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  • Nanneke Morgan

In the wrong hands


I had therapy in my early twenties and it was a bad experience.


It was suggested by my GP. I wasn’t sure whether it was for me but I was willing to give it a try. I had the feeling that something was just not right. I had an intake, then had a few sessions with a male therapist who I didn’t like from the start. After those few sessions I was put on a waiting list and was then paired up with another male therapist for the ‘proper’ therapy.


This was not a success.


The main problem was that the rules about confidentiality were never explained. As a result, I was, unconsciously, very careful with what I shared. I did not know what happened with all the information that I gave my therapist – so I gave him hardly anything. At the time, it didn’t even occur to me that I could ask.


The therapy, of course, didn’t work.


Another thing that I really struggled with, was the fact that I didn’t understand what he was doing. I did ask about this. Communicating about what was happening, why he wanted to know certain things and explanations of the whole process of therapy was extremely limited. I felt that it was actively discouraged – that I just had to ‘trust’ the therapist. Trust can be very difficult for a lot of clients, including me – and it is something that needs to be earned. Just because you are a therapist, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are trustworthy.


Questions about feelings I found extremely weird. Coming from a family where we just didn’t do feelings, being asked what I felt was so strange. Did it really matter what I felt? It took me many years to start to understand that, yes, actually, it does matter. By that time, I was well into my own training as a therapist.


There were occasions that my first therapist asked a question, and when I tried to answer, he then said that it had been a joke. It really didn’t help: I felt stupid and deeply ashamed.


Despite these experiences, I kept coming, every week for over 2 years. At that time, he moved away and I was given another therapist – a woman this time. I was with her for another 6 months and then she ended the therapy. It left me with the feeling that I had imagined that ‘something was wrong with me’ and hence that everything had to be fine.


It took another 20 years before I tried again.


This time it was as a counselling student. The therapist, suggested by my college, felt so cold. Again, when I asked a question, it was discouraged. Again, there was a lack of explanation and I felt very alone. I saw her for 2 years, the second year twice a week, and I did learn a lot.


However, had I sat in a room on my own, I wonder whether I would have learned a lot less?

Probably not.


These experiences were not good and I should have looked for a better fit much, much earlier. Therapy should be with someone that you feel safe with – someone that you trust. It needs to ‘click’. If it doesn’t, leave – it will be a waste of money and time.


I was lucky to finally find a therapist who I did feel safe with. A therapist who listened to me and who tried to do the therapy ‘my way’ – the way that I needed it to be done – even if that meant that she was well out of her comfort zone. I stayed for years and with her I did some really difficult and deep work.


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