My Therapy Works Because My Feedback Counts

I have never suffered from depression and general anxiety until recently.  I have no history of mental illness besides social anxiety, but I have always had pretty good control over it. It never held me back from things.  I struggled internally, but I could cope well in situations where I was uncomfortable.

I was overwhelmed with my daughter’s diagnosis.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t turn my mind off, and I was shutting down every emotion I was feeling. It was apparent that I was in over my head when my daughter was born.  She was born with an illness that will affect her for life.  Upon discharge from the hospital I immediately contacted a local therapy practice for help.

I’ve never talked to anyone my whole life; I’ve always dealt with things internally.  I experience great difficulty verbalizing my thoughts and feelings.  I knew therapy was going to be a challenge.  How can I talk about my feelings if I don’t know how to put them into words nor can I talk?

I had an introductory session with my therapist in which she explained the method of which she practices. She uses Feedback Informed Treatment (FIT). She explained that before each session I would fill out a questionnaire that tracks how I feel I’m doing.  At the end of each session I fill out a much shorter questionnaire that outlines how I feel the session went and if I feel my therapist understands me and my needs.  My therapist would then pick one or two points that I identified as needing improvement and ask what that improvement might look like. The answers I provide would be discussed immediately. This would allow me to provide my feedback and ensure that I am getting the most of out my therapy.

The first couple sessions were hard for me.  One particular time, I was trying to explain how I was feeling about a certain issue. I was explaining it in a very scattered, broken up way.  When asked to describe exactly how I felt in that moment all I could say was “not good.” That was it.  I was getting lost in my head and I was unable to speak.  So when the end of the session came around I filled out the questionnaire. I indicated that I was not feeling hopeful after the session. She asked me to explain why I felt that way and how she could help improve that particular aspect.

I explained that in session, I was blocking out the emotions and refusing to feel them. I then explained that I had the words in my mind, but I couldn’t say them. I tried, but nothing would come out. So I was not feeling hopeful that I would ever be able to verbalize my feelings. At that point I asked if it would be OK to bring in my journal and allow her to read the page in which I outline some of the feelings. She listened to what I had to say and never made me feel bad for my feedback.

The following session I brought in my journal and allowed her to read it. Immediately she was able to direct questions at me that made it easier for me to explain my feelings regarding the topic. This also opened up an avenue of trust and feeling safe. At that point I realized that what I just shared on those handwritten pages was not as scary to talk about as I made it out to be. Going forward, I slowly got more and more comfortable verbalizing my feelings and that is when the progress really started.

During therapy, I realized that my 5 year goal is to be a resource of support for other parents that are dealing with the same diagnosis. My therapy is going so well that I am confident that I will achieve this goal in the future.

In my experience, FIT is incredibly helpful to assess whether my therapist is the right one for me and to ensure that I am getting the most out of my therapy.  Without FIT I doubt I would have ever thought to voice my opinions on how I thought therapy was going. Checking off a few boxes at the end of a session is a lot easier than being asked to gauge my opinions verbally or not being asked at all.  If it wasn’t for FIT I would not have made nearly as much progress as I have. My therapist tailors the session to my needs and what helps me the most and that makes all the difference.

I still have rough days and I do still experience some difficulty discussing the more deep issues, but with each session I am making strides in the right direction. Therapy is going very well for me; we are now at the point where my after session feedback is nearly all positive.  I believe that I have FIT to thank for that.

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