After a brief but rather tense argument with someone very close to me, I set about trying to figure out *why* said argument angered me so much. I’m not, by nature, one to get miffed easily, but this conversation really set me off.
The nature of the conversation was basically patient versus therapist (and in this case one of us *is* a patient and one a therapist.) I’m logical to a fault, and admittedly, my logic sometimes gets in the way of therapy. In my humble opinion, some therapeutic exercises are just silly. If they work for someone, they work. No argument there, and no problem there. I’m truly happy to hear of therapy helping anyone, regardless of method. However, I have a bit of trouble getting around things like talking to an empty chair about the anger I feel towards my father. As I said to my therapist, I’m not angry with the chair. Why should I yell at it? Admittedly, once again, that is not the response she was looking for and was not helpful to either of us.
I realise the function of my analysing therapeutic methods is frequently to avoid looking at the issues that are being brought up. Still, I think therapists need to be quite aware that simply suggesting an exercise or giving their perspective, while very helpful, does not immediately assure the patient that that particular method is exactly the right thing to do. The mere fact that my therapist is trained in her field does not keep me from questioning her methods sometimes. Wrong or right, that’s just a fact. Being well aware that I have no training at all in therapy aside from having done some volunteer work at a women’s shelter, I’m willing and have worked through certain exercises with her. But I still hold to my right to question things.
My problem, then, with the heated conversation is that I frequently feel people expect clients to do anything and everything the therapist asks simply because he or she is the therapist and they are the clients. It’s safe to say that I rank among the least trusting people in the world– there are two people I can say I truly trust– but I’m guessing this idea won’t be foreign to most people. Especially in terms of something as important as my mental health, I should have a say. If a therapeutic exercise strikes me as a bit on the silly side, I should at least get the chance to talk about *those* feelings with the therapist. Maybe there’s a compromise and we can adapt the exercise. Maybe I’ll see that it really *can* help and will work through it in spite of myself. Maybe those of us who are logical to a fault need to discuss thought patterns out right and work through them that way. I can’t pretend to know, and that’s not a method I frequently hear heralded by the mental health community. I just think allowing me some explanation of the method behind an exercise is a reasonable request.
In any event, my anger dissipated as did the anger of my counterpart in the argument, and life goes on peacefully. I just wanted to put this out there as a bit of an issue that therapists and patients might face. All I can give is the patient perspective, but as the topic caused a bit of a tiff between me and someone I rarely argue with, I’m guessing we’re not the only two who have debated it. Therapy is messy, even among clients and therapists who are not actually working together in a professional relationship.