Happy Monday, Goose Army!  And welcome back to Das Goose!

Okay.  Let’s cut the shit.

I like to tell friends the story about how–when I first started going to regular therapy (back when I was regularly going to therapy)–I got fired by my therapist for being a complete lost cause.  But I never tell the whole story.  Sure, I include the details about telling my therapist that he was useless and writing, um, that inappropriate check, but I never tell people the true catalyst for having a mental health professional tell me to not come back.  Ever.

I mean, do you know what kind of jackhole you have to be to make a therapist say: “We can’t see you anymore”?  Well, he didn’t even say it–he made his receptionist do the dirty work.

Anyhoozles…so, a little over fifteen years ago, I decided that my mental health was at a point where I needed medical/therapeutic intervention.  I’d been living with anxiety and depression–as well as a plethora of self-destructive habits–for a very long time.  I was at my breaking point.

Scratch that.

I had one suicide attempt under my belt and was seriously considering revisiting that option to see if my skills in that field had improved.

So, I sought out my first therapist and visited my medical doctor at the time.  My medical doctor immediately put me on a sedative and an SSRI (which caused me a considerable amount of shame, at which he just scoffed).  A week later, I was attending my first individual counseling session.  When I went into my therapist’s office, filled out the paperwork, then went into the inner office and sat down with the therapist, it immediately became clear that this fella loved psychotherapy/talk therapy.  Old school psychotherapy.  He basically just wanted to stare at me for forty-five minutes while I tried to think of what I should say.  All I could think to say was: “Look fucker, I’m paying you fifty bucks after insurance, and if you expect me to pull some monologue out of my ass on the spot, you’re not really going to help my anxiety.”  Yes, I had taken my sedative that day, so take that as you will.

Anyhoozles, after a few sessions like this, I realized that if I didn’t talk, my money was just going to waste.  So, I talked.  And in the course of my talking, my therapist picked up on the fact that I was worrying about things outside of my realm of control.  I’m no expert, but that might be why my doctor had put me on Xanax?  My therapist told me that I cared about so many things, why didn’t I make a list of things I didn’t care about as homework and bring it to our next session.

So, completely disgusted with this fucker who thought he was Freud reincarnated, I went home and tried to make a list.  For a week, I tried to make this fucking list about things that I didn’t care about.  When I went back for my next appointment a week later, all I had managed to jot down was: “This goddamn list“.  I handed him the list with a look similar to this:

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My therapist didn’t really care for that item.  But…that was all I had.  And, that was pretty fucking honest, in my opinion.  I cared about everything but making that dumb list.  Needless to say, he was pretty put out with me.  Then, when I gave my weekly monologue, in the middle of talking about two people in my life giving me grief, I asked him who was right in the situation.  His response was, “I’m not here to assign blame or take sides, and…”, I cut him off and said, “Well, what the fuck am I paying you for then?

When I left his office that day, his receptionist told me that they would not able to see me anymore because I was, “resistant to therapy”.  So, when I wrote out my fifty-dollar check, in the memo line, I wrote: “For Sexual Favors.”  Yeah.  This was back when “checks” were a thing.

The check cleared the bank, don’t worry.  

So…I ended up having to find a new therapist.  And, unsurprisingly, the therapist who fired me hadn’t given me a referral.  It’s important to point out that, at this juncture, my medical doctor was feeling pretty put out by me.  Word travels in the medical world, and I was bitching and moaning about the Xanax and Paxil.  They made me sleepy, they made me hungry (okay, hungrier), they made me not give a damn about anything–yet I was still anxious.  Figure that one out.  They made me more depressed than I was before.  Bitch bitch bitch bitch bitch.  It’s who I am as a person and the pills just intensified that aspect of my personality.

A few weeks after being fired by my first therapist, I begrudgingly went to another therapist.  I was his last appointment of the day.  It ended up being another dude who dressed like and put off an aura of someone who thought he was the 21st century Freud.  As a bonus, this man also had the age and haircut to match.  He was precious.  But…my medical doctor was flustered with me, so I sat down in this man’s office and decided to just have the damn appointment.  His first question was about why my last therapist had “fired” me.

I told him that I wrote, “This goddamn list” on the list about things I didn’t care about, told the therapist he was a waste of time, and even told him about the check memo field.

And the fucker didn’t stop laughing for two minutes.

Okay.  So, maybe this new therapist wasn’t such a bad fellow.  When he finally settled down, he asked me why I had written that I didn’t give a damn about the list.  So, I told him that I thought it was stupid and I didn’t see how it would help my anxiety and depression and I was tired of feeling like I was just talking to a wall when I went to therapy.

This therapist looked me square in the eyes and said: “Who said you had to think it was a smart idea?  No one told you that you had to like writing the list.  No one told you that you had to understand how it might help.

Well, fuck me sideways.  That never occurred to me.

Of course, I responded with: “And I don’t like the pills my medical doctor prescribed.  They are actually making me more anxious and depressed.  And they make me care even less about everything.  But he won’t listen to me.  He just wants to quick fix my problem and be done with it.”

And then I started crying.

This man sat with me for an hour-and-a-half, long after his end of the day, and talked to me about a “Battle Plan”.  I wasn’t required to say a damn word.  He explained to me how no one therapy works across the board.  Not all people with depression and anxiety need or interact well with medication.  By the end of that hour-and-a-half, he suggested I try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), get weaned off of my medication (though I’d only been on it for about a month), and learn to just do the work involved in getting better, whether I understood it or not.  He explained that anxiety and depression are often lifelong issues for people who are diagnosed, but it was completely realistic to believe that I could learn the tools for learning to cope with these disorders.

All he made me promise was to come to my sessions, do the work assigned to me, and tell him immediately if I ever felt overwhelmed to the point that we were approaching a crisis.  Other than that, I had complete control over my therapy.

He told me that he could tell I was the type of person who liked to be challenged.  So, maybe it was time to start challenging those voices in my head.  He told me that my first assignment was that when my brain told me something bad, I had a list of five questions I needed to ask myself, which he wrote down for me:

“Is this thought true?”

“Where did this thought come from?”

“Is this a narcissistic thought?”

“Is this something I can change?”

“Is there an outside force that might have caused this thought?”

I told him that was stupid.  He agreed.  So, I agreed to do it.  Then he told me to do the “5 Things Exercise” when I was anxious:

5 Things I Can See

4 Things You Can Feel/Touch

3 Things You Can Hear

2 Things You Can Smell

1 Thing You Can Taste

I told him that was stupid, too.  He agreed.  So, I agreed to do it.

The one thing I didn’t do that he told me to do was to get my medical doctor to wean me off of the Xanax and Paxil.  When I left his office, I just flushed them and immediately went about finding a new medical doctor.

I saw that therapist 2 to 4 times a month for over a year.  And, to this day, while I don’t go to therapy anymore, I still use the tools and tricks he taught me–as well as other CBT exercises taught to me by other professionals he referred me to. I deal with anxiety often and depression from time to time–but I’ve only felt like I was in a crisis once in the last 7 years.  CBT doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me.

Most importantly, I learned that the doctors and therapists I chose mattered more than anything else in learning to cope with and live with my mental health disorders.  I needed to find people who “spoke my language” and listened and didn’t assume that they knew me better than I knew me.  I needed professionals who were my partners in dealing with my issues, not professionals who wanted me to surrender everything over to them and trust them emphatically with my well-being.

Some people need medication.  Some people need medication and therapy.  Some people do fine (or even great) with just therapy.  Some people need one kind of therapy while other people need another kind of therapy.  A good medical professional and a good mental health professional understand these things.

Those professionals are out there.  You just have to find them.

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29 thoughts on ““The List” – Or “Why I Got Fired By My Therapist”

  1. Soooooooo Glad you found therapist #2!! (Of course the story wouldn’t be quite what it is if you hadn’t of gone to #1 to begin with)

  2. Jeez. I’m not an expert but it doesn’t sound like doctor #1 was too with it. Who gives up on someone after just a few weeks or sessions. I’m sorry this happened and I’m glad you found people who were better able to help you.

  3. You’re so right about finding the right therapist! I know people that went to the “wrong” person for months and didn’t get anywhere, then changed it up and benefited after a few sessions. I went to therapy for a while before my weight loss surgery because I knew I had issues that were going to make me unsuccessful. It was the best thing I ever did! For the first time in my life, I was given validation for my feelings and the label of “trauma” was applied to a situation that I had always been made to feel like it shouldn’t have even affected me. It was so freeing! I’m glad you’re still here to fight the good fight and make us laugh in the process!

  4. Rivergirl said what I was gonna say! No fair! Seriously, though, being able to find humor in even the darkest things we have to go through is a damn gift. Also, thank you for writing about mental health. We still have a lot of work to destigmatize mental health issues!

    1. It is so crazy that there is such a stigma about something like living with depression and anxiety when it is so dang common. Granted, I felt a lot of shame for a long time about it–but that was because that was how I was told to felt. And I was young and stupid. I was supposed to “suck it up like a man” and “just get over it”. It’s hard to get over something that quite literally takes over your brain and convinces you that something like suicide is a good option. Of course, some folks don’t think about that before they give their helpful advice to “be a man”. I mean, I didn’t know having a penis (or a vagina, for that matter) made you exempt from a disease that affects THE BRAIN. LOL

      1. Agreed. “Be a man”… such stupid advice. What does that even mean? And why is there no counter for my gender. No one ever told me to “Be a woman” when dealing with problems. And trust me, since menopause? That’s probably a good thing!

      2. I can’t even imagine the pressure men feel with that “suck it up and be a man” bullshit. I don’t understand how it’s still a stigma, ESPECIALLY with the world we are living in!

                1. There’s a lot of licking of logcutters going on here. Wait. Are we lining up to lick logcutters or bringing our logcutters and then lining up so that assholes can get in line to lick them? I’m so confused right now!!!! Plus, this has become a bit of a tongue twister…so to speak. Also, I don’t have a logcutter per se, uhm, how bout I bring my three cats and dog to the party and the assholes can lick my pets…wait! That was wrong of me. Plus my animals don’t want to have their privates licked by some sorry assholes. So, uhm, sorry. Dammit. How about I just direct the assholes where they can line up to lick y’all’s logcutters? This is starting to sound somewhat pornographic and orgy-istic as well? Can we put Louie, Louie on fullblast now?
                  Mona

                  1. Also, all this “be a man” silliness just screams for Frankie Valli and the Four
                    Seasons to be playing in the background. I tell you what, I’ll bring the music to this little get together. How about that? I just try and do what I can!
                    Mona

                  2. We are definitely going to be the ones lining up for assholes to lick OUR logcutters. As long as I’m fully understanding what a logcutter is, I REALLY hope you have one 😂😂🤣🤣🤣🤣

  5. You totally crack me up… even when discussing painful issues, and the ability to see the humor in bad situations is a gift I hope you never lose.
    Personally, I think you’d be an utterly delightful patient… but then I’m not everyone’s cup of tea either. Very glad you found someone who could help, and that those techniques have worked through the years. Depression is a horrible thing.

  6. Allen,
    I’m so glad you shared this post. You highlight something that is so important for people to understand — not every therapist out there is a good therapist and not every therapist and client develop the rapport needed (therapeutic relationship) that’s so critical for therapy to take place. As much of a dick as your first therapist was, he did you a favor of sorts by cutting you loose so you could find someone with whom you could establish that good client/therapist relationship. He just went about it in a way that I’d question whether it borders on being unethical. But I’m just a student, so what the fuck do I know? I’m so sorry that happened to you! BTW, if it helps, I was fired once by my therapist too (she retired not long afterward) and then I went in for an initial consultation/intake interview by another therapist (with a humongous ego) and I wasn’t taken on, which was probably a good thing. Anyway, thank you for letting me know that I’m not the only one out there who’s experienced this. When it happened, I felt utterly humiliated because — wtf does it say about me when even my therapist and then another therapist after that rejects me?!!!! It took awhile, but I got over that shit when I realized it wasn’t me. It truly was them; but it’s only cost me thousands of dollars and getting a masters in counseling to get what happened there. I realize now, that it was important for me to have experienced this (twice) so that I might grow to be a more sensitive therapist (hopefully) one of these days; but I’m existentialist by nature and I believe that everything happens for a reason — I just don’t always understand why something has happened. The most important takeaway from your post, though, is that you didn’t give up on yourself and that you eventually found a good therapist who truly facilitated your growth and helped you learn how to manage your symptoms. I love CBT and I use it a lot with clients. I also use the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique — again, a lot. Matter of fact, I just used this with my son while we were at Chuy’s on Saturday and it helped the shit out of him! Otherwise, we were going to have to leave the restaurant without eating. Oh, the power of a good grounding technique to help a person get out of their head and back to their present surroundings! Invaluable AF.) And I also try to use a sense of humor and a double dose of humility when working with others, which has mostly worked for me, so far. Sometimes, though, humor is inappropriate at a particular moment and only major empathy and compassion is needed. Humility, however, is never inappropriate. Again, I know I’ve gone on far too long. Sorry. However, Allen, your post was, indeed, “real” and so important! Hugs without touching,
    Mona

    1. I’ll tell ya’, Mona, I was PISSED at that first therapist for weeks afterwards. Which was good because it made me more willing to talk about it with my new therapist. If the humiliation and embarrassment had sunk in sooner, I probably would have kept it to myself. However, in retrospect, I tend to agree that he did me a favor. We were not going to achieve anything working together. Finding a new medical doctor and a new therapist who was more empathetic and not defensive when I pushed back was what I needed. And speaking of the “5 Things Exercise”–a lot of my friends (who don’t really have any mental health issues) get tired of me telling them to practice it when they’re stressed or anxious. LOL JoJo has heard it from me numerous times when she is getting overwhelmed with work or life. But…it works.

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