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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Making Mistakes

Sometimes the professionals we rely on don't get it right

Have you ever had a physician make a mistake with you?  I have.  It isn't something you forget or get over easily. 
One example that happened to me is that I was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma and urgently pushed into outpatient surgery.  A lot of tissue was removed and it was not only a physical ordeal but also emotionally, a frightening thing to go through.  But, I trusted the doctor and went rushing forward.  Later I found out from a specialist in these type of skin cancers, at Stanford in San Francisco, that I had been misdiagnosed (did you know that slides of these medical events are kept?) and I actually had something harmless called a spindle cell spitz nevus which is supposedly often mistaken for a melanoma.  To finish this story, I later had a scar revision done by a plastic surgeon-also, not fun- but something far in the past for me now from which I am fully recovered.  The point is, the doctor I relied on made a mistake.

One example.  But these things have happened to me more than once.  And to people I know.  I know one person, for example, who had the opposite happen-a cancer that the doctor didn't think was anything.  Sadly, it was ignored and grew and now he is in big trouble.  So, back to our "imperfect therapists" (  If doctors, the professionals who, at least in this country, are elevated almost to royalty, can make mistakes, so can therapists.  And we do.

So, the point is, as the psychotherapy patient, don't be afraid to say, "I don't think so", or "that doesn't seem quite right," or-after true consideration-"I just don't think that fits me."  A solid therapist should be able to take that correction and keep moving along with you.

~You are the final authority in your therapy.  
You must look within to discover whether or not an intervention, a piece of feedback, a direction, resonates with you---or not.  
Ultimately, only you can know.~

On the other hand, in giving you this advice I have to warn against the other side where you are too guarded and skeptical in your therapy.  That will work against you.
  •  Your therapist may, indeed, be able to point out a blind spot.  And, if you are open, you should  be able to acknowledge it, once it's highlighted.  
  • Your therapist may be able to foresee trouble in a direction you are moving in, in your life, and you would be wise to consider the possibility when it's presented.  
  • Your therapist may have a clearer view of the larger picture, which you hadn't realized due to being immersed in it, and that is beneficial to you.  
  • By listening carefully and remembering salient points, a therapist may be able to draw together 2 disparate pieces of your communication and present a hypothesis; this can be enlightening for you.  
  • A therapist, by attending, may be able to point out a contradiction; this may serve to illuminate a new perspective for you.
There's a lot a therapist can offer, due to training, due to experience, and due to the fact that when you are there, they put other concerns aside and focus entirely on you.

Nonetheless, they can occasionally be wrong, or slightly off.  (Remember the recent Fallen Angels post---no body's perfect).

Even the most splendid, lovely, accomplished, that you adore, therapist, cannot be flawless.
But!  What I have found---and, this is difficult to explain but it is a real experience,--- is, that if I stay open (as a patient) in a session, consider everything that comes up, whatever and all that is offered, I usually find something in it.  Weird, but true.  So, in my own sessions, I do correct sometimes but, mostly I just try to stay in the flow.

Food for thought I hope.

What comes up for you in reading this?


  1. I've been in therapy for about 13 months now. At first, my appointments were weekly. Now, they are monthly or just for "tune-ups." The best thing about when my therapist makes a mistake is that she is more than willing to "be human/real" and admit her shortcomings if she is indeed wrong or makes a mistake. Luckily, this has only happened one time that was a huge deal. Maybe 1-2 more little goofs have happened along the way, but nothing major like the other one. The big mistake was so retraumatizing to me, and unfortunately it's something that will likely have a lasting impression even though it's worked out; the wound is gone, but the scar is still there as a reminder.


  2. Oh, Amy, I am really sorry to hear that this happened. And, I do understand how that feels and believe you about the emotional scar. What I do find in what you wrote is that the overall relationship you 2 have is good. That is fortunate.
    The nurturing relationship that you have can encompass and keep in some perspective the hurt that happened.
    Your therapist sounds like she's ethical and caring, being ready to accept her mistake and hang in there, doing her best to resolve it with you.

    1. We do have a good, stable, healthy relationship. The issue was resolved in the least possible time, and we were able to move on rather quickly. Forgiveness was the key for me, and also being able to see/accept her mistake(s) instead of idealizing her into this perfect god-like figure.

  3. A suggestion that isn't accurate is not a mistake to me, that's just dialogue and an attempt to arrive at a deeper understanding.

    To me, a mistake is something that damages trust or shows that I don't really matter to the therapist when all is said and done. My therapist canceled an appointment the day of and then didn't bother to follow up to reschedule until I asked twice. I called this out and received an email apology. I'm still hurt but I try to hide it. In the therapist's defense, I never admitted how hurt I was and the excuse was about being busy.

  4. Dear Anonymous,your 1st paragraph--a good expansion on the post-thank you.
    The part about feeling hurt---it's almost always hard to talk those things out because we feel so vulnerable doing it. But, there should be at least some sense of safety in your therapy relationship; if so, this would be a good place to try this out. Maybe introduce the topic by telling your therapist you have something to discuss that is hard for you to bring up. That might be a starting place or,even,a discussion in and of itself.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion and for replying!