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Why This Answer I Gave My Therapist Shows the Importance of Honesty in Therapy

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Editor's Note

If you struggle with self-harm or experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, visit this resource.

The other week, my therapist asked me, “You’ve been in therapy before; I’m sure other therapists have given you coping strategies for self-harm and whatnot?”

As I shook my head no, she said, “Or maybe they just didn’t give you as many as I have?”

As I continued to shake my head, I told her:

 “You’re the only therapist I’ve ever told.” 

If you had told 13-year-old me — heck, if you had told 19-year-old me — that I would be in therapy by my own volition, I would have laughed in your face. I hated therapy growing up. Being a minor in therapy can be an extremely different experience than being 18 or older in therapy. Still under my parents’ roof, under their complete control, they could do what they wanted with me. And I knew the only way they wouldn’t take me out of school and admit me to a hospital was if I was in therapy. But because my parents frequently talked to my therapist, I never felt like I could be honest with them — my parents or my therapist.

If I was honest with my parents about how bad I really was, they would insist on keeping a closer eye on me, have me stay home more and suggest I wasn’t “trying hard enough” in therapy and that’s why I was still so depressed and anxious. I know this is true because this is exactly what happened when I was honest with them (for the first and last time). On top of that, I couldn’t be honest with my therapists because I did not trust a single one of them. They repeatedly took my parents’ side on absolutely everything. They would tell them I wasn’t trying hard enough, tell them things just “weren’t working out,” and insist on letting them into therapy sessions (which anyone would be able to tell you was the single thing that gave me the most anxiety).

Looking back, knowing what I know now, I don’t blame my therapists nearly as much. And I realize now how likely it was my parents distorted what the therapists were telling them when they spoke to me. However, without getting into it more (because I could go on and on about terrible experiences I had in therapy), it was clear I did not enjoy therapy. I wasn’t honest with my therapists, I didn’t trust them and the idea of therapy only gave me panic attacks. Eventually, toward the end of high school, I found one therapist who finally helped more than hurt, but I only spoke with her about anxiety, never depression. After she ended up leaving the practice, I never found a therapist who helped again.

Until I met the one I have now. She is the first therapist I have ever been completely honest with. Eight years from when I started therapy, she is the first therapist I told about my suicidal thoughts. The first therapist I told about self-harm. The first therapist I told about the drinking and disordered eating and the terrible thoughts I was always too scared to say aloud. She is the first therapist I have ever fully trusted.

When I told her, that day, that I had never told another therapist about my self-harm, I found myself stunned by my own words. I couldn’t believe they were true. When we hung up — I do virtual therapy — I silently cried, shaking, overwhelmed by how thankful I was to finally find a therapist I trusted.

I know everyone talks about how important it is to “find the right therapist” and how if you aren’t connecting with one, it’s important to continue searching. However, I don’t think people talk about how hard and emotionally taxing that can be. If that is you, I want you to know I see you. I know it’s hard. I know it’s exhausting. I know it may not even be something you want to do. But from personal experience, from someone who hated therapy, I truly can tell you the search is worth it.

It’s so, so worth it.

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

Originally published: January 14, 2020
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