Archive for September, 2009

Psychotherapy the Musical

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

1. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me.

Sometimes I just want someone to put their arms around me so I can cry uncontrollably and wipe my nose on their sleeve. I don’t want to be told to pull myself together, pick my socks up, get a life, move on, build a bridge and get over it or take a spoonful of cement and harden up. I just want someone to validate and recognize my long-term pain and acknowledge it.

2. A Horse With No Name.

As a child of the Seventies this was my third most hated song ever, after Car Wash and Chuck E’s in Love. Now I am almost into my dotage, I am hearing this song in a different light. My take on it is that it is about solitude and/or depression, the desert being a sucking life-force, the horse being solitude or depression and the rider being the solitary or the depressed. Maybe it wasn’t what the song-writer had in mind but to me it’s all about finding myself again.

3. Behind Closed Doors.

In therapy behind closed doors no-one can hear you scream (or laugh). And that’s the way it should be. Family, friends and work colleagues don’t have the same tolerance level for my problems as my therapist does. I’ve finally, FINALLY stopped thinking that the check-out-chick and the garage attendant are my new best friends as well as spending my entire lunch-hour treating my indifferent work colleagues as a Psychological Health Support Management Team.

4. Remember (Sha la la)

This is what you have to do behind closed doors. Remembering the past in particular which is painful, regressive but kind of feels good in a masochistic way at the same time.

5. Bend Me, Shape Me.

The idea of talking to another person who is qualified to contort and twist your grey matter is so that they can bend and shape your mind into one that isn’t malfunctioning and sending off sparks at the wrong time, with the wrong person and in the wrong place. My head is a completely different shape from fourteen …

Unrequited Transference – Eight Ways to Know You are in Love with your Therapist

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

It is a cliche when clients fall in love with their therapists. But many movies seem to get the client/therapist roles all wrong. Movies often deal with transference lust rather than love. Most notably Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte, who consummate their transference issues on the big screen during Prince of Tides, before going back to their respective partners and boring lives. The scriptwriters got around that particularly awkward, ethical situation because Nick Nolte was not officially Barbra Streisand’s client, he was the brother of her client, which, although sails perilously close the edge of the world as we know it, technically manages to navigate its way through the tidal-waves of legal and moral violations. Just.

The Sopranos also managed to neatly satisfy an audience’s vicarious voyeuristic transference tendencies when Tony Soprano had a sexual fantasy scene which involved violently sweeping all accoutrements off the therapist’s desk except for the therapist Jennifer Melfi herself, and going for it in an unbridled, finally requited, sexual transference.

In a nutshell, erotic transference is where the traumatized client wants to have healing sex with the nurturing therapist. Eroticized transference is where the delusional client thinks the caring therapist wants to have healing sex with their irresistible self. However, if your therapist is suffering from erotic or eroticized counter-transference (for everything there is an opposite) and wants to have an unethical, illegal quickie with you, leave their office as rapidly as possible, preferably leaving a small whirlwind of dust in your wake.

Sexual fantasies however (on both sides of the couch) are apparently normal. A peer-reviewed journal provides evidence based research that 95% of male therapists and 76% of female therapists have sexual feelings towards clients. In real life a dual relationship (and not just of the sexualized sort) has vast potential to harm the client and puts an almighty question mark over the therapist’s ethics and standards. While therapy sex makes for great TV viewing, it tends to reveal more about audience expectations than the therapy profession itself. However, never mistake …

The Darker Side of Therapy – Ten Ways to Deal with Dependency

Monday, September 21st, 2009

There is a dark side to therapy that nobody wants to talk about; even therapists, especially therapists. It’s a Catch-22 where emotionally-promiscuous clients quickly fall into dependency with their therapists and problems occur when dependency, instead of the original problem, becomes the main issue. Weaning yourself off your substitute mother/therapist can be like trying to forcibly remove a security blanket from a two-year-old or an attempt to separate the ingredients of a corrupt Hollandaise sauce after the egg has curdled.

Michael G. Conner, Psy.D, author of the internet article, Transference: Are You a Biological Time Machine? gripes that “Transference is really difficult to recognize, deal with and understand, but it is incredibly interesting. I tend to avoid people who are “oozing” with transference potential.” His attitude is not uncommon as Borderline Personality disordered clients, seen by many as the cane-toads of Therapy World, tend to “ooze” transference. Seen in another light – dramatic, intense, super-heated, fierce and impassioned, but controlled and regulated thoughts, feelings and behaviours where you have easy access to powerful emotions can be an amazingly vital and life-giving source of art; think Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh, Brian Wilson, Patrick Swayze, Marilyn Monroe or Heath Ledger.

Borderlines in therapy are hard work, and their recovery never follows the straight, narrow and linear path from problem to solution in twelve Medicare-covered insurance appointments that the Australian government would like us to believe. It took me fourteen years to learn that the Art of Borderline is in mindfulness, not madness. It’s in the knowing, harnessing, concentrating, focusing and sitting in the moment long enough to capture, guide and mold the lingering essence of the raging storm into something creative and constructive. Overweened therapy is not part of this process. When an emotionally intense person gets hooked on therapy, it’s hard to give up that dependency and become your own person; you just want to get legally adopted by your therapist and walk together hand in hand towards the quintessential sunset. So while those emotions don’t just disappear overnight, they do have to go …

Therapist Heal Thyself

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Jennifer Aniston’s therapist had the audacity and bad manners to pass away just as the Friends star was dealing with her ex-husband issues. Jennifer explains, “When your shrink dies, you just go, ‘Really? Is this some kind of cosmic joke?’ I will never forget that moment. It was devastating.”

It would be horribly devastating to me if anything happened to my therapist. Thank God she is alive and healthy. Although a bit older now, fourteen years more than when I first met her; with a few more wrinkles and laughter lines, slightly greyer hair and with a vaguely stiffer slightly arthritic countenance – although gravity (and genes) have been very kind to her. Over the years I feel she has gained a much younger, albeit more philosophical, existential outlook on life, an increased tendency to eat well, exercise regularly and look after her health in a big way which she is role-modeling, somewhat successfully, for me. In other words there is nothing ancient or doddery about her yet. She is aging well with much grace and dignity. She once told me she plans on retiring when she is taken away in a coffin.

So the chances of her falling off the perch (or should I say couch) is very minimal. I have arrangements with my long-term, highly-valued therapist in case that happens. I know who to contact in case the unthinkable happens. I know where my records will end up. But how do you do effective therapy with someone else when you are grieving your mother figure/supportive mentor/internalized role model? Are you allowed – is it ethical – to attend their funeral?

What are your rights if your therapist ends up with ill-health, in hospital, a paraplegic, a quadriplegic, has a life-threatening disease, or more likely, if she/he retires or moves to another state or country or simply gives up the therapy profession altogether? This happened to me once. My therapist of eight sessions decided I was cured, dismissed me and reinvented herself as an artist. Luckily I had still …

I'm Listening

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths and others scoot down the birth canal with their size elevens firmly wedged between their nose and their chin.

Personally I like to wear my favourite Chanel slingbacks between my lips because that way there’s no room to say anything I will never regret in the first place. Plus a full mouth means a pair of ears that’s not only listening intently but progressively learning in a very astute and meaningful manner.

My psychotherapist, whose black flatties are firmly planted on solid industrial-strength carpet, has been listening and learning very carefully for several years now. To her credit never once have I seen her stifle a well-deserved yawn, watched in dismay as her eyes glazed over or seen her slowly fall to one side suffering from stultifying sleep-inducing boredom as I tell the same old story over and over and over and over again.

She’s done such a good job on me that I now find myself wanting to study and collect books on psychoanalytic psychotherapy pretty much in the same way Angelina Jolie collects other people’s husbands and overseas orphaned offspring.

Psychotherapy is all about active listening and active listening is inherently exhausting. So is trying to promote and sell the “open ears, shut mouth” concept to a household of strongly opinionated teenage boys and men who start off every other sentence with “Just listen to ME………” accompanied by aggressive finger-poking in the general direction of the errantly perceived non-listening party.

Enduring long, pointless and quarrelsome arguments is part and parcel of parenting teenagers. Taking a leaf out of my therapist’s book I close my mouth and open my ears and let them rant and rave about what ails them at this particular point in time and space, without interjecting with:
“What you SHOULD do is this….” or
“What you MUSTN’T do is that….”

My parents once said about my younger sister that if she would only listen to what they had to say then she would never make any mistakes.

Boys and their fathers can argue loud and incessantly about who’s not listening the most but …


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