Feeling dreadful after therapy

Applecore

New Here
I'm a mature adult male who has been through a lot, I've done a lot of psychological 'work' on myself and let's just say I'm a survivor of trauma who has improved a great deal over the years (and have some friendly advice to share). I once suffered from tortuously intrusive thoughts, but I'm over it now. For what it's worth, in questionnaires I now score low on neuroticism (OCEAN / Big Five) and high on 'happy adult' (Young / Schema). I've got an enjoyable job and am healthy and relatively content and can do the stuff we're meant to do, like express our emotions in an effective way as well as allow ourselves to have fun.

I recently went in to therapy with the goal of discussing my current relationship with my woman, not my childhood or past trauma that I have hugely recovered from. The therapist, a woman about my age, is avoiding talking about my relationship and wants to bring me back to my childhood on the grounds that it must be connected. I keep telling them I have already worked on my past to great effect, and I added that we ought to be aware of the risk of re-traumatization.

Prior to the fourth session in, the therapist said in email that their accountant said I hadn't paid for one session and asked me to pay it; I replied with bank evidence that I'd already paid it. In the session, the therapist blamed me for their accountant being unable to find the payment I'd made (on on the grounds that I hadn't put a reference code on the transfer as asked); but no apology from the therapist for the false accusation of not paying, nor accountability from the accountant. Later in the session the therapist had me talk to my dead father in the 'empty chair' exercise; put their hand on my shoulder without my consent for no good reason (I wasn't crying or upset), and then flipped their middle finger at my dead father in the empty chair - presumably in attempt to show support for my criticism of him.

Unwanted touching is notorious right now, so it did surprise me. As did the insult to my dead father, which I didn't appreciate. But I felt pretty much 'meh' afterwards, like a big so what.

Then that night I had a dream in which the therapist, without my consent, kissed me and touched my privates; it was not something I enjoyed and was effectively assault. I woke up at 2:00 and couldn't sleep for about three hours. I don't usually have insomnia. The next day I felt dreadful, sad about my dead father, violated by the therapist. I bought a bottle of wine and drank in the day on my own, which I rarely do. I was tearful on my own and then confrontational towards my best friend on email.

I can already hear therapy advocates tell me this is all good, just part of the process, my hidden emotions coming to the surface, and I should work through it.

Well, I was feeling relatively okay before therapy and I don't like how I feel after therapy, how about that?
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Sounds like your therapists actions triggered something in you?
I sometimes drink after therapy. I sometimes sleep bad after therapy. I sometimes get meh after therapy. Doesn't mean it isn't working. But saying that: your account of her touching you and insulting your father like that, sound inappropriate. Also, my understanding was that the empty chair exercise is meant to only be done once a good relationship has been built up and not in the first few sessions?

I have to say though, I do agree with the statement of your therapist that your relationship with your partner is linked to the past. Maybe explore your resistance to looking at that?

Sorry it's been like this. But does sound valuable things to bring up with your T next week?
 
I can already hear therapy advocates tell me this is all good, just part of the process, my hidden emotions coming to the surface, and I should work through it.
I'm the world's biggest therapy advocate but this therapist sounds like a dud. However, sometimes duds can learn from their mistakes and turn into helpful professionals.
The therapist, a woman about my age, is avoiding talking about my relationship and wants to bring me back to my childhood on the grounds that it must be connected. I keep telling them I have already worked on my past to great effect, and I added that we ought to be aware of the risk of re-traumatization.
This part right here is what would make me, personally, find a different therapist. It sounds like this one thinks she knows what you need more than you do, which is a big therapeutic no-no. Sure, it's very possible that your childhood is the reason for the problems in your relationship, but it also sounds as if you've been pretty clear that you don't want to talk about that at this point. Your therapist should absolutely respect that.
Prior to the fourth session in, the therapist said in email that their accountant said I hadn't paid for one session and asked me to pay it; I replied with bank evidence that I'd already paid it.
Misunderstandings happen with money all the time, but it sounds like you feel very disrespected by this therapist, because there is also this:
put their hand on my shoulder without my consent for no good reason (I wasn't crying or upset), and then flipped their middle finger at my dead father in the empty chair - presumably in attempt to show support for my criticism of him.
Was your therapist aware that you don't consent to her touching her?

I also find the middle finger gesture to be surprising and rude. I mean, there are all different modalities, but that's kind of a head scratcher to me.

It's pretty normal to dream of therapists in the way you did, but if I can be an armchair Freud it sounds like the dream was an outgrowth of your complete discomfort with the session.

All of these things are absolutely worth talking about in therapy. If you think you want to try to continue to work with her, I would absolutely bring them up to her.
 

Applecore

New Here
Sounds like your therapists actions triggered something in you?
I sometimes drink after therapy. I sometimes sleep bad after therapy. I sometimes get meh after therapy. Doesn't mean it isn't working. But saying that: your account of her touching you and insulting your father like that, sound inappropriate. Also, my understanding was that the empty chair exercise is meant to only be done once a good relationship has been built up and not in the first few sessions?

I have to say though, I do agree with the statement of your therapist that your relationship with your partner is linked to the past. Maybe explore your resistance to looking at that?

Sorry it's been like this. But does sound valuable things to bring up with your T next week?
Thanks. Yes I'll certainly raise it. What I notice I am most bothered by is instead of receiving an apology, I was blamed: I was told that their mistake was my fault, after having been falsely accused of not having paid for a session. I have never in my life been falsely accused by a service provider of not having paid for something; and if I had, I would expect a serious explanation without shirking of responsibility from them. If they can't see this minor episode is abuse in miniature, then I don't have faith in their professionalism. I feel that was what cased the nightmares more that the insult and the unwanted touching.

Of course, all our present is somehow related to our past, I've never disagreed with that. My resistance to going through my traumatic experiences all over again is that I am a survivor of trauma and I know myself well enough to know what triggers post-traumatic intrusive thoughts and pathological rumination. We would know not to invite an addict who has been clean and sober for years to have another go at their substance, so that we can understand them better. That is my resistance - the responsible resistance of someone who's recovered from trauma and been through it a million times before, quite literally.
 

Friday

Moderator
I can already hear therapy advocates tell me this is all good, just part of the process, my hidden emotions coming to the surface, and I should work through it.
At best she sounds like a bad fit... at worst like a whackadoodle nut bird.

I happen to be a big proponent of therapy, but bad therapy is worse than no therapy.

You’re only a few session in... Any reason not to keep looking for a better therapist?

The therapist, a woman about my age, is avoiding talking about my relationship and wants to bring me back to my childhood on the grounds that it must be connected
I have a private bet with myself that this woman is NOT a trauma therapist?

((Because trauma therapists usually recognise a) trauma clients have lives with issues unrelated to their trauma history that they’d like to work on / it’s not all about trauma all the time & b) working on trauma is a reeeeeeally big deal, with a lot of prep work & expected fallout... & hammering their clients to dredge up the past with no support isn’t something people experienced with trauma tend to do anyway, but especially not 4 sessions in.))

Which is a lead up to : you might consider looking for a trauma specialist or trauma informed MFT, even though that’s not what you want to be working on ... just so that you don’t end up with someone who thinks grabbing a tiger by the tail, because they’re used to house cats, is a good idea. Because there’s a huge difference between the present being informed by the past, and someone with a major trauma history who has to be careful about how they approach it, and that’s not even why they’re here right now. So have to be not just careful, but reeeeally careful not to let the past blow up and obliterate what they’re actually trying to work on.
 
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Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
I really like @Friday's post. I think for some people with a hammer everything looks like a nail, and tbh that would have been a total turn-off for me, too.

Notwithstanding everyone has an attachment style that comes from childhood, and how can trauma in our history not at least initially affect our perceptions or triggers, and relationships or interacting, but the 'feeling' in dreams (not the content) is supposedly reflective of what you are feeling and processing- violated comes to mind, obviously- having to go along with something very private you didn't agree with and have no idea how you got there. And without power to speak up, as you didn't sound particularly 'heard' when they didn't address their error in the billing issue.

Agree with Friday, bad therapy is worse than none. Congratulations on your progress, don't lose heart (one bottle of wine isn't the end of the world, and I think I would have been left reeling too), and welcome to you.
 
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