Letter to a psychotherapist
Dear Dr. Kim,
My mother has been in therapy for five years, and it hasn't done a thing for her. She always was a motor-mouth, and now she talks non-stop about her therapy sessions. It's disgusting. When my wife was in counselling she was told to safeguard her privacy. What can my mother be getting out of this so-called psychotherapy?
Dr. Kim replies:
Irritating you, it would seem. Perhaps she is lonely or bored and seeks attention. If you are looking for a suggestion, you might tell your mother that being with her is conditional on her not talking about her therapy. If she agrees but breaks her word, cut it short; end the visit or phonecall right away. Hopefully she will catch on after this happens a few times. But think it through first. If you need help with guilt feelings or with foreseeing and dealing with the fallout, consult an assertive family member you trust, an assertive friend, or a short term counsellor or relationship coach.
Besides the practical aspect, you raise some questions about psychotherapy, and "what is it good for?". Many authorities would say that long term therapy that seems to make no difference is not only a waste of time, but counterproductive--that it encourages a person like your mother to stay stuck and believe that it's the therapist's job to square their circle, i.e., to get used to being immature and emotionally dependent in an unhealthy way. Others would say that your mother's therapy might be giving her support that will give her the opportunity to grow at her own pace, or when she's ready. I hear you groaning. In my opinion, if a psychotherapy client with your mother's personality isn't being challenged, nothing useful will happen. I think short term or brief therapy based on goals would be more likely to achieve some results, but it needs to be done in a sensitive way. One of the qualities of a really good and experienced therapist is the ability to gauge how much challenge the client can handle. If your mother's psychotherapist doesn't challenge her at all, the therapist is selling her short.
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Copyright © 1998 M. Mares
Short term therapy is provided by many psychotherapists in Toronto, and typically consists of short term dynamic psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)