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Cold Therapist


notdeadyet
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Has anybody else had this problem? My former therapist was often very cold, and I think had a negative counter-transference towards me. He helped me get back on my feet, but I got the impression it was just a business to him, that he didn't truly care about me or how my life turned out. I've since found out I was correct about that. Now I find it difficult to trust another therapist. Is this what therapy really is? Is it just an illusion? Are there therapists out there who actually care?

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I've been in therapy (psychodynamic) too and have 'felt' all sorts of things from my therapist. Once I even thought she was flirting with me! It's always best to talk about any thoughts or feelings you have during your sessions, especially about the relationship between you and your therapist. It was difficult but worthwhile.

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Keeping in mind that most people are lousy mind readers, it is difficult to know what your therapist was thinking or feeling. Your impression of coldness is your impression but whether that means s/he didn't care about you is hard to say.

Very important to keep in mind that each therapist is an individual. Your experience with one therapist does not necessarily have any bearing on what your experience with a new therapist will be. Different therapists subscribe to very different schools of thought regarding how best to offer therapy, and they come to offer therapy with very different life experiences.

It's understandable that you're feeling cautious, but there is little harm done by making an appointment or two with a new therapist and feeling him/her out (if you think therapy could be worthwhile). Best to select a therapist on the basis of a good recommendation from someone you trust, or if you have a specialized problem, on the basis of their having special expertise with a variety of therapy that is best for treating that problem.

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I actually have started with a new therapist. I just wonder how much of therapy is smoke and mirrors, and how much is actual caring. I also wonder if this therapist will develop negative feelings towards me the way the other one did. I'm going to work hard, and try not to dwell on this emotional stuff.

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When you work with a therapist you are purchasing his or her time and attention. Caring is not something that can be purchased. It is something that evolves between a client/patient and a therapist if both are receptive and open to it. Many therapists will try not to work with patients they don't have some positive feeling for from the begining, becuase they know that, while feelings cannot be purchased, they are an important if not essential part of the process of therapy. As with romantic relationships, not all pairings of therapist and patient/client work out well. Many do, however.

How does it feel with the new therapist, so far?

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When you work with a therapist you are purchasing his or her time and attention. Caring is not something that can be purchased. It is something that evolves between a client/patient and a therapist if both are receptive and open to it. Many therapists will try not to work with patients they don't have some positive feeling for from the begining, becuase they know that, while feelings cannot be purchased, they are an important if not essential part of the process of therapy. As with romantic relationships, not all pairings of therapist and patient/client work out well. Many do, however.

How does it feel with the new therapist, so far?

You make a great point that caring can't be purchased, that you're just purchasing their time. I hadn't quite thought about it that way, yet it seems so obvious. A therapist/client relationship is like any other.

So far, things are going well with my new therapist. We have a lot to work on, as my PTS and depression are causing a lot of problems these days. I'm optimistic we can deal with them.

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...I got the impression it was just a business to him, that he didn't truly care about me or how my life turned out. I've since found out I was correct about that....

I'm curious about how you found out you were correct.

I had a similar experience with a therapist, who shares a practice with mine and who I was seeing with my husband. I felt at first that he wanted the best for me, but later I felt dehumanized and like just a source of income. He was attentive and provided the time he agreed to provide. He was skillfull in observation. My husband was the client, and the therapist was dismissive and callous to me in his "outside the session" behavior, declaring a no-show when my husband failed to appear even though I was there. He ignored my written request for an explanation.

It was actually harmful for me, emotionally, I think, because the kind of therapy I am undertaking with my own therapist does involve a relationship with the interchange of positive emotions. I thought the concern I believe my therapist has was shared by his partner. I would put "trust" in the category of positive emotion. When the husband's therapist told me to hit the road without explanation or sympathy for the distress caused by my husband's failure to show, then as I was leaving said he would bill at twice the rate he would have received had the appointment been kept, I felt betrayed. He had no feeling for me and it was just business to him.

I see that this man doesn't have the personal characteristics I would look for in a therapist. I might be able to learn skills or identify patterns of behavior working with him. My heart would not be healed. If all our interactions had taken place behind the closed session room door, I might have imagined/projected some caring in the man, but finding out he could do things that hurt me and not care at all was a shock.

My husband has a different orientation, can get knocked around without thinking much of it, and since he had control and forgot to keep our appointment, he didn't feel victimized. He is still seeing the man. I cannot, but I realize that if I wanted to do couples therapy with my husband, we can just find another professional that shares more of my values. It's not the end of the world, though it felt like it for a while.

I'm glad your new therapist is a better match.

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When the husband's therapist told me to hit the road without explanation or sympathy for the distress caused by my husband's failure to show, then as I was leaving said he would bill at twice the rate he would have received had the appointment been kept, I felt betrayed. He had no feeling for me and it was just business to him.

Your husband's therapist sounds like a creep. He may know his stuff on an intellectual level, but his treatment of you betrays a total lack of compassion and respect.

My former therapist was nothing like that. He was very skilled and respectful, it's just that I think he had a negative countertransference towards me. He denied it, but I could feel it. When my therapy with him ended, all pretenses were off, and it was clear he literally could not care less about me, and never had. But I have a new therapist, and I'm going to work very hard to get back on track.

I hope you and your husband find a skilled, compassionate therapist that both of you are comfortable with. Good luck.

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Hey - that's really nice to hear that you are feeling better about this new therapist and that you are optimistic about the prospects for benefiting from therapy. That is a major part of getting the work done, right there. Optimism doesn't actually get work done, but it helps you persist when the going is rough, and it serves an incredibly important motivational function. Feeling cared about has a similar function. It is always the client that does the work in therapy, but if the client doesn't feel supported, the prospect for that work getting done is smaller.

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