Therapy is a sensitive topic and everybody who goes to therapy probably has their own individual experience with it. Whether they’re going for a mental health issue or they simply want to better themselves, it’s quite the commitment. So, clearly you should trust the therapist that you’re talking to, right? Well, that’s not always the case.
For me, this wasn’t the case for a long time. I’ve had multiple instances of not being able to trust a therapist or a psychiatrist for one reason or another. Usually it’s down to the factor of belittlement. Even though they’re not meant to, I’ve been judged by many health care professionals and made to feel as if my issues were nothing more than a problem for them. They didn’t seem to want to deal with me, and they didn’t really give me the time of day. This has happened both in the UK, in South Africa, and through an organisation in Sydney. Though the organisation in Sydney wasn’t run by a health care professional, I still felt that there was an element of distrust.
You see, with every single therapist – albeit my current one – that I’ve gone to see, they’ve made me feel as if my issues were invalid. They’ve given up on me, told me that I’m being childish, and have rinsed their hands of me. In South Africa, there was one day where I had a full-blown breakdown. Upon telling the psychiatrist, she told me I was acting spoilt and like a child. She told me to get over it.
The organisation in Sydney refused to continue working with me because I apparently wasn’t engaging well enough – I wasn’t making progress quick enough. They thought that art would make me better and, when my depression took hold and my eating disorder got loud, it was easier to tell me that they couldn’t continue rather than work with me harder. There’s more details about these instances in my Eating Disorder Journey entries. So, admittedly, I’ve found it difficult to open up to medical professionals after being let down so many times.
Trusting your therapist is one of the most important elements of the relationship, considering you really are offloading your worries, feelings, and thoughts onto them. This is nothing that you should feel bad about – it’s their job, it’s what they go through training to be able to handle. They’re meant to create an environment that you feel safe in, that you’re able to feel comfortable in to allow you to share your worries. However, even though this is indeed what they’re meant to do, it isn’t always the case.
Not trusting your therapist feels, above all else, lonely. It feels like you’re stuck in a dark pit and nobody understands you. It feels like there’s no way out. Not being able to trust who you’re told you’re meant to be able to trust makes you feel like a bigger problem than you already think you are. You start to question and doubt yourself; why can’t I trust them? Is there something wrong with me? Are they going to judge me? Am I not sick enough? Am I beyond help?
That last one is particularly tough for me; am I beyond help? It’s something that I think over and over, which isn’t helped by the number of health care professionals that have told me that they can’t be of any service because I’m ‘too far gone’. I’m either too negative or too sick, too stubborn or too hard-headed. Too childish, too attention-seeking. I’ve even been called the devil by a family member, and all for what? Because I’m mentally ill? How is that supposed to make me feel like I can trust somebody if I’m being demonised constantly?
Not being able to trust your therapist feels like being in an isolation room. It feels like you’re floating in the middle of the sea without a life vest on. It makes you feel like there’s nobody in the world who’s going to be able to understand you or is willing to listen to you. It’s frightening and it’s cold and it fuels the negative thoughts even further.
It’s important to remember that these therapists who belittle and undermine us are not doing their jobs successfully. Being mentally ill is not our fault, and the fact that we go to therapy just showcases that we’re making the effort to walk towards a better life for ourselves. Just because they cannot accept us or our issues does not make us the bad guys. I’m still trying to convince myself of this too – but it does not mean that we’re broken, or wrong, or too far gone. It simply means that they aren’t succeeding in what they’re meant to be doing.
Not trusting your therapist feels like you’re walking on a tight rope. You don’t know what you can tell them or what information you can trust them with. One slip up, and you think that they’re going to start judging you and what you’re going through. You feel the need to buffer your sentences and censor yourself.
You feel alone and, above all else, you feel misunderstood.
Despite all these thoughts – you’re not too far gone, and, hopefully, neither am I. Though it might take a few bad therapists before you find a good one, a bad apple doesn’t mean the whole bunch is rotten.