Do No Harm?

I am a strong advocate for therapy, ask any of my friends and family. At some point or another I have badgered all of them to give it a try, it really is for everyone! I have been in therapy on and off since high school; my longest continuous stretch with the same person being from 2009-2016. I would still be with her if my husband and I didn’t relocate to Virginia. I had been with her so long that she had actually reduced my visits and “graduated” me before I left. She even helped me through my miscarriage, at least I thought I was through it…

Fast forward to 2017, living in a new state, being at a job a hate, realizing I am not over my miscarriage, and deciding to try again for children. As you can guess I was not doing well. My sister noticed this when she came to visit over the summer and thought it was time to reach out to a therapist again. We had both been following several therapists we found on social media, and one happened to be in my area and accepting new patients. My sister urged me to message them to see if they would accept me as a patient. I was skeptical about finding a therapist via social media (I’m old school) but decided to give it a try.

My first meeting with the therapist…I was not impressed, however I like to give people benefit of the doubt. They spent most of the first session saying how important it was for black women to seek mental health counseling (which I totally agree with by the way, however that speech is wasted on me. I have been in counseling since high school and I am a mental health advocate and had told them as much). They spent the rest of the appointment pulling up various websites on their cell phone that they felt would be of service to me. This is drastically different than any other therapist appointment I had ever had. I’m used to spending my time talking and laying out my issues. Maybe this is how the new generation of therapists operates?

I was not happy with my initial appointment, but anyone who struggles with mental illness knows how difficult it can be to find another therapist, so I decided to give them another try. I scheduled a follow-up for two weeks out. The day before that appointment the therapist emailed me to let me know that they would have to cancel and that the soonest available would be two more weeks out. I told the therapist I would take that appointment but to let me know if anything else opened up sooner.

In the interim I decided to use one of the resources that they mentioned in our initial meeting. I scheduled an appointment with a clinic that specialized in treating women who are trying to conceive but are on psychiatric medication. This was a disaster. Apparently the therapist had not given me all the information on this clinic and after taking time off of work to visit and paying a fee, it was determined that I did not qualify for their services, since I already had a psychiatrist (even though I expressed to them my unhappiness with and the ineffectiveness of my current psychiatrist). The clinic also informed me that the number of visits are limited since they are a training clinic and recommended I save them for when I actually become pregnant. They then told me that they would contact my therapist to make sure they are aware of what services the clinic provides. I left feeling discouraged and overwhelmed. I was already under a tremendous amount of stress with work, and trying to find a new psychiatrist that specialized in maternity health.

The day before what was supposed to be my next appointment with the therapist, I emailed them to confirm. They informed me that 1. They did not have me on the schedule 2. They moved their office to another location 3. They had spoken with the clinic about me and thought I needed more help than they could provide and then recommended I call a hotline.

I was so mentally distraught. I had never had an experience like this before. I didn’t even have the energy to respond to the email. My mom wanted me to report the therapist to the board, but I just didn’t have the energy. And I was so disappointed. How can someone in the mental health community treat a client that way. If I weren’t stable, an email like that could have very well sent me over the edge. I was so scarred that I deleted the email and all tracings of the therapist’s practice from all of my social media and email accounts.

I wanted to share this story to let others know that not all therapists are going to be a match for you, but you shouldn’t let that deter you. Not everyone is great at their job, not everyone’s personality will mesh with yours, but that doesn’t mean you should give up. I know it may be daunting, but keep trying until you find that match. I will continue looking in the mean time as well.

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