Hello. I am a 56-year-old male who has been going to a therapist for a year now. The thing that bothers me most is she begins our session and asks “What’s up?” or “What’s been going on?”, then she keeps quiet all the time as I ramble on about the stressful days of the past week. Am I supposed to get some sort of feedback from the therapist, like advice or something? She is young, about late 20s I guess. I really would like to know if someone else has the same kind of therapist who just sits there, and lets you do all the talking? I am not such a chatter mouth as to not let her chime in; in fact, I'm stuck at times to think what to say. Am I just there to talk only? Should she be saying or asking me questions? I am suicidal and tried to end my life a year ago. I spent a week in the hospital in a coma from an OD. I feel a little okay now, but I think it's the drugs the psychiatrist doctor has been giving me that are helping me. I want so much for her to tell me something and respond to me what to do to get better. What should I say to her? She also takes me in 15 minutes after my scheduled appointment time and ends the session a few minutes before my hour is up. I don't want to insult her, and I like to talk to her, as I am very comfortable with my therapist. The therapist office is in walking distance and takes my insurance. Also, it is very convenient for me to go there as I am partially handicapped. I am very attached to going to see her; I look forward to it, as I have no one else to talk to. Can someone please respond to me? What to do? Please help. Thank you for reading my post. - Questioning Client
Thank you for writing in with this very thoughtful question; you raise some important therapeutic issues that deserve to be addressed. Before getting to your question, I would just like to acknowledge your courage and perseverance. Despite the frustrations you have with your therapist, you are still willing to go in week after week to work on the issues that you are struggling with. It sounds like only 1 year ago, you were at a point of such despair and desperation that you nearly ended your life. Today, however, you are so committed to your healing that you are regularly working with a psychiatrist on the medicinal aspects of your treatment and also working very hard in your therapy sessions.
To be honest, Kevin, when I read your question, I cringed at the thought of your therapist routinely starting your sessions 15 minutes late and ending early. The therapy hour is a very precious one and one that should be reserved for you and only you—it is your time, period. Of course, a session right before yours might run a little late every once in a while, but this should not be a weekly occurrence, and when it does happen, the time you lost at the beginning of the hour should be added on to the end of the hour. As for her lack of active participation in your sessions, this could be a result of her training and the approach she takes in her work—some approaches to therapy call for therapists to remain detached from their clients. The rationale for this detachment tends to be rooted in a desire to maintain therapeutic boundaries; your therapist’s disregard for the start and stop times of sessions, however, runs contrary to a focus on therapeutic boundaries.
One thing that seems clear from your question is that you like your therapist and you appreciate the time and space offered by your sessions to work on healing. This tells me that a good therapeutic relationship has developed between the two of you during the year that you have been working together. I hope that the combination of this therapeutic relationship and the courage that you so clearly bring to therapy will allow you to talk to her about the issues you raised. They are absolutely legitimate issues and very worthy of discussing with her.
It can be anxiety provoking, and even frightening, to think about having this kind of conversation with your therapist—you even mention not wanting to insult her. However, for many people, maybe even most, a significant part of therapy is learning how to have fair, direct conversations aimed at getting their needs met, while being open to hearing the other side of the situation. What better place to practice this kind of conversation than within the safety of the therapeutic relationship? Hopefully, she will be open to hearing what you have to say and will be willing to work with you on these issues. If she is not, it might be in your best interest to consider looking for a therapist who is a better fit for you.