Why Do You Need a Therapist Anyway?

There have been some interesting discussions and comments from various trauma survivors about how much their therapists have meant to them.  These readers have shared some very tender moments with their therapists and have talked openly about the depths of their heart-warming connections and healing moments.

Clearly, these survivors have found their therapists to be important and significant people in their lives.  The work and the effort of developing these therapeutic relationships have clearly been worth it to them.

But why?

Why is their therapist important?

On the flip-side, other commenters in this blog have written about horror stories they have had with former trauma therapists.  It seems there is an endless supply of the “bad t” stories that get passed around and shared over and over.  I can’t tell you how many of those stories I’ve heard.  I’m sure each of you have already been told about at least a dozen bad therapists.  In these stories, the clients are angry with their therapist, they accuse the therapist of causing all kinds of harm, and they speak of these therapeutic relationships as traumatic or disturbing or exploitive.

Who are these bad therapists?!

Is there any trauma therapist that has not been considered to be a “bad t” by someone or another?  Honestly, most therapists get targeted sooner or later by someone. It happens frequently.  (Please remember the blogs about love/hate relationships and protecting your therapeutic relationship.)

So if there are allegedly so many bad therapists, or perceived bad therapists, why do trauma survivors repeatedly risk having a therapist in the first place?

Why does a therapist matter to you?

Why bother with the hassle of developing and maintaining a therapeutic relationship?

Why does a therapist warrant your business, your time, your respect, or any caring connection from you?

What does a therapist do anyway?

There are a variety of reasons why dissociative trauma survivors might find therapists to be important.  I’ve listed 50 benefits of having a therapist. This is not an exhaustive list. If you have an idea to add, please comment.

50 Benefits of Having a Therapist

1.   To have someone encourage you to love and accept yourself to the point that you can truly live, without focusing on death and needing to die
2.   To have someone in your life that will make it ok to not have to dissociate away from your real life
3.   To have someone to bounce ideas on, to problem solve, to explore new behaviors
4.   To have someone to talk to about deeply private and personal things
5.   To have someone who can genuinely hear your pain, and sit with you when you are hurting
6.   To have someone who can give you their undivided attention, their best listening ear, even if for a specified period of time
7.   To have someone who gives you courage and hope to keep going, even in the darkest moments
8.   To have someone who provides a gentle, safe environment for the healing of your deepest wounds and painful memories
9.   To have someone who repeatedly offers positive emotional support and encouragement
10.  To have someone who sincerely believes in you and your abilities, talents, and accomplishments
11.  To have someone who truly sees you as a good person, a worthwhile person, a valuable person
12.  To have someone who will address the variety of issues that underlies the mental health difficulties in your life.
13.  To have someone who will build a relationship with you, willingly connecting with you, no matter how badly you feel about yourself
14.  To have someone who will challenge your thinking and cognitive distortions
15.  To have someone who will connect the dots of your dissociated life experiences
16.  To have someone who will encourage you to be comfortable becoming your very own self
17.  To have someone who will encourage you to build a life based on your strengths instead of the life your abusers may have designed for you
18.  To have someone who will encourage you to try new things and to stretch your horizons
19.  To have someone who will expect you to honestly work on your issues instead of blaming others
20.  To have someone who will foster your leadership skills, job skill development, educational opportunities, etc.
21.  To have someone who will genuinely accept you, warts and all
22.  To have someone who will have the courage and ability to tell you “no”
23.  To have someone who will hear your heart and the depths of your soul
24.  To have someone who will help to remove the jagged edges from your life
25.  To have someone who will help you build a tolerance and acceptance of others
26.  To have someone who will help you create personal safety, both inside and out
27.  To have someone who will help you find and connect with your very best self
28.  To have someone who will help you to build the ability to tolerate and sit with intense emotions in yourself and in others
29.  To have someone who will help you to contain the extremes of your behavior and feelings
30.  To have someone who will help you to emotionally grow, develop, mature
31.  To have someone who will help you to move past the blocks, walls, and black holes
32.  To have someone who will help you transform self destruction into self acceptance
33.  To have someone who will hold you accountable and responsible for troublesome areas
34.  To have someone who will hold your secrets with you
35.  To have someone who will listen to you, and understand your point of view
36.  To have someone who will look for the positive in each and every one of your insiders
37.  To have someone who will make it safe enough for you to express your true feelings
38.  To have someone who will offer encouragement and support, even when its tough
39.  To have someone who will offer guidance as needed
40.  To have someone who will offer opportunities to explore trust, acceptance, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience
41.  To have someone who will push you to move forward, instead of sitting complacently
42.  To have someone who will recognize family dynamics and their impact on you
43.  To have someone who will remember what your insiders say, especially when it is too difficult for you to retain it
44.  To have someone who will set appropriate limits and boundaries
45.  To have someone who will sit with you while you face your deepest fear, shame, guilt, horror
46.  To have someone who will sort out conflict and disagreement
47.  To have someone who will stay with you, even when you expose your worst self
48.  To have someone who will talk to your inner parts, even the ones you are afraid to speak to or unable to speak to
49.  To have someone who will teach and model new behaviors, and healthy emotions
50.  To have someone who will team up with you in your healing journey

True therapy is so much more than a sequence of techniques to address trauma, or emotional containment, or cognitive distortions, or dissociative separation, or destructive behaviors.

Therapy happens with real people, between real people.  Therapy is a healing process.  It touches many levels of life. The emotional depth of true healing is founded in the solidity of the therapeutic relationship.

Unfortunately, your trauma and abuse happened at the hands of violent, hateful, destructive people.

Fortunately, your healing will happen within a caring, accepting, compassionate relationship.



Kathy Broady LCSW



22 comments on “Why Do You Need a Therapist Anyway?

  1. some of those reasons to see a therapist could be reasons for some people to choose not to see a therapist…

  2. I was in therapy with a variety of different therapists and doctors for a number of years after being diagnosed with MPD/DID. One or two of them were “bad” therapists/docs, the others were not perfect, but were kind, ethical, and competent according to the best standards of practice available at the times that I was working with them – all of them were highly trained as trauma/DID specialists.

    At this time, I have not worked with a therapist in several years, and I feel that I have gained a great deal of perspective during that time. For each of the 50 valid points listed, I can think of a valid counterpoint. Whether to employ a therapist in one’s healing process is a choice that each of us must make according to our own circumstance. My own personal experience is that I function at a much higher level and I have more peace and stability within my system when I do not set aside time each day or week to focus on the trauma of my past.

    It is also worth mentioning the logic of the “business” of the mental health field. If I have a customer based business, it does not make sense for me to offer finite services. It is in my interest, and my goal to make sure my customers continue to need and desire my services. It is completely contrary to the therapist’s interest for clients to get better and discontinue treatment. Just something to think about.

  3. We’ve seen several Ts… the first … looking back… had some – interesting – (for lack of a better word) views on dealing with PTSD. the second T diagnosed us with DID… everyone else afterwards has said they don’t treat DID and therapy would only be for me. no one else would be able to talk either through me or not. the one we’re suposed to be seeing right now sees DID as a reason to call CPS.😦 Many insiders me included are becoming scared… maybe we should just be quiet so nobody calls us “incompetant” and takes our son away. But we have a really really good friend who pretty much does everything on the list… lol I know T’s aren’t perfect… they’re humans too…. but for us… it’s beginning to feel like maybe we weren’t meant to see a “T” …. We liked our second T though. she was reallly really nice🙂 and she always pushed us… even if we got angry at her she would say. “If any of you have any better ideas (for solving a problem… like talking to scary insiders) then please let me know… but this is the best way I know to help you, and I don’t want any of you to sit in hurt forever. I know this is hard and scary, but in time it will get better if you trust me and follow my lead. otherwise I’m willing to hear your suggestions or… you can decide you don’t want to work through any of it… it’s all up to you” funny thing… we never had any better suggestions… any suggestions at all for that matter… lol but for some reason hearing from her that yes she knew she was asking us to do scary things and she knew we were terrified of doing what she suggested… but that she wanted us to feel better just as much as we did… and that she would help us as long as we needed and helped ourselves as well… she cared. she understood. she was nice🙂

  4. As I have posted previously, I was a “bad patient” for a long time. During that period I thought I had a “bad t”. In fact, no therapist could satisfy me as being helpful or dedicated enough during that time. Once I learned how to accept help and have a respectful “real” relationship with a therapist I realized that my “bad t”s were not “bad”, they just couldn’t help me in the state that I was in. I had to get to a place where I could hear what they were trying to get across to me and be healthy enough to put it into practice.

    Once I was well enough to function in the world, I stopped therapy for a few years to concentrate my full attention on rebuilding my career etc.. I reentered therapy three years ago to have someone to help me navigate areas of life that I developmentally missed. It helps to have someone to talk to about how strange it feels to have “awakened” so many years into my life and about how different from others that it makes me feel. My therapist helps me realize that although my experiences were far outside the norm for most of the population, I share more commonalities with others than I first realize. After the trauma is processed and things are integrated or contained there is still so much work to be done putting things in order and moving on with life. It’s great to have someone there to help me meet the challenge, especially now that I can be a positive part of the team. My therapy also helps me to see that I can have good relationships with people and that I don’t have to be forever defined by how I was when I was at my sickest. The more “well” I become the more my relationship with my therapist becomes more like a mutual friendship, because I have more to contribute to the relationship. It really helps me to continue to have hope that my life can keep getting stronger and more “normal”.

    Winter’s Keeper

  5. Hi Kathy,
    Good post as always. We currently have two therapists, a DID specific therapist and trauma specific art therapist. They are both very gentle, kind-hearted and humane people. This is something that has been unfamiliar to all of us.

    When you have been “the mistake” your whole life, its a very different concept to have someone want to reach out and hold your hand. Working with them made me realize that not all people including therapists are bad.

    As I start my career and become a psychologist. I will always remember how my therapists touched my life and helped me to see choice. I only hope that I can do the same.


  6. @ strongerinthebrokenplaces —

    You said: It is completely contrary to the therapist’s interest for clients to get better and discontinue treatment.

    I’ve seen ten therapists over twenty-five years of treatment … one of whom is good; most of whom were way off the mark, but all of whom described their ultimate goal as “planned obsolescence.” Any good therapist, like any good doctor, wants the client/patient to get better and hopefully to stay better. And any good therapist has clients lined up out the door waiting for a spot on the roster, so the graduation of a client from dependence to healing does not affect the therapist’s financial stability.

  7. My T has lotsa clients in the wings wanting to be able to see her.
    Not many DD T’s around.
    I agree its a REAL VALID point inasmuch as therapy is very disruptive to day to day life. I feel bogged down in parts work. I hate it and wished I could just dissociate it all away again. Going 1x/wk for 50 mins is all i can afford, but it is disrupting my life too much, I can’t keep doing this ad nauseum, yet can’t go more often and so get down to business. :(so we pick away in slow motion…while my IRL kids are ongoingly messed by their messed up ma. Its WAY too slow.
    T is hard. It hard to trust T. It hard to have so many internal opinions about T.
    I dunno that I got a relationship w/t. But guess we pretty much trust that we can take care of ourselves round her. We pretty much figger she not gonna hurt us on purpose.
    So we figger she is like a tool to help us figger stuff..
    We kinda dance round whether she Ok or not.
    She has set an example that she not run away from us.
    She got excellent boundaries.
    I dunno WHAT to think of the T?
    But we go cuz we wanna do good by our IRL kids, cuz we been switchy from time to time😦 thats confusing to kids😦
    But its like T makes it WORSE, cuz now we seeing more bout what actually going on😦 That we DO switch, that we NOT allus in control.
    We peek inside and we NOT like who we are. We got BADNESS inside.
    So I dunno bout T?
    T’s go away, so they not there allus if you scared lots.
    Can I trust T to keep me safe on this T journey?
    DOES T know what she doing?
    She only human.
    I dunno, I kinda freaked out right now so mebbe i not make sense.
    But I go to T so I can be more the same.
    Thats why.
    Its WAY scarey
    But at the pace we going(been 2 yrs now w/a specifically experienced DD T), it may not be worth the being continuously stirred up.:(
    Not too sure bout it.
    Mebbe I’ll win the lotto!
    but ya, both my more recent T’s (in last 5 yrs or so) been OK. They good people trying hard to help.
    But definately human.

  8. i wish my therapist would come back now. i really miss her. she’s been gone for almost a month now, she is on maternity leave. i have to see a substitute therapist, but it’s not the same, its like when you are in school and you have a substitute teacher. No one takes the sub seriously, and your main goal is basically to make sure the sub knows that she is not the real teacher and all the things they are doing wrong, or not like the real teacher, ie: my therapist. i am trying really hard not to do that, but i miss my therapist more and more each day. i just am ready for her to come back, cus, i feel so terribly alone without her, and i don’t have anyone to tell my secrets to. or anyone to color with. or anyone who can tell me what to do and mean it. i hear the word NO a lot from my therapist, and for so many reasons, i actually listen. So i miss her.
    reading this made me sad. sorry.

  9. i think we read number 2, to mean making us go away. making it so we are one and only one and that is NOT our goal in therapy. we don’t not want to go away not even a little bit not at all. if therapy means some of us go away then we think it is bad. t said she will have a tea party with us though and she will sit on the floor on pillows and draw with us. so we are going back. we still won’t trust her though. and we suspect our therapist would have no problem making money doing other stuff. we don’t think how well we do effects her income. but w e did see a therapist who caused a lot of harm and she wasn’t a good therapist who we called a bad therapist. she was a bad therapist and we have seen a therapist who did stuff that was unethical and we probably could have had her license taken away if we had wanted to. we are not a bad client. we work hard. and we have good boundaries. we have been told by a good t that we have excellent boundaries. we have seen plenty of therapists good and bad and being given the wrong labels and mistreated really messes someone up and puts a lot of baggage on top of a lot of baggage. it makes trust really hard. we need to sleep. we have plans to make forts and stuff from cardboard boxes tomorrow with the son! so we need sleep now. this post still bothers us and we still think plenty of good people who had bad stuff happen who work hard on healing would find some of these reasons to see a therapist as reasons to not see a therapist.

  10. 2. To have someone in your life that will make it ok to not have to dissociate away from your real life

    Thanks for the comment. I thought I should clarify what I meant in point #2.
    For me, “to not have to dissociate” does not at all mean that any of the people in your system have to go away or that you have to become a one and only. In fact, I am quite opposed to the “integration” concept, and to be honest, I have a lot of doubt about the reality of any DID person genuinely becoming a “one and only”. (Have you read my blog post about integration?)

    What I was referring to was just the ability / need to dissociate, or trance out, or to have amnesia about what’s going on in your life. I wasn’t meaning to not dissociate as in to not switch, or to not have anyone to switch to. People can be very multiple AND very present in their life. That’s the goal, if you ask me.🙂

    And it is ok if some of the items on this list do not apply to everyone. Each person can have their very own reasons to working with a therapist, and if some of the reasons on here are uncomfortable for you, then they can certainly not be on your list. It is ok that you have your own list. You dont’ have to agree with mine.🙂 For that matter, give me another week to work on that list, and I’d probably change it again myself, lol.

    It’s more as a thing to think about… It’s definitely not a list to be set in stone, that’s for sure.

    I hope you and your son have fun playing cardboard forts!! That sounds like great fun!!


  11. my therapist moved away. sometimes we still email but it’s not the same. we do okay in the real world–often better than those around us–but still lose time at night once in a while. we dread the thought of getting to know someone new and of letting them get to know us, but many of your points ring true for us. how do you know when it’s time to go it on your own?

  12. Hi Hope,
    Thanks for your kind words.
    I think it is a great idea to have two therapists for two very different purposes. I’ve done co-therapy many years in the past, and especially for DID, it can have a lot of benefits (as long as none of that splitting the “good therapist vs. the bad therapist” stuff happens!!!!). But you clearly have such a great attitude towards your therapists – I bet that in itself helps your healing process to move along well. That’s excellent.

    I am glad to hear that you are doing your healing work prior to entering the field of being a mental health professional. You could have an incredible impact for the lives of many survivors (or for whatever population you work with), but getting healing from your own stuff has to be the first priority. Well done!

    Please keep up the good work – I look forward to seeing where you can go with all this!

  13. We read through this list and found ourselves nodding our head alot – but it wasn’t a T who met many of the things on the list for us. It was an extended family member, who along with his wife, gave us safe haven and supported us in rescuing ourselves from an abusive home. They accepted all of us, encouraged each of us to start to explore what safety looked like. They love each part of us and have never once taken sides…in nine months of living with them, we grew more and healed more than we had in the previous three years of T, or in any T since then.

    They never took the place of a T for us – they modeled healthy relationships to us and in their acceptance of each part of us, we found our own ability to accept and cherish each other internally.

    One day, we’d like to explore having a positive, healing relationship with a T. We know that T can be a really wonderful tool to facilitate healing. We just haven’t found the right fit for us yet. We hope that soon we can afford to start to look again for a T that would be a good fit.

  14. This is such a great list, Kathy!! Today I had a really bad day at work, had a fight with my partner, lots of internal conflict, memories of the past playing, etc..then I talked to my therapist and it just made me feel better. Sometimes I feel so alone, like the entire world is against me, like no one understands, no one cares, like it will never get better for me, but my therapist helps me with all of that. She accepts me, all of me, even when I can’t. She understands if sometimes I can’t talk and she sits with me until I can. Her office has become a safe place where I can just let anything out and know that the feelings will not kill me and I will not be alone with them. I can trust that she will always treat me the kindness that I did not receive growing up. Sometimes it makes me feel sad to think that my therapist is the important person in my life right, the person who knows me the best, even better than I know myself sometimes. It will hurt when the time to leave comes, but I hope that when that time comes I will be ready. I will be stronger, because of all the work we have done together. I will never forget this special therapist who has helped me on this journey, who has been there when everyone else has gone, who has believed me even when my own mother does not, who has never stopped caring, and never stops believing that I am worth it, that I am special and that I can heal. I feel like all survivors deserve to work with therapists like that.

  15. I have been thinking lately that I might need to stop therapy. I don’t have memories of abuse or least what i do have in my head doesn’t make sense to me. Most of the time I think I am probably making it all up and I think that maybe I am getting memories mixed up with when I was a sex worker. This constant doubt about myself is becoming unbearable – I spend all my time hating myself for wasting everyone’s time as I am not a survivor just a horrible person who makes things up. I am tired of being so confused – exhausted. I dont know why I react the way I do in therapy, why I shut down sometimes. Am I doing it on purpose? I am thinking it would be best to put all this away to shut myself up. I just hope my head will give me a break then and leave me alone so I can put this behind me. Therapy is not making anything clearer, I only feel like I am sinking deeper into the abyss.

  16. vickilost, I wonder, how long are your sessions and how often?
    On another place, we were talking about how therapy can just seem so ongoingly disruptive. Some said that longer sessions (mine are only 50 mins 1x/wk) are better, cuz it take awhile to settle and be comfortable.
    As for the doubt. I have that too, and I think its ‘normal’ and tends to be ongoing.
    I am going to try longer sessions and see if thats useful at all…
    And I HAVE improved in my functioning since I started therapy.
    I just have to decide if I will further improve w/continued therapy, or whether I need to try to ‘go it on my own’, and see if I can do OK.
    Cuz ya, I find therapy sure is disruptive, and I can’t go on like this for friggin ever.
    Sometimes I am thinking maybe a break once in awhile would be good.
    Then I can just be ‘normal'(or SOMEthing) for awhile. I can stop stirring things up.
    I think I will try the longer sessions for a bit, then when my insurance runs out, that will be that.
    vickilost, hope you can be OK.

  17. my sessions are 50 mins once a week too. And yes I find it disruptive too. But I worry I wont cope without therapy and a part of me i think is getting attatched to my therapist and freaks out when I think of leaving therapy. I just cant handle the lack of trust in myself will I ever be able to trust what I think and feel? Will the stuff in my head ever make sense? Is therapy ever going to help.

    Thanks so much for responding I was feeling really alone nobody even knows I am in therapy. I hope you find a way of coping better in therapy so that it doesnt always feel so disruptive. MAybe longer sessions would help?

  18. I’ve been trying to get well since 1973 and I’ve had so many kinds of people who tried to help me. Some were good hearted but not even aware of DID. A few were not helpful and one was malevolent. BUT…

    The last 15 years I’ve worked with a T who was just starting to help clients with DID when I came to her. We’ve both learned and grown enormously in this relationship. She has been doggedly persistent in working for our benefit. She patiently worked through years when my denial system – an extremely powerful aspect in us – fought the truth of what we had experienced. She did not release me even when I became addicted to my pain meds and therapy was not productive. In the last 5 years I began to be able to do the work more and we waded though my personal hell together and more and more I am making strong process and going places I never knew to hope for.

    Honestly this long journey with her has been very frustrating because we stumbled through a lot of it and slowly pieced things together as we went along (while increasingly opposed by my spouse). This was not how either of us would have wanted it to be.

    My T is my Superhero in a world of infinite pain and rejection. I believe we are getting very close to a functional life and she will be a huge part of that. If I had a fortune and gave it all to her it would never be enough for what she’s done for me. She “saw” me and what was happening in my life and came along side to help. And just to keep this real and avoid the idea that this woman is unrealistically admired by us….she has made mistakes and let us down a time or two and had health issues that forced her to take time off when we needed her. She has boundaries and is not one to get enmeshed with a client.

    I just feel so blessed to have a woman work so long and hard to help free me. She’s such a contrast to those who hurt me all through my life. I could go on and on but that would bore ya’ll to death and it might be creepy. It’s just that I’ve NEVER had someone treat me so well. Thanks for listening.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s