What Do You Talk About When You Can’t Talk About It?

Some people come into my office ready to talk, but just as many are unable  to describe what drove them to therapy. 

Some people begin therapy by telling me their history. Within fifteen minutes I know the age at which their abuse started. I know who their offender was and I know much of what happened.  Some tell me they have an abuse history and we leave it until we have a relationship that feels solid enough to hold this explosive information. 

Sometimes people start working with me and make no mention of anything in their history.  They present a job dilemma or a relationship conflict and months later there may be a “do you think it matters if?”…. Or “is it relevant if?”….The elephant in the room always matters and for therapy to work, it does have to be talked about at some point in our work.

So can I tell if you’re holding back?  Can I see it inside of you?  Sometimes.  Sometimes I will mention that the client’s issues seem consistent with an abuse history. Sometimes I’ll ask and the person will “hint” at a possibility. Even then the coping mechanisms learned as a child can camouflage the situation and I won’t know for certain until I get more information.

Is the time wasted if we aren’t talking about your abuse history?  No, not at all.  I have spent several months talking about clothes, make up, hair, movies and books with many clients before we ever get close to talking about rape.  I have spent many a session talking about football and baseball with survivors of abuse before I ever know about it.  That time is NOT filler nor is it wasted.  You’re finding out who I am … if I can be trusted … if I am someone you even want to talk to … if you value my opinions. 

Likewise, I’m finding out who you are.  I’m learning how to work with you.  We’re building a relationship, a two way street that we’re walking together.  Sometimes it just takes a while to get to know your traveling partner.