What does your therapist do if/when you’re unable to speak?

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Hi again,

I honestly don’t post much, so it’s unusual for me to make two separate threads in a matter of days; however, the most bothersome issue that I’m facing in therapy is literally tearing at my insides. I’m experiencing tons of intense, internal conflict, and I’m not sure what to do. I can text or email my T between sessions if necessary, but I don’t do that often, and doing so causes more internal conflict in itself.

Anyway, I posted about my inability to discuss a particular detail of a recent, traumatic incident with my T in a previous thread, which can be found here: How do I express myself to my T? The post talks about finding different ways to express myself other than writing in session and/or via email in between. However, my follow-up questions are: Does your T do anything specific when you find yourself unable to speak? Does he or she notice your difficulty and point it out? How does he or she help you become unstuck aside from changing the subject?

I really want to be able to say a certain detail out loud! I’m really trying to think of ways around the “stuckness and fear“ without engaging in physical activities. I know that I’ll feel better once the info is out in the open, and I can begin processing the associated emotions. I’ve encountered situations where my little one hasn’t had the words to express herself; only now, the words were said to me, I know what they are, and can repeat them in my head, but I can’t say them out loud even though I want to so badly.

Any experiences with, or about, what your T actually does in session to help you in feel safe enough to are extremely, and gratefully, appreciated!
 
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Wendell_R

MyPTSD Pro
My therapist and I spent a lot of time making her office a safe space for my Little Guys. They would imagine being cared for by her, or another safe person. They would come in for just a little bit and then leave, just to get comfortable.

Then, when the pain started to come out, it wasn't direct. Little Wendell was deathly afraid of getting in trouble. My therapist, B, let him take a stuffed animal from her shelf. Afterwards, he was horrified that he did that and was so worried he was in trouble. B calmed him about that, and then we were able to move a little bit into other things he was afraid of.

So I guess my advice is to build up to it by doing everything you can to get more trust. And then explore something similar to what you want to get to, but not as threatening.

Good luck!
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
I wrote something pretty bad in my journal and tried to share it and couldn’t. Then, it kept coming up and I would hint around it but froze. She would always remind me to have compassion for those parts. Finally, after 1 3/4 years i
Typed it up in an email in the secure system and pressed send two days before my appt. She said that she wonderedif I wished I hadn’t pressed ‘send’ and I said “no, I’m okay, because I sent it to 2 of my trauma support friends prior to her and they didn’t run away.” After she knew, it was a non issue and I could sort of talk to her about it, but I mostly listened because she had some good trauma education, she was full of compassion and understanding.

Any time I can’t “talk” she tells me that it is probably not time for her to know.
 

Rosebud

MyPTSD Pro
essed who might have similar stories and/or experience

@ButterflyBean , not exactly the same scenario, and I might have my timeline wrong, but it took me (I think) 8 years before I said the crux of the matter of what started the ball rolling. (Granted I'm probably a stubborn case :rolleyes:). And tbh, the motivation wasn't expecting 'to get better', as I considered it wouldn't change my guilt/ onus, but rather because if I was going to be authentic/ honest I had to say it- or choose to be neither and forget the whole thing. I do remember at some point prior when I was having a bath thinking, no way, I am taking that to my grave.

Oddly, I did say it, and I was more shocked and amazed than I ever had been, was told it was not my fault, and never felt better. I felt so good, I accidentally almost killed myself (seriously) with an OD a few days later. :( I think it was some form of self-sabotage. Which, went into my new knowledge bank, that even progress needs self-monitoring, when it comes to this stuff. It's a steep learning curve. :(

That being said however, I still remember a second set of words said to me at the same time- at least I'm pretty sure it was then, that I say ever since. (Especially when I pass a picture at work, as I had passed it there too, shortly after). And I must say each time I 'feel' a twinge of the same amazement I felt then, and happiness/ relief.

Best wishes to you. :hug:
 

reallydown

MyPTSD Pro
Not sure that I can be too helpful here as I have the same issue. One of my previous therapists suggested I email her some of it and I was able to even though I was shaking and it was full of typos etc. But, now, with the shrink, I have the same problem. So I end up talking about other issues I have. Now he is having me write an essay about my experiences and feelings as a child. I have written the easier bits but still not the hard stuff.

Another thought that popped into my head is that maybe next time I can take a cushion or a stuffed animal to hold while I attempt to get stuff out. Perhaps you could try the same...? Granted, I don't even know if it will work for me but might be worth a try
 

barefoot

Sponsor
I don’t know that I have any solutions to share as ‘voice hijacking’ is something I still struggle with. Though it doesn’t happen as much as it used to.

We didn’t really work on it specifically and that led to it happening less. It was more that I just kept showing up and T and I continued to build a relationship (and therefore build more trust, which made things feel a bit safer) And, over time, I guess that chipped away at some of my defences.

Dissociation was the first thing to go (though it took about three years!) I still sometimes get spacey and my head ‘goes’ a bit but it doesn’t happen often and, when it does, it’s nowhere near as intense or as disruptive as it used to be and I ‘come back’ much quicker.

Now I’m not dissociating, I feel more feelings, which can be very hard. So, now, I can stay present, but if there are difficult feelings (usually shame and fear) I will sometimes find that I can’t speak.

It’s incredibly frustrating and I also find it pretty distressing and sometimes a bit shameful. Which, of course, seems to make it set in even more firmly! So, I definitely feel your pain around it. I’m sorry you’re struggling with it.

I spent over an hour of a session fairly recently pretty much in silence. I had lots of words I wanted to say. But I was massively triggered and just physically couldn’t get anything out. Major throat freeze - it actually really ached and I was croaky for days, as though my muscles had completely seized up.

Keep showing up and allowing yourself to be in relationship with your T. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself - I find that can generally be counter-productive!

My T is very much of the belief that if something isn’t happening because there’s some resistance there, the resistance is there for a reason and we shouldn’t take a sledgehammer approach and try to force it. I used to find that very frustrating and annoying - I wanted her to magically be able to ‘do’ something! Not that simple unfortunately, hey?

I know you said you don’t want to write it down because you want to actually say it aloud. Are the two necessarily mutually exclusive?

Something I find useful is to do a brainstorm of a topic on a large sheet of flip chart paper. I do that at home. Then I take the sheet in and we discuss it together. It helps me because:
- I’ve done some forward planning about what I want to cover/say in the session
- it provides some structure in the session/conversation, which helps me to focus
- if I write anything vague or even something like ‘there’s something else important about this but it’s hard to say at the moment’ my T can ask questions/coax a bit. And if I still can’t say it, she won’t keep pushing...but she will at least know that there’s something else that I want to put out there but at the moment I can only put it in the space in a vague way. But that feels better than not even expressing that it exists even if I can’t actually say in that moment what ‘it’ is.
- we are both looking at the paper rather than looking at each other. This is a big one for me. The best times looking at a sheet together, we’ve both sat on the floor next to each other to look at the brainstorm in front of us both. Both sitting side by side and focusing on something in front of us both...it has definitely made some conversations easier to have from my point of view.

No magic answers, I’m afraid, sorry!

But I know how hard and frustrating this can feel.

I hope you are able to express this to your T somehow and sometime - I hear how much you want to get it out.

And I hope you can be gentle and kind with yourself in the meantime.
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
@barefoot you just described so much of my therapy experience, minus a year. I’m finally getting to a point where I disassociate less (at the 2 year mark) and you are right, the emotions are so painful and raw! This is also the point where I am trusting my therapist, which makes it easier to speak.
 
I know you said you don’t want to write it down because you want to actually say it aloud. Are the two necessarily mutually exclusive?
No, they are not mutually exclusive at all, but I have a disability that limits the use of my hands, so I can’t physically write anything but my name…
I still sometimes get spacey and my head ‘goes’ a bit but it doesn’t happen often and, when it does, it’s nowhere near as intense or as disruptive as it used to be and I ‘come back’ much quicker.
I’ve never really dealt with debilitating dissociation in therapy. I’m happy to hear that yours has gotten much better! However, I’m wondering what your T does to help coax you back into the room and help you deal with difficult feelings?
if I write anything vague or even something like ‘there’s something else important about this but it’s hard to say at the moment’ my T can ask questions/coax a bit. And if I still can’t say it, she won’t keep pushing...but she will at least know that there’s something else that I want to put out there but at the moment I can only put it in the space in a vague way.
That’s exactly what’s happening to me, but doing a brainstorm like the one you described would be a bit difficult for the reason I stated above. My T doesn’t push either; she knows that there’s something I want to say and that I’m frustrated because I can’t say it. What kind of questions does your T ask to help coax you wan possible?

Thank you so much for your reply! I appreciate everything you said even though there are no magic answers! It helps to know that I’m not alone, and I’m not the only one who struggles with the inability to speak when I want to! Are you able to let your T know that you can’t speak, or does she just know by the way you act? I guess we’re in this together, and I hope we can be friends! :-)
 
@Skywatcher - what does your T do to help ground/bring you back when you dissociate especially when you’re experiencing difficult feelings? Does she say or do anything that you find particularly helpful and/or reassuring? I’m looking for new things to try when I feel unsafe in session hoping that can I speak when I feel safer... Self soothing is still too uncomfortable/hard even after several years; my T and I have a solid working relationship, but trust is still extremely difficult because I keep getting re-traumatized by other healthcare professionals.
 

Skywatcher

MyPTSD Pro
@Skywatcher - what does your T do to help ground/bring you back when you dissociate especially when you’re experiencing difficult feelings? Does she say or do anything that you find particularly helpful and/or reassuring? I’m looking for new things to try when I feel unsafe in session hoping that can I speak when I feel safer... Self soothing is still too uncomfortable/hard even after several years; my T and I have a solid working relationship, but trust is still extremely difficult because I keep getting re-traumatized by other healthcare professionals.
She has had me look at my wedding ring, take a sip of my tea, open my eyes, asked me my age, repeatedly asks me what (my age) year old me can do to help my younger self feel cared for—which is confusing at first because I feel young and can’t answer until I get back to current me. She has also asked me to wiggle my big toe, which is much harder than wiggling all toes. She sometimes moves her own feet around which catches my eyes.

When I think about this, I feel so cared for. The other day I was telling her something that I felt very present in and she so positively reenforced how great life can be when we are fully our adult selves and she is right. We are aiming towards that, but it is so hard. There are still so many triggers out there.
 
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