Cold Therapist

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Hello. I feel so lost, I hope you can help me.
I have been in therapy for several months, my therapist has been a very good listener, he seemed to really understand me and I have been able to tell him many of the things that have been tearing me apart and disturbing me.
Unfortunately, recently, he started acting coldly, in an apathetic way that I just don’t understand. At the present time, I feel very nervous, very stressed, I spend my days fighting with my mother and I have a very difficult exam approaching. I’m having self harm thoughts, sometimes I just wanna hit my head against the wall or crush into a car or even take overdose drugs and poison myself. Those thoughts are just becoming so obssessive that I don’t know how to deal with them anymore. I feel like I just want to slit my wrist and get all the blood out of my body. I think I hate this body, I feel like I want to free myself and get out of it.

Lately I dreamt that I attempted suicide by strangling, it seemed to be such a relief, like I had finally reached freedom, that I just can’t stop thinking about it.

I tried to tell him how I feel, how angry I’m but he just acts as if I said nothing, as if it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t expecting any specific reaction, I just wanted him to tell me how to deal with those ideas, how to calm down. Instead of that , I feel like he just doesn’t care, like I’m worthless, totally wasting his time with the same annoying stories. Now every time I leave his office, I feel even more angry and misunderstood.

Is he testing me or is he trying to provoke me ? What can I do ? I just want to feel normal and happy but right now I feel like no one understand me, like no one can imagine what i’m going through.

A: I am very glad that, although you are having such a difficult time with your therapist, you have reached out by writing us. I admire your courage and continuing faith that something therapeutic can happen, even when it feels so hard.

Working through difficult issues with your therapist is always a struggle, often because the relationship holds many unique properties. It is often both the safest and riskiest connection we have with another human being. Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt Therapy, once referred to the therapeutic process as the “safe emergency.”

While I can’t know for certain it is possible the feelings you have toward the therapist may be telling you something about how you see authority figures, parents, or men. In therapy this is commonly called transference and can actually be the beginning of a breakthrough. There is too little information to know for sure, but asking yourself: “Is this a familiar feeling? Whom have I had this with before?” might be important. Then, of course, sharing this insight with your therapist would be important. There is more information about this phenomenon here. If this doesn’t sound like the right direction there is also the possibility you may want a second opinion and you can find someone in your city from this list.

Your feelings of wanting to hurt yourself and your dream should not be ignored. You are under a great deal of stress, particularly with school, and the stress of preparing for the future can make people want to give up. Your university has counselors who are very familiar with the emotional reactions of students embattled with parents and exams. I would encourage you to talk to them, even if you continue with your therapist, because they may have additional support groups for students and access to a hotline if you are feeling particularly overwhelmed on a given day. You may also want to ask them to recommend a psychiatrist who may be able to help with medication.

The butterfly emerging from the cocoon struggles, but in that effort develops the strength to fly. Your therapeutic journey may take a while to develop, but the fight is worth it.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 14 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Cold Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/14/cold-therapist/