Today is another mini episode of the podcast, because BIG NEWS: Kick Anxiety’s Ass is now LIVE! I’ve been working on it for over a year, but I can’t believe the day has finally come.
In this episode of the Hardcore Self Help podcast, I answer a listener question about how to address an awkward situation with a therapist. Next week will be a longer episode, so send over a question if you haven’t already and I might just answer it!
I am 20, and just graduated UC Irvine. Psychology with a bio minor.
When I see my therapist, she comes and gets me from a waiting room, then we walk down a hall to her office. Usually she walks behind me. This stresses me out and I want her to start walking in front of me.
It makes me feel insecure when she walks behind me, in my head she is noting my weight. I know she is not judging me, she is kind and accepting. I trust her, but for some reason it still bothers me.
Not sure if this is relevant but the background is, she is an eating disorder therapist. I had an eating disorder in high school but I believe I’m better now and just seeing her bi weekly for maintenance.
My question is.
How should I address this. Should I send an email before my next appointment asking her if I can walk behind her. Should I in the moment just say “can you walk first and I’ll follow” And if a client did ask this of you in an appointment would you pursue it/ask about it in session, or just let it be.
I think it makes a lot of sense why this would bother you, given your back ground. You could totally ask her to walk in front of you, but I do think that this is something that you would end up talking about together. Some therapists will just say okay that’s fine when you tell them why.
However, I imagine that she isn’t the only one that generates these thought patterns in you and it might be a great way to dive into addressing your cognitions about what you imagine people assume about you.
If it was me and you said “hey would you mind walking in front this time?” I’d say “sure” and then once we got in the room, I’d say – “any particular reason why?” You could tell her that it just makes you more comfortable because you are used to feeling like people are evaluating your weight.
In terms of whether you should tell her? I think it’s an interesting aspect of your experience that she might like to know, but if it’s not generating a great deal of anxiety and it’s not actually interfering with sessions, you don’t necessarily have to.
If your therapist seems to want to dig deep into it and that’s not the focus that you want to have right now, you could say that. You could say – I think it’s just an old habit that I will probably break some time, but for now it causes me stress and makes me feel less focused in session and there are really other things that I want to focus on. You might even work out a deal where you switch off or walk side by side. Either way, I’m sure it’s something that she will understand and be sympathetic towards.
Personally, I think it would be fertile ground that you guys could explore together. In all likelihood she would start walking ahead of you from then on, but you’d occasionally return to that as an example of irrational thinking that you can challenge and work with.
Overall, I want to just encourage you guys to talk to your therapist about the therapy. If there is something that you’d like to adjust or avoid – say that. if there’s something that was really impactful, say that. It helps to analyze and adjust course with regard to the actual therapeutic relationship. That’s one way that you can really get the most bang for your buck out of therapy and it provides opportunities for what I call “corrective emotional experiences”
Naturally patterns in your life and in relationships with other people are going to come out with your therapist. You can use these as an opportunity to work through them and practice a different way of being in a relationship. For instance – maybe your pattern is to run at the first sign of trouble, but instead you address something that made you uncomfortable with your therapist. That could be such a great opportunity for growth and trying out a different way of being.