Tag Archives: Therapy

Breaking Up With My Therapist


psychotherapyI broke up with my therapist recently. That sounds a bit dramatic. What I mean is that I ended a formal relationship with a talk therapist I’d been seeing fairly regularly over the past few years. And, like all break-ups, even the ones that you know need to happen, I felt incredibly sad afterwards.

Therapy’s not for everyone

Therapy’s not for everyone. I used to be really surprised when people I was close to would admit that they’d never been to a therapist. Or that they had come to the conclusion, without ever having tried it, that “therapy was just not for them.” Really?  I would wonder to myself. How do you make sense of this giant, unscripted blob of feeling and experience we call life?

While I still think most people could benefit from doing therapy at some point in their lives, I don’t judge anymore. I now see that some people really *don’t* need to analyze themselves endlessly because, as a friend and I like to quip, “their mothers loved them.” Which is to say that some people have so much security and self-understanding that even when they face adversity, they are able to weather such storms on their own. Maybe they consult with family or friends. Or perhaps they turn to some other form of support, such as mindfulness or acting classes or exercise. (I’ve done all three.)

Therapy as a well

I’m not one of those people. But I did feel that it was time to cut the apron strings with this particular therapist. It had nothing to do with the quality of the service provided. She was incredibly insightful – always coming to our sessions with a new take on old problems. And – bonus! – she was also French. Which meant that when I wasn’t listening to her advice, I was ogling her accessories and thinking that I really needed to wear more scarves…

My basic view on therapy is that it’s a bit like a well. There are times in your life when you’ll need to crank that bucket of water up fairly regularly for a drink. And there are other times when just a sip can last you a long time.

So why did I leave? Part of it was money. I’m just starting a new business, so I couldn’t really afford to have so much money flowing out of my checking account without a lot more coming in. But mostly, it was that I felt like I’d made a lot of progress on a whole host of fronts – personal and professional – over the past year. So I could trust in myself to use some of the insights I’d gleaned from her – along with some of the tools listed above – to manage on my own for now.

Which doesn’t mean I’ve arrived anywhere. I used to imagine that there was this magical place in adulthood where the sun came out and you could skip through the puddles and no more clouds would appear on the horizon. Ever. Spoiler alert: it’s not so. And more to the point, therapy is not about arrival. It’s about accepting that the journey really is forever.

Saying good-bye is good for you

The tell-tale sign that I’d made the right decision? Right after I announced to my therapist that I’d be departing, I had a dream that I was late for a plane and didn’t mind. It was the first dream in my life involving travel where I didn’t feel completely lost and anxious. (Thank you, sub-conscious!)

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t some sadness that comes with the bargain. I hate good-byes. For goodness sake, I well up when I hear “Puff the Magic Dragon” because it conjures up such raw feelings of loss. So a big part of me just wanted to send my therapist a text and call it quits so as to avoid the drama and pain of separation.

She was having none of it. Like any good therapist, she knew that you can’t run away from those feelings. You need to acknowledge the sadness of letting someone close to you go and wish each other well.

Bonne chance.

Link: Psychotherapy by Oliverkepka via Pixabay.com



Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons Talk Therapy Can Help You


psychotherapyOn occasional Wednesdays, I offer tips for adulthood.

I had coffee with a friend recently. We have a lot in common, and tend to coach each other on everything from career change to creative writing.

But in this particular conversation, I discovered that there was one issue where we were profoundly out of sync: she’d never seen a psychotherapist. Ever.

I, on the other hand, can’t imagine going through life – and especially middle age – without having talked things over with a professional.
If you’re a therapy skeptic or just haven’t felt the need to see a shrink, here’s a layman’s perspective on five ways talk therapy can help you (But be sure to read my “five things not to do in therapy” before you go!):

Read the rest of this post over on Better After 50

Image: Psychotherapy via Wikimedia Commons

Are Americans Polite Because They Feel Superior?

Over the weekend, the English writer Geoffrey Dyer wrote a wonderful essay in The New York Times magazine entitled “My American Friends” in which he argues that Americans are actually remarkably…polite. To which one’s natural instinct is to reply: “What?????” (Or rather…”Pardon???”)

Today I’m over on PoliticsDaily.com talking about his thesis and adding my own two…pence.

Have a look

Image: Smiley American Girl by cproppe via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons You Should Go To The Dentist

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

One of the dirty secrets of adulthood is that you get cavities. When you’re a kid, you think cavities are just for children because you eat too many sweets. But then you you grow up and realize that – nope – you can still get new cavities or have to refill the ones from childhood.


Dentistry is a subject near and dear to my heart. I’m over on politicsdaily.com today talking about why government-sponsored dentistry in the U.K. is – IMHO – such a nightmare. (Subtitle: “Why The British Have Bad Teeth.”) Have a look.

But in the meantime, here are five reasons why it’s important to see your dentist regularly:

1. It’s Cheaper Than Therapy. Let’s face it. Most of us spend some portion of our time “in the chair” really “on the couch.” And why not? Dentists are such gentle, convivial people. I had one dentist in Chicago who was so comfortable with his patients that he told me he gave one guy advice on getting a vasectomy. I recently saw my own dentist the day my boiler broke and he allowed me to just sit there and swear – literally – for like five minutes. Later, when he was drilling my teeth he said, “Well, as bad as this feels, remember that you’re more upset with your boiler man than me. I’m probably only like 10th on your list of people you hate right now.” (Shame about all that alleged depression/suicide stuff among dentists, but it would appear that those stories are exaggerated.)

2. Tooth Decay is On the Rise. Despite all that fluoridated water, tooth decay is actually on the rise, particularly among the middle-aged and older. The reason? An increased reliance on medications for heart disease, high cholesterol, depression, etc., many of which cause drymouth, which in turn rots your teeth.

3. You’re Likely to Earn More. According to a study called The Economic Value of Teeth, there exists a mild “beauty premium” for having straight, white teeth. (At least if you’re female and not very wealthy). (Hat Tip: Freakonomics.)

4. You get free stuff. (At least in the U.S.) And everybody likes that. Just ask Chris Anderson.

5. You Don’t Want To Have British Teeth. It’s a cliché for Americans to mock Brits for their poor oral hygiene, just as they in turn make fun of us for obsessing about our pearly whites. But – as with most stereotypes – there’s some truth on both sides. And much as I tend to side with my British friends on many things, on this one I’ll proudly call myself American. See my article.

Bizarre, fascinating fact: A disproportionate number of dentists are named Dennis. Really. (Again, Hat Tip: Freakonomics.)


While you’re over at politicsdaily.com, have a look at my post on Hillary Clinton threatening to cut off intelligence-sharing with Britain over a high-profile torture case.

Image: Recommended by Dentists by Guendal via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Growing Up: Safety in Movement

Well, I’m back from Scotland, a place where they really do say “wee” for “little” and “aye” for “yes” and eat (gulp) haggis (end gulp).

One of the things I like most about living in London is how easy (and cheap) it is to leave. All of Europe – plus Northern Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia – is just a few hours away by plane. When we first moved here, I wasn’t sure how much of these we’d actually manage to squeeze in. (Answer: more than I expected, largely due to my new found stint as a travel writer.) But even if we hadn’t ended up traveling all that much, what really appealed to me was the idea that I could leave if I wanted to. In other words, it wasn’t the actual movement that attracted me; it was the possibility of movement.

“You strike me as someone for whom freedom of movement is a defining part of who you are,” a therapist once told me. This happened, by the way, during the interview phase of finding a new therapist here in London. I didn’t end up choosing this particular person (a Jungian, as it turned out), but boy was that an hour well spent. (The kicker: because it was just an interview, she didn’t even charge me for this mind-altering insight. Can you imagine that happening in the U.S.?)

I realized, as I thought about it, that she was absolutely right. It explains why I jumped at the possibility of moving overseas. It explains why I like to change careers. And it also explains why I used to have a lot of trouble committing to long-term relationships.

This isn’t, actually, how most people approach their lives. I know lots of people whose sense of security is derived from living in the same neighborhood over time…hanging out with the same group of people into adulthood…staying with the same job or company over their career. There is something about familiarity and routine that they find reassuring and predictable and it makes them happy.

But in my case, paradoxically – and for all sorts of complicated psychological reasons that I won’t bore you with but which have, rest assured, have been amply explored elsewhere –  I actually feel safer when I know that change is on the horizon (or at least potentially so). And so I’ve come, belatedly, to embrace this part of my character rather than just assuming, as I did for so long, that I’d eventually “grow up and settle down.” Because for better or for worse, this is who I am.

Which is a long way of saying that growing up is a really complicated thing to figure out. And you just hope that every so often, you bump into someone – it might be that random Jungian you interviewed and never saw again – who helps you make sense of it. In the meantime, thank goodness I can begin planning that next trip to Munich….


Speaking of expat living, I was delighted to discover, courtesy of Freakonomics, that living abroad gives expats greater creativity in problem solving.

Image: First Air 727-100 by caribb via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips for Adulthood: Five Things Not To Do In Therapy

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Last week, I posted about five reasons to see a life coach. But I’ve seen all kinds of therapists over the years, and gleaned a lot of lessons along the way. Most of those have been positive lessons about what I ought to do with my life. But I’ve also learned a trick or two about what not to do with a therapist. So, in my (life long?) tribute to therapy, this week’s post is about five things you don’t want to do in therapy:

1. Don’t go on word of mouth. This goes to the choice of therapist. My very first therapist came highly recommended by another shrink. She was a lovely woman. But she was absolutely wrong for me. Where I craved insight, she favored behavioral therapy. Where she wanted a hug; I wanted a hand shake. It’s like dating, folks, and you need to take a few test drives before you commit. Ever since then, whenever I move – because, hey, what’s a move without a new therapist? – I make a point of  interviewing several people before closing the deal. (Buyer beware: in the U.S., at least, they’ll charge for this initial meeting.)

2. Don’t be late. Being late is a clear-cut sign that you’re ambivalent about therapy and your therapist will go to town with it (while billing you all the while…).

3. Don’t leave something behind. Similarly, it’s therapy-death to leave a coat or handbag behind. Clearly, you wanted/needed an excuse to come back. You’ll spend weeks on this. Trust me.

4. Don’t comment on appearances.  I once complimented a therapist on her new glasses. She actually blushed, at which point I felt ridiculous and it took the rest of the session to get over this awkward hump. But this cuts both ways. I have a friend who was describing her body image issues to a (male) therapist, to which he replied, “Speaking as a man, I can tell you you’re attractive.” Easy, tiger. Speaking as a female, I can tell you to keep that to yourself.

5. Don’t share a therapist. I’ve never done this myself, but I have friends who’ve shared therapists with their mothers, mothers-in-law, even husbands. If you’re trying to keep some semblance of boundaries (not to mention boundaries for the therapist), it’ s probably best to see your own guy/gal and keep it personal. Just be sure you shop around…

Image: Doctor Writing by Suat Eman via freedigitalphotos.net.

Tips for Adulthood: Five Reasons To See a Life Coach

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. Today’s post concerns one of my favorite topics, therapy:

Today, I woke up really tense. I had way too much to do and a shortened work day, in part because I had an appointment to see my life coach.

And then I realized: Wait a minute! Isn’t one of the reasons I see a life coach precisely to avoid feeling so tense all of the time?

Indeed, it is. And, miraculously, it works. Like yoga, talking to my life coach is like immersing myself in a giant bottle of jojoba bath oil.

So today, in honor of my lovely life coach, I’ll post on five reasons why you, too, can benefit from a life coach:

1. It’s all about moving forward. If, like me, you’re a die-hard Freudian at heart, you probably spend a lot of time digging around your past. Do that in good health. Lord knows I have. But there comes a point where you’ll invariably max out on “insight” and need to figure out what you’re going to do with all that history. And that, my friend, is where a life coach kicks in.

2. It’s Positive. My life coach is relentlessly upbeat. The first time I saw her, she noted that I tended to talk only about what I did wrong as a parent, rather than identifying what I did right. Now, at her behest, I make a point of writing down three things that I do right with my kids each day. A bit less Andrea Yates and a bit more Mary Poppins, if you will. Turns out “just a spoon full of sugar” really does help the medicine go down…

3. You get homework. Whenever we meet, my coach assigns me homework – little strategies for changing various behaviors I dislike in myself. I then write these down in a book and take notes on my progress throughout the week. As someone with a super-ego that could rival even Freud’s, having a task I must complete suits my personality perfectly.

4. It’s Practical. Whenever I come to my life coach with any sort of grievance, she immediately re-focuses the conversation around the question “What Works?” As in: “So your husband tried to teach you how to operate the VCR and you snapped his head off  because you were in a rush even though you were the one who asked him to teach you how to do it…Hmmmm. Let’s see how we could have reacted to that differently.” “Really?” I thought, the first time this happened. “But don’t you want to talk about my father?”

5. It’s great material for your blog.


No time or money for a therapist? Check out Colleen Wainwright’s fabulous blog, Communicatrix. Plenty o’ doses of life coaching right there. Plus it’s really funny…

Image: Freud by Ross Burton via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Finding a Therapist (in London)

Yesterday I published a short essay in The Guardian Weekly about how hard it was to find a therapist in London. I write a lot of essays, but this was one of my favorites because: (a).  it’s 100% true and (b). because of (a), I happen to find it funny.

The basic thrust of this essay is that as an American, I thought having a therapist was the norm for any warm-blooded, reasonably introspective middle class person living ANYWHERE. Turns out, it ain’t so. At least not in ye olde, stiff-upper-lipped England. When I told my GP (internist) in London that I wanted a referral for a therapist, she looked at me as if I were mad. Therapy? Here? in Great Britain? You’ve got to be nuts!  (No, really, she thought I was nuts…) You can read the rest of the essay yourself…here.

As a friend of mine put it in an email today: “I am fascinated by the faux similarity and wild actual differences between us (USA) and them (Brits).”

Exactly. But I got a lot of feedback on this essay from assorted family and friends. And I don’t think it’s just the cross-cultural piece that they are responding to:

One friend confessed that she’d just sacked not one, but two, of her own therapists in rapid succession, but had signed her husband up for therapy.

Another friend (European) suggested that I extend this analysis to examine the relative receptivity to mental health provision across Europe, comparing France, Italy, the UK, even Finland.

And in a curious case of life…imitating art…imitating life, I got an email from my own (current) therapist, who confessed that she, at times, was guilty of kicking her washing machine rather than trying to figure herself out properly.

Which is a long way of saying that I think people responded to this piece because it resonates. And the reason it resonates is that  adulthood is, at the end of the day, one giant, protracted effort to figure yourself out. Now don’t get me wrong. Loads of people do this without benefit of a therapist (I don’t happen to know them, but that’s another story). But doing therapy – whether it’s traditional psycho-analysis, talk therapy, or some form of groovy self help’y sorta thing – (I’ve done all three) – is a HUGE part of “finding yourself in adulthood” (to coin a phrase).

I’ll have loads more to say in this blog on the topic of therapy – one of my not so closeted obsessions. But for now I will sign off with this, one of my all time favorite cartoons. I think it pretty much says it all, no?

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