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Support Pals Talk about Finding A Therapist
I am currently in grad school working on my master's in Forensic Psychology so I get the best and the worst of criminal justice and the best and the worst of psychology.
For the past 8 weeks we have discussed nothing but sex offenders and this issue alone can be tedious for anyone who has survived molestation or rape or any other form of sexual assault but I have been in therapy for almost 25 years and I was pretty confident that I could more than handle the subject matter, right? So I thought. All went well up until this week. This final assignment is more about having sympathy and understanding for the sex offender and we were to write a significant paper about that subject with research to back it up.
At the same time, I chose this past week to confront my mother who physically abused me and participated in sexually abusing me along with her boyfriend many moons ago. I am now 41 years old and up until now, it has been the big elephant in the room that no one spoke of, meanwhile I have attempted suicide several times, been hospitalized 7 times and been in counseling for right at 23 years now. I finally decided to tell my mother what these things have done to my life.
At the same time, I suddenly started to go nights without sleep (not for lack of trying) I just was not able to sleep so this made me a bit sensitive to my environment that I might normally handle well otherwise. I started losing time. I know I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (otherwise known as multiple personality disorder) but I spent 5 years in St. Louis working with an expert in the field to integrate my many personalities and all went well for all intense and purposes.
Last week, on 4.12.10 I switched. What that means is, I left and another personality took charge. I remember being out at my father's garage at about 10:45am and then I remember getting into bed around 2:30am that night. I have no recall of what I did, where I went, who I encountered, or what I said during that lost time and so far, no one has mentioned anything that would offer me any clues so at least I did not break any laws.
With all of this going on, and after getting some much needed advice from the Gift From Within writer's group about talking to my therapist; a therapist by the way, that I have only been seeing for about 8 months and I have never really spoken to her about DID or missing time because actually, I thought it was a thing of the past. I went in to see her around noon today (4.16.10) because it all came to a head and I was inconsolable. No sleep, confrontation with mom, pressure to write in support of sex offenders, and lost time meant I was close to burnout.
Finding a therapist was difficult. In my State, our mental health system all goes through a singular organization called Pathways in which one could call and get referrals to local therapists but it was rare to find any that worked on a sliding scale fee. I was lucky in that I was referred to a few different therapists in the area and the first one I phoned did work on a sliding scale fee so I took my chances and made the appointment. As it turned out, she was a doctor of counseling and had much experience teaching and counseling. She was well versed in her career and working with adults with a wide range of disorders and mental health issues. Although she had no formal training in working with dissociative disorders, she was willing to learn what she could and consult with others that had such experience.
I spilled my guts about everything to my therapist except for the missing time. I was still cautious about that issue and I only told her at first "I have something I need to tell you and I am leery of what your reaction will be because I have lost therapists because of this." She was very patient with me and promised she would not leave. So I told her, I have DID and although I thought I had worked through that and it was no longer an issue for me, I missed almost a whole day this past week because of it. It scared me and caused me confusion. At first I worried that it was all coming back again and it was so difficult to work through before, I just did not know if I had it in me to go through that process again. How would that affect my schooling? How would I be able to survive because I am living with family now and before I lived alone. How would I break this to my family and more importantly, what if my therapist rejected me outright?
All she told me was that she was no expert and if I felt I needed one, she could research and find one for me but she would be willing to do her best to see me through it. I was immediately relieved. That's all I wanted after all. I did not want to break in a new therapist and more importantly, I did not want to lose her. When you find a good therapist, there is a part of you that attaches and you even feel love for that person. Maybe because they make you feel safe. Maybe it's because you can tell them anything and they will not leave you. I am not quite sure but what I am sure of is that I have loved several therapists in my 23 years of seeing them and long after I have moved on or moved away, I still think of them and carry a part of them with me.
My therapist was very comforting and told me I was not a freak like I so often felt. She explained that it was a reasonable reaction to such abuse. She said I was brave for telling her despite my reservations and that she enjoyed her time with me and would never reject me because I was dissociative. I really needed to hear that from her.
It turned out that my lost time was a probably a product of my increased stress level. I had so much going on at the same time, all of which was stressful in and of itself. I have, with the help of my therapist, determined a form of therapy that works for me when I am on my own to prevent this lost time from happening in the future. Listening to my iPod with just music that I like works. Maybe it sounds to flimsy to work but it works. It helps me relieve stress and it helps to keep me balanced emotionally. I find this method helps with Bipolar and DID. Anything that can help keep you on an even tone emotionally can be useful for dissociative disorders. It prevents switching and keeps you in the moment. My therapist suggested it during our session today and I was extremely stressed. In fact, before I left her office she asked me how I felt and I was still very stressed and bewildered but all I could say was that I felt I was going to throw up. When I left, I popped in my earphones and all was right with the world.
Now I am home, sitting here writing in silence and I feel I need to listen to music again. Whatever it takes, right?
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I've sought a therapist in three different states over the last twenty years. The first time was a complete failure. I found someone who I wasn't comfortable with but I didn't know that being comfortable with the person and the relationship that builds between us is the most important thing of all. This first therapist relationship ended with me in the hospital.
My second therapist came from a referral of a referral and that relationship lasted almost ten years. He was patient, kind and skilled. He could see that I was a "diamond in the rough". He had lots of experience and understood that I couldn't trust easily. He was willing to work with me to establish a relationship of trust. It took me about 5 years to be able to trust him with some of my life's truths and he believed me. He was the first one to ever believe me. Our relationship ended when I had outgrown his skills and I knew I needed something more.
While attending graduate school, I was unable to find a therapist who I could 'connect' with. So I got regular acupuncture and massage treatments instead. After graduate school, I searched via the local county services and asked for referrals from friends, associates and acquaintances. I knew I needed someone(s) with considerable experience with PTSD and with a large 'toolbox' of techniques. I've ended up with two different therapists and skill building support group.
One therapist came out of a referral and invitation. I was excited to find out there was a local therapist that specialized in DID. When I called her office, I found out she wasn't accepting new clients. About three months, later I was introduced to her while in a social situation. We talked briefly and later that evening when I had a flashback she helped me. A few weeks later, she asked me if I had a therapist. I told her no, not yet but that I understood that she wasn't taking new clients. She replied that she would like to work with me and so we began.
The other therapist, is out of the county services, has lots of experience with PTSD, EMDR treatment and specializes in traumatized children. It's a good fit as my PTSD comes from child abuse and EMDR really works well for me. It is this therapist that recommended I attend a weekly skill building support group. The participants are referred from a variety of trauma and abuse situations. We have time at each group session to "check-in" about current situations in our lives and ask for feedback from the group and facilitators as well as work on new skills to help us.
In searching for a therapist, beginning and ending a therapeutic relationship I've learned several things:
1. Always trust your intuition. If it doesn't feel right, then it's not right.
2. Find someone was has the skills and experience that matches your need(s).
3. Don't give up but don't be afraid to try something new. [I'd never had massage before but it really really helped.]
4. Ask all the people 'around' you if they know a therapist or if they know someone who is seeing a therapist.
My first therapist I found through the mental health section of my husband's medical insurance company. We used to have our medical insurance coverage through his employer, and they had to approve therapy and the number of hours you could receive every quarter or year or some such. They did a pretty good job with this first therapist, though I was not really happy with the lack of support she provided me when she terminated our therapy because she felt she had done all she could for me and thought my current therapist could help me more at that point.
I do not think a lot of therapists realize quite how traumatic a change in therapists can be for a client, particularly if that client has trust issues from his or her past. You finally get to the point where you trust the person and rely on their support, and then, in a flash, they are gone from your life. That said, she did introduce me to a wonderful therapist who has helped me a great deal. He uses light and sound therapy which helped me a great, great deal in recovering traumatic childhood memories. I cannot ever remember what the actual name of this therapy is, but I think it is often referred to simply as light and sound therapy. Actually, I also have a small light and sound machine of my own which I used quite a bit at one time to help me with my stress and anxiety and probably need to get back to using once again!! It is extremely portable, and I often take it with me when I travel--sometimes even to use in the car when I am a passenger. The light and sound therapy that my therapist, used, though, was to also help me recover memories, and boy did it!!! It was like watching very, very detailed home movies of my traumatic childhood. But although these sessions were extremely emotionally draining, I was able to stay physically very relaxed because of the settings the therapist used on the machine. He is one of I think only two people in Georgia that are like experts (for lack of a better term) with this therapy. I feel lucky to have found him and the therapy.
Also, he used hypnosis some with me, and it was also very helpful. The only problem I have had in terms of my happiness with my therapy with him is that he is heading towards early retirement pretty soon and travels a fair amount (for pleasure, not work) so he often has to reschedule our sessions. As it is, I usually see him no more than once every two weeks, and because of the rescheduling it is not unusual at times to see him only once every month to five weeks. This is very difficult. On the other hand, he has accepted what my insurance company was willing to pay him, without even a copayment from me, and he is a very kind and patient person. I also think
perhaps I would prefer if he were a woman. Guess he is not going to have a sex change for me--that might be asking a little much of him!!
I found Dr. N. my psychiatrist, when I was first hospitalized for depression. He was the Medical Director at the counseling center where my psychologist practiced, and was on staff at the hospital. So he was my main man during that time and continued to be thereafter.
As far as my first psychologist, I was referred to her by friends. I have had a few psychologists over the years, and have learned something from each of them. One of the things I was looking for was someone who was gay-friendly. After that criterion was met, I looked at how they did therapy. Many insurance groups now have a phone number you can call to find out which providers in your area meet your criteria. It's an invaluable service. I also look for someone who has been in practice for at least ten years.
I found another psychologist through a free workshop on something I don't remember now. Something about personal growth, probably. So I talked with the facilitator afterwards and we really hit it off, so I gave her a shot. It was cool for awhile, and then I decided to try group therapy with her. It was productive for six months, and then it was the same stuff over and over again and I saw unhealthy behaviors with her and some of the group members. Once I talked about my discomfort with my progress, I was kicked out of the group. I had achieved my goal, so it was no big deal.
Then some other word-of-mouth therapists were decent. After the first one, I was always clear on what I wanted and left when I had achieved that goal. At one point I just needed to have more variety in my therapeutic experiences instead of just talking. I did some neat guided imagery, psychodrama and other neat stuff.
I highly recommend psychodrama. I did that after my last hospitalization a few years ago. Apparently I was a unique case ... they said they hadn't seen one like that in a long time. It was very difficult, but incredibly cathartic.
One thing I have to say is that my first psychologist suggested talking with Dr. N. during a regular session and said that some drugs have been very helpful. I was adamant that I didn't want to go on drugs. Now I plead with others to investigate that option to get things to a manageable state while they sort things out.
How did I find the therapist that I am with? Well when I was a little girl and just came to my adopted mother, she was recommend to us. She was a great doctor and very helpful. During the time that I saw her we started out with play therapy seeing I was a "little girl" yet, and as I grew older we did talk therapy.
I went through a period in my life when I thought I outgrew her and her help. I questioned the idea of seeing someone who could help me either through cognitive therapy, EMDR, etc. So I sat down with her and explained that I would looking for a new doctor. So began my search for a new therapist that could help me get over the "stump" on my life.
Well to say the least that was a traumatic experience in itself. The first person I found was through my insurance. He practiced Cognitive Therapy. This guy was a quack for sure. He told me that I had no reason to be upset about my past and that I enjoyed it anyway so why was I complaining. Well that was the last time I saw him.
Then came the next doctor that I was referred to through a friend. This doctor also was a cognitive therapist. He insisted that I needed so much help that I would need to see him 5 days a week. Was he crazy or me? I can tell you now that it was he who was crazy. And last but not least was the last women I went to who was great. She was more of a talk therapist, but also taught me relaxation therapy. She listened to me, helped me and then one day 6 months later told me she was leaving the practice, and couldn't take me with her. I was devastated. I cried all the way home that night. I felt abandoned hurt, and lost.
So after about a total of 5 yrs of searching, I finally called my old therapist back that I had seen before and asked if I could come back. She is planning on trying EMDR with me, but we also do play therapy at times. With all her help I have been able to really grow. Never once did she throw in my face that I left her for someone else, instead she took me back with open arms and has been helping me heal ever since.
My suggestion when looking for a new therapist would be to check into there medical background, see where they studied, and how long they have been in practice. Maybe even try to find out how other patients feel about that person. Then see for yourself if this is the one for you. Trust me there are a great deal of quacks out there but if you find the right one, you will never regret it.
Four years ago, I decided to find a therapist who was trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), a treatment modality developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. I felt that traditional "talk therapy" was no longer helping to alleviate my symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. I wrote to EMDR Institute, Inc and received a list of trained clinicians in my State. I feel very fortunate that the first one I made contact with is the one that I'm still working with.
I've had a number of therapists at different times in my life. The first one I went to was a Freudian when I was 21 years old. I tried to keep an open mind about him because I didn't particularly trust men and he wanted me to lie on the couch. It was the first time I ever talked to a stranger about myself and I was nervous. My sister who had more experience with "shrinks" had heard about this therapist, and since I was so depressed I thought I should give it a try. I felt that I needed someone to discuss my childhood issues with. I stayed for a month or two and left because I just didn't feel it was a good fit. I don't think I could articulate exactly why I left; I just know I didn't feel comfortable in my gut.
My next two therapists were female and I felt very comfortable with both of them. They were partners in a counseling firm. They were recommended by two women I worked with. They both were warm, loving and allowed me to express my emotions and dig into how I was feeling. It was the first time I really understood what denial meant in psychology. I can't say that there were any therapeutic models we followed. We mostly talked about feelings. We did a little of hypnosis and relaxation techniques. I appreciated that she spoke as well and just didn't listen and take notes like the Freudian therapist.
When she had to take a leave of absence I felt bad but she did have a partner that I had seen every once in a while over the year, and I agreed to see her. She had a similar style and it worked out well. I stayed in therapy on and off for a couple of years along with reading a lot of self-help books and trying to connect with people that would be accepting and nonjudgmental. At first I was going twice a week, then once a week and then once a month. At some point I decided to see a medical doctor who prescribed anti depressants which also helped.
I was afraid for many years of my own feelings, that I would lose control, that I would not feel better but I eventually did, the symptoms got less severe. The triggers got less and less. And it might sound strange but in some way, the fear of not getting well also motivated me to go on. I use to have a bracelet that said "I'm afraid but I like it." Therapy helped me feel confident that I could make good decisions and that I was not crazy for feeling the way that I did.
I haven't been in therapy for many years but I would not hesitate to go if I felt the need again. I remember discovering so many things about myself in this period. It was a tremendous growth time and I owe much of it to the therapists that were recommended to me by other women, the self help books, friends who supported me and the inner knowing that recovery was a journey and it doesn't matter how long it takes to get there. Also that loving yourself is very important, and it might sound trite but it is the best love there is.
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