By: Dr Winnie Waiyaki
Allow me to share an experience I once had with a therapist. In psychology school we are required to undergo hours of personal therapy. The idea is to help us sit where clients sit, to help us ‘’feel” them. At the same time, a student gets to be “apprenticed” under a therapist by watching and learning how they conduct themselves in therapy.
It was my time to learn! I chose a male therapist from the Head of Department’s list of qualified therapists who had been handpicked to take us through. He turned out to be a 55 -year old seemingly distinguished gentleman. He had studied in my alma mater and this gave me a certain degree of comfort. He was actually top of the Department’s list and I jokingly asked my HOD whether this meant that he was the best. My HOD being male, saying of his male counterpart gleefully responded with a feisty, “Of course!”
I never had the opportunity of giving the HOD my view of what number on this list this gentleman therapist should actually have been occupying after my interesting experience. Anyway, this is how it went (down).
Session 1: I walked into a room clad with archaic furniture. I wish I could say that it was vintage furniture with an antique touch!. No, The brown wood, on which the dirty looking maroon cushions were thrown in a disorganized manner, looked like it had gone at least through five generations of users. It was chipped and frankly, unkempt.
Shortly, a door on the end of the room loudly creaked open and in came my new therapist and prospective apprentice helper. He was very tall, clad in a charcoal grey suit and a red tie. So imposing was he that I felt compelled to stand at attention. I stood up and stretched out my hand for a greeting. His handshake felt limp-like and that planted the first seed of doubt as to in my journey. He did not make eye contact with me, but invited me to have a seat, so I reluctantly rearranged the cushions and sat.
After a little awkward silence which I felt the need to fill, I explained that I was a Masters’ student, here for personal therapy. I expected him to at least confirm that it was he that I had made the appointment with over the phone and at least welcome me. Instead, in somewhat a gruff voice, he asked me what I wanted to talk about.
I was completely thrown off! No preliminaries whatsoever?! My uneasiness grew with this awkward situation. I find myself blurting that I want to start with my perfectionist tendencies. As soon as that was out of my mouth, I was confounded by a voice that could only have come from heaven, a BOOMING voice that said, “I rebuke you for the sin of pride! You think you are better than everyone else, thus you want to do better than all!!” His volume hiked with every sentence.
Shortly, I found myself on the floor kneeling, to be prayed for so as to repent for my sin of pride. To say that I was baffled and blown away (in a negative sense, of course!) by this onslaught is the understatement of the century! How I cowered under this man’s influence intrigues me to date. I paid my obligatory fee on my way out and walked out into the sunshine, utterly bewildered.
Believe it or not, I did go back for a second session. No, my senses did not take leave of me, I was infinitely curious. This was the most as dramatic as the first session I have ever been involved in! My curiosity was insatiable.
Therapist: I see you are back. What do you want to talk about today?
Me: (In a very timid voice) I would like to process my dysfunctional family.
Therapist: You are disrespectful of your parents! How can you call them dysfunctional! You are full of sin and you need to repent!
What happened next made me want to quit school and this noble profession altogether. I will tell you all about it in the next post.
My point is, I started therapy without any preamble. What I had learnt in class vaporized before my very eyes…What happened to being introduced to therapy?, What happened to the important conversation of what to expect in therapy? Wasn’t my consent important? Why did he fail to inform me about therapy, but jump straight into rebuking and chastising? and the giving of my consent for therapy?
End of Part 1