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therapy turns the merry-go-round?

Old 03-21-2011, 09:24 AM
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therapy turns the merry-go-round?

"Alcoholism is a tragic three act play in which there are at least 4 characters: the drinker and his family; friends; co-workers and even counselors may have a part in keeping the Merry-Go-Round turning."

This is the opening line of one of the readings; I've read this in the past but seeing it again brings up a question. Anyone else seen instances in which counseling/therapy only made a bad situation worse for an A?

Seeing this listed is strangely comforting, given that this seems to have played a big role in what has led my AH deeper and deeper into victim-mode, from dry drunk to active drunk, and from occasional erratic behavior toward me to overtly abusive. And it doesn't seem like it should make sense; after all, therapy is supposed to help.... right?

It was only one of many facets of "bewildering" in the past few years, where it seems like the right thing is happening (someone's in therapy) but things are getting progressively worse. Their anger, worse; their entitlement, worse; their emotional dishonesty and projection, worse.

Curious.

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Old 03-21-2011, 09:57 AM
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My AH was seeing a T from last summer to this Fall. They asked me to attend a session and I had the wherewithall to bring my T too. The outcome of the session was that his T has been fired. She verbally attacked me, encouraged my H to do the same and sat there demonstrating that all I'd feared (what you describe) had been happening. She had him convinced and she herself was convinced that he was the victim, he fed her lies, she believed them and she enabled his sick lying thinking.

As a result of her behavior and the fact that a colleague witnessed it all she was placed on leave, her actions investigated, my H and I interviewed separately by the head of the practice and she was fired.

So, my take? Yes, T's can be very harmful and feed into the addiction and cause more harm than good. There are sick people all around and the psychological profession is no exception. Alcoholics are also master manipulators and I guess if you're an incompetent T you can be manipulated easily...
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Old 03-21-2011, 09:57 AM
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Addiction Therapy only works if the person is in it willingly. I suspect if they are in therapy against their will - it will trigger lots of negative "stuff."

As for marital therapy - we went early on in our marriage - and it did exactly like you mentioned - it made my AH feel more entitled to his behavior. The therapist wouldn't label AH's drinking - only said, "if it's irresponsible or causing problems, then you should examine that." And then turned to me and said, "AH has a mother, and it's not you. Stop nagging him and trying to control him."

I left PISSED OFF. AH drank even more, and harped on the one thing therapist said to ME! But, the therapist was right. He couldn't tell my husband he had a drinking problem, anymore than I could. AND, I was nagging my husband.

And just for the record... I won't waste anymore money on therapy for my marriage, or my husband... because according to him, "I don't need it!"
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Old 03-21-2011, 10:31 AM
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See I guess it just seemed incredible (in-credible!) that any well-trained therapist could completely miss things, be so deftly manipulated, and at no point in the course of over a year, think to herself, "You know this seems a little odd..." i.e. that she could believe AH so implicitly (and this is a therapist who knows me as well, has treated us jointly many years ago and also me individually).

AH was told to see a therapist by his sponsor over a year ago, for "anger management". Instead, it made him feel more entitled to his anger and justified in his increasing abuse. Of course, that isn't how AH plays it in the therapist's office. He would never acknowledge the way he is translating their advice. His therapist, his sponsor, do not know what goes on behind closed doors and so seem to unwittingly aid in the escalation and progression of the sickness and distorted lines of thought. It's sort of frightening, particularly since now all the advice he has been given, which was based on his emotional dishonesty, is imploding on itself and destroying our family and marriage and his health.

Many months ago, I pleaded with his therapist for a session by myself with her, in the interest of our marriage; she refused; conflict of interest.

I think the ability to be "master manipulators" so fuels their addictive mindset and is such a caveat to their recovery. They get so good at it. I always thought myself a reasonably good communicator and of sound intelligence, but he could have me turned around in a conversation -- or a therapist's office -- so fast, I would feel discombobulated and stupid.

In the past month, I pulled out of joint therapy because I knew he was using, and told him so; that the sessions were not productive because he was not sober in mind or body. A few weeks later he said he wasn't coming back home until I got back into counseling with him (wanting more manipulation, and more opportunities to punish me and have a counselor nod in agreement and take notes). I said he wasn't welcome back until / unless he got sober and stayed sober. He said I was the only one in the world who believed he wasn't sober. Why would that be? I said perhaps that's because he has managed to fool everyone else. Not me.

Good to know (and sad) that this has happened in other relationships; I thought I was just crazy and he claimed he was getting healthier and healthier, while at the same he was acting more and more angry and miserable, and also feeling justified in berating and belittling and abusing a mess like me. I seem to have acquired the dubious distinction of "the crazy one" in the eyes of his therapists and sponsors, among others.

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Old 03-21-2011, 11:29 AM
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Addiction is complicated, and not all therapists have experience in this field. Even some who are experienced can still be fooled by an adept addict - my XABF managed to psycho-babble his way out of inpatient rehab after two and a half weeks.

Add abuse into the mix, and you have a volatile situation, because abusers are also master manipulators, and very adept at convincing unknowing therapists into taking their side, and encouraging the abuser to continue his behavior. He then feels justified by a third party, and much less likely to stop the abuse.


XABF did not see a therapist while he was actively drinking, and I was "on board" with the relationship back in the beginning of our relationship when he was seeing a therapist, so I have not had an issue with this.
This is, of course, excluding his stint in rehab over the Christmas vacation.
I also do recognize that his attempts to contact me may be in part instigated by a therapist in his outpatient program - I do not know if he is seeing one, I am trying to maintain no contact, and keep my hands off his recovery. (I do know it is not coming from the psychologist at work, as he knows both sides).
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Old 03-21-2011, 07:18 PM
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Not sure how to answer this one. We started seeing a therapist as a couple a few years ago because of some issues that may or may not have been alcohol fueled. Our children were gone and my husband did not know if he wanted to continue to be married. He suggested we go to therapy. He was impressed that the therapist said that whether we ended up together or apart, his goal was that we left 2 healthy people. Early on I brought up his drinking. The therapist's response was that unless his drinking cost us financially through the loss of his job, a DUI or his spending a great deal on his drinking then it should not affect me. HUH??? Still, we kept going because my husband felt comfortable and we were able to talk a great deal. Come to think of it-he always felt better and I always felt bad when we left. I thought it was because we were speaking some truths that were uncomfortable. However, even when my husband said things like I was the reason he drank so much-the therapist never called him on it??? I believe my husband felt he had permission to keep on drinking and moving further away from the marriage. So rather than us coming together. We kept moving apart. The therapist said this was good because we could each claim what was our own crazy and focus on ourselves. I feel like he had his own agenda. Maybe he just saw that my husband wasn't really into saving the marriage and that he was in denial about his drinking.
I continued going and now am grateful that I have been able to see so much about myself that was hidden behind his drama.
We are currently separated, my husband continues to drink but at least I know I am so much closer to being healthy.
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Old 03-21-2011, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by emp919 View Post
AH was told to see a therapist by his sponsor over a year ago, for "anger management". Instead, it made him feel more entitled to his anger and justified in his increasing abuse.
I've heard domestic violence experts recommend that abusive men NOT be referred for "anger management"--that it does not address DV issues of power and control. Instead, "batterer's counseling" is the preferred mode of treatment.
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Old 03-21-2011, 08:18 PM
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Therapy only works is the person is ready to have it work and ready for it.. you can be in therapy for years and not be ready for it.

And not all drug counselors are trained therapists so yeah, I could see how they could exacerbate the situation.

Like any profession there are good ones and bad ones. Some have no business being therapists.

Also it is important to know a counselor or therapists credentials. Finding the right therapist is important too.

I am gonna defend therapy because it saved my life. So to say that 'therapy can be bad' is really oversimplfying things. Just my two bits!
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Old 03-22-2011, 01:04 AM
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My RABF and I are in marriage and family therapy. I chose a MFT with a subspecialty in addiction and substance abuse and he has always encouraged me to do what I "know" I should do, and has made attempts to suggest the same for my RABF- but he is in a different place in his process/journey than I am. In fact, on the first day when I suggested that my RABF was an alcoholic, he tried suggesting that maybe my RABF could uncover his issues, deal with them and attempt moderation.. until I kept opening my mouth and he knew very quickly that we were in fact dealing with alcoholism (where moderation was NOT an option). Now I am seeing someone on my own for my codependency issues and we are continuing in MFT as a couple. I find him to be very very appropriate and "therapeutic" if you will... nobody is manipulating him. And, I second that therapy won't work unless someone wants to be there. At first I think my RABF did it for me, I told him recently not to do it for me. We are still going.
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Old 03-22-2011, 06:54 AM
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The point of the Al-Anon pamphlet, incidentally, is that all kinds of well-meaning people can get sucked into the drama and, unwittingly, feed it. A therapist who knows nothing about addiction (I think they are rarer today than they used to be), will believe the garbage that the patient tells them, and address their treatment/therapy as if the patient just has the usual normal issues and life problems.

A therapist who knows how addiction works can be very helpful, though therapy obviously works best if the patient is not actively drinking.
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Old 03-22-2011, 07:06 AM
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As someone who battles depression, I'm a huge fan of therapy. I see someone when I'm in the depressive cycle, and have seen a marital counselor with my A before we knew he was an A. I'm seeing one on and off now while I decide whether or not to leave the guy and get on with my life or wait it out and see if he really can turn the corner. I second the reaction that good therapists are worth their weight in gold, and a bad therapist will leave you more effed up than when you walked in there. I've seen both. Some aren't equipped to deal with addiction, and if that's the case, try your hardest to find a new therapist. I was googling stuff about therapy and PTSD this week and found a link online about finding a good therapist. It's about dealing with rape and sexual assault and it's on a feminist blog but it's basically a politics-free blog post, and I'm sure it could be helpful for other trauma experiences too, like growing up with or being in a relationship with a manipulative, dismissive alcoholic. Anyway, it has some suggestions for finding a good therapist regardless of whether you have access to insurance.

My A is seeing an addiction counselor in addition to attending meetings. I suspect he's going in there and reporting that everything is hunky-dory and A-okay, which means the therapist then doesn't have anything to work with. All she has is what he tells her so there's nothing to work with, and he gets to come home feeling like he's doing his part even if he isn't using that time or resource as it's meant to be used. He hasn't gotten worse over time, but he hasn't gotten any better either. And because he's a well-enough-functioning, manipulative drunk I can't even tell whether he's sober or not. :/ BTW, I'm uber-cranky about the situation today IF YOU CAN'T TELL.
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Old 03-22-2011, 09:07 PM
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I'll piggy back what Lexie said because many therapists find working with an active drinker/user to be a point in futility.

They can't really do the work needed in that state and the drinker/user can't get the full benefits if they are still actively 'in' it.
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Old 03-22-2011, 09:18 PM
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I actually posted the therapy question to the alcoholism forum and did not get one positive response, although many thanked me for hanging in there with the RAH. No one thought it was a good idea until the RAH had been in recovery for at least a year. We tried anyway with a great therapist - LMFT with an addictions specialty... and I think the RAH liked it. But I didn't...imagine that. I couldn't sit there and listen to him QUACK! And the therapist had me come in alone and told me this...unless I can find some patience with the RAH's process, this would not be successful. My response: we're done for now, cause I don't have the patience and I have my own issues to work through myself.

I canceled any future sessions and stick to AA for him and Al-Anon for me, knowing I can go back to that when some real honesty is able to occur. Until then... pffft...waste of time.
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Old 03-22-2011, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Florence View Post
My A is seeing an addiction counselor in addition to attending meetings. I suspect he's going in there and reporting that everything is hunky-dory and A-okay, which means the therapist then doesn't have anything to work with. All she has is what he tells her so there's nothing to work with, and he gets to come home feeling like he's doing his part even if he isn't using that time or resource as it's meant to be used. He hasn't gotten worse over time, but he hasn't gotten any better either. And because he's a well-enough-functioning, manipulative drunk I can't even tell whether he's sober or not. :/ BTW, I'm uber-cranky about the situation today IF YOU CAN'T TELL.
I've got one of those, too. That's part of the problem, it seems; some A's seem so prone to confabulation, even a great therapist can only work with what they're given more or less. My AH came off abusive behavior + a "summer of relapsing" and then walked right into therapy and managed to deftly deflect the therapist's attention away from whatever he wanted to keep tucked away and not actually work through/on.

Some of the therapy that has helped me the most has been of the variety that bypasses the conscious or logical thought, because I guess my subconscious has created a lot of protective barriers around things that were too traumatic; these things drive me in some ways, and the only way to access what I cannot remember is to do alternative therapies (EMDR is one example; there are others.)

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Old 03-22-2011, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Babyblue View Post
I'll piggy back what Lexie said because many therapists find working with an active drinker/user to be a point in futility.

They can't really do the work needed in that state and the drinker/user can't get the full benefits if they are still actively 'in' it.
Yeah, when AH relapsed in January, the therapist I was seeing said, "He's not ready to handle marital therapy; he needs to work on his sobriety right now." I agreed, but then we gave a few joint sessions a shot with him, me and her. No dice. It was really damaging for me, an uber-display of manipulation and gaslighting from him. I mean, jaw-dropping. The therapist even said at the first session following his relapse, do you think recovery and sobriety should be an integral part of the discussion during these sessions? He said he totally disagreed; he and his sponsor were looking at this as a "little slip"; he was fine and did not feel it was necessary or relevant to our sessions. She asked my thoughts. I said I disagreed with him and felt like his recovery from addiction and my recovery (from him) should be a part of our focus in therapy.

The joint therapist and I concurred that it was sort of pointless (and putting me through unnecessary distress) until it was *clear* he was clean and sober. At that point, with her blessing, I gently confronted him, saying I was concerned about him and did not believe he was maintaining his sobriety, and for that reason, felt therapy was not productive as a tool for our marriage and so wanted to pause it. I got verbally attacked for that but stuck to my guns. I could think of better ways to spend over $100 that was going toward each session, if he was going to keep using.

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Old 03-22-2011, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Tuffgirl View Post
...knowing I can go back to that when some real honesty is able to occur. Until then... pffft...waste of time.
Exactly!!!

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Old 03-23-2011, 08:54 AM
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This thread got me thinking of the thread "first thing first". From my perspective I have so many issues I want addressed regarding our marriage, and it is very hard to be patient. However, it seems it would be best in the short term for each of us to work on ourselves, and then come together later 6 months or a year down the road and see at that time if marriage counseling would be beneficial.
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Old 03-23-2011, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by emp919 View Post
Some of the therapy that has helped me the most has been of the variety that bypasses the conscious or logical thought, because I guess my subconscious has created a lot of protective barriers around things that were too traumatic; these things drive me in some ways, and the only way to access what I cannot remember is to do alternative therapies (EMDR is one example; there are others.)

~emp919
Yeah, I'm still processing a lot of abuse that happened when I was a teen and in my early twenties, and EMDR has been one of the things that really, really helped me get past it. I'm glad to hear others have heard of and used it successfully!
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Old 03-23-2011, 09:23 PM
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Forgive me if this has been answered definitively but I am curious if there is literature out there talking about MC being not useful or recommended with an active addict and also, even if someone is sober is there a length of time recommended for sobriety before attempting MC?

My AH continues mutlitple times a week to ask about MC and believes wholeheartedly that the issues to our marriage are a result of problems in our relationship and not due to his A and problems we each face individually... I keep telling him to ask his own T about whether MC is a good idea (knowing from my T that it is not) or to talk to his sponsor about it but he wants MY opinion (in order to blame me when I say I won't go). I've told him I will not go until he is active in recovery and when he asks when that will be or what that will look like all I can say is I don't know...

So, is there a time frame I should consider?
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:42 AM
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The general rule I see people batting around is a year of recovery/sobriety.
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