Therapist Shopping

girl (8-9) taking to a child psychologist

Well, I’ve taken the plunge.

Or at least I’ve tried to. I started seeing a psychologist a few weeks ago who specializes in ADHD in order to talk to her about medication. My symptoms were so obvious that she diagnosed me with the inattentive subtype after our first session (significant because this was my first official diagnosis, strangely enough, though I self-diagnosed when I started grad school four years ago). Naturally, she has subsequently used some diagnostic tools to substantiate her diagnosis (another topic for another post). But yeah, basically I’ve been really excited to to get down into the nitty gritty and start talking meds.
But… there’s this little issue. The issue that she is driving me crazy. It is becoming very clear to me just how true it is that not every mental health provider is “a fit.” This woman is not cutting the mustard for me.
When I go to a therapist, what I am looking for is a person who will draw my thoughts out of me by listening attentively and asking pointed, intelligent questions that allow me to think about things in new and enlightening ways and say aloud things that haven’t yet formulated themselves in my brain. What I don’t want is someone who blathers on endlessly about ANYTHING BUT MY SITUATION. And that’s what this lady, bless her heart, does.
I’m serious folks. This is verging on unethical. We have spent hours now talking about such scintillating topics as: her fondly recollected memories of growing up in a Seventh Day Adventist household and being home-schooled; her relationship with her partner (she’s a lesbian, incidentally); the entire scope and sequence of her relationship with her “daughter” (or the daughter of her first lover with whom she lived for two years); the brain; Freud; vegetarianism (which she has abandoned); the types of fish which are endangered, as well as the level of endangerment each fish has been granted; why she only eats organic chicken; several fun anecdotes about her mother’s antiquated ideologies on sexuality; the difference between organic and free-range; her past history of sexual abuse; many stories about her doctorate work; and various and sundry anecdotes about her work with EMDR (which is a type of therapy that uses eye movement to help sufferers of PTSD). As a bonus, I’ve also heard *at least* twice: the history of her favorite client, to differing levels of specificity about the abuses she suffered as a child (in which she accidentally alerted me to who this client is–I had met her as I came into my first appointment–thus breaking her confidentiality); the story where she had a sadly misguided client come see her about bi-polar disorder when said person didn’t, in fact, have bi-polar disorder but instead had PTSD; and the story about the mom that brought her three year old in to get help with ADHD who, when my therapist told her that he didn’t have ADHD but was actually just being a three-year-old kid, didn’t believe her and looked for therapy elsewhere.
The tipping point for me was last session when I wanted to ask a very specific question about her opinions about the combined subtype, and I waited about twenty minutes (literally) for her to stop talking. I then said, “well, I did have one question I wanted to ask…” and she interrupted me mid-sentence and talked for 40 minutes straight without stopping (literally). Yes, my session had long ended, yet she was stiiiill talking. And no, I never did get to ask the question.
What I’m saying is that I am so, so, so sick of hearing about all of this stuff that I’m actually thinking of going to someone else. It’s sad because I really like her as a person. And I have to take a little bit of the blame, I guess–I’m so used to being on the listening end of these conversations that I probably give her every indication that I’m interested and want her to go on about Ellen White’s historical writings or whatever. But, the thing is, she’s the therapist in this situation. Not me. I shouldn’t have to worry about making sure I don’t accidentally look interested in her prattling. She should be focusing on me and my therapeutic goals.
And it’s not like my goals are complex. I want medicine. Period. Sure, I’d love any useful tools she happens to know from her years of experience in dealing with patients with ADHD. But not at the expense of losing my sanity. Meds. A recommendation. Advice. That’s it. It’s pretty simple.
So, Monday, I’m going to have “the talk” with her. We’ll see how that session goes. If I still don’t feel my needs are being met, I’m moving on to someone else. And, as a therapist myself, I gotta say that’s my recommendation to anyone in a similar situation. When trying to find a therapist, look around until you find someone that fits, no matter the issue, and no matter how nice non-fits are. You’re paying for a service, so it should be meeting your needs. And research shows that the therapeutic relationship has more to do with improvement than any other factor.
In the meantime, I have a real, true, bona fide diagnosis from a (local) expert in the field. So, that’s an interesting development.
I can’t wait to actually try medication and see what it does for me.


  1. Yeah, we only realized our therapist wasn't a good fit after he encouraged us to get divorced. Heh. There were other reasons why I didn't like him either, and that was one of them–he always wanted to talk and didn't encourage me to talk as much. It's hard when you like them as a person, though, but it will be worth it to try something else.

  2. Um, seriously, go to someone else. She breached confidentiality and talked about her own experiences with sexual abuse (and it doesn't even relate to why you're there). That is really not ethical. I know it's easier said that done, but get outta there!

  3. Josh, please know that she is not being ethical nor professional, and is absolutely abusing her "power" over you as your therapist1 aaargh! run! it is so not right! I know I've only been in the field 2 years now, but this behavior would be unheard of in my clinic. We are a quirky bunch to be sure but she is crossing very obvious specific lines…message me if you need to process this…and congrats on the official diagnosis!
    Robin Moore

  4. Good luck with your efforts – sounds like you are headed in the right direction, but on the wrong train.

    I saw a therapist about a year ago for 2 sessions, prior to seeing a new one who was a perfect fit for me. In my initial introduction I described myself, including the fact that I was an atheist (this wasn't the main thrust of my explanation, but a side-bar). In the second session, she told me that she'd been up all evening reading books trying to figure out how to best deal with me. This sort of made me wonder how experienced she was. Then the deal-breaker: She told me that God has put my situation on her chest (or something like that) and given her a mission to help me. I smiled gently but didn't blink for an unnaturally long time.

    The next day I phoned the organization who supplies these therapists and explained I wanted someone familiar with cognitive behavioural therapy or interpersonal therapy, and preferably someone with some psychoanalytic training. And that's what I got.

    I guess like a personal dating advertisement, it is less fruitful to tell the world what you're like, but rather to tell the world what you want. In the former case, you cast a very wide net. In the latter, you narrow down your range.



  5. Tried to email you – it came back. :p

    I've had your therapist on my mind, a lot. Not only is her personal sharing inappropriate, and a waste of your (and your insurance company's) money, but could be damaging. Especially her personal sexual abuse. Statistics are that one in three of her clients will have their own sexual abuse history, and hearing about her own stories, without her asking permission to tell them, *especially* in her clients whose history she is unaware of, could exacerbate post traumatic symptoms in them. Bottom line, she's dangerous. If it were me, I would absolutely contact her lisencing board, careful to tell the good as well as the bad.

    Plus, her casual handling of confidentiality is shocking.

    Best wishes in your quest to deal with your ADHD in the best way for you. Thanks again for sharing your journey.

  6. Josh, I know a great therapist, who is just what you described…he listens, and he asks great questions that make me think. I have been seeing him for months, and I know NOTHING about his personal life, because he only talks to me about me…and, of course, that is how I like it. Send me an e-mail if you would like a name…

  7. ummm…you are paying her for HER therapy, which she clearly needs.

    you must realize this on some level, so is your desire to help her the real reason you continue to see someone who clearly isn't helping you?.

  8. i've had lousy therapists before. my last one regularly fell asleep during session. jerk.

    one weird one that i had would clap her hands every time i'd tell her about a traumatic experience. (it wasn't applause, it was a single, loud clap.) she said it would jumpstart my brain and i wouldn't be traumatized by that incident any more. she was wrong. and stupid, apparently.

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