A mental health doctor who prescribes medications tries to find the right med (or med cocktail) that allows your moods to fit the situations you are in, not find a med (mix) that elates or numbs you regardless of the life circumstance. And my educated (and experiential) guess about mental health therapy is that it’s a mix of empathy, professional knowledge, and straight talk.
With this as a starting point, let me say, I’ve had the fortune for the past dozen plus years of having good mental health med doctors and mental health therapists. They’ve helped me find meds that help me be mood-appropriate (or approaching that). For most of the past several years — this year is an exception — my moods have not ruled me. And my therapists have empathized with my situation (e.g. built a rapport) and then gave me straight talk advice about things I needed to work on to take responsibility for managing my moods when the meds needed me to put in a little (or a lot) of effort.
That said, I have experienced bad therapy … 25+ years ago. Unfortunately, it was my first experience. And because of that experience, I spent another 10+ years of my life very depressed, very anxious, and struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder … seeking no help from anyone.
I really don’t want to dwell on that experience. Let’s just say, it sucked and contributed to my life sucking for years to come.
I want to make the point that just as there are good and bad teachers, good and bad doctors, good and bad police officers, good and bad architects, good and bad elected officials, good and bad bosses, there are good and bad therapists. There are also good therapists who a particular person won’t connect with well. Sometimes you won’t be able to build a good rapport with a good therapist.
Furthermore, just as when you want to do a kitchen remodel, you seek bids. Just as when you have a serious physical health diagnosis, some people recommend getting a second or third opinion. Sometimes if you have a bad first therapy visit, you might want to seek a second opinion / option … a different therapist.
I write this for two reasons. I recently helped a friend seek professional help for a bout with Anxiety and Depression she was / is experiencing. I’d been trying to convince her that this was a good idea for quite some time because she knew she wasn’t healthy. And I knew: (1) better mental health is possible for her, (2) she is awesome and has great gifts to offer the world, and (3) I want her to feel as snazzy as she actually is. (I have her approval to write these things.)
But it took some convincing. Like me, she had had a bad experience with a therapist; and, most unfortunately, it was her first experience. That therapist (from years ago) did not empathize with her. No positive rapport was built. In fact, the therapist made her feel foolish for her feelings … embarrassed.
Her experience was similar to my first therapy experience. I remember getting laughed at. (Now, I really feel like I should have reported the guy — it feels wrong to call him a therapist.)
Now, I know that telling someone who is struggling with Anxiety and Depression — a person who is likely struggling with self-worth issues, a person who is likely drained of all energy, a person who feels like they can barely manage a minimal existence — you’ve got to do some more work after a really bad experience with a therapist who wasn’t a fit for you … well, that’s a tall demand.
I simply want to end, then, with three things:
- I did help my friend did seek help recently. And while it’s still early, her current experience is vastly better than the first and the meds and therapy seem to be bringing on better health.
- If you are struggling with Anxiety and / or Depression, you deserve to be healthy, and there are plenty of good doctors and therapists who can help you find better health. Think of the years of suffering you could experience if you don’t seek help. Compare that to the anguish of seeking a second opinion if you’ve had a bad first experience. It is worth giving it another shot.
- That second piece of advice is really difficult for a person suffering to actually begin. So, if you are a friend of someone you know is struggling with Anxiety and Depression, I have some advice for you. Empathize with your friend; tell them you are there for them. You can’t fix their problem … nor should you try. But you are willing to listen to them, to support them, and to help them if they want to find professional help. Sometimes the person suffering simply needs time to process (your empathy goes a long way) and then support as they take the first steps to find better mental health.