Why Going to a Grief Counselor May Not Help…
Oh. My. We may have figured out why going to a GRIEF COUNSELOR does not help.
I was reminded last night as I read the study that I summarized for you last night, that our professionals in the helping field (right now, I'm just talking about the psychological professionals like psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, etc.) have a LONG WAY TO GO to even "approach" being anywhere near helpful for us. I will delve more into their biases next week that could really cost you emotionally if you go into therapy not KNOWING where the counselor's weak points, and potentially hurtful biases are in regard to CHILD-LOSS-GRIEF-AND-TRAUMA.
Several biases were exposed within the synopsis of the research article that once again SHOCKED me as these particular biases were coming from some of the folks in the field that, OF ALL PEOPLE, should be "in the know" about child-loss-grief-and-trauma if they are doing research on grief, and/or they have been put in a position to make diagnostic decisions about this particular subject for our psychological manual (Called "The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V," often referred to as "The DSM V") coming out sometime soon (within the next two years or so) in regards to the best diagnosis for people struggling with some of the severe dynamics that come with the loss of a child, as well as setting some protocols for the best treatment strategies for folks like us who may come into counseling to grapple with some of our many complications for our grief and trauma. But before we can get into some of these weaknesses you may find in the helping field, I want to cover a few basics for you to think about BEFORE you decide to go into a counselor's office.
#1) Our Child-Loss Grief and Trauma is a WHOLE DIFFERENT ANIMAL than any other grief. Most people in the helping field do not realize this yet. So, I know, my grief over my precious 97-year-old mother, though our parting from one another in this world is quite painful, is manageable, and does not become the debilitating kind of grief that losing my 19-year-old daughter has entailed.
#2) What you don't know is that MANY and MOST therapists and counselors will have the same unrealistic expectations for your recovery that your own friends and family have for you. You know how devastating that has been, coming from friends and family; imagine how it could be even more devastating coming from a professional whom you are paying TO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING, TO BE UP ON THE LATEST UNDERSTANDINGS IN THE FIELD OF HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH CHILD-LOSS GRIEF AND TRAUMA, AND YET THEY ARE NOT.
#3) Hippocrates had it right for us professionals in the helping field, the first motto should be:
FIRST, DO NO HARM.
#4) If you want to go into therapy to deal with certain aspects of your child-loss grief and trauma, do some searching for the best therapist you can find. Typically, the more "seasoned" they are, the better therapists they are. (Most mistakes are made in our first ten years out of graduate school, so try to find therapists or life coaches who have at least 15 years experience in the field.)
#5) Find out specifically if the therapist has been trained in the latest interventions for Child-Loss Grief and Trauma. Some of the premier grief and trauma specialists are Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk, Dr. John Briere, Peter Levine, Dr. Richard Scaer, Dr. Douglas Bremner, Dr. Therese A. Rando, among others, so investigate to see if your therapist has been trained by any of these professionals in the latest findings in the current field regarding Child-Loss Grief and Trauma.
#6) Use your discernment as you talk with the therapist to find out if s/he is really hearing what YOUR reality is, and if you can, try to get a feel as to what his/her expectations are for a griever, particularly a child-loss griever, to be "healthy." If they seem to think they have some quick fixes for you, RUN! If they seem to think there is a certain TIME-TABLE for healthy grief to be resolved, RUN! If they seem to be glib (a little too slick, like the work you are about to undergo will almost be painless, RUN! These people are not in touch with your hellatious reality.
#7) YOU are the best authority over your understanding of your own Child-Loss-Grief-and-Trauma. If the person does not seem to be tuning in to what you are grappling with on a day-to-day basis, and seems rather to think he already understands what your reality must be, RUN! Keep looking for that person who allows YOU to teach THEM what you are grappling with.
Now that we've got some basic concerns listed, I ask permission that I may do a little ranting to underline my concerns for us child-loss grievers…
RULE # 1, UNO, ONE, for me as a therapist seeing ANY new client is to ALWAYS keep in mind that I DON'T KNOW WHAT THIS CLIENT IS DEALING WITH. I have to always be a good listener, actively listening to the reality of the person sitting across from me. I CANNOT PRESUME to know what this person is dealing with. I MUST CLIMB INTO THEIR WORLD TO FIND OUT WHAT THEY ARE GRAPPLING WITH -- which, believe me, is a VERY painful thing to do if you care about people (and you certainly want your therapist to care about people if you are planning to make yourself vulnerable to them -- which is the only way good therapy can be done -- but the therapist must EARN your trust so that you will know it is safe to share the very painful things of your life.)
And I am finding out that in my very own profession (I am a master's level psychotherapist, so I am referring to the psychological profession), we have MANY therapists who are unwilling to FEEL THE HARSH REALITY OF ANOTHER PERSON'S PAIN. IT HURTS! A good therapist HAS TO climb into the unknown, get our hands dirty --or in our case, get our hearts dirty -- to learn the painful agony of the person sitting in front of us for psychotherapy. But MANY PSYCHOTHERAPISTS DO NOT WANT TO HURT.
For a psychotherapist to expect you to come into THEIR world, to fit into THEIR agenda for you without the PSYCHOTHERAPIST first learning first-hand the real hell in which you are living is a set-up for disaster.
If the therapist does not really "get" your reality, it will be too easy for the psychotherapist to bark out some simple formulas for you (that will not work) that fit into their preconceived notions of what a griever grapples with, and so the psychotherapist will lay out a beautifully concocted plan that she fully believes will help, leaving her feeling brilliant, but you feeling like you are coming away empty-handed at the very least. Worse, you could leave feeling shamed and hurt, and even piled-on by a therapist, on top of all the friends, and family that already misunderstand your deep grief and trauma!
It would be like going to a doctor who may hear some of the symptoms for cancer, but had rather not think you've got something that bad, so he decides to treat you for the common cold instead because the doctor doesn't want to have to deal with the ugliness and angst of cancer's reality, so he MINIMIZES your reality and treats you for what HE is more comfortable treating you for, totally disregarding any symptoms and facts that he would rather not hear because then he wouldn't be so smart and in control, and able to just bark out his simple little formulas and feel brilliant in doing so.
As an example in my field, I had a supervisor whom I had chosen out of all the local psychologists to be my supervisor because she had a good reputation with my professional peers as being a very good therapist, warm and sensitive, and not arrogant like so many therapists seem to be. But even with this wonderful woman, I was horrified one day when the following happened ~ and remember now, this was one of the best therapists I could find!
I work with a great number of people who had extremely painful childhoods, many who experienced childhood incest by their very own father or mother. So I was sharing a particular case with my supervisor (at the time, I was obligated under the law to review my cases before a supervisor for further expertise to be gleaned) about how I was working with this particular incest case. My supervisor looked at me QUITE SHOCKED, and said,
"You mean when someone tells you they have been sexually abused, you actually work with them about this problem?"
I was stopped in my tracks. I said,
"Yes! What do you do?" And she said,
"Oh, if they bring sexual abuse up, I change the subject, hoping we can talk about something else!"
And she was serious. It was the first time that I realized all therapists are not the same. And unfortunately, over the years, I am finding out that that particular attitude is not at all unusual among the profession. It hurts (like hell, literally, because you as a therapist are going down into your client's hell with them, so that you can companion them through the hell and out again into healing). So, it literally hurts like hell to hear of the worst betrayal known to mankind. But MANY therapists will not allow themselves to feel that kind of pain, so they will not work with the client's real issues!
Now, think about that a minute. Sexual child abuse is the worst betrayal known to mankind. Well Child-Loss Grief and Trauma is THE WORST GRIEF KNOWN TO MANKIND! So, how many therapists do you think are going to be willing to go down into our hellatious reality with us? Too many of them do not want to hurt, and they WILL NOT get their hands dirty climbing down into our pain so that they could feel some of it with us, and then help us find our way into healing.
So when it comes to Child-Loss, we grievers all talk often about how cruel it is when our own beloved friends and family do not really want to love us IN our pain -- they would rather we jump OUT of our painful reality and into their peachy-keen, happy reality, and THEN love us. Well, we know that doesn't work. Either climb into our reality and love us, or admit your weaknesses and bow out because you will be NO HELP trying to pull me OUT of my reality so YOU will feel better.
Well, the same goes for therapists. BE VERY CAREFUL that you find a very good therapist, counselor, or life coach who is willing to hear how bad it REALLY is for you, and who won't try to snatch you OUT of it (so that they won't have to hurt with you), and then expect you to deal with life on THEIR terms.
Loving therapy is amazing, but as amazing as good therapy can be, therapy can be equally AWFUL if the therapist just piles on with the rest of the world with their Get-over-it-quick schemes.