Women Breadwinners & Therapy: Why Your Therapist DOESN’T Get it… (Read Time: 4 min.)

therapy picDo you see a therapist?  I do!  There was a time when I wouldn’t have been comfortable sharing that.  However, after completing most of my MA in Marriage & Family Therapy and with my PhD in Clinical Psychology starting in the next 12 months AND as a woman breadwinners coach, I can tell you one thing for sure:

EVERYBODY BENEFITS FROM THERAPY… with a GREAT therapist

(had to throw that in there because, let’s be real, some therapists, like some coaches, suck)

Here’s the problem with therapy for most people:

They expect quick results with little effort and without full disclosure to the therapist who’s tasked with the tremendous job of helping them embrace and thrive through change and transition.

In other words, people want therapists to “fix” them, even though they aren’t willing to come to the table fully, completely and honestly.

Women breadwinners have even greater trouble with the therapy relationship because, for many women breadwinners, going to therapy is like admitting failure.  It’s saying, “I can’t handle this on my own.  I’m failing at this.  I wasn’t able to fix this without outside help.”  There are so many mixed emotions for women breadwinners who enter therapy and for women breadwinner couples who do therapy together (that’s a WHOLE other post).

However, therapy is a priceless gift of self-care, self-love, and transformation IF you are willing to do the work.  It’s also a great co-creator with coaching so that you can heal the past with your therapist and strategize the future with your coach.  If you can have both (and you can), HAVE BOTH.  Just sayin’.

But I digress…

If you’ve been to a therapist in the last three or four years and you bailed after the allotted therapy sessions, insisting that you’ll never go again because, in your words, “That therapist doesn’t get it!”, let me give you four reasons why your last therapist didn’t “get it”:

1) You weren’t selective when choosing a therapist.  Okay, so I have the benefit of a marriage and family therapy education and that education taught me ALOT about how different therapists work using different modalities of therapy.  Rather than simply choosing the first therapist you find that accepts your health insurance, find out KEY things about your potential therapist, including:

  1. Their modality: Ask a potential therapist, “What theory or style of therapy do you use?  Emotionally Focused, Cognitive Behavior, Internal Family Systems, Solutions Focused?”
  2. Their educational background: Is your potential therapist a licensed social worker, marriage and family therapist, licensed counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist?  Each has a VERY different approach to therapy and VERY different views on how and why change happens.  Be sure you’re choosing the therapist with the educational background that fits your world view and matches your needs.
  3. Their availability: I’m all for flex hours and work-around scheduling but if the therapist you’re choosing is making YOU work around him/her and isn’t very flexible or available when you are available, it’s a WRONG fit.  Stop trying to fit into your therapist’s schedule and find another therapist who has openings when you’re available.  There are too many good therapists in the world to stretch and strain your calendar to fit into one therapist’s book of appointments.
  4. Their personality: You’ve got to click with your therapist and you won’t know that until you do a few sessions… period.  You won’t know until you go.  So show up, see if you click after three sessions and, if not, say “Thanks” and find the right one.  Choosing a therapist is like choosing a partner: life’s too short to waste it on the wrong one.

2) You weren’t present and available for the journey.  Some people go to therapy expecting to be “fixed”, i.e. expecting this to a Burger King rendition of “I pay you money, you give me a solution, I stick it in my life and it works without me having to actively work it.”  Therapy AND coaching DO NOT WORK THIS WAY.  If you aren’t willing to bring ALL of yourself to the table, bring NONE of yourself to the table.  That doesn’t mean you don’t go to therapy if your spouse refuses.  You can do therapy on your own and experience great benefits, benefits that will, in turn, affect your entire family system, whether they go to therapy or not.  Just be sure that if you decide to go to therapy, you’re all in and not sitting on the fence.

3) You didn’t put everything on the table.  The walls of a therapy room are sacred.  Like Vegas, what happens in therapy stays in therapy (unless someone’s life is in danger or they are a danger to themselves).  You have to be completely honest and forthright with your therapist.  If you don’t tell the truth or you only tell half of the story, how do you expect your therapist to fully help you?  It’s like trying to solve a puzzle and missing 40% of the pieces.  It won’t work.  Come to the table truthful and honest.  You may feel shame.  You may feel guilt but therapy is exactly the place to bring those feelings.  A great therapist will help you work it out.

  1. You’d rather be right than happy.  Point blank (and women breadwinners are  NOTORIOUS for this): you came to therapy because you wanted your therapist to tell your husband that he is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG and you are RIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT and he needs fixing but you’re perfect.  Don’t waste your time or money if that’s the case.  Marriages that work focus on collaboration, appreciation, and a commitment to making things work, even if you are the one who has to do the repair attempts ALOT, even when you are the person who has to learn how to love what is instead of demanding what isn’t.  This is not about perfection.  This is about developing a deep friendship that sustains itself through the storms and battles of life.  If what you want is to be right, then don’t waste your time in therapy.  Great therapists are not there to validate your ego; they are there to help you rediscover your sense of fulfillment and all fulfillment requires collaboration and, yes, compromise.

Talk to me.  Have you been to therapy?  If so, what was your experience like?

What did you learn?

What did you not like?

What would you do differently if you went back to therapy?

I’m always interested in reading your comments!

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