Shopping for therapists

I promised Summer and Carla yesterday that I’d tell them the story of finding my therapist.

Day Lily on fire

In December of 2012 I knew I had a problem. I was interpreting everything as a threat. I couldn’t tell what was what. I felt like the Farside cartoon, where the amoeba wife is saying to her husband, “You’re just stimulus, response! Stimulus, response!” I felt like I was living at DEFCON 1, ready to push the red button that means nuclear annihilation. Recognizing that this response was utterly out of whack with the external stimuli, I decided to get help.

I have gone to counselors before, so this wasn’t the first time I’d gone looking for one. I had at least a little bit of experience and idea of what I needed. I got a referral from a dear friend and went to see her therapist. He turned out to be awful. Case in point:

  • In response to me saying I’d stayed at my job 2 years past the pain point, he said, “You’re a masochist!”
  • For some reason Jodie Foster’s coming out came up. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t mind if women are lesbians, but why that one?” Ironic because I’d seen something on twitter a few days earlier saying that sentiment is so ridiculous. I mean, like he would have ever had a chance?
  • I told him about the first manuscript I wrote, and he said, “You’re not nice.” Um .. it’s a story. And it has to be interesting. Which I said to him. Also, he could have said, “That’s not nice.” Me not nice? Grrr.

So after that first meeting, I went home and thought about it. I talked it over with some friends/support people. I came to the conclusion that he wasn’t right for me and I fired him. I felt so vulnerable and exhausted. I didn’t want to go through this ten more times. I didn’t think I could go through this ten more times.

I took a step back. I thought about all the people I knew, and if any of them were therapists. There was one person who fit the bill. I had met him on Twitter, through a mutual friend. And not only that, he’d visited Seattle the month before and I had met him in person. We’d connected and I knew I could trust him. I contacted him and asked him if he would be willing to work with me. He said he’d give it a try.

As much as I’ve gotten out of therapy, I cannot emphasize enough how powerful this first action was for me. I’d learned to dismiss my intuition and sense of what was right for me. This was the first action I’d taken in YEARS that was in alignment with my core.

In the last year and a half, I’ve spent a lot of time learning to identify what I’m actually feeling. I’ve learned to scan for support, rather than see everything as a threat. I’ve learned not to take things personally. I used to worry about being an asshole. I still do, a little bit, but mostly I consider whether or not I’m being kind. I’ve learned to recognize and go after what I want. I’ve learned that if I want people to see me, I have to be willing to show myself (eep!).

I’ve worked on developing my awareness and slowing down the time between reaction and response, so I can choose my response, rather than the two being laminated or magnetized into a single action.

My therapist told me, “Look for where you fit, not where you fit in.” I could have made excuses with the previous therapist. I could have found reasons to work with him. But I didn’t. I knew in my marrow he wasn’t the right fit for me. And I did feel a little bad, then. Now I understand. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t personal. And he wasn’t the right person for me to work with.

If you are currently shopping for a therapist and you are having trouble finding someone to work with, I hope you won’t be discouraged. Keep looking. There will be someone who is kind and who can help you.

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5 thoughts on “Shopping for therapists

  1. WaywardScooterGirl

    Your quote from your therapist, “Look for where you fit, not where you fit in.”, I would love to read your thoughts perhaps expanding on this. I feel there is something about it skirting on the edge of my awareness. Something that might work really well for me, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    1. slowbloom Post author

      Excellent question!

      This came up because one of the things I’ve struggled with in the past is making myself fit in, particularly for employment purposes. The problem with “fitting in” is that it comes at a cost. There’s always some piece that gets left out. Some places are easier to fit in to than others, but there’s still that fundamental issue of suppressing an intrinsic piece.

      Fitting, on the other hand, is about finding those places where you feel free to be your whole self. I hope that helps!

      1. WaywardScooterGirl

        Perfect clarification!

        I knew the quote spoke to me for a reason, I just needed to understand how you view “fitting” versus “fitting in”. “Fitting In” seems to require an effort to conform to someone else or something else’s expectation of who you are/should be. Whereas “Fitting” implies acceptance of the entirety of you, without requiring you to mold yourself to some preconceived model. A more superficial example learning your own unique fashion style (fitting) versus conforming to that style put forth by the fashion industry in mags and other media (fitting in). Less superficial would be pretending to be the bubbly, happy life of the party extrovert (for me, fitting in) when in reality I interact best in one on one or very small group situations (for me, fitting).

        I wonder when we’re taught to try and “fit in” versus learning to just find where we “fit”?

  2. KariAnn

    It seems like deciding to respond or move on works in almost any situation. It doesn’t feel like this makes you less-than or weak, but makes you strong enough to control your own mind and words/action. Maybe you’re accepted as you are, really, and it’s a matter of accepting the level/type of acceptance or not. I don’t know. I intend to just be me and hope the same for everyone.

    1. slowbloom Post author


      THIS is exactly what I’ve been working on learning. I think the challenge for me is to stop making assumptions about what I think other people will find acceptable and just show myself. Then they can decide. And I can see it’s not about me.

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