It’s Time for Therapist’s to Reexamine Their Thoughts on Their Client’s Ability to Get Well

Therapist’s need to believe their client’s can and will heal

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I attended a function last weekend and heard some marvelous speakers. They told their stories of recovery from severe mental health issues. While listening to them speak, I was reminded of something. I have written about this topic before, but it needs to be reiterated over and again. This theme needs to be desperately heard by those who treat any type of mental health problem, and especially something as exacerbating as Dissociative Identity Disorder.

People in treatment for any type of mental disorder or disability excel when their therapist believes they WILL get well.

The Miracle of Life Giving Recovery

That may sound like a simple statement, but it is full of meaning. When a therapist believes their patient is going to get well, they exude the confidence and hope that their clients need.

One must remember that people living with DID have been severely betrayed and are very ill. They need hope and care. When they encounter a therapist, who shows them in both verbal and non-verbal languages that they believe in their ability to get well, the miracle of life giving recovery.

However, the Converse is True

If someone walks into a therapist’s office with DID and your belief is they will never, ever get well, it is written all over you. Oh, the words may not be spoken, and you may placate that client, but they won’t heal. They will only get well exactly as much as you feel they can, and if you don’t believe they will heal, they will not.

Why is this?

Humans are social animals, and we depend on each other for all kinds of support, including emotional. We are also very intuitive. We can sense whether another person likes us, or believes in us. We all do it without thinking about it. We form our self-beliefs quite a bit on what we believe others feel about us from verbal and non-verbal cues.

So, all too often when a client enters a therapist’s office suffering from the symptoms of living with DID they are usually desperately looking for help. They need acceptance and hope not someone thinking to themselves “He/she is a hopeless case”.

I Know I’m Being Too Harsh

I have had personal experience with both types of therapists. My first therapist was very supportive and did not doubt for a moment I was going to get well. If she did, she was very good at hiding it. She was tirelessly dedicated to finding ways to help me deal with my symptoms, and ways to help bring them under control.

However, after I lost her for a while I fell into the care of several therapists who were wholeheartedly the opposite. I felt so lost and alone, then began to quickly decline until I was placed inpatient where I lived for over seven years. One of my therapists told my family that I was totally hopeless case, and that’s how it felt.

What?

If a therapist doesn’t know or want to treat a client, they should not accept them even for the first appointment and be honest with them. A therapist should never be afraid to admit to themselves they aren’t qualified to treat someone, or be afraid to say the magic words, “I don’t know”.

Now, I realize there is very little training available on how to treat DID, but my first therapist didn’t know either.

How Did My First Therapist Do It?

Actually, she flew by the seat of her pants and called enormously on her training but SHE NEVER, EVER GAVE UP! She never thought to herself or said to me in any physical or verbal fashion that I was hopeless and a waste of her time. Yes, she did employ some very tough tactics when I acted childishly or got stuck in my own misery, but she always was my rock.

She was the one person I knew was going to be there.

I knew she believed in me.

Her belief and solidarity made all the difference in the world.

I am now functioning very well and living an average and very successful life. All because someone believed that I would.

More Therapists Need to Believe in Their Clients

The state of Illinois has a slogan, “The Expectation is Recovery”. Providers all over the world need to reconsider their thoughts on the clients they treat and align themselves with this motto.

Perhaps you can reexamine the reasons you got into the listening profession.

Did you get in it for the money? I hope no. There isn’t much to be earned.

Did you get in it for prestige? I hope not, there isn’t much prestige in being someone who sits in an office and listens to people’s problems all day.

Did you get into the listening profession because you thought it was easy? I hope not. Being a counselor must be one of the toughest and most draining jobs in the world.

Or

Did you get into it to help people overcome their psychiatric difficulties and learn to live healthy happy lives? I hope so. This is the noblest profession, helping others.

No One is Hopeless, All People Are Valuable

I didn’t write this piece to tell people off. I wrote it to reiterate what many people hopefully already know. People who enter a therapist’s office ARE NOT hopeless cases, and are valuable human beings.

NO MATTER WHAT THEIR DIAGNOSIS!

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, and that each of us has something that no one else has or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

Fred Rogers