How does choosing a therapist work? It’s something so crucial to recovery, yet it isn’t widely talked about.
I have worked with therapist who were staunchly feminist. And I’ve worked with therapists that look liked the embodiment of every patriarchal stereotype. There are therapists who say eating disorders can be cured in a few short sessions. While another therapist firmly told me I would always have an eating disorder.
The therapists I’ve seen have had a broad range of opinions, methods, personalities, and viewpoints on life.
Choosing a therapist can be tricky
Yes, each and every therapist was different. Each offered a new perspective, new wisdom, new presence, new understandings, new healing to my heart. But when I think back on all of the therapists that I have had the privilege of having my heart held by, there is one that always sticks out.
This therapist wasn’t chosen from a place of desiring her to hold and help heal my heart. The brutal, uncomfortable, honest truth is that I didn’t want her to hold or help heal my heart. I wanted to learn how to have my heart held in a body as small as hers. I wanted to learn how to be as thin as her and still be “recovered”.
You probably can imagine why this isn’t exactly something I have been keen to disclose this as a new therapist.
Knowing what I know now, I must acknowledge that I did not and do not know if this past therapist had relapsed in their eating disorder recovery. In fact, I must acknowledge that we never really know what is going on in someone else’s mind, body, spirit or heart. Suffering from disordered eating looks different on everybody and every body. Don’t judge from external appearance. This is an ice cold truth.
Therefore the question of if this therapist was or was not well is not important. For their wellbeing, I hope that they were fully recovered.
I would like to think that I was the only not so well person who attempted to seek a “slim” therapist during their recovery.
But I’m not. I’m not at all.
I am not the only person to judge, select and choose their clinician based on external appearance.
As I have opened up and been honest about my not so honest intentions during my recovery process, I’ve realized that my experience is more common than you may think.
Trust plays into choosing a therapist
During the recovery process many of us question the wellness of everyone around us. Especially those we have trusted our wellness too.
Not believing in the person you have entrusted your health to makes the entire recovery process more conflicted, confusing, and convoluted. But if we can confront this tendency, powerful healing can occur. It offers us the opportunity to explore into our truth.
Because the phenomena of picking our therapist because they have a body we want, our continuing to work with our therapist because they think our body looks ‘recovered’, staying with a therapist because they think yoga was a great way to find “zen” (when we’re really going for the burn) is important. It’s deep-seeded stuff that deserves to be talked about.
Bring darkness into light.
Honoring, owning and humbly admitting to truths like this is the work of a real recovery.
Examining and questioning the presence of a disordered behaviors in the lives of those around us, especially our clinicians, allows us to avoid deeply questioning and considering our intentions. The minute we enter recovery does not mean our not so healthy intentions and motivations evaporate.
Because examining our intentions, understanding, unraveling, feeling and getting radically real about our raw motivations behind our behaviors is not something we just need to learn in regards to food – it is something we need to learn to use and implement in all aspects of our lives.
Learning to stop, think, pause and hone in on what our motivating force really is.
I know that short term, working with a therapist whose recovery I questioned was harmful. Working with a different therapist who loved yoga and totally validated by choice to vinyasa three times a day wasn’t so helpful either. They were a part of my tactic to avoid doing the work I wasn’t ready to do just yet.
But eventually – I was ready.
And finally engaging in a therapeutic relationship with a clinician I didn’t really believe was well in the long term ended up being one of the most informative therapeutic relationships I have had.
It changed my heart. I think about my time with this therapist the most. It was the most potent. The most painful.
My time with this therapist taught me the importance of my transparency, being authentic in the present, using my voice, naming my feelings, sharing shameful secrets and that I am the only one who can change my life.
The lesson of accepting that the only person who’s life, heart, intentions we will ever have a chance of fully knowing are our own is an important one.
When you decided to fully invest in a trusted therapist and be radically honest (despite the potential dark motives of your eating disorder) is when change can begin.
Yes, you can
Recovery is messy. It isn’t perfect. Far from it. And what really matters most in recovery is what we do when we realize our eating disorder has snuck up and shifted us off course. Again and again.
That we keep going, with consistent self reflection and compassion.
You got this – you can be radically honest.