I have just returned from my first one-on-one counseling session and I am alone at home, so I wanted to think and “reflect” a bit as suggested by San.
My husband went for his first one-on-one yesterday, and we talked briefly about it last night (sorry Velvet, I had to ask a few questions). I am concerned that this therapist does not have any experience counseling compulsive gamblers, and so far – based on the 3 sessions we’ve had with her – It seems I know a whole lot more about dealing with it than she does (not judging, not on an ego trip). My husband said she seems to be “winging it” as far as a treatment plan, and that she basically talked about what things he could do in place of gambling. He’s not sure if he thinks she’s going to help him or not, but wants to give her a few more sessions – which I am certainly willing to do if he is.
When I got there, after pleasantries, I first expressed my concern at her lack of specialized training in compulsive gambling (which I was told she had when I made the first appointment) for which she apologized (unnecessarily – I did not put it to her in that way). I asked if she had some form of treatment in mind for him (she didn’t), and if he is supposed to be working on or thinking about anything in between sessions (he isn’t). She stressed that it was important for him to find something positive to do in place of gambling (DUH!) and that I needed to understand that I could not make him want to stop gambling (I assured her I absolutely understand that).
She said he ok’d her to discuss with me that he feels like I am his conscience when he is with me and he doesn’t think about gambling or have the urges, but when he is on his own, he feels free to do whatever he wants to do. At some point in this conversation, she told me (prefacing with a pause “I’m just going to say this because I’m pretty outspoken” and proceeded to say something along the lines of “nagging him would probably do more harm than good.” So now I’m thinking Good Grief! With all the things I’ve told her, shouldn’t she have a better idea of where I’m at in my recovery; that I’ve already been there and done all that? So I explained briefly my journey since finding GT and where I think I am on the learning curve – that I virtually stopped nagging months ago, that I put up barriers to protect myself as much as possible, stopped thinking about his addiction all the time, and started trying to think of myself instead.
At some point I discussed a list of concerns that I felt, knowing my husband, would keep him from making any progress in recovery if not addressed in his therapy; things like his inability to be mindful or introspective (he doesn’t think about it unless he is ‘forced’ to talk about it or I have reminded him of a group chat, etc.), or his lack of respect for money (he loves to spend money on anything), and his issue with impulse control (going to dating sites and the porn). I told her that, in general, I am not anywhere near convinced that he is committed to this. In this discussion she talked about the Meyers Briggs personality stuff and drew a diagram of where she thought (right now) he and I were: I am extroverted, he is introverted – I am intuitive, he is sensing (hands on – so probly won’t do the mindful thing), we are both thinkers more than feelers, and I am judging (not judgmental but more ‘take charge’ and quicker to make firm decisions) and he is more perceiving. The purpose of this, I think, was to give me an idea of what she was considering and how she was approaching his treatment. And she is fairly spot on in her assessments of us, so I am a little reassured with this.
She has ask several times, and did so again today, what we do together that is fun; when was the last time we did something we both enjoy – trying to establish a reconnection. So today I just told her that we have done some of those things – played golf, activities with our grandkids and friends – but that my heart can’t be in it when our relationship feels so disingenuous. She asked why? I said because for the most part, I do not trust him or anything he says. She seemed surprised and said “So… you’ve really built up some walls to protect your emotions haven’t you?” I tried to explain to her that it was really much more than that. I told her since I began my recovery, and with knowledge and support from this site, I have changed: I have slowly, and reluctantly, begun to accept the idea that I may have to leave my husband; that at times I’ve thought of myself as single; and that I am beginning to think I will be okay if that happens .
I told her about how poorly I was coping with his addiction before I found GT; about how initially the theory of separating the addiction/beast from the man I knew as my husband allowed me to better deal with his outrageous lies and behaviors. I sensed she was dismissing this thinking (she’s a doctor so I’m not really surprised) because her response to this was (and THIS is where I think her inexperience in CG became glaringly obvious to me) something like “Here’s the thing with addiction … If he was truly addicted he would gamble all the time, and he doesn’t do that. He has stopped gambling.” My mind started reeling and I don’t think I heard what she said for the next minute or so. I said “Wait a minute … just because he says he’s stopped doesn’t mean he has.” She questioned my disbelief. I told her he could be using his phone or laptop – he has done this and lied many times before. She asked if I thought he was gambling. I said “I don’t know – maybe … probably”. She asked if I questioned him about it. I said “Not really, it would do no good. If he was gambling he would lie about it, and if he said he wasn’t I wouldn’t believe him anyway.” She seemed a bit astounded by this … ugh… I want a CG therapist! Somewhere in this part of the conversation she asked if he knew what I expected of him. I said “I’m not sure. I’m not always sure I know what I expect of him. He does know that I will not live with the addiction in my life and that it is up to him to change – and I have to believe that I will know it when he does and will want to take a leap of faith.” I think she got it because she said “So you’re looking for some form of catharsis from him right?”
I went in today intending to determine if I thought she was going to be able to help my husband with his gambling addiction. I took my copy of the UCLA Individualized Treatment Plan for Problem Gamblers and showed it to her toward the end of our session at an appropriate time in the conversation (if such a time exists when it might appear you are telling the doctor how to do her job). She seemed genuinely appreciative asking if she could copy it, but then said to me (hopefully teasingly) as she copied it “I see you’re making the same mistake a lot of new therapists make in attempting to make a treatment plan one size fits all.” In the end she assured me she welcomed anything that would help and then said to me “You probably know more about this problem right now than anyone in this town.”
I can see therapy is going to be challenging for me, and after today I suspect the therapist thinks I’m going to be a challenge for her! I am going to give us time to get to know each other’s personalities. I’m going to give her time to better assess our needs separately and as a couple. And I’m going to give her a chance to gain some insight into compulsive gambling – I think I made my concerns about this pretty clear today.
Well, I’ve been reflecting now for over 2 hours, and I’m so glad I did! (Thanks San) These discussions aren’t exactly in the order they occurred, and certainly not precisely stated here because I have such a horrible memory – but I remembered a lot more as I was typing than I would have if I’d waited until later to do this. And there’s no shortening it for the purpose of posting, so don’t worry a bit if you skipped to the bottom after the first paragraph! HA