Episode 67: Does Your Therapist Really Care?
Episode 67: Does Your Therapist Really Care?
At some point during the therapy process, we have likely all had the thought “My therapist gets paid to care about me – they’re not expressing genuine care or concern.” On this week’s episode, Alyssa is tackling that myth and is explaining the many reasons why this thought is untrue.
Check out the Light After Trauma website for transcripts, other episodes, Alyssa’s guest appearances, and more at: www.lightaftertrauma.com
Alyssa Scolari [00:23]:
Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of The Light After Trauma Podcast. I’m your host, Alyssa Scolari, and I am happy to be here as always. Thank you all so much for your continued support. If you have not done so already, please head over to our Instagram, which the handle is Light After Trauma. It’s the name of the podcast. That’s it. Pretty simple. Head on over. We have been putting out some really good content and yeah, I’ve actually really loved getting DMs from you all and getting to chat with some of you all and hear the ways in which the podcast has resonated with you. So thank you for that and head on over and give us a follow if you haven’t done so already.
Alyssa Scolari [01:10]:
I also want to encourage you if you haven’t done so already to please go ahead and leave a review for the podcast. Reviews are so important in terms of helping the podcast to grow and to get sponsors and to be able to really just spread the awareness and this free content to more people in greater parts of the world, which is great because it’s a way that everybody can have access to some type of mental health education.
Alyssa Scolari [01:45]:
And then lastly, before we dive into the topic of today’s episode, I do want to remind you all of the Survived and Thrived stories segment that I have created. I’ve only put out two episodes so far. There are many episodes and they are made for all of you, the listeners. So they’re really made for those of you who want to write in and share your story. You can send that email over to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you want to find out more, you can go right over to my website at lightafter.com and you can check it out. There’s a whole section there for Survive and Thrive stories. But basically if you are looking for a way to share part of your story, you can write it in and I will share it on a podcast episode and then I will give my own feedback as well. So don’t forget about that. If you are interested, please head on over to the website or you can just send an email to email@example.com.
Alyssa Scolari [02:55]:
And with that said, let’s launch right into today’s topic. So got another solo episode for you today. And we are talking about, this is one of my favorite topics. And I feel like I say that all the time, and I really probably need to stop saying that. But hey, I am clearly very passionate about this field. So today’s topic is one that honestly I’ve struggled with myself and I am a therapist. So it’s this age old question of does my therapist really care about me? And does my therapist really care about my problems? And does therapy really even matter because I’m just kind of going there and showing up once a week or once every other week or twice a week? In my case, twice a week. I go to therapy twice a week. It works for me. I love it. And it’s a way for me to feel more supported.
Alyssa Scolari [03:59]:
But it’s very tricky because I find that so many of my patients and even my friends and colleagues, and even myself fall into this way of thinking where we’re like, oh, well I pay you to care about me as my therapist. So your care and concern isn’t genuine because I’m literally paying you to care. This is something that I’ve also seen popping up on TikTok a lot. So I follow a lot of therapists on TikTok and I look at the comments section and in a lot of the comments section, so many people are like, yeah, no, my therapist doesn’t actually care about me, and they’re just getting paid. Or they’re attacking the therapist who made the TikTok and they’re saying, “Well, you don’t actually care and it’s not unconditional love. And it’s not unconditional compassion because if I weren’t paying you, then you wouldn’t still care about me.”
Alyssa Scolari [05:12]:
And I know I can definitely speak to this issue about therapy from both perspectives, as the client or the patient and as the therapist. I had a therapist once who, and of course this therapist, the relationship did not work out. And I will share everything that happened with this therapist at some point. I just can’t at the moment, but stay tuned for that. So this therapist is somebody who I saw for several years, and it was all fine and dandy until I really started getting into like the nitty gritty of my trauma. And I started to have a lot of questions about whether or not this therapist really cared about me. And I would actually say that to her, which is important. If you feel that way about your therapist, it’s important that you ask them that. And I also should preface this by saying that this podcast episode is not me speaking on behalf of all therapists because A, that wouldn’t be fair. And B, I don’t really know what’s going on in the minds of other therapists.
Alyssa Scolari [06:42]:
I only know what’s going on in my own heart. And I assume, or I know that there are other good therapists out there because I currently have a very good therapist. And I know that this therapist cares me because she cares about me and not because she’s getting paid to care about me. So while I can’t speak on behalf of all therapists, I am going to speak on behalf of myself. And I hope that me sharing this experience helps you with your relationship with your therapist, if you are having these types of thoughts and these types of questions.
Alyssa Scolari [07:23]:
So anyway, back to the therapist that I was seeing before, so I used to ask her all the time, “Well, what do you care? I pay you. I pay you. You don’t care. And the minute I walk out this door, you forget. You forget everything. And then you don’t really care until I have another check for you.” And I laugh about it now because it was ridiculous. I mean, I actually said all these things to her. And my way of thinking, I was just so hurt and my defenses were up so high and she would say to me, “Okay, Alyssa, is that how you feel about your patients?” And I would hate that she would say that to me because the truth is no, that’s not how I feel.
Alyssa Scolari [08:17]:
So, okay, let’s break this down a little bit. So do therapists need and want and deserve to be paid? Yes. We went to school for this. We are experts in this subject and we deserve to get paid for our work. What we don’t get paid for is to care as much as we do. And again, I’m not speaking for every single therapist. Okay. This is really about my experiences. I do not get paid to care as much as I do. So I look at my husband and I look at the job that he has. He works from 7:00 AM until 5. And he goes to meetings, and he answers emails and this, that, and a third. And I see that at the end of the day, when five o’clock comes around, he closes his computer and he is done. And I see that during the day, while he might be in a meeting, he is able to maybe fold some laundry. He works from home. So he might be folding some laundry while he’s in a meeting and he’s paying attention to the meeting and he’s fully engaged in the meeting.
Alyssa Scolari [09:49]:
But he is doing something. He is doing another task. And again, not always. My husband is a phenomenal worker, one of the hardest workers that I know, but he does have that option if he wants to or if he can. He also has the option of just really taking a moment for himself and taking a break. And while he’s on that break, he’s not thinking about what is going on at work. Just like he’s not thinking about what’s going on at work, when he’s done at 5:00 or 5.30 or 6:00 or whatever.
Alyssa Scolari [10:32]:
I don’t do that. I and most therapists work all day, and this is not a complaint by the way, this is not a complaint. I love what I do, but I work all day. I may work about 8 hours, sometimes 10 hours, sometimes 12 hours but I will see clients back to back. And when I’m done, when I get in my car and I drive home, I don’t shut it off. I choose not to shut it off. Could I probably shut it off? Yeah, but I don’t want to. And I think this is one of the biggest issues that therapists are well, it’s something that therapists are shamed for. So I even feel a little bit funny admitting this, because I know that a lot of therapists listen to this podcast, but I don’t think I’m alone in this.
Alyssa Scolari [11:33]:
So I know that when we go to school, we are trained to shut it off. You have to shut it off. You have to find a way to let it go and you get back into your car. And I really feel like that’s a crock of shit. And don’t get me wrong. That advice is useful to an extent. It’s never good to be obsessed about a client’s problem or a certain case that you have or an issue, but part of what makes us so good at our jobs is our ability to care for people unconditionally. So, no, I do not shut it off the second that somebody leaves my office. I get into my car and I’m driving home and I’m thinking about interactions. I’m thinking about things that I said, things that that person said, how I felt the session went, if there were things that I could have done better, if there were questions I forgot to ask or things I forgot to touch on, if the people that I saw today are safe. All of these things are going through my head, just in the car ride home.
Alyssa Scolari [12:40]:
And it’s not just in the car ride home. It’s the holidays, and it’s the weekends, and it’s … Take the holidays for example. My husband is not attending the holidays wondering if his coworkers are going to be okay. When it’s the holidays for me, I spend my time in … I enjoy every second of the holidays, but I spend my time feeling sorrow and feeling sad and feeling concerned for my clients who don’t have family to spend the holidays with, or for the children that I see that are stuck in toxic homes that I know the holidays will be miserable for. I think about all of that. I could be vacuuming my house and in my head, I’m thinking about what I can do to help this one client who is really stuck with this particular issue. It’s very, very different when you work individually with people trying to help empower them to be their own best advocate, their own problem solver and to reach all of their dreams and goals.
Alyssa Scolari [14:08]:
Now, it’s a little bit difficult to say this because in grad school, what I would be told by one of my professors is, well, that’s a sign that you’re in too deep. That’s a sign that you got too close. That’s a sign that you don’t have good boundaries. You got too close, you cared too much. And again, I say that is absolute bullshit. I mean, okay, it’s 98% bullshit because there is a such thing as getting too close. But the majority of the time, we know the most intimate details on somebody’s life. And for grad schools to make it seem as though we can just turn it off really makes us seem like we should be more robotic than we really are. I’m the not collecting my paycheck and then going on my holidays and my vacations and my weekends, and never thinking about the people that I work with. Absolutely not. And I don’t think that I’m alone in that. I think that there are a lot of therapists who feel the same way. We carry our clients with us in our hearts, in our heads. We wish them well all the time.
Alyssa Scolari [15:43]:
I know other therapists are like that because I’ve heard it firsthand. And I do not think that this is a weakness, even though being in grad school, a lot of professors will try to say that that is a red flag. I just don’t think that it is. I think it’s part of what makes me and other therapists so good at their jobs. It’s so healing when I sit down with my therapist and she says, “I was really thinking about what you said last session.” That statement alone. “I was really thinking about what you said,” is so healing for me, as I know it is for so many other trauma survivors, because what that means is that my therapist cares, my therapist heard me, my therapist saw me and my therapist thought that what I said was important enough that she carries it in her head and wanted to bring it up again. She remembered.
Alyssa Scolari [16:54]:
This isn’t something where I enter into this alternate universe and my therapist cares about me for 60 minutes. And then the rest of the week, she doesn’t know who I am. It’s like, oh, we have a relationship. And that’s what therapy is. Therapy is not the 60 minutes or 45 minutes a week. It is a relationship that you have with somebody. And when we have a relationship, it does become nearly impossible to just completely shut it off as we are trained to do in school. The therapeutic relationship is what makes therapy so successful. So when you, or when I start to have those thoughts of like, well, what if my therapist just like doesn’t care? Or like, my therapist only gets paid to care. If there’s no money involved, then my therapist doesn’t care. That is so untrue, in so many cases. I won’t say all because I have had quite a few therapists who I know barely remembered my name from session to session.
Alyssa Scolari [18:09]:
There are bad therapists out there just like there are bad people in every profession out there. I mean, there’s just bad people in the world in general, but when it comes to therapy, there’s so much that we do that you might not be aware of that we don’t or you don’t pay us for. We seek out supervision, individual supervision, group supervision, we take courses to be able to become better trained in certain areas. We do tons of research. We do tons of reflecting. I reflect both inwards and outwards, about what am I bringing to the table? How am I helping this person? So much of that happens outside of the 60 minutes. And so much of that is stuff that we don’t get paid for.
Alyssa Scolari [19:12]:
My husband, going back to this, he works for 10 hours, I think his work day is, and when he is done, he’s done. But when I’m “off the clock,” I’m not done. And I’m really good at taking care of myself. And I certainly have moments where I do shut things off, but my ability to continue to reflect on my patients’ problems and be able to brainstorm different ways to help them, again, is part of what makes me good at my job. And part of what makes therapy successful.
Alyssa Scolari [19:59]:
Now, I think there’s another piece to this whole does my therapist really care or are they just there collecting a paycheck? And I think that this is very, very common in a lot of trauma survivors, because we are not used to unconditional love and empathy and concern. We’re not used to that. We are used to relationships that are very conditional. We are used to love and care that is contingent upon something or someone. We’re so new to the world of unconditional relationships, that it makes more sense to us. And in fact, I’m going to take it one step further and say even that it’s safer for us to just think that this therapist is just getting paid to care. It’s actually a little bit safer because it’s familiar. We’re so used to having to you give something in order to get love as trauma survivors. That is our norm.
Alyssa Scolari [21:15]:
So I think that when we find ourselves asking this question with our therapist, I think part of it is related to the trauma. Part of it is related to the abandonment we’ve had in relationships before. Part of it is related to well, if I just tell myself that my therapist is only in this for money, then that sort of keeps this wall up between my therapist and I. So then my therapist can’t fully see me, I can’t fully be in this relationship because I already know, or I’ve already assumed that it’s conditional. I’ve already assumed that.
Alyssa Scolari [21:58]:
So part of it for sure is a defense mechanism. It’s certainly a defense mechanism that I had. And it certainly is something that pops back up for me from time to time when I’m triggered or if things are going too well with my therapist, I start to get that feeling of like, oh no, wait, she’s kind of only in this for the money Alyssa. So calm down, don’t get too excited that you have a healthy relationship with somebody. And that’s just simply not true. I know my therapist cares about me and I know the unconditional love and concern and care that I have for my clients, it’s something I can’t describe. I feel honored every day to be able to walk this journey next to my clients. And nothing brings me greater joy than watching them succeed and watching them move through these milestones. And I love that when I get excited, they roll their eyes at me because they think that I’m off my rocker, which I totally am, but I don’t care.
Alyssa Scolari [23:15]:
It is a beautiful thing, and I do not take one single relationship that I have with my clients for granted. And I think it’s safe to say that if you are in a safe and healthy relationship with your therapist, they very much value you. I value, admire and respect the people that I work with. Yes, I do deserve to get paid for my job, for my expertise, but that does not change the fact that I care. And if my clients were having some sort of financial hardship or struggle, I work with them, I have, and I will continue to do so because it’s more than the money for me. And it is more than the money for most therapists.
Alyssa Scolari [24:15]:
I am so lucky because I have so many beautiful relationships from my job. With that, means that I can’t always turn it off in the same way that David can shut his computer down at the end of the day and not give work a second thought until the next day. I can’t always do that, but that’s okay because what I get out of it is so worth it. There are days when it’s hard, for sure. When I unexpectedly have to terminate with clients or when a relationship doesn’t work out with a client and they need to be referred out, it is hard for me. That happened recently where I ended up having to terminate with a client who I had been seeing for quite some time and knew very, very well and it was devastating. I was very upset and it’s okay for me to be upset. I was upset because that person was more than a paycheck to me. So much more than a paycheck.
Alyssa Scolari [25:28]:
So it is difficult, but it is beautiful and it is about so much more than just money. And if you find yourself wondering if your therapist really cares about you, I think you should talk to them about that. I really do because that conversation in itself can be so healing. But I think you should also remember that there are other things that go into therapy than just the one hour a week. And I also think you should remember and ask yourself if some of those feelings are about your own defenses.
Alyssa Scolari [26:09]:
So I hope that this helped. This is just a really important topic because I know so many of us feel this way. So I really hope it was helpful. Feel free to let me know your thoughts. Swing by on Instagram. Again, that’s Light After Trauma and yeah, I hope, hope everybody has a wonderful week and a great start to their November and I will see you all next week. I am holding you in the light. Take care.
Alyssa Scolari [26:39]:
Thanks for listening everyone. For more information, please head over to lightaftertrauma.com or you can also follow us on social media. On Instagram, we are @lightaftertrauma and on Twitter, it is @lightafterpod. Lastly, please head over to patreon.com/lightaftertrauma to support our show. We are asking for $5 a month, which is the equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks. So please head on over. Again, that’s patreon.com/lightaftertrauma. Thank you and we appreciate your support. [singing]