I have been thinking about writing this for a while, just an overview about the many therapists I have had from all different degrees and orientations. I started off seeing a school counselor. She was getting her degree in counseling, though I am not sure if it was as a school counselor or a social worker. We only saw each other for a few months and then when school started again, I started seeing a social worker that worked at another school. She was good. Had the idea that I shouldn’t use drugs or alcohol. We had a “safety contract”, which my first 10 or so did. It mostly said I wouldn’t kill myself until the next meeting and if I did feel like acting to go to the emergency room or call 911. I only saw her for about 10 months. She left and I saw someone new, a person who was also seeking their degree. I basically feel like she took advantage of me and was only interested in collecting my insurance. Nothing got worked on. I was hospitalized every three months, the last one was when I came out as “gay”. Transgender was never talked about with any therapist until the one I saw prior to my current therapist.
As I had state insurance, therapists were coming and going. By the 10th one, I was tired of them leaving so I left the system for private as I then had private insurance. Only problem was that this therapist didn’t take my insurance. When I switched in 2001, we saw each other for a month before my disc blew and then I didn’t see her again for another three months. We kept in touch by phone. It was a lot to go through. I didn’t talk about my psych issues as I just had my physical health jeopardized. We worked together for sixteen years. All throughout, I was suicidal. But I had the odd hospitalization because we worked on stabilizing using frequent contact. We saw each other sometimes three times a week when I was bad. Then we saw each other twice a week. She moved offices until she moved 30 miles away from Boston. It was tough because I didn’t have a car. I did but it broke down. We just had phone therapy. This went on for about five years. I would get a zipcar once a month to see her but that took some planning around my pain and weather.
The suicidal ideation I had made my therapist nervous. We tried different things, but she never consistently held me to them. I chided away from it because I knew what she was looking for or rather had an idea. I knew it wasn’t going to change. During the last year of therapy we had, we were constantly fighting over my suicidality. She just wasn’t listening to me anymore. I couldn’t explain why I was suicidal. I just mentioned it and she would “hog” the rest of the session with her endless talk, which I just took as her anxiety. It was interfering. I found out she was seeking consultation over me and I felt threatened by that. Eventually we just called it quits. I didn’t see anyone for few months. I had to collect myself. She gave me a few therapists but they weren’t taking on new clients.
Enter my current therapist. He had called back within a few hours of me leaving a message and we had set a time up with in a few days. He sent me his paperwork and other insurance stuff. All throughout seeing the previous therapist, we had tried different suicidal safety planning and scales and whatnots. This guy was not for it. I think the less paperwork, the better. And it bugs me! He just wants to talk things out. For the first six months I didn’t know if this was going to work out. But I had no where else to go. I was tired of searching for therapists only to be told no when I revealed I had a suicidal history. He wasn’t afraid of me talking about suicide and I ease up. Even when I told him I had a plan, he didn’t freak out on me. He understood why I felt that way and we talked it out. It decreased my feelings so I didn’t feel like no one was on my side. I often felt better after sessions but there were a few where I was more frustrated. I texted him a few times and got supportive responses, something my previous therapist did not do, at all. She only responded if we had to change appointment times.
I have been seeing this guy for 16 months. I still find it totally weird that we have an understanding of why I am suicidal yet there is no plan in place, so to speak. He is okay if I live and okay if I die, as long as I don’t do it in his office. He hasn’t taught me things I don’t already know. He would like me to be more social, but that is kind of hard with my physical pain. I like being alone anyway as noise can irritate me, like it is today. Hell, just being in Starbucks when their music is loud is enough to have me leave after I finish eating or when I am ready to write. He doesn’t try to pin things down and my biggest annoyance is when he says we will work on something but doesn’t go further than that. And then when I bring it up next session (I have to bring things up, he won’t), it still doesn’t go anywhere. But I have had that happen with the last therapist I saw, too. She would say we need to work on this and we never did.
I don’t mean to write this to defer you from seeking therapy, that isn’t my goal. I just wanted to write about my experiences with therapists and how they react to suicidal thoughts. Everyone is different. And maybe you started seeing a therapist and then the suicide thoughts started happening. The therapist freaks out and you are then forced to see someone else. Or you attempted and now the therapist doesn’t want to work with you anymore. That is sad and unfortunate but I know it does happen. Suicide is like an elephant (or hippo as someone called it that the other day) in the room that you both know is there but don’t want to face. Or maybe your therapist is trained and does work with you on the issues as long as there is a safety plan in place first with contact numbers and you collaborate on what will work and what will not work. The focus has to be on YOU not the therapist’s comfort level. While my therapist does that and gives me the time to try and work things out as well as support me in any way he can, I still sometimes feel like he just doesn’t get it or dropped the ball on an issue that is never going to see light of day again. I know they are busy people. They have lives outside the office. They see so many patients per day and then deal with the wonderful insurance that can or cannot accept their claims. I don’t know. I am not making excuses for them but if you have a therapist that cares about you and takes your suicidal thoughts seriously, works with you on keeping you safe, and the chronicity of the matter, great. I just am still trying to work with someone and cope with a therapist that says you can kill yourself as long as it isn’t in my office.