I know people who find their sessions with psychologists/ psychiatrists (from this point, referred to here by the catch-all term of ‘therapists’) relaxing, and, therefore, worth every one of the large amount of pennies that these visits cost. Such people even look forward to them in a way that I, unfortunately, have never been able to.
My biggest barrier to relaxation is the amount of time that I traditionally spend in a session wondering what the therapist thinks of me. I want her to admire me. I want her to be sitting there thinking, ‘This woman talks so well that I want to run into her after hours. I’d like to hear more about the way she always has to check her wallet is still in her bag before she can get to sleep.’ Even as I’m speaking to her, my mind will be spinning a montage of scenes of the therapist and me buying ice cream cones together, or, perhaps, attending an exhibition of modern art (I am, naturally, explaining the pictures’ meaning to her), and her coming to me with her problems because she is so in awe of my perceptiveness about the human heart and mind.
Unsurprisingly, however, the therapist is probably sitting there thinking about what a poor article ‘green’ photocopying paper is or wondering how it can be that anyone reckons Michael Caine a good actor. The likelihood that the therapist’s mind is elsewhere is, of course, particularly obvious in the case of the ones who don’t speak at all for the hour except to throw a solitary question your way when a pause has gone on for so long that it’s getting embarrassing. I once had a therapist who would say nothing whatsoever in our sessions except for the moment when she’d ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ What I was thinking was ‘Why don’t I just ask myself that and then put those after-tax dollars into my own bank account?’. The only times she showed any animation were when she was telling me the code to use for the front door so that she wouldn’t have to go down and open it for me upon my arrival, or was spelling her name aloud so that I could write it, along with three figures, on a cheque.
And that’s the other thing with therapists, their breeziness regarding how much their own services cost. I remember one who told me that I would need to see her five times a week for an indefinite period, at eighty dollars a session. I told her that I couldn’t afford this and she accused me with her eyes of not being committed to my mental health. What’s really the problem? she asked. The problem is that I can’t afford it, I replied.
I do recognise that talking about your troubles to a disinterested party is a good idea; I’m not like one of those old people going on about how they lived through world wars and the Great Depression without any of this ‘counselling’, and they’re perfectly all right, aren’t they?. It’s just that going to a therapist makes me feel as though I’m visiting a prostitute, as I’m paying someone to do something for me that I would, ideally, be getting for free. And with all the money I’m spending, I could be hiring an actual prostitute.