The Flip Side: An Excellent Interview for a New Therapist

After deciding to return to therapy, I interviewed two therapists.  I’ve already reported on the my response to Bizarre Animal Lady in the surreal interview environment and the surreal interview itself.  That “event” was easy to blog about – it was over and gone.

But I’ve delayed writing about the good interview because I didn’t want to jinx the relationship.  But it is far enough along now that I am ready to share.

The interview – what really mattered in accepting her?

This interview was less an interview and more of a conversation.  I had my list of questions (mentally!), and wondered if I would have to “interrogate” this therapist like I had the last one.  At a minimum, the List of Questions would provide some structure… the “official” part of the interview where you check credentials, etc.

Maybe the most convincing part of the interview is that I didn’t have to do that.

Looking back on it, I realize that the interview had several components.  Not serially or temporally, but elementally.  After I had time to mull on the process, in light of subsequent sessions, the critical interview elements I used to base my decision on were not what I expected.

Here are the questions that REALLY mattered…

1) Did I feel comfortable talking with her?

2) Did she answer my questions before I asked them – did she anticipate what I needed to know?

3) Did she seem to “believe” the dissociation itself, and the diagnosis I had received elsewhere?  (without the need for more tests, etc)

4) Did she learn enough about me during that short time to make an observation of me with respect to my diagnosis, as an obvious example that she could understand and interpret me?  In other words, did (not could) she prove her practical experience immediately?

I left an hour later with a tentative gut feeling of “yes” to each of these.  Fingers crossed – treading lightly – hoping.

The session itself

The session was nice – this therapist welcomed me into a bright room with comfortable furniture – everything nonthreatening; welcoming.  She sat back in a large leather chair with a disarming smile, a posture that was both comfortable and welcoming.  All of you know that it’s so hard to walk into a new room with a stranger and start laying it all out on the line – getting over that first hump.  All the while wondering if this was a one-time-regurgitation or if this therapist would be The One.

She started calmly, but went right to the matter  – what did I feel were problems in my life?  What did I want to make my life easier?  I had told her that my friends and family thought I needed to be back in therapy – so why did they think this?

These are hard questions to answer – they’re much worse than that infamous work interview question, What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

I don’t recall my full answer, but I know I said I wanted to feel more whole.  To be living my life more.  To feel like I was connected.  To understand more of my actions and feelings.

To not lose time and then find out later I had hurt people.

More than anything, my initial comfort with her came very quickly.  We stepped rather quickly though the whole “moods vs. parts” discussion, and then I dumped the crux.

How will she handle the Heavy Shit?

My husband has been dealing with someone neither he nor I really know.  He is aware of this part of me, as I have ripped his face and other’s faces off quite aggressively.  I had no clue this was happening.  I even dismissed his claims and his pleadings that I couldn’t treat people the way I was doing.

Hey, I can get a little testy.  Doesn’t everyone?

But since I started therapy and really listened to him, some of his stories started to sound familiar.  Not all, but a few.  Enough for me to believe there was something about me I didn’t know.  Something in me. Something wearing my skin.  And that something…that I am shocked to learn about myself … is something that everyone else already knows.

But I didn’t.

I told this therapist, I have been in denial.  Still am a bit.  The little clues I have had about it, I ignored.

And then I waited for her reaction.  To the amnesia.  To the rage.  To the mysterious face-rippings.

I needed to know if she Believed.

She never mentioned the term, dissociative identity disorder.

Instead, she said right off that her approach is not to work towards integration.  She wants to get the client to the point where she/he is living the best life – doing what they want, effectively.  That there is full awareness and cooperation.  Input from all to move away from the lost time.

She believes that focusing work specifically on integration takes time away from exploring the real-world stuff.  Takes away from working through what is happening in your life NOW.  Understanding the RESULTS of earlier crap…Learning how to weave your way though this complicated world.

The ability to live the best way is more important than this somewhat arbitrary goal of integration.

It felt so right to hear her say that…it takes the pressure off trying to achieve some mystical endpoint!  I don’t want the endpoint goal to have to be integration. Right now, I can only speculate intellectually about what integration is, let alone decide if I want to work towards it.  And there are radically different opinions inside – pros and cons – based on this speculation.

PLEASE don’t make my acceptance of and by a therapist dependent upon this integration concept.

She doesn’t

So far, I have approached this whole therapy thing with open eyes.  Having no clue what it involves, but learning as I go.  As I have written before, I’ve learned things I like and dislike about therapeutic approaches, and things I like and dislike about therapists themselves.

So, I like this therapist … her end goal as “living life.”

What she learned about me so quickly

She asked about the switches.  Asked if my husband could tell when they happened.  Well, for the really bad ones, yes he could.  He can probably even point to the trigger, even though he doesn’t understand what in my past caused it.

Now, those horribly-triggered switches should be obvious to a dead door nail, so that ain’t saying much.

But the less obvious switches.  The ones I see and know and sometimes cry out for!  I have much cooperation and some co-awareness.  But sometimes I don’t realize it either.  She told me that sometimes she will know a switch has occurred before the client does.

Then she looked at me and said, “Like just now.”

???

I felt a strange shift of awareness when I heard her say that, and I was a little shocked…like shocked back into the conversation. Immediate clarity.  I don’t know where I went.  I guess I hadn’t realized it but she saw the signs.  And she was right.

That was one of the clenchers for me.  She recognized the switch, she made me gently aware of it, and she didn’t make a big deal about it.  Like it happens all the time, par for the course, just the way It Is. So let’s go get a cup of coffee and talk about  last night’s episode of House.

Oh.  Oh.

She didn’t make a big deal out of it.

That is when I knew she was The One.

That she Believed.

And that maybe she would be the one to help ME believe.

The rest of the session

We spent the rest of the session talking about why I changed therapists, and many of my Evil List of Questions.  In my quest to understand the mismatch with my first therapist, I had pondered quite extensively on it, and was able to share it with her.

But you know what is totally cool?  She raised several of these questions herself, before I had to ask them.  My Evil List of Questions that pissed of my first therapist as “personally and professionally insulting”?

Except for the questions that were specific to the first therapist, this one passed the “List” with flying colors.

ESPECIALLY her repeated exploration that we need to detect when we get off track from one another.  That first little hint that something isn’t right – a spark of misunderstanding.  And she has broached that issue several times since then.  That we need to be very cognizant of that.

That disconnect and the inability to detect it and do something about it was a failure point with my first therapist.  This therapist immediately recognized it as something to watch out for.

This woman has been there many times before.  She’s treated many people like me.

And she was unphased by my questions.  I think even pleased that I raised them.

She was nowhere near offended.

And here’s the SECOND clencher – she laughed at the joke!**

The joke that seems to have become a cornerstone of my interview process.  And she didn’t just listen passively –  I could tell she was trying to figure out where it was going BEFORE I dropped the punch line.

Excellllent.

Her response is the best by far.  I’ve been seeing her for a month or so, and while I am scared every time I walk in there, I think there is real potential for her to be a terrific asset in my life.

(Fingers crossed. All 18-hand’s worth).

The Joke Test

** How many alters does it take to change a light bulb?

Four.  One to change the bulb, one to watch the changing of the bulb, one to deny the bulb was changed, and one to repress the memory.

– ∞ –

See also:
Table of Contents for all blog posts
Part 1: A Surreal Therapy Consultation

Part 2: Menagerie Aside, The Surreal Therapy Session Itself

Therapist consultation for dissociative identity disorder

Milestones in treatment for trauma: everyone is a fingerprint

Lessons learned in a therapuetic relationship gone wrong

The ability to trust with DID in therapy and in real life

Changing therapists – what to consider

Flame-Quenching “Move Along” Standard Disclaimer
Guest Book and Introductions

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7 Comments»

  davidrochester wrote @

This is fantastic. Thank you.

  castorgirl wrote @

If nothing else, this has given some hope that there are good therapists out there… Thank you.

So glad you seem to have found such a good fit to help with the healing journey.

Good luck with the job hunting!

  HF wrote @

Thanks so much for posting this. After reading the posts about the menagerie fiasco, I’m glad you’ve found somebody who seems such a good fit to your needs.
All the best with it (and the job hunting)
HF x

  Secret Shadows wrote @

She sounds a lot like my therapist. 🙂

  Emily’s Camigwen wrote @

Then you have a very cool therapist! 😉

  Echo wrote @

That’s really awesome. I’m very glad that you’ve found a good therapist. I’ve been lucky so far, but because of that luck I dread if I have to switch from Elsie and find a new therapist.

She was my second, in a way, but the first didn’t even past the phone inquiry LOL, so I never actually met him in person and am glad I was spared, for other reasons which I may have talked about on my own blog or may have to mention just because.

I hope that things continue to go well with this therapist, they are hard to find.

  Tigerweave/Anna wrote @

Wow, that sounds awesomely positive. I concur about the integration. ime it happened because there was no reason to stay fragmented anymore, not because it was an arbitrary goal we worked towards.

Also, the months leading up to that integration things were waaay better just because I was making decisions big and small based on the extensive experience of all my combined personalities, not just the limited experience of one, or another.

And also wasn’t so scared of really drinking in life to the full. Yup, she sounds like her approach is realistic and will lead you down a path rich with rewards 🙂


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