Trigger warning: This post contains mentions of potentially traumatic experiences.
Therapists are supposed to be impartial, non-judgemental counselors, helping and nurturing your mental health. The best way for patients to make progress is often to lay it all out to your therapists. While therapists will (or should) remain impartial and give you the necessary tools to come to terms with your actions, they’re still human and many have their own “Oh Shit” moments.
A Redditor recently asked, “Therapists of Reddit, what was your biggest “I know I’m not supposed to judge you but holy sh*t” moment?”
From parents trying to “fix” their children to absolutely heartwrenching stories of abuse, many therapists shared some of their own “oh shit moments” with the world.
I think for me, the one that comes to mind is a frequent caller to the suicide hotlines. He’d call in and say he’s not providing his phone number or name, he would just say that you had 10 seconds to convince him not to kill himself over the phone, or he’d blow his brains out and it’d be your fault. Then he’d count down from 10 to 1 while you’re on the phone talking. At one, he’d hang up.
Here’s my most recent one: As the pandemic worsened here in the US and more lock downs are on their way, one of my most extroverted clients and I brainstormed ways to meet her social needs while remaining safe. The following week she canceled her session and told me that she’s positive for COVID after attending an orgy, which definitely wasn’t one of our ideas. I let out the deepest most defeated sigh after I hung up the phone.
I did run a men’s anger management group though, and some of those men had done some terrible things to women. Most of them I found ways to like and admire for their positive aspects, but there were two guys in that group I just could never find “unconditional positive regard” for. One guy basically never spoke in group. He would give one word answers and occasionally just discuss how unfair the “system” was to him. I worked really hard to open him up and find things to connect over but he never opened up to me or the group. He left the group after he strangled his girlfriend and went to jail. She survived thankfully.
I joined in a review of a secluded patient and he threw a cup of wee and poo in my face when we opened the door. I tried to be objective about his experience but…
I am usually impressed by the justifications people make for shitty behavior. The one that irks me the most is when parents manipulate their child against the other parent. I’ve had to do therapy for a 5yo who said she doesn’t want to see a parent because they haven’t paid child support. Excuse me? What 5yo knows, understands, or needs to be worried about child support?
Opposite side, if that’s accepted too?
I was assigned to see the lead psychologist of the local hospital as I was severely depressed and had become suicidal.
She literally rolled her eyes at me, told me to grow up and said she could be having appointments with people who were actually about to kill themselves, not me who was already working with the team.
This sent me absolutely spinning, bottling everything up, thinking I didn’t deserve help, and ended up in the hospital 2 years later after an attempt.
A few years ago when I was teaching middle school, I was having an academic intervention meeting with a parent and her son, as well as the vice principal and school counselor. The boy was incredibly sweet and respectful, but he never, EVER did a lick of work and his grade percentage was in the teens. Phone calls home and all the in-class interventions weren’t having any success, which is what led to this type of meeting (formally called an SST/Student Study Team).
As always, we started the meetings with sharing positives about the child. The vice principal, counselor, and I all offered praise for what a respectful, kind hearted, compassionate boy he was.
But when we asked his mother what positive traits her son had? Her answer, firm and with a touch of disgust: “Honestly? Nothing.”
Jaws hit the floor.
My wife does mental health for a low-income school system. I don’t know how you people do it. I remember one time she came home freaking out. She had to make a cps call on an abusive father, who was incredibly violent and reactionary. And when he called the school site she was working at on that day screaming about the call, they f–king told him who made it. She was real worried for a few days that he’d retaliate.
I work at a residential group home. We had a kid who we had admitted about four months prior, when in a family session they mention they had parasites……I’m like what??? Mom goes “oh yeah our whole family has them, we don’t believe in getting rid of them since they’re part of our biological ecosystem” and I’m just dumbstruck.
Honestly, my holy shit moments have more to do with how pervasive our tendency to judge is. No matter how accomplished or resilient someone is, s/he has the capacity to judge themselves harshly, and often do. The funny thing is, we often judge ourselves much more harshly than others. So I’m often amazed at how blind people can be to their achievements and strengths and how unkind they can be to themselves. My role in those scenarios is to help them seem themselves with compassion and to help them treat themselves as they would treat a loved one. It’s a simple but not easy task, and I love every minute of it.