I love my therapist. I really do. In fact, I love her so much that at the end of my sessions I want to leap up from the couch, hug her and never let her go. But I don’t, because I’m assuming that might be pushing it. Although since I don’t know for sure, I may try it sometime. But recently, a friend who has his PhD in clinical psychology warned me: It’s not always in the best interest of the patient to love their therapist. In fact, he thinks my therapist is a quack.
I have been in and out of therapy since I was seven years old. Why I was in therapy at such a young age is an entirely different story, but let’s just say I was born with the nervous system of an 80-year-old woman. If there was anything to worry about, I did; and that included such obscure things like asteroids hitting earth and the planet being sucked up by the sun and dissolving in a fiery explosion. We can thank my father for these thoughts.
While I have many friends who have tried therapists, realized they weren’t for them and tried again as if rifling through a sample sale in the hopes of a perfect fit, I’ve always been lucky when it came to therapists. For me, there’s always been an immediate connection with my therapists, and the only reason we’ve had break-ups is either because I moved, they moved or insurance stopped funding our trysts.
There’s only one therapist, or rather “analyst,” who I’ve truly hated: The one to whom I was appointed after a brief stay in Beth Israel hospital for suicide attempt. Where other therapists had been warm and loving, he was cold and harsh. He stared at me blankly, never cracked a smile and, as I grew more and more frustrated, he’d simply ask, “How does that make you feel?” Well, you really want to know how that makes me feel? Here, I’ll tell you: “Go fuck yourself, you heartless prick.” The second my sentence (as I call it) was up, I stopped going and resolved to find a therapist who, unlike this particular doctor, actually had blood pumping through their veins.
But my psychology expert/friend says I’ve got it all wrong. According to him, the only kind of valid therapy is psychoanalysis (the kind developed by Sigmund Freud). The idea is for the analyst to listen to the patient as they talk about their problems, fantasies, concerns—anything that comes to mind— and allow the patient to work through their own issues instead of giving them advice. The idea is that with time, the patient will have to confront their unconscious; the analyst probing them to develop insights that will eventually resolve whatever issues are at hand. And therapists who say otherwise? They’re basically quacks: There should be no instant connection, fabulous rapport, or promised postcards at the end of a good run. Just “how does that make you feel?”
As with all practices, this theory has its critics and fans. I may have failed psychology (it was an 8am class…on Fridays!), but I’m a critic.
Personally, it’s dialogue that makes me reflect, not a man who lacks emotion and only opens his mouth to ask me how something makes me feel. I need someone who laughs when I crack a bad joke, because that’s what human beings do when something is funny. My sister may think I’m just using her to practice out my comedy routine, but it’s more than that. I leave each session deep in thought about what was discussed, and although her techniques are a far cry from Freud’s idea of an ideal patient-analyst relationship, for me it works. And honestly, I don’t understand how one can mentally heal if they’re too busy being frustrated and hating the person they pay to see once or twice a week.
Cilantro is at the top of my long list of dislikes; I certainly don’t think my therapist needs to be added to my shit list. But this is just one woman’s opinion—and yeah, yeah I failed psychology—so maybe my thoughts on the topic don’t hold much water. But even if my therapist is a quack, I love her.