Feeling Disconnected from therapist

LeiaFlower

Confident
I finally was able to tell my therapist about the nightmares involving her where she abused me. I’m proud of myself that I pushed through the discomfort. It was less scary and more disgusting when I thought about it. The shame is still there as if I caused it. Though my therapist’s reaction is causing me more distress. She was checking and cleaning her nails as I was writing presenting nonchalantness. And her words afterwards seem disconnected and generic. “You’re not alone a lot of people feel the way you do.” There’s no emotional connection to her words. However, I do think she’s a good therapist but the disconnect is something I felt for a while. I don’t know how to address this or if I should just find another therapist. I just felt so alone after talking to her like there was a wall. I wasn’t asking for boundaries to be crossed I don’t like mushy feelings regardless but I just expected more. I don’t I was ruminating on telling her for almost half a year and for it to amount to nothing. We’re processing it more next week. I guess I’ll wait until then. But her first reaction was off putting
 

Charbella

Confident
Do you do teletherapy? I can’t even imagine my T doing his nails or anything that didn’t relate directly to something I might need. It one thing to FEEL their checked out because with PTSD you can’t always trust your feeling but you’re talking direct evidence and there is no way I’d deal with that. In my way of thinking you opened up about a very vulnerable situation and they pretty much dismissed you.

A lot of people feel their therapists abused them in a dream? Yeah no. A lot of people have dreams that involve their therapist? I could see that being true, even dream about their therapist in a negative way could be true.
 

LeiaFlower

Confident
Do you do teletherapy? I can’t even imagine my T doing his nails or anything that didn’t relate directly to something I might need. It one thing to FEEL their checked out because with PTSD you can’t always trust your feeling but you’re talking direct evidence and there is no way I’d deal with that. In my way of thinking you opened up about a very vulnerable situation and they pretty much dismissed you.

A lot of people feel their therapists abused them in a dream? Yeah no. A lot of people have dreams that involve their therapist? I could see that being true, even dream about their therapist in a negative way could be true.
Thank you for replying :) feel really lost on what to do. It’s in person sessions. If her main advice after sharing something that has been causing me emotional distress for half a year is “You’re not alone everyone feels like that.” It feels shallow, advice without depth. I should talk to her about how I feel next week then go from there about seeing another therapist.
 

Charbella

Confident
How long have you been seeing her? Does she routinely do her nails or other things during session?

It’s a good plan to tell her how you feel then make a decision.
 

LeiaFlower

Confident
How long have you been seeing her? Does she routinely do her nails or other things during session?

It’s a good plan to tell her how you feel then make a decision.
I’ve been seeing her for almost a year, and occasionally I do notice her doing it when I read an entry from my journal due to it being too difficult to say out loud. Or when I have shut downs that’s leave me not being able to speak. I look up a little from the floor and see her cleaning her nails. Even if it’s not intentional, it sends the message that I’m boring her. In everyday life I don’t expect someone’s full attention all the time. But I do expect it in Therapy sessions.

I feel like the only reason I held on to this therapeutic relationship that always has this advice and disconnect was due to the nightmares. However, now that I talked it what’s obviously wrong is now blaring.
 

Eagle3

MyPTSD Pro
Just going to throw this out there, as it's the first thing that popped into my mind when I read your entry tonight....could it be her way of giving you space to not feel "watched" while you're doing something hard for you? Yes, it does come off as disinterested and unconnected, but maybe that's the effect she's going for? She may feel like she's giving you space to not feel so judged or watched in the moment. Definitely talk to her about it, but if she's otherwise a well-connected therapist, this may be something to work through instead of just rushing off to find someone new. She may feel she's doing something good for you, but you're interpreting it differently than she expects. That certainly needs to be addressed, but therapy is a GREAT place for having those kinds of discussions!

Of course, if you feel the need to find someone different for reasons not mentioned in your post, that's perfectly valid too, but it's great that you noticed this and are speaking up about it. Good luck to you!
 

Muttly

MyPTSD Pro
I would definitely talk to her about it, if you're up to it.

It does feel off to me. I would be uncomfortable if that was happening in my therapy sessions. And a friend (who has mental health issues) have had a conversation that's continued over the years about how unhelfpful "everyone does/feels that is." While the intent may be to take away feelings of shame, it doesn't actually address your feelings.
 

LeiaFlower

Confident
This may sound childish, but how do I start a conversation like that? Do I first start the session saying I don’t like how the last one went. I’m not that good with confrontation but I do want to address my feelings. How can I do this without it coming across rude?
 

Charbella

Confident
I’m not sure others will agree but have you thought about emailing her the problem and telling her you want to talk about it in your next session? I have huge issues confronting and sometimes just talking about therapy stuff so I email my T but make it clear I want to talk about it in session. It gives me a chance to compose it, read it, add and subtract, take some time away from it then send it. Plus in my case it tends to stop The cycle of repetitively thinking about it. If she doesn’t get a chance to read it before session she can read it during.

I can see where @Eagle3 is coming from but there are certainly better ways to do it, my T tends to look at his notes or somewhere other than directly at me, he’s had a lot of experience with wait time ☺️. I would think most trauma therapists have?
 

barefoot

Sponsor
I had similar thoughts to @Eagle3 when I first read your OP. That perhaps she is deliberately avoiding looking at you while you are feeling vulnerable and doing a difficult thing (reading out from your journal) as being watched could increase the intensity. Though, personally, I think there are less obtrusive ways of doing that than doing her nails.

And that her ‘you’re not alone, a lot of people feel the way you do,’ was a neutral, normalising, accepting response, so that she didn’t give much of a reaction to hearing about her role in your dream and risk turning it into her thinking it is a big deal.

That said, whatever her intention, these things haven’t landed well for you. So, they are worth a conversation with her, I’d think.

how do I start a conversation like that? Do I first start the session saying I don’t like how the last one went.

The way I’ve done things like this before is to say something like, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot about last session…there were a couple of things that didn’t land well with me/there are a couple of things that bothered me/there were a couple of things that caused a bit of a disconnect etc so I wanted to start today by talking about those.’ As @Charbella suggested, you could always give her a heads up over email in advance, if that would be easier for you.

And then:

‘It was very difficult for me to bring up the dream I’d had about you. It felt very X talking about it. So, when I looked up and saw that you were doing your nails I/it felt Y.’

And:

‘When you said, “You’re not alone a lot of people feel the way you do,” I/it felt X (dismissive? That there wasn’t any emotional connection behind the words? That you weren’t really acknowledging how I felt about what I’d shared? Etc)

And then see how she responds.

I just expected more. I don’t I was ruminating on telling her for almost half a year and for it to amount to nothing.

I get this. There have been things I’ve really worked myself up to share with my T and it feels like a massive, massive deal that I am finally able to say it to her. And then she has barely reacted/acknowledged it. Those few times have always felt unsatisfactory, and a bit of a let down. They tend to feel - for me - like this was a huge deal for me to share it with her, and then it obviously isn’t something she thinks is important as there’s not really any great reaction from her.

In retrospect (and I haven’t checked this with her so this may not be right) I think she was just wanting to not make a big deal of something, but to just be a neutral, accepting, steady container for me. But it did feel like a miss for me at the time. Though we generally then picked those things up another time and had good conversations around them.

I wonder if you are able to identify and say more about this:

I just expected more

Because, if you can uncover what the ‘more’ was that you were expecting - what you were really wanting and hoping for as a response from her - I think that would be a really helpful thing to share with her. Which also gives her an opportunity to do that next time (or to let you know why she didn’t/wouldn’t do that, if it’s not something she feels she could do.)

I get the feeling alone after last session and feeling the disconnect. And I get that these things were off-putting. But I do think it’s worth a conversation because she may not know these things have been a miss for you and, letting her know, may put you on a better path for connection together.
 

LeiaFlower

Confident
That said, whatever her intention, these things haven’t landed well for you. So, they are worth a conversation with her, I’d think.
This is what I have.
I’ve been processing the last session. There were a couple of things that caused a bit of a disconnect so I wanted to start today by talking about those. It was very nauseating to talk about the nightmare I’d had about you. It felt very numb talking about it. Like there was fear of you being disgusted by me, though every other thing shut down. Which led me to have to write certain things down. Though, when I looked up and saw that you were picking your nails it felt disconnecting. As if the current things had no weight of importance. I’m not expecting you to sit perfectly still; however, the feeling as if what I’m saying has no value brings up negative feelings from the past.
‘And when you said afterwards, “You’re not alone a lot of people feel the way you do,” in relation to the emotions coming up I felt even more alone as if there was no emotional connection to the words coming out. As if it came from a textbook than words needed at that moment.

I don’t know. I guess I was expecting a bigger response of emotion, empathy. Not saying you don’t have either. It’s just I felt isolated and alone in that room. As if the nightmare itself created this wall of not wanting to cross boundaries I never wanted nor have any intention whatsoever to cross. I just was hoping that when I finally was able to get my voice back that I’ll feel less alone, physically and emotionally. But afterwards I felt more like I should not be, that I was gross and wrong.
What was I expecting?
what you were really wanting and hoping for as a response from her - I think that would be a really helpful thing to share with her. Which also gives her an opportunity to do that next time (or to let you know why she didn’t/wouldn’t do that, if it’s not something she feels she could do.)

How do I process this to figure out? I genuinely don’t know what I needed in that moment. Things just felt off afterwards.
Because, if you can uncover what the ‘more’ was that you were expecting - what you were really wanting and hoping for as a response from her - I think that would be a really helpful thing to share with her. Which also gives her an opportunity to do that next time (or to let you know why she didn’t/wouldn’t do that, if it’s not something she feels she could do.)

I want this, for her to have better understanding so there can be improvements on both our parts. I just don’t know how
 

Sideways

Moderator
I want this, for her to have better understanding so there can be improvements on both our parts.
Or alternatively (since we can't ever control the other person) 'to develop the way I'm interpreting the way people communicate with me so that it doesn't hit my self confidence so hard'...?

For me, if I'd been in that situation, I'd probably be a bit mindful that what I was saying was not only uncomfortable for me me, but also potentially for my T. Because unlike most of the stuff we talk about, it related to her personally, and not in a great way!

What I do know is people start at their fingernails very often as an emotional-regulation behaviour. It's very often not disinterest, but rather a subconscious emotional regulation habit. Anxiety? Pick at the fingernails. Discomfort? Pick at the fingernails. Fear? Pick at the fingernails. Not for everyone, but at the same time, still very common.

So, if she could adjust that behaviour to make you more comfortable? Awesome. But also, if you could have more self confidence when interpreting body language in others, so it doesn't throw you - that would also be a great outcome!
 
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