Is my therapist trying to get rid of me?
June 16, 2015 8:40 AM   Subscribe

I started seeing a therapist about social anxiety/depression a couple months ago. When I walked into my most recent session, she almost immediately suggested that it might be a good idea if I switched to a different therapist. I was feeling fairly comfortable with her before, and hadn't even considered changing, but is it basically untenable to stay with a therapist who possibly thinks she can't help me?

This is my first time seeing a therapist, and since its for fairly severe social anxiety, its really the first time I've ever talked to anybody in anywhere near this kind of detail about myself. The first few visits in particular were extremely difficult and stressful for me to open up and try to start being honest. I'd rather not repeat that if I don't have to, and I was previously feeling like this therapist was a decent fit for me and was helping me and making progress.

So now I am feeling a bit blindsided and confused about how to proceed. I wasn't able to extract anything real specific about why she thinks I should see someone else. The only reason she gave is that she thinks in general that people often work better with someone who is the same age/gender as their therapist and I am a late 20s man, she is a (50+?) woman. That didn't feel like an issue for me, so I have no idea what set this off. Honestly, its hard not to view this as me being so socially disfunctional that i can't even do therapy right.

This was definitely presented as an optional decision for me, and she said she would be perfectly happy to continue seeing me. But at this point, would that be a bad idea to try to stick it out with someone who seems to think this isn't working as it shoud be? Should I try to get more detail from her on what exactly is going wrong? Is there something I can do differently if I do end up switching?
posted by parallellines to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest telling her all of this. Working through discomfort and social anxiety with a safe person could do you wonders.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:42 AM on June 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I am a therapist, I'm not your therapist.

I find her position a bit odd and believe that her position on this is reflective of her own beliefs and not reflective of the profession in general.

That said...she did offer to continue, but, were I in your position I would probably focus on the fact that she has, basically, said that she doesn't feel she can be effective with your therapy and I would take that as a sign that I should seek out someone else.

My primary concern is that she let you do two months of therapy with her without telling you that she has a strong position on the age/gender issue, it also suggests she has a reason other than what she expressed (otherwise, why didn't she tell you at the first session?)...

Bottom line, a couple of red flags.. perhaps interview another therapist, I bet you'll find the initial sessions a bit easier (you've done it once, you can do it again...)...

Good luck...
posted by HuronBob at 8:57 AM on June 16, 2015 [8 favorites]

Absolutely keep going for now if it's working for you. Talk about it some more with her, and Also believe her about being perfectly happy to continue seeing you.

My therapist eventually told me she thought I was done with therapy, and I found myself resisting that idea (pretty funny, considering how many times I'd wanted to quit). About six months later we'd worked through it, I agreed, and we wrapped it up. She was also happy to see me again when I had a crisis a couple of years later. So you may not stay with this therapist forever, but it sounds like she would tell you if she thought she couldn't help you.
posted by ldthomps at 8:58 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing that you should bring this up with her, but it occurs to me that she might have said this because a lot of people (even those without social anxiety) have a hard time telling their therapists that they want to end therapy or that they don't think it's a good fit and want to see a different therapist. She may have brought this up because she knows it's /possible/ that you feel that way but are having a hard time telling her, and wanted to give you an easy way to switch therapists if you were wanting to.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:01 AM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Since she knows you, and you trust her, maybe she could recommend a specific therapist with whom she thinks you would be a good match?

My other thought is that maybe you argue with her a lot -- it's a style of taking in information that I use, myself; when someone says something to me (maybe something like "you have unresolved issues with X"), I'll often start by finding weaknesses or reasons that statement might not be true (e.g. "but I always liked X prime", "Don't you think it could be mainly issues with Y?", "How do you know I have issues with X" then pick apart all the supporting reasons put forth, etc.). If you do this, your therapist might be interpreting it as you not trusting her. If you do trust her, but this is your style of dealing with information, you might talk about that.

If she thinks you don't trust her, maybe you could work through that. Ask her. If you really do trust her, find out how to demonstrate that.

A lot of older people, especially ladies, sometimes expect younger people, especially men, to automatically dismiss them as irrelevant or slow.... etiquette helps with this, but maybe it's something to address head on with your therapist.
posted by amtho at 9:49 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth - when I was in my early 40s, I did a couple of years of therapy with a woman who was in her early 60s, and it was quite worthwhile. Your mileage may vary, of course - but I offer this as an "existence proof" that it can work[1]

> Honestly, its hard not to view this as me being so socially
> disfunctional that i can't even do therapy right.

Nah. I mean, I understand how you might feel that way, but - that's not how it reads in your question.

Just my opinion, but if I were you, I'd talk to her about it. It really could be something as simple as, say, she began working with you, and now it's been a couple of months and she wants to give you an easy opportunity to move on if you feel you aren't getting any benefit from her.

But if you are making progress with her - and I read that you seem to think so - then it's perfectly valid to want to continue to work with her. And you're correct that opening up to a therapist can be difficult and stressful, and if you've invested the time and effort and done so successfully, you are perfectly justified in not wanting all of that to go to waste.

And - if you continue therapy, I would encourage you to take time to consider what you are getting out of it. The day may come when you discover that you aren't getting anything from it anymore. If that happens, it's time to move on.

[1] the age gap highlighted some interesting 'differences' - for instance, she had 'issues' with Jews (!?) and Irish people (!?!?!?) - but I didn't want a therapist who was going to agree with me about everything.
posted by doctor tough love at 12:53 PM on June 16, 2015

I think you should definitely talk to her about it.

Also -- and I don't mean this to twist the knife (just the opposite!) -- I think you should allow for the possibility that your social anxiety is making this situation feel worse than it actually is. Maybe the way you heard her passed through your anxiety filter and got twisted around a little from what she was really trying to say, which is why you're now fretting over it. Anxiety is good like that.

/walks to the corner of the room, lovingly and knowingly strokes big ball of anxiety that is currently curled up on the floor and sleeping....
posted by mudpuppie at 1:48 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree that it's weird that she's bringing this up now, two months in. She knew you were a young man from the start, obviously.

I have to think you must be brining up something in therapy that she thinks of as a particularly young, male problem- maybe something totally outside of her generational experience. Perhaps she sees you as needing a male role model, for instance if you have expressed issues with your masculinity or self-image or something along those lines? Or talked about dating from a very male perspective, or something like that.

I would not be too offended by this. You can't "fail therapy" -if anything she is expressing her fear of her own inadequacy to help you. Perhaps she's concerned she won't be able to make a difference?

I would continue with her if you like her and feel she helps, and express that. If she makes another comment like this, or you start feeling uncomfortable and like she doesn't like you, then it's time to move on.
posted by quincunx at 2:58 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you recently shared any issues of abuse or assault? She may feel like she's triggering you (if she's the same gender as your abuser) or that a therapist who is the same gender as your abuser (if she's not the same gender as your abuser) would help you work through those issues better. That's not a belief necessarily widespread among all therapists, but I have heard it pop up occasionally, especially when working with survivors of abuse. Gender issues may also be at play if you're talking about sexual issues during your sessions.

Even with that, though, I agree with HuronBob that whatever her reason, it's a red flag and you'd likely be best served by looking for someone else. Not because you're bad at doing therapy! It actually sounds like your therapist may be bad at doing therapy. You deserve a therapist who makes you feel like they want to help you.
posted by jaguar at 4:16 PM on June 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm aghast. I think she's treated you shabbily.

My father gave me some advice, useful in a lot of situations. There are times when that has to be their problem.
posted by cleroy at 4:22 PM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you recently shared any issues of abuse or assault?

Just to clarify, you don't need to answer that here!
posted by jaguar at 4:33 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Are you sure you heard her right? If she is saying that she thinks that you might do better with a different therapist, I would take her at her word that this isn't the best fit and ask her for a referral to a new one. However, if there is a chance that she was just asking if YOU felt uncomfortable and would prefer someone else, then it could be really helpful to talk out why she thought you were uncomfortable, how you actually feel and then you can decide what you want to do.

If she is suggesting you find someone else, it is not that you are "failing therapy". It could that doesn't have much experience with your problem and finding that she doesn't have the skill to be truly helpful. (Is she perhaps an intern or trainee. Counseling is often a second career, so age alone will tell you how much experience she has. If she is an intern, it probably says so on her business card etc.)

Also, sometimes therapists can have counter-transference where something about a client triggers there own stuff in way that gets in the way of them dong their best as a therapist. Maybe you remind her of a brother or son or father? Obviously you wouldn't know but if it is happening, she owes to you to refer to someone else who can be more fully there for you.

If you do look for a new therapist, it is reasonable to ask your current therapist (only if you want!) to talk to your new therapist to help complete the transfer of care.
posted by metahawk at 8:44 PM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

Sounds to me like the age/gender is just an excuse. I agree with cleroy; it's probably something that got nothing to do with you.
posted by 3dd at 11:46 AM on June 19, 2015

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