Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Seeing a Psychotherapist

I've never had any form of counselling or psychotherapy. I'm far too British and 'stiff upper lip.'

I'm very happy sharing pretty much anything with friends. But strangers? Oh no!

(Makes it somewhat ironic that I've now taken up blogging, and share everything with thousands of people I've never met, doesn't it?)

I remember being totally shocked when I first went to the USA, and every time I went into a shop someone said "Hi! How are you today?" Initially I'd look over my shoulder, assuming they were talking to someone else, then bite back the urge to say "I'm sorry, but have we met before?"

The other thing that alarms me about the concept of seeing a psychotherapist is that it also spells psycho-the-rapist. I mean, how off-putting is that?!?

But then, as part of my 'cancer care package' I've been offered six sessions of free psychotherapy. I've been married to a Scot for far too long to turn down a bargain like that, so yesterday I turned up for my first session.

Here's how it went:

Therapist: So, SM, how are you? (steady gaze)
Me: Fine, thank you for asking. (steady gaze back)
Therapist: No, SM. How are you really? (hard stare)
Me: Fine! (slight bottom lip tremble)
Therapist: No. How are you really really? (penetrating stare)
Me: (uncontrollable weeping)

I started to offload and, actually, it felt pretty good. Cathartic. Until I got to this bit:

Therapist: How do you feel about the possibility of your children losing their mother?
Me: (staring at box of tissues)
Therapist: SM?
Me: I don't even consider it. (glare)
Therapist: But when you do consider it, how do you feel?
Me: I can't even let myself go there. (super hard stare)
Therapist: Why can't you think about it?
Me: Because they are way too young to be without their mother! (more uncontrollable weeping)


Therapist: How did you feel when I made you answer that question?
Me: I hate you.
Therapist: It's good that you can be honest with me.

Really? Just wait till I get started....

Despite the spat over my potentially motherless children, I've signed up for five more sessions. I explained that since my cancer diagnosis I've gone from being little-miss-optimistic to Chicken Licken - constantly fretting that the sky is going to fall on my head, and the heads of everyone I love. (See my post: Panic Attacks).

We are, apparently, going to use cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to sort that one out. Plus, she's throwing in some mindfulness practice to try and keep me anchored in the present rather than fast forwarding to certain, painful death and motherless children.

So, I was interested to hear on the news today, that a review published in the British Medical Journal yesterday finds that CBT is as effective a treatment for major depression as anti-depressants.

CBT is defined as 'a series of techniques that teach patients how to replace dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours with more adaptive ones, which can reduce distress and improve mood.'

It struck me that that's exactly what I've been training myself to do in the nine months since I quit drinking. And it transpires that CBT is increasingly being used to treat alcohol dependency, by helping people to identify their triggers and develop new coping strategies.

I figure that I'm going to start the new year all physically fixed (ten months sober by then, and cancer free - I hope). I might as well develop some really good emotional strategies too. That way, if the sky really does fall down again, I'll be ready with a bucket.

Love to you all,

SM x


  1. I love my therapist. I had never gone to one, but when I decided to be serious about being sober I knew I needed help and that was option 1.
    She has been a life saver. I have severe generalized anxiety and depression, but I have hidden it for years. I'm finally open about it and working through it.

    I do think CBT is an excellent too. But I do no think it is effective as antidepressants for a person with severe depression. Most studies relate it to mild depression. Perhaps a tool that helps a person who is down see the bright side.

    Deep depression has no bright side.

    Anyway, I think it will be a great thing for you to explore. Although she sounds a tad scary.

    Mindfullness is the key to my own personal recovery and inner peace. If I live for today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, I can life fully.

    I look forward to hearing more!


  2. That's powerful stuff SM. I'm glad you took up this offer. You have had one hell of a year, and have SAVED YOUR OWN LIFE, so time to let someone help with the heavy lifting. What a fabulous year 2016 will be.....

  3. Hi SM,
    I love my therapist, too!
    But I have had some not so good ones.
    I have used CBT too, and it can be helpful.
    I am like Anne. I also need some medication for my depression.
    You have been through a lot.
    Hugs and Love,

  4. Weirdly I assumed it was a bloke, just from your description. When I had issues when my son was small, and I had for a short period a brilliant health visitor, she referred me for counselling and I found him vicious - quite dangerous I thought. A subsequent attempt was more successful. It's an odd thing though. But it's good it's free - if you found it helpful you could continue or go elsewhere if you wanted and could afford, in the future. Have you seen Freaky Friday - the remake with Lindsay Lohan? Funny bit about therapy in there...

  5. I'm still trying to figure out why she asked you repeatedly how you felt about your children possibly losing their mother. That really seems like a shitty and unnecessary question!

    I've had a number of counselors in the past, starting way back when I was in college. Generally speaking, I think they're a great idea. I hope your experience is helpful (and she doesn't ask you any more stupid questions like that!).

    1. I agree. You put it so well too DobieGirl. I have massively benefitted from different forms of counselling over the years. But I know close friends who had very different experiences than I did and it put them off seeking help for life. I sincerely hope you and your psychotherapist build a strong relationship and you reap the rewards of his/her professional judgement. LNM x

    2. Yes I agree. My daughter (20) does a brilliant impression on periodic occasions of a very elderly lady. I always feel sad that I will never be there to see her as a pensioner. I know that sounds pathetic but for me it's close to a panic attack. And so thinking about younger children, it's heartbreaking. Does your therapist have children? Had a conversation with a colleague recently about social workers without children. It's an issue.

    3. I presume that since she works so much with cancer patients they often want to discuss their feelings about leaving their children mother/fatherless. But I really didn't! I forgive her though! I think it'll be helpful....

  6. Good luck. I'm training as a counsellor not using behavioural techniques I'm following a person centered approach...
    But I've had cbt in the past it was useful at the time. Again good luck

    1. Welcome Graham! Do you think CBT is helpful with alcohol issues? SM x

  7. Hi SM,
    That's great you get to see a therapist as part of your care plan. It can only help. I have been wanting to see one for a while now but unfortunately can't afford it at the moment. I think it would be very beneficial. Make the most of it.