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Beyond Blue

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Awhile back I published an excerpt from Judith Schwartz’s amazing book, “The Therapist’s New Clothes.” Her words left me with many more questions than answers, so I’ve decided to interview her about the unique and complicated relationship between a therapist and her client. Judith is a journalist and author who’s latest book, “The Therapist’s New Clothes”, is a memoir about training as a psychotherapist–and a cautionary tale about the seductions of therapy. Click here to visit her website.

Question: You have written a brave and bold book about not making psychotherapy your God. Wow. Can you give us five warnings signs that you’ve become too dependent on psychotherapy?

Judith:

  • Your treatment becomes more interesting to you than other aspects of your life
  • Your mind keeps running in psychotherapy mode much of the time
  • A therapy appointment is not merely the highlight of your day/week, but the time that feels most “real”; all else pales in comparison
  • If someone questions whether your therapy is helping, you get extremely defensive, even enraged
  • The mere thought of having to miss an appointment sends you into a panic

Question: How does a person go about finding a psychotherapist that she can trust?

Judith: Credentials and reputation are important but not a guarantee. I’d be wary of anyone who tries to impose restrictions on you, or is so invested in a treatment philosophy that you don’t feel he or she is really “getting” you. You want someone who is trying to understand where you are as opposed to fitting you in to a particular view or treatment school.

Question: And finally, how do you make peace with the fact that you can’t fix yourself entirely?

Judith: That was never the problem for me — I would gladly have remained unfixed if I felt okay. I felt miserable all the time (what I now know as mixed anxiety and depression) and bought into the idea that “working out my issues” was the only way to get better. The effort I devoted to psychotherapy treatment reflected my desperation to feel better. Now that, thanks to medication, I am better, I need to accept that I’m not going to feel okay all the time. I have to remind myself that I’ll have low or anxious days, and that this doesn’t mean that I’ll never feel okay again. That’s what I have to make peace with: the fact that I’ll always have that fear.

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