The Buddha at Kamakura. Mandatory decor at therapy offices?
It took me a couple tries before I was able to find a therapist that clicked. It didn’t occur to me that this would be so hard. They’re professionals! Surely they have the same standards? No, I was completely wrong about that. When someone says that therapy doesn’t work, is it possible that their previous experience was just with a therapist who wasn’t right for them? That certainly seems to be what happened to me, and once I found a therapist who was, it made all the difference.
My first attempt at therapy after the boys died was couples therapy through my employee supplemental health benefits. It seemed pretty straight-forward. You call a toll-free number, explain your issue and they match you with an available therapist. In my case, we had 10 sessions paid for, and the priority of finding a therapist was the person who could see us first. My husband and I were only a couple months out from the death of the boys and we were in crisis. Neither of us was functioning well, we were taking our raw emotions out on one another and definitely needed a lifeline. I called the number and was connected to a woman who supposedly specialized in grief and could see us in two days! Yes!
It wasn’t quite what we expected.
Our first therapist
On our appointment, we went to a small studio above a bookshop. The décor was… new agey? You know what I mean, stuff that is supposed to look like you carefully curated it through travels in South East Asia, but in reality picked up on sale at Pier One. The first appointment was okay. We gave her some background on how our twins had died, how we couldn’t seem to function anymore and didn’t want to fight all the time. She listened carefully, nodded her head at the right moments and seemed to be perfectly fine. We left with another appointment in a week and a plan to do one fun thing together. And we did.
Related: Using Therapy To Heal After Loss
The next session wasn’t as successful. I began talking about how frustrated I was with God. How I was really struggling with the idea that a God can both love me and allow something as horrific as the death of a baby happen. I told her I was convinced God hated me. I told her that because my husband doesn’t share my faith, he didn’t understand my issue and I couldn’t talk to him about it. And she pretty much dismissed me. She didn’t give me the usual: “God doesn’t give you a challenge you can’t handle” or any other platitude like that. She just seemed to not care that this spiritual crisis was worthy of attention. Struggling with your faith? Not my bailiwick lady, go talk to a priest. I left feeling worse than before.
We canceled our next appointment. I felt more lost than ever. If a “grief specialist” couldn’t help, what now?
So my husband tried again, calling the employee helpline and telling the person at the other end that we were not satisfied with the last counselor and could we be connected with someone else.
And you know what? They said “Sure, no problem, happens all the time! We’ll keep trying until we find someone who is right for you.”
I actually felt a weight lift. This wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t follow through with a counselor! Lots of people have trouble finding the right one!
Therapist Take Two
And so we tried again. The next counselor who was available had a nondescript office in a boring office tower. He was also a little bit new agey (is that a requirement for the job?), recommending books like Eckhart Tolle. But he also was very supportive of my mainline Christian beliefs and my scientific view of the world and medicine. Prayer and SSRIs can co-exist! It still took time and work. We had exercises to try, and books to read, and yes, SSRIs to take. But over the course of a couple months, the deepest hole we had crawled into began to become less like a cave and more like a valley. We could see the sun again.
What have your experiences been with counseling? Successes? Failures? How did you go about finding the one who clicked?
Amanda Ross-White is the proud mother of four beautiful children, including her twin boys Nate and Sam, who were stillborn in 2007. She is eternally grateful to watch her rainbow children, daughter Rebecca and son Alex, grow around her. She is also the author of Joy at the End of the Rainbow: A Guide to Pregnancy After a Loss, which won second place in the American Journal of Nursing’s Book of the Year Awards (Consumer Health).