Therapists must stop peddling “Recovery” as a Holy Grail

Dear Friends

Do you sometimes feel frustrated with your Therapist? I’m sorry to say that, in a selfish way, I hope you can relate to this little story.

I’m looking for a new therapist and I had an initial phone call with a woman who presented on the internet as experienced and wise. I explained that I was 57 and that my father began the sexual abuse when I was 6. I was inviting her to recognise that I had survived for over half a century. I explained that I had experienced numerous therapists; and that I had made progress with them in working through different aspects of my life.  I explained to this wise woman that I do best when I have a long-term relationship with a therapist with whom I can do pieces of work whenever the need arises. I explained that I generally do okay but at 57 have a good insight into what I need.

Truth be told I am quite proud of myself for coming this far and being able to work out for myself what I need and to be able to ask for it. But the wise woman’s response blew me away:

She invited me to consider that the issue I had with my abuse was one of attachment. And that if we could resolve that then I could heal or recover.

That lit the touch-paper for me. Don’t get me wrong: I know that I have issues with attachment, but that was not what I was asking to discuss. I was asking to be able to have sessions to manage aspects of my life that risked becoming unmanageable. And I doubt that each issue I present leads to attachment theory.

So, if there are any therapists reading this: please don’t assume that all Survivors (or victims) of childhood abuse will be healed or expect to be healed.

Therapists must not assume that

  • We are all after the holy grail of Recovery and Healing
  • Survivors and Victims are a homogeneous group
  • We want to be told how to think and feel

I don’t know about you but I spent a life-time (yes a lifetime) being told

  1. How to think
  2. What is best for me
  3. What to feel
  4. What not to feel

And now I’m learning to undo all of this and, at the ripe old age of 57, I’m learning to think for myself!

So, to return to the Holy Grail of Recovery. I have wounds that will not heal. (I do not have scars.) I have wounds that break open and ooze their poisonous filth unexpectedly. For sure, I am better than I was in my 20’s but I still suffer horribly. I still get flashbacks, weird out-of-body experiences, sudden inexplicable terrors, mysterious illnesses, fears, rages, moments of seemingly intolerable sadness. And yes, I do have a constant fear of abandonment. But much of the time the struggle is manageable IF I get support. That’s how I manage and that’s how I seek to be understood.

I am the expert in my own condition—indeed in my own human condition and my own brokenness. I am still angry that this wise woman somehow thought, after a few moments’ conversation, that she could put me together again where countless others have “failed”. Most of all I was angry that this therapist wanted me to fit into a box of Survival and Recovery that was her own construct. Not mine.

It’s so important, isn’t it, to recognise that we Survivors or Victims are not all conforming to some well-researched model of Recovery. Yes, we have similar symptoms or clusters of symptoms and behaviours that by degrees help us to cope with life, as we know it. Yes, we all make progress and then fall back. And then there are those to whom I also pay tribute: the Victims I know who took their own lives and have never had a shot at making progress that felt meaningful or significant.

To Therapists I say this: we are not a homogeneous group. And to you my friends I would add that, it’s the similarities that we share, together with the differences, shades and nuances that we feel safe to disclose, that make blogging like this so validating and so valuable.

Thank you, my friends: because I can be sure that you “Get it.”

PS Tell me: are you seeking Recovery?

PPS: The photograph was taken on holiday in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

17 Comments Add yours

  1. losing200fun says:

    Thank you! I’m beginning to suspect my wounds will be with mr for life, and tho I can still manage to live a full and healthy life, there is no cure/fix. If my father had chopped off one of my legs, no one would think any treatment could help me grow it back. I think the wounds from sexual abuse don’t fully heal, but with hard work we can learn to cope and thrive.

    Like

  2. The four points you mentioned fits me to a T as well. Sick of it. Often being told where to get off to when I talk about things too much to uninformed people. Or to those who cannot cope with the subject. I’m also impressed with what you said that at 57 you know what it is you need. Glad I found this blog. Nan Mykel introduced it by her reblog.

    Like

    1. Hi and thankyou for your reply. Being able to make the connection with people who share similar experiences is what I like so much about blogging.

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      1. It’s busy saving my sanity. I’ve been in denial about it for a long time but it isn’t working. So I’m researching other people’s experience. It’s very supportive.

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        1. Yes. It does help. In fact I have a post scheduled for this afternoon which is very much about keeping sanity. It’s wonderful to be able to reach out!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. La Quemada says:

    I have a good relationship with my long-time therapist, but I have a similar reaction when she talks sometimes about how she likes my “yearning for wholeness,” as if wholeness is something I lack now but am striving to achieve. In her case, it may just be a thoughtless use of words, because most of the time she does NOT interact with me as though I’m a broken object needing repair, but simply a woman who struggles, sometimes more, sometimes less, with the repercussions of things that happened to her a long time ago.

    “Recovery” – I wonder what that is supposed to be in the minds of therapists who believe they offer that. Maybe it means reduced reactivity to triggers? How do they know if we are “recovered?”

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  4. Nan Mykel says:

    Reblogged this on NANMYKEL.COM and commented:
    Hope some therapists are following your blog! I’m re-blogging.

    Like

  5. Laura Black says:

    Reading this, I felt angry. Not specifically because this therapist had preconceptions of what you ‘should’ be struggling with, but that she clearly didn’t listen to you. They’ve all got their own theories, models and trainings, but one essential aspect of any decent therapist is listening and really hearing what a client says. This person did not. She decided she already knew. So although this call must have been upsetting, it’s good that you had it and can rule her out.

    RE recovery as a concept; I don’t see recovery as a goal. I see living a healthy and fulfilling life as my goal. Recovery is the process by which I might access that. The term is heavily used in the 12 step programmes, but rarely does anyone I come across at CoDA consider it to be a destination. Most people I know from meetings refer to themselves as ‘in recovery’ if they are attending meetings, recognising what is unmanageable for them, and honestly working on themselves. It makes sense to me when I see it that way.

    Laura x

    Like

  6. owningitlog says:

    Growth, I just want to grow.

    Thank you for your strong and insightful words.
    -Brian

    Like

    1. Thanks for calling by and for the compliment. Together we are all stronger.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It doesn’t take too much to open an office and call oneself a therapist or counselor. It’s a rare one that works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t know how I missed your response Grace. Yes, it is rare to find a Counsellor who “Gets it”

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you Liz. Yes I have unfortunately met the full gamut of Counsellors. Probably 30% not for me… not bad as such, but Counsellors who just didn’t Get It!

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  9. Liz says:

    Recovery is along hard road and no matter what our awful experiences are that caused it, it will never go away, it’s somehow finding our own way to keep moving forward and the pain feel less. To manage the easier in some way. But we can only find this. No one can tell us. I am glad to hear you find blogging helps. It helps me too and I hope you find the right counsellor for you. Luckily, I have never xperienced a bad counsellor over the years I have used them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A says:

      Is it weird to say that I some how feel upset at the fact that recovering completely is impossible, theres only room to ease the pain and make it less. I feel like that’s hard. How is one meant to cope if thats the case?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. No not at all weird. We are all so very different and in some ways that was part of my post. Liz, I’ve just hopped aboard your blog and read you as the creative woman you are. You have bags of energy and, it seems to me, you have wisdom. I was energised when I read some of your work and I’m pleased you’ve put forward an alternative view on my page. So keep on pushing towards that diamond! Take care now

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Liz says:

          Thank you Serena and as you have mentioned to A who commented, I agree too, it is not at all weird and we are all dfferent. We are all unique.
          Glad you like my pots Serena and that you find energy and wisdom from them. I really appreciate it. I try to keep a positive to my blog as I have progressed, but obviously I may have down times and my blog reflects this, as you know. X

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