By: Alice Miller
I know how difficult it is to find the right therapist but I still believe that it is possible if you know what you need. So I try to answer here some questions that may encourage you to check the attitude of the candidate for your therapist; but please take this text as a draft and don’t hesitate to make comments or additions. (I decided to speak of the therapist as a “she,” but of course both genders are meant.)
- What do I need to overcome my plight?
You need an empathic, honest person who would help you to take seriously the knowledge of your body, a person who already succeeded to do the same for herself because she had the chance to have found this kind of help that you are looking for.
- How can I know if a therapist is this kind of person?
By asking many questions.
- This idea scares me. Why don’t I dare to ask questions?
As a child you were probably punished for asking questions because they might have shaken your parents’ position of power. Your questions were often ignored or you were given lies instead of true answers. This was very painful. Now, you are afraid that this might happen again. It CAN happen that you will not be understood or that your questions trigger the fears and defenses of a therapist but you are no longer the helpless child without any options. You can leave and look for another therapist. The child could not leave, so he tried to change his parents, some people do it (symbolically) their whole life. But as an adult you have options. You can, with the support of the forum, recognize the lies, the poisonous pedagogy and the defenses. You must only take seriously what you hear, not deny your uneasiness, and not hope that you will be able to change this person (the parent) later. You will not. She will need therapy herself, and this shouldn’t be your job as long as YOU pay the honorary.
- I feel guilty because of my mistrust. If I can’t trust I will never find what is good for me.
Your mistrust has a history and your need for SPECIAL understanding too. Your caregiver didn’t deserve your trust and the child felt this very strongly because his body knew the truth. It couldn’t develop trust. Now, trust your body signals, it is the silenced child who is speaking, who starts to talk and needs your truthfulness. If you don’t feel good with a person, take your feelings seriously, don’t push them away, try to understand these feelings. Once you feel truly and deeply understood by someone, your body will let you know this immediately and very clearly, it will be relaxed without any special exercises.
- What do I risk by asking questions from the beginning?
Nothing. You can only win. If the answer is hostile or very incomplete or defensive, you can gain much money and time by leaving. On the other hand, if the answer you got is satisfying, you will feel encouraged to ask more. And this is what you should do.
- Which kind of questions am I allowed to ask?
Whatever you need to know. But above all don’t forget to ask the candidate for your therapist about her childhood and her experiences during her training. Where did she get her training, what was helpful to her, what was not? How does she feel about the defeats, does she have the freedom to see what was wrong or does she protect people who damaged her? Does she minimize the damage? Was she beaten as a child? How does she value this experience? Is she really aware of its consequences for her later life, or is she denying its importance? Does she avoid the confrontation with her own pain? In the last case she will do everything to silence you, not always visibly.
- Is it a good sign if she tells me that she has read Alice Miller’s “Drama?”
It doesn’t say anything. Ask you how she FELT about “For Your Own Good” and the other books, also ask about her criticisms. What helped her personally, what didn’t? What is in her opinion the main healing factor? Is she capable of deep feelings or does she prefer an intellectual analysis to keep distance? This you may even find with primal therapists who makes you feel the helpless child for years and years so that they can “help” you, but without being themselves able to feel on a deeper level. Then you may end up in a dependence on them and on your feelings of a helpless, unchangeable rage against your parents without being able to free yourself for what YOU really need. A good therapist must help you to find and fulfill YOUR OWN needs, neglected for such a long time, needs for free expression, for being understood, respected and taken seriously. When you begin to look for fulfillment and to protect the child, the rage and hatred will leave you, they will fade. They are alarm signals of your repetition of parental neglect and contempt; they do not have the therapeutic quality we are so often told they have.
- Am I not intrusive when I ask so many questions?
Not at all. You have the right to be sufficiently informed and she must have the courage, the awareness and the honesty to answer you in a proper way. Otherwise she is not the right person for you.
- With this position, am I then looking for an ideal that doesn’t exist?
I don’t think so. You see on the forum ourchildhood.int that honesty, awareness, compassion, courage, and openness DO EXIST. Why should these qualities not be expected from your therapist?