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Tamie and Kylie talk therapy

A conversation between two FHE contributors about seeing and being a psychologist.

Tamie Davis was a reluctant psychology client who became a big fan of therapy.

Kylie Maddox Pidgeon is a psychologist.

Kylie: Tamie, what was it that made you reluctant to see a psychologist?

Tamie: I thought I should be able to cope on my own. I thought the trauma I’d experienced wasn’t significant enough to warrant going to therapy, and I didn’t want to admit that I was broken enough that I needed to. I was really driven to it by desperation. I started having PTSD episodes that inhibited my ability to work so it became clear that I did need help.

Kylie: Why did you think you should be able to cope on your own? (Did that sound too much like a therapy question already? Eh, can’t help it, I’m interested…)

Tamie: The trauma I’d experienced shook my confidence in others, and I came to the (wrong) conclusion that I was the only person I could rely on, and trusting or including others was a liability. It felt way too vulnerable to accept help and much safer to struggle through on my own.

Kylie: I can guess how well that worked out ;-) So did therapy help?

Tamie: This was the big surprise for me. Yes, it totally did! I remember calling my twin sister who was also a psychologist after one session and saying, “I didn’t know I could feel this strong!” She was like, “This is why I’ve been telling you to go to therapy!” And it was only like 6 sessions or something. I couldn’t believe I could get ‘fixed’ so easily. If I’d known that it would make me feel so good, and be so effective, I would have done it long before. For me, it was an experience of healing.

Kylie: My clients say that too! Someone said yesterday “Well if I had’ve known you could help so easily I would have come months ago!” Here’s a Public Service Announcement: Anxiety is treatable, PTSD is treatable, panic attacks are treatable (seriously, ending panic attacks takes about half an hour), trauma is treatable, depression is treatable. The complexity of the issue can mean it takes time, but there is always progress to be made.

Tamie: Who should go to therapy?

Kylie: Sadly, we have a social discourse that says therapy is only for mentally ill or struggling people. It doesn’t have to be. Therapy can also covers healthy relationships, life transitions, healthy work life balance, parenting, discovering purpose, and thriving.

I have some clients who come once a month while their kids are little, or while they’re studying, or when they’re in a high stress job, or if someone in their family has chronic illness. They just know it’s a stressful and demanding time of life, and they can use regular emotional and psychological support, and evidence-based strategies to help lighten the load.

I go to therapy myself (plus I have a clinical supervisor who oversees my work). I see therapy as a safe place just for me, alleviating pain when I need it, providing insight, gaining strategies, and helping to process and grow from the challenges of life. If I didn’t have a great working relationship with my psychologist, I’d be a lot less settled, and a lot more trauma-driven.

Tamie: Do you think of yourself as a healer?

Kylie: Huh. Good question…Umm… No… not really. Healing isn’t done directly… I create space for healing to happen though. The people I work with are the experts on their own lives. I sit at the feet of their expertise. While I’m working with someone in their session, my process might be something like: deep listening and empathy, acknowledge the hurts, honour the strength and courage, then offer evidence-rich psychological strategies that relate to that particular problem. Having said that, I do know how to treat stuff…

Tamie: Oh, see, this is interesting to me, because I often talk about my experiences of therapy as experiencing God’s healing. I mean, I guess God’s the ultimate healer, but I definitely felt that He used the therapist, so she was a partner with Him in that healing. But then, I get where you’re coming from too, how the therapist helped me to discover parts of myself that were me, but which I didn’t know.

Kylie: What did your therapist say or do that was helpful for you?

Tamie: She gave me language for what was going on so I could make sense of it. I felt like she helped me to be the expert on me rather than her ‘treating’ me. I didn’t feel reliant on her because she gave me tools that I could use in the future.

Kylie: How are you different as a result of going to therapy?

Tamie: One thing is that I am now a massive fan of therapy! Since that first time, I’ve gone back twice more, once again for a different trauma, and most recently for grief counselling. I keep going back because therapy makes me feel stronger, experience less shame, and be more comfortable with my emotions.

Kylie: What impact do those improvements have on your life? (I like asking questions. Can you tell?)

Tamie: Because I live with less fear or shame now, I think I’m more authentic. I spend less time thinking about how to protect myself and more time actually living life and interacting with others. But I also ask for help more often, and that deepens relationships. I have some skills which make me a calmer person to be around, less reactive and more empathetic, which makes me a better friend and co-worker.