Continue or Discontinue Therapy

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have suffered from trust issues for as long as I can remember. There are only two people in my life that I trust to help me out in a sticky situation, but sometimes I cannot trust them to keep personal conversations that we have to their selves. All of the time, they have told me that they told someone because they thought that they were helping me. I have a history of sexual and emotional abuse, I have suffered from depression on, and off, for the past 15 years; I am 26. I was court ordered to attend therapy for 6 months and needless to say, I was apprehensive about it; but I wasn’t given much of a choice. I figured I would attend my mandatory 2-week appointments without saying much and hopefully the 6 months would past by quickly.

This should have been easy enough because most of the time I am like a brick wall. I always give short or yes or no answers. Ironically, I hear so many stories of people who have a difficult time finding a good therapist, I did not care and I guess I got lucky anyhow. She was very persistent, where most therapists would have given up and let me sit peacefully through my sessions. At about 3 months, she broke through and eventually found a way to reach me.

Now, I trust my therapist and I have truly opened up to her. She has helped me organize my thoughts but mostly helps me avoid holding things inside and letting them build up. Currently, I am at about 5 months and my sentence is about up and I have a decision to make, continue with therapy or stop. I do not know what I should do; part of me wants to continue and part of me does not. Yes, she has helped me but I believe if I continue therapy and she does something to cause me to distrust her (which isn’t a difficult thing to do) than of course I would stop seeing her but I would also have a even harder time trying to trust someone else. I know this may sound like an easy decision but I really do not know what to do. I have also been diagnosed with a schizoid personality, I do not know if this has contributed to why I have such a difficult time trusting others or why I want to withdraw, but I try not to dwell much on mental disorders. I believe some of these labels are overused but that is probably beside the point.

What should I do?

A: Thank you for writing. I can’t tell you what to do but I will ask you to consider this: One of the goals of therapy is to give us a safe place to work through old issues that block our lives. The work you’ve done with your therapist so far has been laying that foundation of trust and safety. I’m very happy for you that things have worked out so far.

I can guarentee that your therapist will at some point say or do something (or maybe not say or do something) that will offend you or raise all your issues about trust. It’s inevitable because therapists are people and people make mistakes. But that isn’t the reason to leave treatment! That’s exactly the point at which therapy will become really, really useful. Stick with your discomfort and share it with the therapist. Then you can both look at it and help you figure out how to get through it. When people care enough to work through tough times with each other, the relationship grows. They learn what matters to each other and how to negotiate conflict, disappointments, and disagreements. The relationship becomes more rich and complex. Working on your relationship with a trusted therapist can help you understand what you contribute to difficulties and can teach you skills for managing yourself and inviting cooperation and friendship from others.

I agree that mental health diagnoses tend to be overused. They are not intended to be labels carved in stone. Rather they are a way for professionals to name a common human problem when communicating with each other. Yes, you have challenges in getting comfortable with other people. But a combination of motivation and willingness on your part and some skillful treatment on the therapist’s part can help you do much, much better.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Feb 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Continue or Discontinue Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/02/06/continue-or-discontinue-therapy/