Is Therapy Work?
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 21, 2016
Talking about oneself brings relief and a struggle. The thrill of being listened to is counterbalanced by the shame of sounding “silly, inappropriate, consumed with minutia,” my fictional patient Adie reports. Psychotherapy as an opportunity to expose past experiences continues to stimulate me. I have never thought that Adie was inarticulate and yet, in her mind, she deeply fears that she cannot put words together in an interesting way. Hence she often sits in silence, with a pained look on her face. She often leaves sessions exhausted, even when she begins with high energy. “Today seems like it has exhausted you,” I say, and she quickly responds, “this is a lot of work for me.” I feel for Adie that she cannot see psychotherapy as a release, but rather she sees it as a medicine she has to take to get better, but the journey is one of endurance. Adie has never been listened to. No one in her life, by her report, has ever taken a keen interest in her thoughts, and so the opportunity for that interest makes her anxious and uncomfortable. We talk a lot about how traumatic it has been for her to want to be listened to but at the same time, she is too fearful to talk. She is caught in a never-ending bind, which, together we are slowly trying to unwind. Some days are better than others. Today was hard. Work for both of us.