Jump to content
Mental Support Community

an article about anger in therapy (toward the therapist)


Recommended Posts

I've found it insightful and encouraging:

http://kathymcmahon.blogspot.ca/2009/04/sometimes-you-say-things-that-really.html

For instance:

Paradoxically, however, anger is an APPROACH emotion. It is often an attempt to bring the person you feel angry at into closer contact, not drive them away. Anger enables us to express ourselves and be better known to the other person when it is done effectively.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lala,

I can't tell you how angry this article makes me -- so many lost opportunities, starting 20 years ago, so many therapists whom I trusted (unwisely, obviously my fault, right??) who COULD NOT respond to my anger, who demeaned and shamed me -- probably because they felt demeaned or criticized by me, but GOOD GRIEF!!! I only got to that point when I had tried being "nice" and socialized, and etc., etc.

So -- it's definitely a great article!! Maybe therapists in training now will understand this better than the ones I saw years ago.

Thanks for posting it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can understand why it made you so angry :(. It really is a big shame that so many therapists were (and have been) so incapable of dealing with patient's anger in the right way :(. I'm sure there are still some/many (?) who aren't good in this, but... I also hope that ... there is and will be a progress also in this regard. And we're lucky that there are people who write about it so clearly and wisely on the web.

I'm sorry for all those whose anger was misunderstood and even somehow held against them...

(BTW; I didn't have the opportunity to get angry during the 2 years of my therapy, which is something that both my therapist and me regretted to some extent. But I began to regret it mostly after reading this. Well, it's not so much about regretting the past, as about fantasizing about an "ideal" future (which will probably never happen as the chance for me to get back to therapy seems very low to me...).)

I'm curious if anybody else will share his/her experience...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just speaking here to my personal beliefs and experience. I always respect all other views.

It’s an interesting article. There are some good insights, but I can’t say I agree perfectly with all of it. (I did find it interesting that a therapist would use a common thought distortion in believing that she can control another person’s feelings.)

There are some things for me to learn from this, though. It would probably benefit me in helping others to let go of my strong ideals at times. There is always stuff to work on.

I don’t think that every therapist can help every client. I do, however, think that therapists are most effective when they are authentic and true to whom they are as human beings. I think it likely requires a delicate balance to adjust to a client without losing oneself. All therapists have different styles and there isn’t one right or wrong way to be, I don’t think. If I ever make it to becoming a therapist, I would be kind and attempt to help cultivate self-compassion in a client, but I also understand that this approach might not work best for every client. The tougher stance might not work best for every client either. I also think it’s possible to hold a space of kindness, acceptance, and compassion during a client’s angry response.

I would think a response of anger in therapy should have nothing to do with the therapist and everything to do with the client. It could have to do with specific interactions and might speak to some kind of transference. This is information and is always something to learn from. The working through of any feelings that come up with a client would strengthen the relationship, I would think. I think it's important that all feelings that come up for a client (including anger that seems to be directed at the therapist) should be accepted and talked about.

My therapist was very humble, gentle, and kind, but there were times when I was set off angry. (He was painfully right.) He told me then that a strong response meant something about me, so then there was something there to explore. He was right about that. I think if, at that point in my life, I had a therapist who was not super gentle, I would have melted emotionally and may have sunken into a depression. Instead, I healed. I needed a very gentle touch. I thank him for offering me that. I was very fortunate to find a good match right away.

If it's working with a client, go with it. If not, then adjust as best as you can.

My personal thoughts? It’s a way, but not the way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:) Thanks, Beth!! Very good points, in my opinion!!

(I was so excited by the article, because it helped me to realize some facts in the moment when I needed it. I also would like all therapists to be able to respond "the right way" to their patients. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't appreciate a criticism (-if I can call your post this way) of what's written there ;).)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's great that the kindler, gentler approach worked for you, Beth. Repeatedly and repeatedly, it did not work for me. As Dr. Kathy notes:

"In therapy, especially when the destructive self-hatred is very entrenched and resilient, kind words are worse than useless."

Therapist after therapist did not understand this about me. Fifty years. That I persisted so long doesn't really seem rational now, though I’m not sure I had another option. What would have happened, though, if my friend hadn't understood the problems I was having with a therapist at the best psychiatric hospital in my area, recognized his responses didn’t seem appropriate, and referred me to a specialist she happened to know? It's too scary to think about. It was just pure luck, pure chance. (Higher Power?)

You wrote:

“I don’t think that every therapist can help every client.”

The emotional response I have to your post is certainly mine, but I am willing to tell you about it if you would like.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My main point was that a kind approach does work for some people (it did for me), but certainly not all, for sure. I also wanted to express my belief that being authentic and real in the relationship is very important.

I had a bit of an emotional response to the article as well, especially when she wrote about "making people angry."

Also, the gist of the article seemed (my perception) to me like a black-and-white statement saying that self-compassion doesn't work. (Probably another part of my emotional response) I believe that learning self-compassion can be very healing. It has worked for me. (Trigger there being: Beth, your self is wrong.)

The part of my post you quoted, I do believe to be true...and it would be good if the therapist involved recognizes when they aren't able to help a client so they can refer the client to another who may be able to.

I'm sorry my words brought up a response for you, DD. :( That was never my intention by any means. I do have a lot to learn and I am open to learning from the article as well. I do tend to take too much personally and still need to work on that.

I'm sorry the therapy road has been so rough for you, DD. It's great that you found a therapist who is helping you!

Feel free to express your response. We can always learn from one another.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

self-compassion doesn't work

She wrote this in the article :blink: ?? I didn't notice :o, or it was in a context where it sounded very different than when you quoted it. Would you be willing to quote it? Or... maybe not; if going back to reading it could be triggering... When I'll have more time, I'll try to find that out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There wasn't a direct quote like that, but it was my general (and possibly distorted) take on it.

When you are very hard on yourself' date=' dear client, [b']encouraging words like "go easy on yourself" work only for the mildest of cases. These sorts of reassurances most people want and need from spouses or close friends, as a sort of "attaboy!"

It's her professional opinion. It just seemed a bit sarcastic to me to something I believe in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There wasn't a direct quote like that, but it was my general (and possibly distorted) take on it.

(Dr. Kathy's quote didn't come through.)

It's her professional opinion. It just seemed a bit sarcastic to me to something I believe in.

It didn't seem sarcastic to me -- or, if it was, it was the kind of "response-in-kind" that my self-hating self can recognize, so that it feels "heard" or understood. It's very hard to describe to someone whose response system is very different, I guess. But if/when someone responds "gently" to my self (not the only self, but part of it), who only hates, then I don't feel either acceptable or understood. And it's infuriating and horrible and . . . awful. . . and alone.

When you're like I was, I didn't know a thing about "relationships", but I didn't know that I didn't know, so I didn't have a clue how to fine a better "fit" -- and the therapists seemed not to understand that, either, and didn't help, and etc., etc.

So I think if therapists can understand that there are different ways, as Malign said, that people can learn that they indeed can be acceptable, then that's a wonderful advancement. IMHO, most people with personality disorders don't know what they/we don't know -- so how can we, on our own as we before effective therapy, find a therapist to help us with that? Seems to me that therapists need to be better educated on how to recognize problems and issues that they are not well-suited to treat, and then refer clients to others who are (perhaps) better able to help.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, too, the writer of the article didn't say that it's okay to respond roughly to a client, just with understanding of the client's roughness.

I thought a lot of her ideas were good ones, particularly about engaging the client in a discussion of the anger and its trigger.

Is it possible, DD, that some of the therapists tried, but you weren't ready to hear them?

We're all human, and no amount of training removes our fallibility ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

. . .

Is it possible, DD, that some of the therapists tried, but you weren't ready to hear them?

We're all human, and no amount of training removes our fallibility ...

50 years ago, yes, I wasn't ready. At the time, though, therapists (Freudians, then) didn't think that personality disorders were treatable so probably nobody tried, either.

In the last 20 years or so, no, I don't think so. More likely, several therapeutic failures were iatrogenic. Surgeons are fallible, too -- and when they cut out the wrong kidney or something do we say that the patient wasn’t sure which kidney s/he wanted removed?

Sorry if that sounds sarcastic -- I don't know how else to express it well. I'm pretty sure my current therapist and the consultant who referred me to her would agree with me, though. And I'll be glad to write a brief history of my experiences over the last 20 years if anybody is interested -- probably should be on another thread, though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But which do you believe in? The words "go easy on yourself" or that a therapist saying those words is what works?

I believe we should all go easy on ourselves, but I'll bet we learn that (and how to do it) in different ways.

You're right. I wasn't reading it that way. I believe in the words "go easy on yourself." I agree with you here 100%. Thank you, Mark.

It didn't seem sarcastic to me ...

I may have been projecting... (I will go in and read it again when I'm in a better frame of mind.)

I'm also interested, DD, in hearing more about your experiences.

I'm tired now, but will respond more later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's very hard to describe to someone whose response system is very different' date=' I guess. But if/when someone responds "gently" to my self (not the only self, but part of it), who only hates, then I don't feel either acceptable or understood. And it's infuriating and horrible and . . . awful. . . and alone.[/quote']

I hear you, DD. I also have a need to feel heard and understood. (sometimes I think that part is more important to me than any actual change.) I also respect feelings. Usually when I support someone here who is being very self-critical, I will first acknowledge the feeling and then try to redirect to the possibility of that person going a bit easier on themselves. In my studies I read how self-criticism and harshness, self-hatred often plays a major role in depression. In saying that, I do think it's important to allow that part to be heard with perhaps the hope that a different part can balance this some. In other words, give the angry part a space and a voice to freely express herself, but not to a point of that part becoming entrenched or too powerful. I still believe all of this can be done gently.

I'm generally a gentle person, so I imagine I would be most effective in helping people by being true to myself. I think (hope) I would be able to adjust to a client's needs while still being authentic and real. I think if someone was having difficulty with how I was responding to them, I might ask how they need me to respond?

Anyway, it does get me thinking and learning more is always a positive thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like your thoughts, Beth :).

But I have one remark: You seem to be "too" focused on depression in this contexts; but what's true for depression doesn't have to be true for, for instance, a personality disorder.

And... there are cases when if the therapist was "too authentic", or, better, "too acting upon the emotions that automatically come as the first response to the client's behaviour", then he would only harm the client. So... yes, it's often important to be genuine, but... sometimes the knowlege and experiences accumulated during years of "research" (about some types of problems) need to be applied instead of current emotions. That's also something mentioned in the article: That the "automatic" reaction to anger is anger (or something more or less "harsh") and in case of a therapist, it's sometimes important not to listen to this and to make the other, more general and important, "feelings" (as willingness to understand and help) paramount. (However, I'm sure in some cases, some anger from the part of the therapist may be useful, too! (I've seen some proofs in litterature / films...) And I imagine that recognizing this - what's right in which case - is one of the (many) most difficult issues for therapists...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, no, that isn't what I meant by authentic. I just meant I will use a gentle approach because that is who I am. There are a lot of different modalities and I'm more in the humanistic/existential camp.

As far as anger, I don't think I'd have an issue with becoming angry back. I might, though, have some difficulty with feeling hurt. (Something to work on)I also think that any emotions that might come up for me could be useful in the interactions as long as therapy remained about the client. The client (and likely the therapist as well) can learn from the real interactions.

Anyway, I'm no expert and there is plenty of time yet for me to learn...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I see... :)

BTW; I also like the most the existantial school (mainly Yalom, Frankl to some extent), then the humanictic-one (mainly Rogers, if I'm right...). (Unfortunately, I don't have any experience with either as a patient... But that doesn't mean I couldn't prefer it! :P)

Well and... it's easy for me to discuss this with you - much easier that it has to be for you - as I'm not having any ambitions in this area, so... I'm "just an observer", so to say. I imagine it's not easy to be "involved"...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the last 20 years or so, no, I don't think so. More likely, several therapeutic failures were iatrogenic. Surgeons are fallible, too -- and when they cut out the wrong kidney or something do we say that the patient wasn’t sure which kidney s/he wanted removed?

{Interesting word: an iatrogenic illness is an illness caused by a doctor or a therapy, for those unfamiliar with the term.}

Of course we don't blame the patient for the surgeon's error. But if I point out the surgeon's humanity, that no amount of training will remove their human capacity for error, am I blaming the patient? Besides, there's nothing surgical about psychology, unless we're talking brain tumors. We have to admit just how much we don't know, before we even start ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

frequency, intensity, duration

Would a completely different angle be helpful to anyone?

When measuring data on behavior, some try to tease out the frequency, the intensity, the duration of what is going on.

In my work with kids that struggle with sensory distress of different kinds, I am trained that if the intensity of my approach does not match the intensity of the child's sensory need, my approach will not be effective. A low intensity therapy activity will not reach a kid in high intensity mode... If I can meet the intensity level with my activity, then I have a chance of bringing the child down to a calmer state.

"I'm curious if anybody else will share his/her experience..."

[btw, I can't get the quote button to work on this site]

I have to laugh, though there was no laughing at the time... I can remember feeling so desperately angry with one of my therapists a primal scream came out of me that was so loud it echoed througout the building and you could hear a pin drop afterward... I really hadn't planned on doing that at all, it just came out. My therapist went into a different line of work not too long after that... :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my work with kids that struggle with sensory distress of different kinds, I am trained that if the intensity of my approach does not match the intensity of the child's sensory need, my approach will not be effective. A low intensity therapy activity will not reach a kid in high intensity mode... If I can meet the intensity level with my activity, then I have a chance of bringing the child down to a calmer state.

That is fascinating, finding, and it makes perfect sense. How interesting. Thanks for sharing that.

There were probably a lot of reasons why the person decided not to be a therapist anymore...

Does anyone here think that personality may play a part in a good client-therapist match? (I realize I'm getting off the main topic a bit, but thought it was interesting to consider)

[The quote button quotes the entire text. You can either eliminate the parts you don't want to quote or quote manually by typing in the quote keys. Left bracket quote= text you want to quote here /quote. Right bracket].

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...