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Politics in Therapy: An Interview with a Client

There are many posts on CTA by practitioners concerned about the politicisation of therapy but there is little on clients’ perspectives. In this podcast episode (Very Bad Therapy) a client is interviewed about her experience of a therapist who imposed a political agenda on their work together. Insider accounts such as these are valuable for the light they can shed on how Critical Social Justice-driven approaches play out in the clinical space behind closed doors. These insights are particularly important now when therapy training courses in the US and UK appear to be more invested in training activists rather than traditional practitioners.

The interview itself starts at 09.00 and runs to 44.38. The interview is followed by an interesting discussion between three therapists regarding the issues raised by bringing politics into the therapy room (46.00 to 1.11.00). This podcast also contains a transcript and below is a verbatim extract of the client describing how the therapy started to go wrong for her:.

‘So yeah, I mean she, I was able to get in like the following week after I called and reached out to her. So it was pretty, I would say pretty quick. I was really busy anyway. So I really didn’t know what to expect. I had been to therapy maybe like 1 time before and I was young so I don’t really remember a lot of it. So I really didn’t have an idea of what to expect. I didn’t really look at her licensure. I didn’t really, I was just like whatever my job provided this person so I’m gonna go. My first interaction with her was that she was really nice, like she was somebody that I could see myself building a relationship with and her office was kind of like, it was really dark, but it was very like cozy in a way. She knew how to like create that experience in her office and I liked that and it was just like a lot of question asking, like what what brings you in, like things that I expected and I really I had no idea what my identity was. I had no idea like why I was there and I really needed her help with figuring that out. So I just started sharing like my my childhood and my personal like the big things that I just shared with you like my mom was deported. I was also adopted when I was 14, so it was later age adoption and all these things and so she had the same face that mostly everybody says or does when I share that and that just kind of started it and so session after session, I came back and it was just like getting information, like there’s a lot of information to gain. So I totally understood that. I knew that there wasn’t gonna be a lot of like work yet but then it was like 6789 (obvious mistake in transcription) sessions and it was like I’m just going in and talking to her which felt really good. I want to make sure that like at that time it felt really good because I didn’t have somebody to talk to at that time So there was a part of it that was therapeutic in the talking sense way, but I also was just like, are we, what can I do? Like give me some homework. I didn’t even know therapists gave homework at that time. I was just like, can you help me? And so around the time of I want to say it was the elections like right before I think I was right before the elections, right? So like my company was taking like major stances on social issues that were going on at the time and I was having to have these really big conversations with my team and I would have these conversations and my breath would get really short, like I would just be like, my skin would crawl, like I was just like, I don’t know if I agree with some of these conversations that I’m having and I just didn’t know where I stood. I think that that’s a really hard thing for people to deal with sometimes with all these social issues and politics. This is why people don’t like they’re just like this is too much. I don’t know. I’m overwhelmed and so to be a leader I felt like I had to take the same stance as my company and that was not my body was not responding well to that and I think it was just because I just didn’t know enough. So I was like I need to talk to my therapist about this and I decided to be upfront and honest about what I was thinking. I was like, what’s wrong with Donald Trump? Like I know he’s a jerk, but like what what does he actually stand for? Like what good has he done? Like what? I just like asking these questions because every time I tried to it was just kind of like how dare you? Like that was kind of those responses that I was getting were like he’s a white supremacist. Like okay what does that mean? You know just questions that I just wanted to understand more. Same with Biden, like I was doing the same thing. And so I was just like trying to talk to her about what I was processing about conservative being conservative or being a Democrat, like just all of these, all these Republican Democrats, excuse me, and what felt good to me and what didn’t and she was like well wouldn’t… This is when it started to go bad. She… Her body language changed a lot and I like was like not really sure what was going on and she was like, well there’s no way somebody like you could vote for somebody like Donald Trump. And I was like, what do you mean? She was like, because of your situation and what happened and she was like, your mom was deported under his presidency. Like you, we wouldn’t have any reason to and I was like, well, yeah, like that situation happened, but I’m not, I just want to understand like why people support like clearly there’s a ton of people that support him I want to understand why and this is any pull this is the same thing I’m doing with this part you know our election coming up It’s just I want to understand them. And she was very defensive. So she would say to me, okay, well, tell me, she’ll be like, tell me why you would vote for somebody like him. And she would tell me about conversations that she had with her husband about things that had been recently pop popping up on the news and telling me how wrong I was to question them. I’m now studying to become a therapist. I just took my ethics class. And now after taking my ethics class, I was like, oh my gosh, this is so unethical.’

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