I want to talk to you about breaking up. No, not with your significant other but with with your therapist. Before I get to the when-to-break-up part, I want to share with you how my therapists and I even became an item in the first place.
Mental health and therapy are much more accepted nowadays compared to previous generations. Despite this, in my mind, even considering a therapist meant that I was broken in some way. I saw people who needed therapy as suicidal, schizophrenic, etc., and this was not me. As I began to struggle more and more with my eating and perfectionistic tendencies, I slowly realized that, although I was neither suicidal nor hallucinating, I needed help to get past this food/body issue that was consuming me. What really pushed me into seeking help was something that I hadn’t anticipated. You may even call it serendipitous even though, at the time, I didn’t think so.
I was browsing the shelves of my local Half Price bookstore and the book Almost Anorexic by Thomas and Shaefer caught my eye. I pulled it off the shelf and flipped through it. Phrases popped out at me as I skimmed it over, but I told myself that there is no way I’m “almost anorexic”. I was just thin or lean or whatever term that came to mind that did not equate to anorexic. Despite firmly telling myself that the book was not describing me, I found myself standing in line waiting to purchase it. The book contains 11 chapters, each of which has a specific exercise related to that chapter. The first chapter entitled “What is Almost Anorexia?” included the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), a screening tool that would help me determine if I need to seek professional help. I completed the activity and figured out my final score. The recommendation was that if I scored a 20 or above or had a BMI consistently less that 18.5, I should get help. My score was a 331 and my BMI was 18.
After taking some time to process this information, I “came out” to my husband and he supported me in my search for a professional team to help me get better. I went to my family doctor who looked over the results of my EAT-26 screener and suggested that I see a dietitian and a therapist.2 My feelings were mixed about this. On one hand, I felt like I was not crazy and did not need professional help to get better since I was only dieting and who doesn’t diet, right? On the other hand, I was tired. I was tired of always being hungry. I was tired of not enjoying exercise anymore. I was tired of being tired. After mulling over my doctor’s suggestion for a few days, I decided to pull the trigger.
I found a dietitian who specialized in disordered eating.3 I also searched for a therapist, but, unfortunately, I didn’t hit the mark the first time. Nope, the fourth time was the charm! Here was my journey:
Therapist #1: Very nice and I wanted to stick with her, but she wanted me to see someone who had more experience with my issue. Fair enough.
Therapist #2: I barely spoke at our initial meeting because he mostly lectured me. I felt dumb sometimes when he would prompt me to speak. I’m glad this wasn’t my first experience because I would have said,”Hell no!” to therapy if it had been. I left and didn’t look back.
Therapist #3: Nice lady. She claimed she specialized in my issue when really she wrote her dissertation on it and worked with a few clients, which I didn’t see quite the same as “specializing”. What bothered me was that she mislead me, even if unintentionally. She also wanted to spend a TON of time on my past experiences rather than spend some time on what I was going through in the moment. It just didn’t work. I was not oblivious to the fact that my past experiences play a role in who I am today, but I also needed to work on the present issue at hand. I broke up with her after a few sessions.
Therapist #4: This lady was upfront about her experience, I felt comfortable with her, her approach included a good blend of therapeutic techniques, and she was recommenced by my dietitian. And she worked weekends. Score!
Even though this is about me breaking up with my therapists, therapist #1 technically broke up with me. Initially, I felt awful because it made me feel like I was really messed up, but then I realized that ethically she should refer me to someone who has more experience with my specific issue.
Therapist #2 and #3 were not a good fit. I did not feel comfortable sharing my feelings with them. I honestly did have some guilt about breaking up with them, but I realized that they are professionals and would want me to have a therapist who I have good rapport with. I broke up with them over voice mail and through email. Doing it in person would have been the more mature move, but I was not about ready to pay another co-pay just to break up.
If you are considering therapy, take your time to find someone who you not only feel comfortable with but who also is knowledgeable about your issue. This is the person you will be telling your innermost thoughts to, so don’t be afraid to sever ties with a therapist who does not make you feel at ease.
What qualities would you look for in a therapist or a counselor? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
2Damn it! I was hoping my doctor would tell me the results were a bunch of hooey and that I was perfectly healthy.
3In case you’re wondering, I did not meet the criteria for an eating disorder, but I definitely had disordered thoughts about food and my body.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
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