Why finding the right therapist is crucial to recovery.

I’ve had CBT 4 times during the past 6 years to try and help manage my depression and social anxiety. I hated it, I dreaded going, used to beg my Mum to cancel because I hate talking, especially about myself.

My first experience with CBT was like hell for me, I was virtually agoraphobic at that point and didn’t leave the house so I used to be forced out by my Mum and dragged to my therapy appointments. I learned pretty quickly that the therapist was only interested in discharging me as soon as possible. It was also like he was sticking to this strict appointment script, reading advice off of a piece of paper. He wasn’t interested in my feelings and I could tell. So I told him what he wanted to hear instead of what was actually going on with me, I faked my depression and anxiety scores so they got better and better until he decided I was fixed and discharged me. It was no surprise that my depression and anxiety was the same and the therapy hadn’t made any difference.

The next two courses of therapy were not even memorable, I was always given this timeline to recovery and if I didn’t keep to this then it was like the therapist got frustrated and annoyed with me. It made me cynical about the whole process and I was convinced that CBT was a load of rubbish. My depression was up and down and my anxiety was constant. Eventually the right medication helped me feel as if there was hope but medication doesn’t solve everything. My anxiety was still ruling my life and I agreed last year to go through another course of CBT but after the last 3 failures, my GP arranged for me to meet a particular high intensity therapist.

I went into my fourth CBT experience with an open mind, I wanted to control my anxiety but I was also worried it would be the same as my previous times. From the beginning, the therapist assured me that although on average it took between 8 and 10 sessions, if it took longer then that was alright and it was about my recovery. She also took an interest in my life and understood my anxiety wasn’t going to just disappear in a matter of weeks. She was the first therapist who was forceful in giving me homework and expecting me to carry it out. Although I didn’t like it, I needed that authority to scare me into doing the activities she wanted. It started off small with me just going on a small 10 minute walk, then it was walking to appointments on my own. The scariest homework was taking trips to the shops which I couldn’t do alone, again she went with small steps and I was allowed to take someone the first couple of times into the shop, then I had to leave them outside while I went in. Eventually I was going on my own.

It wasn’t easy and I had to want to control my anxiety. The gradual build up worked for me. I’m not cured, I still have trouble with certain places and my anxiety gets triggered easily. But I am trying not to let it control my life like before, I push myself to go to the shops even when I would rather stay in the house. Today I’m going out for a meal and although I may have to ask someone to order for me, I’m excited and not dreading it. I don’t think my anxiety will ever go away, it’s too deeply rooted in my brain but I can fight it and I can enjoy social events despite being anxious. That final therapist changed my life and it showed me that recovery is a personal thing, if your therapist isn’t connecting with you then you won’t be motivated to fight.