Friday, January 18, 2013

Therapy Rehash and an Etiquette Question

I saw R for the first time this morning since before winter break. Immediately, he could tell that I was in a better place mentally, physically, and emotionally. For one, I did not cry. I haven't made it through a therapy session without crying in, oh I don't know, probably at least three or four months. It was a nice change of pace to have good news for him—I told him about Dr. A (who I saw in Home City over break), and how he gave me the first comprehensive diagnosis and optimistic prognosis for my pain since this all started over a year ago. And because of the simple fact that I wasn't crying through the whole appointment, R and I were able to have a reasonable, productive conversation.

Topics on the agenda:
- Breakthroughs in my health dilemmas—my eyes are amazingly better than they were the last time we met, and I have also since seen Dr. A, who mapped out a new treatment plan for my pelvic pain. It was nice to share all that optimism with R, since he's been listening to me complain about it all for months.
- My slowly-improving food habits and weight maintenance throughout the holiday. I have a more detailed blog post in mind about this, but suffice it to say that I am maintaining right around the minimum goal R set for me back in September 2011 (same goal from my old team in Home City), and I have noticed some pretty dramatic changes over the past month in my attitudes towards food, body image, rigidity, etc. Maybe weight gain really does fix the brain? Who knew?! Oh yeah, R did...
- Our last appointment—my roommate came and we discussed some semi-uncomfortable stuff, but ultimately it helped clear up some miscommunications between R and me, and allowed Roommate to express her concerns/fears/anxieties about me. Have I mentioned that Roommate is a saint and the best friend I've ever had?

Okay, now I have a strange/uncomfortable/awkward problem that I'm not sure how to address. Let me preface this by saying that although I do not follow any religion, I have no problem whatsoever with people who do as long as they don't encroach on my personal rights, associate their religiosity with moral superiority, or try to convert me.

That being said, R is quite religious. It's not usually an issue, and I only know about it because he occasionally mentions church activities that he's involved with, or tells me about publishing an article in a religious journal or something. Oh, and once he told me about an iPhone app that sends him a daily Bible verse every morning. Which is all fine and good—he usually only brings up his religion when we're making small talk, not doing hardcore therapy stuff, so it's not like he's promoting his faith as a treatment tool or anything like that.

But today, I took major issue with the direction of our conversation. Without being TOO specific, we were talking about birth control and the various risks that come from using artificial hormones and messing with your body's natural chemistry and all that. R mentioned that he and his family, for religious reasons, don't believe in birth control. With which, of course, I have no problem; I am very aware that certain religions are opposed to birth control, and that's their prerogative. Not my business, and not my place to judge. And I'm familiar with R's religion, so his position on birth control was no surprise to me.

BUT THEN, our discussion took a weird turn. R made some comments implying that an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy was preferable to/safer/healthier than the use of contraception. When I tried to change the subject, it almost felt like he wanted to emphasize his position before letting it go. Again, I have no problem with him having beliefs, and I understand if his personal religion dictates that particular position on BC, but am I wrong to want it left out of my therapy session? Especially when I do not share the same beliefs?

So, my etiquette question: Is it okay for me to tell R that I don't want any discussion of religion during my sessions? I am usually fine with speaking my mind about this stuff, but it feels kind of weird in therapy, and I don't want him to feel like I'm being judgmental or rejecting his beliefs or anything. And I would feel kind of weird bringing it up after all this time. R and I are getting along and communicating much better than we have in the past, and I don't want to throw another wedge between  us.


  1. Yes I think it is quite alright to tell him, as it is your sessions. You could get it out of the way now or I would just let it go this time unless it happens again then of course tell him. I'm sure he will completely understand.
    Much love xx

  2. Whoooa. Yes, Yes, YES he crossed a line here and it is 100% okay, and I would say necessary, for you to address it with him. I know it might be awkward but believe me, you are paying him for professional psychological services, and he is not being professional and is pushing something way beyond psychology on you. Not okay, and I suspect that if it isn't addressed it will start creeping in more and more.

    I have a very close friend that is in a clinical psych PhD program at the moment, and mentioned this (as a hypothetical, didn't tell them who it was about) and they were absolutely appalled.

    I had an issue with a therapist being too religiously oriented once, the first year of my master's program, and ended up ceasing sessions with her. BUT I hadn't been seeing her long and hadn't developed the history with her that you have with R. So I'm not advocating that you pull the plug, but I think this is an important time for you to stand up for yourself and let him know that you don't disrespect his beliefs, but that having them pushed on you is not contributing to your ED recovery or respecting your own belief system, makes you uncomfortable, is professionally unethical (maybe you don't have to tell him this part blatantly but now I'm on my soap box), and is something you feel strongly should be left out of your sessions.

    I am also appalled at his statement about the medical aspects of birth control, but I won't even let myself get started on that. Let him manufacture a human and carry it inside his body (weakened by a long-term eating disorder or not) and then tell you what is "safer". My impression is that he is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist, in which case he has no medical training and should NOT be dispensing that kind of advice. Okay I started to let myself get started on that and I'm stopping now.

    On the other hand, so glad for all of the positives! Sounds like your roommate is incredible, and I'm so, so happy about your eyes. It's also good to hear your observation about weight/mind have so much to be proud of.

  3. Wow, yes, it's definitely okay for you to tell R that. That is really weird that he brought that opinion into the therapy!

  4. Those positives are really wonderful, I'm so glad you shared them! I'm so thrilled to hear about your overall health moving in such a positive direction. Congrats to you for your hard work and continuing to advocate for yourself about finding solutions to the eye and pain issues.

    Ok, onto the part with R: you ABSOLUTELY have to address this with him. If you don't, it will likely start to get more uncomfortable and that could really create a barrier to you continuing to do recovery work together. He really did cross a line by inserting his own moral/religious feelings into therapy. That's really unprofessional and simply uncalled for. I think if you bring it up in a matter-of-fact way that you are not comfortable discussing BC in that way, he will hopefully understand and not ever bring it up again. Good luck to you!