After storming out of the therapist's office, I got in my car and slammed the door as hard as I possibly could before screaming, "I HATE THAT BITCH!" at the top of my lungs and dialing my dad. He answered the phone to a sobbing daughter who'd just been sucker punched. I explained what had happened between waterworks and he said exactly what I needed someone to say at that moment - "That's not what a marriage therapist is supposed to do at all."
My dad talked to me for a few minutes to try to calm me down (without success) until Josh came out to the car. When I hung up with my dad, Josh said that it probably wasn't a good idea to ever see that therapist again. And that was that.
We were lucky enough that I accidentally scheduled an appointment with our new therapist immediately following that disaster. If it weren't for that appointment, I probably would have given up on trying to salvage what little is left of our relationship. It's hard enough as it is to save a dwindling marriage without someone telling you that your efforts are worthless. Upon seeing me with my swollen eyes and a hundred soggy tissues in hand, R.J. asked what had happened. Josh explained everything and our new, compassionate therapist responded, "Well, I don't believe that one bit. You could have given up a long time ago, but you're here, aren't you? That means there is hope."
That appointment was such a blessing. R.J. had us explain what our individual Number One need was in our marriage; for Josh is was personal time to relax, for me it was quality time with Josh with no distractions. Pretty conflicting, huh? But R.J. saw Josh's lack of enthusiasm and suggested a simple compromise - each Saturday morning from 10 to 12, Josh has committed to spending time with me without phones or computers and engaging in casual conversation and I have committed to being relaxed and keeping the conversation light (no marriage talk) during those 2 hours together. Baby steps. It was as simple as that. He gave us direction and understanding, something we never had with our old therapist. I immediately knew that this was going to be good for us.
The horrific experience I had with our first therapist doesn't have to be your experience. My advice?
1. Thoroughly investigate a therapist's qualifications and specialties before making an appointment. Because Military OneSource referred us to her, I assumed this woman had experience with counseling couples. Boy, was I wrong! Only after we were halfway through our 12 sessions did I wise up and research this horrible person. Turns out her specialties include eating disorders, depression, and anxiety...I don't see anything in there about couples' counseling, do you?
2. I said THOROUGHLY! Look that bitch up on Yelp, Psychology Today, etc. It's important that you know what other people thought of their experience with this therapist. If enough people put up red flags, steer clear.
3. If, at your first appointment, you feel uncomfortable and closed off, don't panic. It's a new and very difficult experience to open up to a complete stranger, but give it time. Personally, I think three appointments is sufficient time to get comfy with your therapist. If you still feel a knot in your stomach after Appointment #3, find a new therapist. You don't want to get to Appointment #7 and realize your confidant is an asshole.
4. A good marital therapist will NEVER tell you that your marriage is over or that your efforts are in vain. A good marital therapist WILL give you direction and insight into steps you can take to better your relationship with your spouse and with yourself.
5. A good therapist will not treat you like an afterthought. He will remember why you are coming to him, what you talked about in all the previous sessions, and ask you how you're doing and how you've progressed since you last met. If your therapist has to ask you what you discussed during your last session, get outta there! You obviously aren't important enough for him to remember why he's helping you in the first place.
If you're searching for a therapist, having trouble with your current one, or are unsure if therapy is right for you, PLEASE don't hesitate to give it a try. You might find that therapy is good for your soul and good for your marriage. And if you have any questions at all regarding your personal search for a therapist or about my journey, shoot me an email - I'm an open book.