Have you ever wondered why your therapist behaves the way she does? Here are some possible reasons, based on her training and experience. (Please be warned that some answers may be humorous because laughing is good therapy.)
Q. I’ve thought about going to mental health therapy. How do I know if I’m a good candidate.
A. Take your pulse. Is it still beating? If yes, then you are a good candidate for therapy. But you’re a more likely candidate if you have recently gone through a major life change, such as birth of a child, job change, death of a loved one. But all people can benefit from having an objective person who has unconditional positive regard
for them in their lives.
Q. No matter what I tell my therapist, she always looks at me with a neutral face. Doesn’t she have any emotions?
A. Your therapist has plenty of emotions and she manages her emotions in a professional way during your session, so you have a safe space to express yours. She maintains a neutral environment because she hears lots of emotional situations from her clients. Would you really feel comfortable crying in front of her if every time you did you had to pass the Kleenex box to her? No, you would probably hold back on sharing your thoughts–one of the things that may have brought you to the therapist in the first place.
Q. Does my therapist have a therapist?
A. Not necessarily and that’s not good for either of you. While she may have her colleagues to discuss issues with, she has a pulse and needs a therapist just like everyone else. Many educational programs where therapists earn their degrees require students receive therapy and counseling before they are allowed to graduate. You can ask your therapist if that was part of her training.
Q. Why does my therapist’s office manager always make me pay for my session before I see the doctor? I don’t pay for my I-HOP bill until after I’ve eaten my pancakes.
A. Your therapist has to eat, too, and hopefully she’s going to the local health food store and not the local junk food drive through. However, she has you pay before you see her because after an emotional 45 minute session, people sometimes lose their memory for the practical aspects of life, such as paying for services. Also, your therapist didn’t go into the field because of the money. So, that’s why she hired an office manager with an accounting background who has no qualms about collections on services.
Q. When I see my therapist at Wal-Mart she never says hi to me. Is she a snob?
A. Your therapist would love to run up to you in Wal-Mart and tell you hello. But what if you’re on a shopping trip with your boss–the same boss that drove you to therapy in the first place. Do you REALLY want to have to answer the awkward question of “how do you know her?” to that jerk? This privacy is part of the confidentiality agreement she signed with you on the first session. However, if you make the first approach and tell her hello, she will always respond in a genuine, courteous way, She may not ask you “how are you” because after all, she’s got to get through the Wal-Mart check-out line, too.
Q. My family took out a full-page ad on the front page of the local paper wishing me a happy birthday, but my therapist didn’t even mention it. I know she knows it’s my birthday because I see a copy of the paper in her waiting room.
A. In a small community, therapists probably are aware of many aspects of your life, such as your birthday, because they attend the same churches, read the same newspapers, and watch the same local news. But as a therapist, her goal is to give you a safe place for you to share what you want to share when you are ready to share it. This builds trust between you and the therapist. Think about Tony Soprano
when he saw his therapist. Do you think he would be as honest as he came to be if Dr. Melfi sat with a look of terror after she read the front page news about mob murders?
Q. My therapist always ends our sessions after 45 minutes and it doesn’t even matter that I started to tell her about how my cat died in third grade. She just says “that sounds like a good place to start at our next session.”
A. Boundaries are a concept that many people have a difficult time enforcing and defining in their daily lives. Your therapist’s job is to help you define what you want your boundaries to be and to model how to stick to boundaries. So, when she stands up after 45 minutes, she’s showing you how to do it in your life. Besides, she needs a bathroom break like everyone else. And with that, this is a good place to end this question/answer session.