Here is some salient advice: Don’t write a blog about couples therapy right before you go to couples therapy. It’s bad karma. Or maybe your couples therapist reads your blog. I mean, who knows.
Here is some more salient advice (for the therapist): Don’t assume you are smarter than your client. You’re probably not. Therapy is a business of hope–and dealing in hope requires some real self-deception, because, face it, sometimes life is just nihilistic.
In other words, aren’t I in a good mood today.
Fact is, every time I get things just about where I want them, some human being or another comes along and wants something diametrically opposed to what I want and screws up all my plans. Which is really annoying.
In this case, the couples therapist (alias: Stork) decided he wanted to direct the therapy. Hello! This is never going to happen. I mean, he comes in, tells us he’s double-booked the session after us and needs to go to his computer to email people so they don’t all show up at the same time (he’s double-booked us twice), and then, when he comes back, decides he’s going to start this discussion about what we said in the first 5 minutes of phone interview and can’t we go back to that. In other words, he’s having control issues. He is, as my partner would say, talking too much again.
I’m grateful for his unusual level of flightiness, because it just reinforces that there’s no reason to give him any more power than we absolutely have to. He’s always like, “Maybe, Lyralen, some day you’ll trust me enough to let me do IFS therapy with you.”
NOT! NEVER! ARE YOU F-ING KIDDING?
I’m like, “I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.” (Yes, I really do say these things.)
I think my partner just sits back and enjoys the show, silently thinking, “Now you see what I have to go through on a daily basis.” She also thinks I’m funny even when I’m saying these things to her, which I believe is called love.
I have learned this year that couples therapy, unlike individual, is completely therapist-centric. They sit at the center, they tell you when you and your partner can talk, they correct your communication, they give you orders, they educate (supposedly), and you are supposed to sit there and receive their feedback, try to meet their standards, accept their definitions.
NOT! Doing this for even 5 minutes makes me insane!
I know, I know, I am a recalcitrant and rebellious client, otherwise known as a High-Maintenance-Pain-in-the-Ass. But really, why did I spend 2/3 of my life reclaiming my voice, learning feminist empowerment, getting assertive, etc, if I was going to roll over and play dead in couples therapy?
I had an individual therapist (who’s quite well known) who told me that couples therapy is in its most primitive stages and that it didn’t work. All the interruptions and communication corrections made couples dependent on the couples therapist and once therapy was over, couples split up. She believe Imago therapy to be the exception. Some people believe David Schnarch’s Passionate Marriage theories to be the exception. Our couples therapist believes IFS to be the exception. There is no proof for any of these beliefs. It’s kind of like trying to prove there’s a god.
Personally, I’ve found if the couples therapist just shuts up and lets my partner and I talk to each other, we mostly get 50 minutes of real clarity. And if we screw up and stop hearing each other, then the therapist can be useful. Maybe. (The Stork is useful about 50% of the time. He’s either really present or out to lunch. This, in my experience, isn’t that bad for a therapist.)
The therapist shutting up also allows me to be much more the center of attention, which I prefer at least 50% of the time in general, and much more of the time in couples therapy.
The Stork, of course, isn’t quite as on board for this theory as I’d hoped. But that’s okay. I can either 1) spin some more ridiculous bullshit or 2) state the obvious or 3) turn it back on him. My favorite tactic is to turn it back on him, because why not give therapists a taste of their own medicine whenever possible?
Here is my plan. I will say, “I’m hearing, Mr. Stork, that you’re uncomfortable with couples therapy. I wonder if you might take a week to think about whether you bring up this subject repeatedly in order to deal with your control issues?”
I really am a total brat. But to be fair, I don’t double book clients, forget what they’ve said, send the insurance forms to the wrong address, or overcharge.
In other words, he’s as f-ed up as everyone else. That’s the issue–education aside, how do you trust someone who is no more enlightened than you are? And who, considering the choice of profession, is probably way more into self-deception?
My answer: when all else fails, you play chess. If the Stork bites back, you sit on him. At least, that’s what I plan to do.