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What stays unsaid in therapeutic relationships



Sep 25, 2012
Planet Lunatic Asylum
What stays unsaid in therapeutic relationships -



"This piece will explore my experiences accessing psychological therapies, concentrating on two different psychodynamic therapies and therapists I have had. One was more productive than the other. I will talk about what worked for me, what didn’t work; equality & identity on the “wrong” side of the therapeutic relationship; what happens to shame when one person is protected from it and the other isn’t; and finally what happens if your therapist doesn’t share your ethnicity or sexuality, how can you talk about things like racism and homophobia when they don’t “get” where your pain is coming from. I will finish the piece on what was the best experience of therapy I have ever had and why."

Here’s a quote from it:

“If you have the misfortune of experiencing racism, sanism, or homophobia from someone who has forced you to be in a therapeutic relationship with them, what can you do? You can fight it, but that will be seen as aggression, maladjustment, or lack of insight; if you surrender and become passive, you lack motivation or are apathetic. Those who don’t share a downgraded status need to ask themselves: how can I help the person maintain dignity, how can I help them be neither passive nor aggressive in a world that looks down on them? How can I help them explore racism, homophobia, etc., in safe and meaningful way? Or how can I change institutional discrimination, seeing as that institution pays my salary? Difficult questions, yes. But as we keep getting told by therapists, change is painful.

For all those reasons, I do like therapists who know the failings of the theory and practice of their professions and are open to having frank discussions. I was lucky to have someone like this recently. She was authentic and honest, she shared her vulnerability with me too but didn’t spill it. She was non-judgmental to the nth degree, could laugh at herself, the world and me; she understood the political & social context of the world we live in. When Trump won the US election, we were both as upset. She fought my corner with regards to housing and benefits. She thought pathologising language, such as “defect”, “maladaptive” and “deficit” had no place in our connection; she understood mental distress is more to do with a broken heart rather than a broken brain. She gently and warmly individualised the therapy to be meaningful to me. I love all animals, but sheep especially, so she turned my schema therapy for psychosis therapy into “ nd my inner sheep” therapy, turning dissociation into a lost sheep; my sense of being evil into a black sheep, so I could relate to it better; and for me to learn to be a kinder shepherd to my broken heart. She was more of co-conspirator than a medical professional, and I forever grateful for her input to my life”.

- Dolly Sen