-half years, and have recently come to realize that there are certain aspects of my behavior that could potentially harm our relationship, if left undealt-with.

I have never been to, or actively sought out, therapy. I have always had a difficult time trusting people, and have had an aversion to therapists in general because of it. I used to believe that I could handle anything, and that I would not suffer any consequences later in life if I repressed my feelings/problems. However, this stubborn-perspective ship has since sailed. Over the years I have opened my mind to speaking with a professional, and have acknowledged that this is the best route to take. Not only for myself (which is the primary motivation), but for the sake of the relationship. My partner deserves to be with someone willing to make these necessary changes.

For the record, my partner knows about all of this. These are the three areas I'd like to focus on most:

1) Eating disorders - I've had various eating disorders since I was about seven or eight years old. They've come and gone for the most part throughout the years. Anorexia has been the most prevalent, and I've been experiencing abnormal tendencies around food as of recently. A couple of coworkers were triggering me daily with their conversations (calories, fat, excessive exercise, etc.). I spoke with them both about it, and the issue has disappeared. Some of the thoughts have lingered, nonetheless.

I was also a binge eater for a couple of years, and became somewhat mentally dependent on food. It was an addiction in every sense of the word, and a very dark time in my life. I don't want to revert back to finding comfort in food.

I've never received (professional) psychological or medicinal treatment for any of the disorders. I'd really like to nip this one in the bud before it escalates into a hospital visit, or worse. To me, it may very well reach that level of seriousness.

2) Irrational phobia - I have an irrational fear of crane flies/mosquito hawks. They're harmless creatures. This is the only thing in life that I am afraid of, and I cannot seem to conquer it. And I believe they can sense my fear. I don't mind them as much when they're outside, but if they're in the house, I leave the room. If the room is closed-off, I'll jump on the counters, run behind the refrigerator, or just stand there with my arms covering my head while my partner gets rid of them. It is frustrating not only for me, but for my partner as well, understandably. Sometimes I don't even want to go into our backyard because I know they're there. I would hate to neglect spending valuable time with him because of this ridiculous fear, and feel that I'm beginning to do just that.

Does anyone have any advice for overcoming this without therapy? I realize this isn't a very common fear, and am open to suggestions.

3) Anger Management - A few years ago, I was raped by someone who I thought was my friend. We had known each other for about two years, with nothing sexual ever suggested by either of us. As stated above, I've always had trust issues with people in general. Since this happened, however, it's been very difficult for me to maintain true friendships with mostly everyone I've met. I feel like certain people only want to be my "friend" so that they can eventually get into my pants.

A few months ago, I successfully purged several friends from my life for this reason- The conversations initiated by them always evolved into something sexual, despite me clearly stating that I was uncomfortable with it, and that I felt it inappropriate. They would completely disregard my relationship, and my boundaries. It made me feel as if the word "no" was meaningless. After a while, it made me angry. Then it made me over-sensitive, to the point where I sometimes feel that everyone who wants to be my friend has a hidden agenda. I don't want to feel like a sexual conquest.

The anger occurs most when I'm walking on the street, and I get hollered at by someone, either from a vehicle, or on foot. I take walks everyday during my lunchtime at work. It's something I've always enjoyed, and it provides me time to myself. Yesterday, a man walking
across the street was making suggestive comments as I was walking. A few days ago, two men in a car drove past me, slowly, and whistled at me like a dog. These experiences make me feel violated.

I've realized that the anger arises because I feel threatened. I start to see red, tunnel vision. I feel the adrenaline rush, and a fight-or-flight response engage. Usually I clench my jaw and fists, and take deep breaths to calm the rage. The images that run through my head are extremely violent, however. I think of doing terrible things to these people, in vivid depth. It bothers me that I can't even walk down the street without getting tense, sometimes looking over my shoulder to be aware of my surroundings.

I used to be a very angry person. I grew up in a household where yelling/arguing was the normal way of dealing with conflict, sometimes escalating to throwing objects and/or physical harm. My personality is in direct contrast with this mode of coping, but being exposed to it has done damage. I need to deal with the anger that I still feel from time to time. It isn't frequent, but when it does happen, it's intense. I don't want to morph into a beast when something sets me off. People sense that energy, and it repels them. I don't want to be perceived as an angry person, and I don't want to be one.

Any recommendations for these areas- whether one, two, or all- would be greatly appreciated.
posted by Jangatroo to Human Relations (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Re: #2--insect phobias are more common than you might think, and as far as I can tell the only effective solution is CBT with a therapist. I say this based on no authority at all, other than having a generalized bug phobia myself (currently untreated because I'm too chicken to start CBT). I googled crane flies and immediately felt my heart start pounding just from the wiki photo, ick.
posted by serelliya at 10:24 AM on April 18, 2013

All three of your issues can fall under the umbrella category of "anxiety." Most therapists should be qualified to help you with the anger and phobia; I would recommend someone who specializes in eating disorders or disordered eating because that work does require more extensive and specialized training than a lot of therapists (at least master's level therapists) get in school.

Here's the Psychology Today Therapist Finder list for SF therapists who specialize in treating eating disorders. You can narrow that down more geographically (or by insurance, etc.).
posted by jaguar at 10:37 AM on April 18, 2013

Oh, I somehow missed the word "rape" in your post. You could also contact your local rape crisis center (in San Francisco it's SF Women Against Rape; if you're in another county you can google your county name and "rape crisis center" -- California law requires that each county have one). They will likely provide free or low-cost therapy to rape survivors (even if the rape happened long in the past), and crisis-trained counselors generally have lots of experience with treating anxiety and with referrals for eating disorders.

Even if you just called your local center's crisis line and asked for a referral for a therapist who works with both sexual assault and eating disorders, they're very likely to have a ready-made list of good referrals.
posted by jaguar at 10:42 AM on April 18, 2013

And since I did miss the rape when I first posted, I want to amend my first post -- you're going to want to find a therapist who has experience and training both with sexual assault and eating disorders. A lot of the anger and trust issues you're describing sound like they're stemming directly from the rape, so you want someone who's going to help you deal with that and not get weirded out and sweep it under the rug. ("Dealing with it" doesn't necessarily mean "reliving it," though; an experienced therapist can help you process what's happening now in your life without retraumatizing you with the past.)
posted by jaguar at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2013

It is great that you are looking at getting help for these issues. However, the SF Bay Area is a pretty broad geography -- some would define it as far north as Santa Rosa, as far south as Morgan Hill, and as far east as Contra Costa County. If you want specific names of therapists, you might want to give some indication of the region you're looking in.
posted by elmay at 11:16 AM on April 18, 2013

Thanks for the helpful suggestion, elmay. I'm located in the Alameda County region, right outside of Oakland.

Thank you to everyone who has answered! I'll be looking into all given options.
posted by Jangatroo at 7:45 AM on April 19, 2013

I'm so sorry that happened to you. And cat-calling makes me want to scour myself with sand, so you're not alone there. I reached out to this place on a really bad day, so far it's working out pretty well. They're in SF near a BART station, sliding scale, and I know for sure they have at least one person who works with eating disorders, and probably many people who work with anxiety. You can mention your priorities in the intake interview.

Good luck with therapy! If you have any other questions, feel free to memail.
posted by iamleda at 7:46 PM on April 20, 2013

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