Same Time Next Week? | S1 Ep5 | Amanda's Therapy Story
Season 1 | Episode 5
Amanda's Therapy Story
If you ever need someone to stand up for you, or teach you how to stand up for yourself, Amanda is the perfect person to go to. She's a bold Enneagram 8 who admits she can turn on the charm, but has also confronted her therapist when she didn't think her therapist was being hard enough on her.
In this episode, Amanda talks about the effects of childhood abuse, expectations related to religion and church, parenting, going to marriage counseling, and so much more. Find her at AmandaSteed.com to see what she's doing in her own therapy practice, now.
- Childhood trauma and sexual abuse
- Dissociation and memory loss
- Becoming a parent
- A right to be angry
- Liminal space
- What to expect from therapy
- Marriage counseling
- Confrontation and trust with your therapist
Michael Shahan 0:01
Hi. Welcome to the same time next week, the podcast where we demystify the therapy experience by talking with people who share their own personal therapy journeys. In each episode begin to uncover what therapy actually is, how it works, what helps, what doesn't, and everything in between. I'm Michael Shahan, a marriage and family therapist in Kansas City. Let's get started. Today's guest is Amanda Steed. She's Enneagram coach and teacher. At the time of recording, she was in graduate school for social work. And as of today, she's finished with school and as a practicing therapist. If you're interested in working with her, go to her website at Amanda Steed.com. Trigger warning: this episode contains references to sexual assault.
I am 36 years old, I've been married for about 15 years. I have two kids. I have a seven year old and almost five year old. I just graduated with my Master's in social work. And then I just passed my licensing exam and I'm officially an LMSW so really excited about that. I yeah, I mean, I guess what do you want to know? I am I do teach the Enneagram. And I coach with the Enneagram. A lot of that, obviously, the teaching went on, on hold during COVID I got a lot harder to teach. And I feel like everyone was overwhelmed with online events, myself included. So that has just kind of taken a backseat. So now that I'm done with school and hopefully starting a job soon, I'll be able to kind of rethink you know how I use the Enneagram and definitely will be not every social worker goes into therapy. But that's my my goal is to go into a therapy position because it changed my life has saved my life. And I love it.
Michael Shahan 1:50
Yeah. So this first sort of season of the podcast, I'm what I've been wanting to interview people who aren't like full therapists. And when I first started asking you about doing this, you technically weren't because you had passed that test or whatever. But it was with my laziness that took me so long to ask you. So I'm going to allow it.
And technically I'm not a therapist yet. I'm a licensed social worker, but I'm not technically employed as a therapist,
Michael Shahan 2:13
So I think we can allow it then.
Yes. On a technicality.
Michael Shahan 2:17
Yeah. Okay, good. So tell me about because I just want to ask about your own therapy experience and all sorts of things about that. So tell me about Yeah, what what is therapy been like for you? When did you start therapy? Why did you initially go to therapy? And when was that?
Yeah, so this is like a multi-layered question because I actually experienced a lot of abuse at the hands of my father when I was a child. And there was CPS involvement. So I had mandated therapy as a 10 year old for about between a year and two years, through CPS here. And it was like, life changing. Like in my, in my internships, as a social worker, I have worked with kids that have experienced abuse that have not had therapy, or like, their interactions with me Are their first kind of experience with really processing what's happened to them. And I think that, because I was able to be like, I had individual therapy, family therapy and group therapy with other survivors. So I think just the ability to process that really allowed me to like, go through the rest of my adolescence, in a in a fairly, I don't like the word normal, but you know, like, developmentally appropriate way. I think that without therapy, I would have had a lot of unprocessed trauma that could have really affected me negatively. So that's kind of my my introduction to therapy. My experience with therapy as an adult was much different.
Michael Shahan 3:55
Okay, can I ask you really quick about the first part because I know a lot of people have stories about how they were sort of made to go as a kid and it was dumb, and I couldn't wait for it to be over and it wasn't helpful. What about yours was helpful as a kid when you look back at it now?
That's a really good question. I think it's I think it's really hard to articulate I think it's something happened internally that I couldn't really define. I really connected with the therapist I had and HMR which is our like county provider here. Like I remember bits and pieces, my memory from the first 10 or 11 years of my life is really spotty, but I remember certain sessions with her just feeling really safe. I feel like like the abuse was destigmatized in a way that really like I think that if I hadn't especially that group, therapy process, like the stigma that goes along with with sexual abuse and especially family sexual abuse is so like, if you if you keep it internal, it can really like tell you a lot of things about who you are. But because I had that process of like, "Oh, I'm not the only one who went through this." And it's not normal, but we can like heal from this, like we can recover from this because I saw that play out in other people. I think it just showed me that like I, there wasn't it wasn't anything wrong with me.
Michael Shahan 5:25
Wow. Which is what can get stuck when it's not talked about and not normalized, and not processed.
Yes. 100% 100%. Like, I think a lot of survivors of abuse don't hear until they're adults, that it wasn't their fault. And for a long time, I was like, Why? Why does? Why do therapists think they need to tell me that like, I know, it wasn't my fault. But I think I only know it wasn't my fault. Because I was told that repeatedly, repeatedly afterwards, like it was really, really just ingrained in me.
Michael Shahan 5:57
That's amazing. That's so helpful. Just the process of even sharing it, normalizing it and kind of kept it from because that's so much of trauma is unprocessed, stuff like that. So you're able to process it. So it didn't sort of become traumatic and didn't create these negative. Wow, that is fascinating.
Yeah. And that's not to say it didn't, it didn't affect me, right, like, I still had a lot of trust issues. It's, you know, so getting into how I got back into therapy as an adult. So I was around two or three years old when my abuse started. So when my daughter hit like, two, two and a half, all of a sudden, it started stirring up all kinds of stuff internally. And I didn't really make the connection. At first, I was just like, really pissy a lot. I was like, you know, I'm an Enneagram 8, we'll just get that on the table so that we can use that in this conversation. Like, I was just pissed, right? Like, I was just mad a lot. And so it just was this, like, I need to figure out what to do with this. And also, so my husband is Kyle. Kyle, and I had tried out one marriage therapist and didn't really care for her at all. And then we were like, okay, well, we'll find someone else. And then we didn't, you know, that just kind of, it's hard to find a therapist sometimes. So we just kind of put it on the back burner, I was pregnant with our second kid. And I finally was like, I have to do something for me. Like, if we don't find a therapist for our marriage, like, I have to find something, because I could just see that I needed a space outside of my life.
Michael Shahan 7:36
Well, you didn't immediately connect it to the sort of your own childhood abuse, you just knew something was happening?
So I had that's like a layered not at not initially. So I did have, I was in a writing course. And we were doing this activity. And I had like I said, I don't have a lot of memories from the first 10 years of my life, I don't have a lot of memories of being abused. A lot of that I'm still very disassociated from and but I started having like little bits of memory coming back. And I texted my mom about it. And my mom was like, Oh, well, that's not actually how that happened. And like, we started kind of talking about the narrative of that period of time, especially like, right when CPS got involved. So there was that, and I was like, I feel like I need someone to talk to about this. That is like, objective. You know, like, it's, it's not possible for my mom to be objective that was like really traumatic for her in her own way. So yeah, it was just a combination of things. Like my marriage was experiencing problems. I had a two and a half year old, and I was about to have another kid. And so yeah, it was just like a time of my life where I I needed something outside of myself. Yeah, and I had a lot of friends in therapy. And so that was really helpful to hear someone have a really good experience with someone and like several of my friends, were seeing the same therapist, and I was like, I'll try that one.
Michael Shahan 9:02
Oh yeah, almost like helps you develop trust or like knowing like, there's, you could at least trust that they this therapist helped other people. So this could help me kind of, yes. Okay, what were the things about that therapist that made like that your friends would say that made it more comfortable for you to?
I think it was just like, I don't even know if it's things about the therapist. It was like the differences I was seeing in my friends. So it wasn't like it wasn't like, oh, Jenny is XYZ It was like seeing this friend really transform and being more confident and just going through their own process, being able to see that transformation happen.
Michael Shahan 9:44
So in your mind, like obviously, the therapist is doing something good, right? These changes are actually happening in my friend's life right now. Okay. The results sort of spoke for themselves, right? Wow. Did you like that therapist?
Yeah, I loved her immediately.
Michael Shahan 10:02
Okay, okay. Yeah. What is it about her? Because I've talked about this a lot on the podcast. Like, what creates safety? What creates trust?
Isn't that so hard to articulate? Um, so my, my therapist's name is Jenny. And I feel like First of all, in the first session, I went in and was just like, this is everything. Like, I know, like, now having done an internship where I was doing therapy, I know that most people, when you say, like, what brings you to therapy? Like they don't do what I did. What I did was like, let me tell you every traumatic thing I've ever been through, and like, snot cry on your couch, and like really amazing. She was just, I mean, chill. She didn't like pull back from it, she almost she leaned into it. My therapist is also a, an abuse survivor and has experienced trauma. And within our first like, two or three sessions, really wisely disclosed that to me. Which really just helped build trust, like, okay, you know, what this is like, and you know, what these decisions are like. Another thing was that when I, so this is gonna get a little in the weeds, but I couldn't legally see my dad until I was 18. And when I was 18, I made the decision, like, I want to try to get to know him. Like, he's probably a changed person, I, I'm an adult, I want to get to know him. So we started to form a little bit of a relationship. And it had a lot of ups and downs. But as soon as I had a child, and especially as soon as I had a daughter, I was like, this is not gonna happen anymore. And because I was like, so deep into like, the Christian world at the time, I got a lot of shit for that, which, you know, like, looking back on it, I'm just like, why would you give anyone shit about it, but, but my, my therapist had made a similar decision for different reasons, not because she became a child, but she also didn't have a relationship with her abuser. And was just like, very validating and that decision for your decision for my decision. Yeah, like very. Yeah, she just, she, I think she validated a lot of things that I had experienced and feelings I had about things that had been like spiritually bypassed or had been kind of like, Okay, I'm just not I hadn't been validated for a long time. And a lot of the things that I was dealing with.
Michael Shahan 12:47
Sure, so you're able to just like share these things and be just be validated over and over again, about who you are, what you were feeling what you wanted. Things, which is something you had kind of lost touch with.
I think at that point, I was in a space where I was like, I'm angry all the time. And I need to stop being angry. And she was like, No, you're angry all the time. Why do you think you're angry?
Michael Shahan 13:08
Wow, like it's not like defined as a problem.
Right! It's like, what do you think that anger is trying to tell you? We're, you know, and so it was just this like, total transformation of like, my unpleasant feelings are not something to fix. Right? They're there to tell me something, which was just like, mind blowing. To me at the time. Yeah. Oh, yeah. And especially as a female who, who grew up in the church being fairly angry most of the time and like that being used against me. It was just so validating to hear like, No, you. It's okay, you have a lot to be angry about. Like, let's talk about it.
Michael Shahan 13:12
Which is so is the complete opposite direction, then stop being angry. That's not okay. Yes, yes. Exactly. The exact opposite direction. What was it like for you to feel somebody welcoming so much of you that had previously been unwelcome?
I think initially, it was like, disorienting. Honestly. It was almost like I because Okay, so let's think like, where I am spiritually now is very different than where I was spiritually then. So where I was spiritually, then I feel like at first I was like, no, like it's not okay for me to be angry.
Michael Shahan 14:30
Wow. So not this immediate Oh, wow. Great. I feel great. Now. It's like, that's not okay.
It was it wasn't as immediate necessarily, "No, that's not okay." But like, Are you sure?Like, are you sure about this? Because I'm not so sure. Yeah. Yeah. I think there's a lot of that.
Michael Shahan 14:50
So it took time. Yeah, it wasn't this. Yeah. It wasn't as immediate part of what I wanted. As far as this is like, people can romanticize growth and change. And it's like for you, it's like the that growth that important step for you to accept your own anger and your emotions wasn't this like, well, it happened now I feel great. This is so good. At first, it was extremely disorienting and difficult to handle.
Yes, yes, I wish that I had had the term liminal space. I had never heard that term before, like a couple of years ago. And it's like the space of being in between. and I picture myself and I think myself in liminal space, I picture myself like literally floating in space and like being untethered, and not having anything to hold on to and being unsure what direction I'm floating towards, and just like this. And I've really felt like that's what the first, like 18 months to two years of therapy was for me.
Michael Shahan 15:43
18 months to two years. Wow.
I mean, I have a lot to unpack, Michael.
Michael Shahan 15:49
Not saying like that, that's weird! But just I think most people might not think people should be good or something. Yeah. Tell me more about what you mean by liminal space. People might not understand what you mean by that.
Yeah, it's just this like, there is this idea of like, I have this problem, I'm going to go to therapy to fix the problem. And my therapist, like really reframed that to like, "Well, I'm more curious why you see it as a problem." And then like, what if the solution, what if there's no solution? What if there are just small changes that could change the dynamic that might have an impact, but it doesn't, it's not necessarily a fix for the problem. Which I'm doing, like air quotes around fix a problem. So it was just this, like, I had been in the church where there were like, black and white rules for everything. Right, like, pray to God to get this. If you don't get it, it's probably because you didn't pray correctly, or you are sinning or it's just not God's will for your life or, and to be told, like, maybe everything is just really gray.
Michael Shahan 16:58
Hmm, they're like that not not be able to figure out what you thought you knew.
Yeah it's like a redefining of almost everything.
Michael Shahan 17:06
And when you're doing that, you're in the middle of it. You're not where you were thinking you had to figure it out. And you're not where you will be. Yeah. It's that in between. Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's real. Yeah, that's what I have a lot of clients say things like, "I'm so annoyingly self aware, since I started this."
Oh, it's exhausting.
Michael Shahan 17:25
I know my pattern, but I don't know how to do anything different. And so it almost feels worse for a while
And listen, whenever I would say that to my therapist, she's still to this day, I only go about once every three months now just for like, I call it a preventative maintenance tune up. But whenever I say that to her, she her response is, "But the awareness is progress." And I'm like and I'm like, No, it's not enough. Like no.
Michael Shahan 17:53
It's uncomfortable. Stop it. I don't want to affirm that. And not feeling okay doesn't mean there's no progress. Right. Wow. That's Yeah, what a shift to know, like, things are going bad. I must be doing something wrong versus things are going bad and I think that's because I'm doing something important and right. Wow. That's huge.
That's Yeah, I like the way you framed that. Yeah. And like, this is this. I think, for me, it's more this is really hard. So I must be doing something wrong. Because we're, like, fed that lie. That when we're doing everything right, life is easy. And it's so fun. And, and it's like no, sometimes when you are making the right choices for yourself. They it actually does make things harder sometimes. Wow. Yeah.
Michael Shahan 18:46
I want to delete what you just said. Because I don't like it.
Michael Shahan 18:54
Oh, that's so true. It's the worst truth ever, but it's so true. And you was it like for you to be in that sort of liminal space just in life still continuing to still have all of the same responsibilities in life?
Oh, what was that like? I think it just depended on the day. Some days I was I was like, grateful. Right for like the space to, to ask questions that I'd always had and like, not immediately be told, like, we don't ask those questions like we don't. We don't talk about that. And then there were times where I was like, it's kind of like what you're you were just saying that your clients say of like, it's, it feels like this burden. Self Awareness almost feels like this burden of like, God, I never freaking thought about that before. It's like when someone tells you the impact of plastic straws, and you're just like, Well, I didn't. So now I know that so now every time I use the plastic straw I feel horrible. Did you watch The Good Place?
Michael Shahan 19:59
No, no a few episodes, but not anything more than that.
Well, there's essentially just this idea that like, human beings aren't getting worse, we're just like more aware of how bad we are. Like, we used to never know that these strawberries are unethically sourced from these underpaid migrant workers who are barely feeding their families. But now we know. So we have to make a choice about which strawberries to buy. And we have to make 1000s of those choices all throughout the day. Right. So tying this back to therapy, it was like, I used to say to my therapist, "Yeah, I really sometimes just wish I could go back to before I started this process," because yes, it's just like this ignorance. And, and I wouldn't choose it. Now knowing what I know. Yeah. But it's almost like before I knew, I wasn't this tired all the time!
Michael Shahan 20:58
So is it? Is it worth it? If you could somehow choose to unlearn those things? Would do it?
Oh, absolutely not. No. Okay, no, I like my, my marriage is like so much richer now than it was before. Like, there's so much more depth and intimacy than there was before. And even my friendships like, there was a certain point where I made a really intentional decision, like, this small handful of people will be the people I walked through this process with. And because I made that decision, those friendships are so deep, so rich, so meaningful. And I wouldn't have that. I don't think I would have that without having made the decision, like, Okay, I'm just gonna go. And it's almost like, for years even having that experience as a kid where I didn't think there's anything wrong with therapy, when someone said they were going to therapy, I'd be like, that's so good for you. But there was still this, like, what if I go? And then everything is ruined? Like, what if I find out something that like ruins everything? Or like, what if, like, there was this, and I don't, I'm never really, I don't know where that came from, where that the fear came from. But it was like finally pulling, like a nasty bandaid off of a wound that desperately needed care. And like the band aid may have kept me alive. I may have survived, but I never would have been like fully healed and fully functional. And so no, I would I would not change my decision to go into therapy.
Michael Shahan 22:42
I love your term, like the richness you described it, but like, Sure, there was this ignorance and bliss of not knowing but also like, your existence was more I don't know, flat, kind of less, less rich, less enjoyable, less alive. So almost like that. So knowing what you know, now it's, it's it's uncomfortable, and it's been uncomfortable, but what it's given you as well worth it.
100% Yeah, through life.
Michael Shahan 23:05
Wow. That's cool. That's really cool. I think it's hard for people to stick past that first, that liminal space, because it's so easy to just reach back to where you were and go to the same way as you were, but like when you're not quite to that richness, but also far enough, but still kind of close to that first bliss where things seemed sorta okay. Yeah, I think it can be easy for people to go back to. It's a draw that people feel sort of go back to just quit it all and go back to the way you were thinking.
And I think I think that this can be different. It doesn't always have to be this. I want to emphasize that because not everyone makes the choice to be a parent. But I think that if I had not become a mom, for me, that was like, my, that was like my push that I needed. I just had this realization of like, what do I want to model for these little tiny humans? Like, what example do I want to set because they'll be mad at me for something right? Like, they'll resent me for something. It's just like, kind of a human thing to find your parents mistakes and be mad about it. But I will be damned if I consciously make a decision to be in a place that's unhealthy.
Michael Shahan 24:18
And like model that that for them. So it was just like, so important for me to show my my daughters what it means to like, pursue freedom for yourself.
Michael Shahan 24:32
Wow. Yeah, I yeah, I think that's fairly common, people like sort of having kids and realizing this and like, then not realizing they need to change or want to change until that happens, which is okay, like it. Maybe it takes that push. That's okay.
Yeah. And also, I mean, there's something about being a parent that is just, I mean, you know, your kids are about the same age as mine. So it's just like unrelenting. It's like it's they're constantly these little mirrors and you See them start to pick up the things that you do every single day and you're like, shit. I got to stop yelling at people in the car because now they're yelling at people in the car. You know, just little things like that where you're like, Yeah, okay. And it also for me because I was a stay at home mom with my kids. And that, to me was harder than any job I've ever had. And because I was also in therapy, while doing the hardest job I'd ever done in my entire life. I was just like, tenderized. Like, I just been like, I didn't have a lot of energy in me to fight the change anymore.
Michael Shahan 25:48
Wow, I think man, I see a lot of eights showing up to therapy in that same place like they have to be to that place where all the raw spots are forced to show before they tend to them. Like it could be so easy to like, just powerhouse that out and keep moving and moving forward and telling yourself that you can take care of things. But I think it can take a lot for an 8 to be pushed there. In my opinion.
Yeah. And you know, what's interesting is I actually wonder if a lot of eights do that because they're like, should I need to cover this the rawness up? Like, let me go to therapy to like, fix this stuff. So no one can see it. Yes. But then, like, we get into therapy, and we realize like, oh, man, that's not what we're doing here.
Michael Shahan 26:24
That's not even the point. Yeah, like, tell me what I need to do to feel okay. Yeah.
Or like, the therapist says, like, No, you might actually need some help. But you might need to ask other people in your life for help to heal yourself. And it's like, No, no, no. Just give me the tools I need, like, can you train me how to do it all by myself. That's what I would prefer.
Michael Shahan 26:50
That's perfect. I talked in another episode about how therapy, a lot of us tend to come to therapy with this idea of what we need. But that idea is usually just the same pattern that's gotten stuck in the first place. And so it's actually taken to it's just trying the same old thing in a different way. It's not going to work unless something drastically shifts and we sort of see those ego patterns for what they are. Which is just fascinating and difficult to see. fSo therapy is different therapists have different ideas on what creates change, like what models great change, what techniques great change the role of the therapist, what role does the therapist play all these things for you? What is, in your opinion, what has created the most change for you, in your therapy experience?
What is what has created the most change? I think honestly, it was hearing myself week after week. It's like I never really created this space for myself to I never meditated. I never sat in silence. I never sat still because I had two kids and my kids were still up all night I had an infant, I was just go, go, go, go, go, go go. Even when I talked to friends, at that point, I wasn't yet to a place where I was being really vulnerable. So it was having that 50 minutes. And at a certain point for about a six month stretch. I was doing 90 minute sessions. So having like an hour, hour and a half every single week for months on end, where I just heard myself tell these same narratives. And then I started to be able to see these patterns like "Oh, shit," wow, actually, maybe that is me. If this is happening, and like for significant relationships in my life...
Michael Shahan 28:31
Okay, so like you lost the privilege of blaming other things or other people?
Yeah And you know, there were times about. I feel like I had some really, really good big huge breakthroughs between like 18 months and two years of being in therapy. And there were moments in that six month period where I sometimes looked at my therapist, and I was like, Why couldn't you just tell me this? You saw it. I know you did. I can tell by the look on your face that you saw this bullshit, like two months, then you could have saved me two years of my life. And she was like, Well, do you think that you could have heard it two months in? Iwas like, Well, I don't know. But you could have tried. Like, there was a period of time where I was pissed. Yeah, I was like, you had this information. You did not share it with me. And I felt like to a certain extent, she was like holding out on me. Now I can see being a little bit removed. But it was I had to go through the process by myself. I had to get there on my own. But it was this like, I think, my experiences what my friends and I have gone through in therapy is like, you get to a certain point where you're like how did I not see that? How to how have I gone this many years, not seeing this pattern that is so clear,
Michael Shahan 29:59
And it can feel crazy to not have seen it, because it seems so obvious.
Yeah, absolutely. So it was like, I think it was just that see being able to hear myself, state these patterns, and then also being given the tools. When I say like, "Oh shit, now I see the pattern." My therapist is like, right, let me help you figure out a different way to do it. Like, let's talk about the different ways that we can handle this moving forward. And because I just sometimes she would ask a question like, "Well, what do you think would have been a different way you could have handled that?" And I would just be like, I don't? Can I cuss on this podcast?
Michael Shahan 30:41
I don't fucking know. I don't know. You tell me. You just tell me now. This is a dead end. This is why I'm paying you. Please tell me.
Michael Shahan 30:51
You sound like my eight clients.
Like, I promise you this is not this is not very deep within me. You will not get it if you keep excavating. Just tell me the thing.
Michael Shahan 31:03
Do you think actually was very deeply in you? Or no?
No, I don't know. Sometimes I really don't think so. Because my mom got pregnant with me when she was 16. She had me when she was 17 years old, like I was raised by children. And even her parents just didn't have these tools. So a lot of a lot of like, things that are common knowledge to people about relationships and marriage and friendships. I never saw it modeled. Yeah, so I knew how to win a fight. Like, any other eight you've ever known in your life, like I'm winning. Right? But that doesn't necessarily mean that anything gets worked out, or that it's productive, or that I learn anything or that, you know that.
Michael Shahan 31:55
So So when you're talking about, like, the things that you needed, from your therapist, you know, saying like, strength or willpower or value. You're talking about practical tools.
Yes, practical tools. Okay, how do I say how I'm feeling without blaming, Jenny? How do I do that? I don't know how to do that. Yeah, literally.
Michael Shahan 32:16
It's your fault that I don't know how. It happened! Just then!
But just like, I promise you, this is not within me. So I need like a sentence. Can you give me a sentence to say let's practice it.
Michael Shahan 32:29
So that is huge, like two big parts of your therapy process were not only seeing the patterns in yourself and seeing your own stuff, clearly, but learning new ways to do it. Very practically. Yes. Wow. Okay. Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. What are some things that surprised you about the therapy process?
Oh, God, how long it took. If you had told me I would be in therapy for like, two years solid. I would have been like, no way. I'm going to knock that shit out so fast. There's no way I'm going to have enough to talk about for two years. Yeah. So that was surprising. Um, I think it was. So a lot of my therapy was by myself. But then Kyle and I also did therapy together. Kyle, my husband. And I think the thing that was surprising to me about that was how good it felt to have like a third party. Because remember, like, we're coming from this very churchy. Like, we had people that we would call our pastors and like, they would kind of try to have conversations with us, like giving us advice about marriage. And it was always like, eww, this feels gross. Like, I feel like I'm being told, I need to wear more feminine clothing again, like I don't understand what that has to do with the dynamics of my marriage. So the fact that it was like, in marriage counseling, the thing that was surprising to me is how productive it was.
Michael Shahan 34:08
Wow, okay. Productive in what way?
Like it. Actually. There were actually there were actual things we could do that would change the outcome. Like, we didn't have to give each other the silent treatment for three days. If we just like use this tool our therapist gave us. So yeah, just the fact that it like, I don't know what I expected from marriage counseling. Actually, that's not true. I think I expected what most women and maybe most men expect out of marriage counseling. Like I really thought my therapist would be like, Kyle, these are all the things you're doing wrong, Amanda, you're great. Go on your way. Like, you know, they would fix Kyle and then our marriage would be fixed. I would never have admitted that at the time. But that's probably what I thought was going to happen.
Michael Shahan 35:01
A lot of times I tell couples when their first session I'm like, I think both of you think the other one is the problem. Yes. Can we just start by admitting that instead of taking dancing around it?
I actually think I mean, no one is a stranger to this, because I feel like even Michelle Obama admitted that when she went to therapy, that's what she thought was gonna happen.
Michael Shahan 35:24
Really? Yeah. Wow. I love that she admitted that. That's cool.
Yeah, she thought that the therapist would say, Barrack, you need to stop doing XYZ, and she would be like, good. See, I told you. And then they would go on their way. That's not what happens.
Michael Shahan 35:38
Yeah, yeah. Wow. While on this topic, you said earlier, you had a couple therapists at first, who wasn't helpful or you didn't like or something like that?
Yeah, we tried one. We tried one marriage counselor. So we went to one session together. Then we did sessions with her separately, and then we came back together for one more session together. And I did neither one of us liked her. But I especially did not like her.
Michael Shahan 36:04
Really, what was it about her?
So I was pregnant at the time. And she told me that she would not process any trauma with me while I was pregnant. Because she didn't want to, like cause more stress hormones. And I was like, no, what you don't understand is like, I'm stressed out because I have unprocessed trauma. It's actually going to be unhealthier for me to stuff this down for seven more months, and then have two kids to take care of, and you know, like, so that just really turned me off. And then we also found out a friend of ours, referred us to this therapist. And we didn't know until the beginning of our second session together. Okay, so we'd already been the one session together, we went to our individual. And then right before our second session together, we happened to pick up one of her cards, and it said that she was a sex therapist. And both of us were like, wait, that is like the one area we do not really have any issues with, we need to talk about communication and intimacy and vulnerability. Like, there's so many more things, but it made a lot of things fall into place, because she had asked so many questions about our sex life. And I was like, is this what marriage counseling is like? Jesus Christ, like? You're kind of obsessed. And it makes sense. Yeah. So it's like, she's just not a good match. And also, I was getting really close to having a baby. And just, it didn't work out. The chemistry wasn't there.
Michael Shahan 37:36
Which is so so so important. And some people feel bad about that. Like, if you don't click with your therapist, maybe give it a session, maybe who knows, give it a couple quit water, right? What but like that them out, try somebody new. If you don't feel comfortable, unsafe, then your brains not even going to allow you to process.
And I think, especially when it's a couple, it can be even trickier. Because we both needed to be, you know, have some kind of chemistry with this person. And we did, we definitely, neither one of us wanted to feel like the therapist was like taking the other person's side or, and so it's actually we did our marriage counseling with my therapist. But she was like, very I know, a lot of therapists won't do that. But she was very clear on like, hey, in your sessions together, I am not your therapist, like I am your marriage therapist. So you may not like me very much.
Michael Shahan 38:32
I've given the same thing to clients. It's like and you're allowed to be upset with me for what I say if it doesn't feel like I'm supporting you as much as I am individually. Or if you like him or something. So did you feel ever slighted or uncomfortable or weird about that at all at times with couples therapy?
That's a really good question. So I think I've told you, I've had a couple of like, confrontational moments with my therapist over I mean, we've known each other for five years now. So we have like a very comfortable relationship. And I'm pretty sure she also is a type eight. If she's, if she's not an eight, she's a seven. So, okay. And for those that are listening, that are not familiar with Enneagram, that just means we're both like very straightforward kind of people. So there was a point where I had to tell her, I feel like you are taking my side. And I need you to stop. And she was like, Okay, yeah, like, I was like...
Michael Shahan 39:23
You said I feel like you're taking my side. Yeah, not you're taking his side. I'm mad about it. You're taking my side. That's not fair.
Yes. I was like, you're not calling me out on my shit enough. And I already have people in my life who do that. I don't need another one. So I need you to call me out when I'm in the wrong.
Michael Shahan 39:42
Wow. That's amazing.
And she was very receptive to it.
Michael Shahan 39:46
Yeah. Okay. Tell me Can you can you talk about the confrontation moments with your therapists because I think that's a huge thing in therapy that can be really important, because it's a relationship. Things can come up, things will come up. Yes. And I'm curious how that I looked for you what that was like.
So honestly, a lot of it was like, I tried to figure out it. I mean, I can just say it. I know I'm very charming. I just know that people either love me or hate me. So I'm either very charming, or people are like, Whoa, that girl's way too much. And I knew really soon into seeing my therapist, that I could charm her if I wanted to.
Michael Shahan 40:28
And so, for me, it was very important to make sure I like acknowledged it when she was being too easy is not the right the right thing. But when I just got to a point where I was like, I think you like me too much. And I just need to acknowledge that I like you a lot, too. We would be great friends if you were not my therapist, but I don't need another friend.
Michael Shahan 40:56
Wow. Yeah. So your share, like sharing what you needed in therapy. Like, I have this elsewhere. But I need this from you now.
Yes. Yeah. And because we had so so much trust built. I feel like I was able to say that, and she was able to receive it in a way that wasn't like, she wasn't defensive. At least not she, like held it together in a session. Who knows what she said when I left the session. But um, yeah, she just like, owned it. And I was like, No, you're right. It is hard for me to point out situations where you may be in the wrong or you may, you know, like, and that was like a huge turning point in our, in our relationship, because I knew I could trust her to be like, yeah, maybe we should look at it from this perspective.
Michael Shahan 41:47
Yeah, you could trust her to ask for those kinds of things. And to kind of speak that directly to important things like that.
Yeah. And there's also, I felt this, like, I think that one misconception people have going into therapy is like the therapist is always right. Hmm. And I don't know why. I think it's just kind of in who I am. There were times where she would make a suggestion. She'd be like, Oh, well, maybe that's connected to XYZ. What do you think? And I just was able to say, No, I don't think that's it. I'm open to thinking about it. I'll like chew on it. But I don't think so. I don't think that's right. And it's so interesting, having done my internship and being trained more in therapy now. And, again, people don't do that. I don't know if I ever had anyone say no, that hunch is not correct.
Michael Shahan 42:54
Really, really? I mean, they're not saying it or your hunches are just like perfect.?
My hunches are not perfect, right? Like I'm not always right. But I think it's just people have that idea that like, Oh, well, this therapist is an expert.
Michael Shahan 43:13
Yes. Wow. I'm always so terrified of that in making hunches because I'm worried that people will just accept it. So I'm always I always had to like you have full permission to say That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Like, please say that if you think that
I give an like over 100 disclaimers before I ever make any hunches. Yes,
Michael Shahan 43:32
Yeah, same here. Because I know that people aren't great at saying that. Yeah, it's sort of Yeah. Even believing it like believing sticking with what they think when the therapist says or even sharing that it's not okay. Like, it's just yeah, that's hard for people. It's really especially like, in that role that the therapist has people thinking that they're always going to be right. And they're the expert, and they know all this stuff about me. Yeah, that makes so much sense.
Yeah. And we hadn't we had a few moments of, like, not confrontation, but like, tension or like disagreement. And for I think, again, it's hard for me to talk about this without not without talking about the fact that I am an eight. And how she showed up in those moments and just like really met me with the same amount of energy. And then neither one of us were offended. Those were really important moments for me for realizing like okay, I can be honest and push as hard as I need to and trust that she's not gonna like shy away or back down.
Michael Shahan 44:43
So many things like overtime that have built trust with you and the ways that she's been able to receive you and respond to you. That's cool. If you could give advice to anybody who is thinking about going to therapy, but has not done so yet. What would that advice be?
I'd just do it. Also going back to what we were talking about earlier.
Michael Shahan 45:03
That's very 8 advice.
I mean, just just bite the bullet just pull the band aid off, just get that first initial visit over with. But also Yeah, like, ask for recommendations and, and ask people like, what do you what do you like about your if you know people who are in therapy, what do you like about your therapist? What do you wish was different about your therapist? And like, you were, like you mentioned earlier, don't feel like you have to stay with someone just because it was the first person you went to. On the flip side of that same coin is that don't quit just because someone points out something or pushes you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. Don't don't go into therapy, thinking it's going to be all wonderful. This person, you know, just encourages me and tells me amazing things about myself. That's what your mom is for. That's what your best friend is for. Your therapist is there to help you grow and growth is typically very uncomfortable. So just I think that's the that's like the there's a little bit of tension between those two things, because you don't want to stay with a therapist where you're like, uncomfortable and don't feel safe.
Michael Shahan 46:13
But if you feel safe, and you're uncomfortable, because it's the topic is uncomfortable, or just the challenge is uncomfortable, then I think it's important to stick it out. Because I've seen several people over time, who have had like, three or four therapists in a year. And they're just like, Oh, yeah, I just can't find a good one. And in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, well, maybe you're just not ready. And that's okay.
Michael Shahan 46:42
Do you think you can speak to articulate a difference between discomfort, feeling discomfort and feeling unsafe in a therapy session? Sounds like you're saying they're different. Those are different things.
I don't know if I can articulate that.
Michael Shahan 46:56
How do you experience the difference?
So if I feel unsafe, it's because I feel like I'm being judged or criticized. Okay, right. That's, so that's maybe specific to me, like I feel like, or if I feel like someone is trying to tell me, I can't trust myself, that is such a huge red flag to me. If they're pointing to something outside of me. One of my favorite quotes is Carl Rogers saying like, the client is the expert of the client's life, like you are the expert of your own life. And that doesn't mean you have all the tools you need. But it does mean that you have everything within you that you need to, to heal. You may just need someone to walk with you in it. So if someone like causes me to feel like doubt in my ability to do that, like, then that would that would feel unsafe to me. It's really hard for me to think of this without thinking through the lens of like, knowing therapy skills.
Michael Shahan 48:07
But like someone that handles trauma with the appropriate amount of care. So someone who asked permission for things, someone who like you said, like, I think it's a really good sign when a therapist is upfront with saying, like, I don't have all the answers. You can always tell me if I'm wrong. You can always push back on me. And then being uncomfortable is just like, Oh, I don't like that.
Michael Shahan 48:32
Sure, it's like I can't trust this. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, there's a sound like from what you're saying that what makes it unsafe is lack of trust, questioning who you are or your ability. Discouraging you feeling uncomfortable sharing things, starting to doubt yourself, things like that can come from unsafety for you. Whereas discomfort is just like, this sucks. I don't like how this feels.
Yeah. And I think another thing, another thing for safety for me is like, Are you "Shoulding" Me? Are you trying to put your values on me?
Michael Shahan 49:03
Wow. Yeah, like so you shouldn't be doing this. Right. I think you should feel this way. You should think this way. Yeah. You shouldn't be
"You shouldn't be upset about that. You shouldn't do that." Other than that, to me, that's not a safe therapist. That's a therapist who hasn't done their own work. And who is so uncomfortable with the pain sitting across from them that they just want to it's basically the same thing that causes people to participate in spiritual bypassing just yeah. Stop make it better.
Michael Shahan 49:31
Yeah, absolutely. Because it's, it's about their own discomfort and totally, totally therapists can't handle their own discomfort, then they're not a good therapist to have. I would very much agree with you. Yeah.
Or at least acknowledge their own discomfort. Oh, yeah, sure. Yeah. Like we see it. Yeah. So that's a really that's a really good question, though. I'm gonna keep thinking about that after our conversation like safety versus comfort because I think it's an important distinction.
Michael Shahan 49:59
Totally. Especially In this conversation, like vetting your therapist, like, find somebody that you feel and if you're trying to find something they feel safe with that can happen if you're trying to feel somebody that you never feel uncomfortable with. That's not going to happen. If they're doing Yeah, there's a huge difference. And I don't want people to hear us saying if it's uncomfortable stop going.
Right. Yeah, no, don't do that. It will get uncomfortable here are saying it will get uncomfortable. Now, that's a part of the process. Yeah.
Michael Shahan 50:29
Anything else that you want to share in this vein? I feel like I've kind of hit a lot of what I wanted to hit. And I've loved this conversation. Is there anything else that you've thought of throughout that you wanted to share that you haven't had a chance to? Huh?
No, not anything specific. Yeah, no, there's not anything.
Michael Shahan 50:49
Okay. Well, thank you. Yeah, of course. Are you doing anything in life that you want to share with anybody who's listening?
So speaking of liminal spaces, I am in like a very like having just graduated I have my license but not officially employed yet. So if you want to follow what I do, you can go to my website, which is just AmandaSteed.com and like I have a newsletter. I have a handle on Instagram. But I haven't had the app on my phone in a while. I don't really know what I'm doing. My social media life. If you want to follow me on Instagram, it is @EnneagramAndTherapy. I don't even know if I told you that that I changed my name on I saw that recently. I saw Yeah. So I changed it to enneagram and therapy. I will be posting there again eventually. But I don't know what it will look like so sure. Yeah. Those are the ways to keep up with me on the internet. Awesome.
Michael Shahan 51:50
Well, thank you. Yeah, I've been looking forward to this conversation for a long time. Yeah, this was great. Thanks for listening to this episode of same time next week. Please feel free to share with your family and friends to help support the show and help us and working towards destigmatyzing therapy. So same time next week?
Transcribed by https://otter.ai