Finding a therapist who's actually effective?

All my life I’ve been very shy. I have made friends, although not as many as I’d like. I’ve also had almost no luck with dating. I’ve tried a couple dating websites, but a pattern almost invariably repeats itself: I got occasional first dates, but then I either never heard from the woman again or I got told that I’m not a good match for her. This has left me pretty depressed at times, and I’m on medication that only seems to help a little.

For over 10 years now, I’ve gone through a variety of therapists to help with shyness and depression, but none have really helped me very much in either respect. The second-to-last therapist pretty much gave up and told me he couldn’t figure out how to help me. The last one didn’t really have much advice other than to keep doing what I’ve been doing (staying on the dating sites, going to social events, etc.) The problem is that I don’t really connect with anybody at these events. I finally told this therapist that I wasn’t making any progress with him the other day and would like to go to somebody else. Does anybody have any suggestions for finding a therapist who will actually help?

I’ve also had issues with shyness and social phobia throughout my life. My parents made me attend psychologists and psychiatrists when I was young and I also went voluntarily on several occasions during college and graduate school. Eventually, however, in consideration of my experience with them and the total lack of success that resulted, I gave up on them. Today it’s been about four years since the last time I saw a mental health professional and I have to say that I’ve done far better tackling the issue of shyness on my own than I ever did with their help.

I believed that, as a society, we attach too much importance to psychotherapy and view it as something analogous to medicine, in which the therapist is supposed to be able to treat any condition in the patient. When you get right down to it, psychotherapy is simply talk. Talk is not useless. For some people, in some situations, having a trustworthy and consistent person to talk with in private may be helpful, but in other situations people should be aware of the limitations.

Just my two cents, of course.

Have the therapists you’ve seen been of a specific make/model, or do they span the spectrum? In other words, have they all been old white guys, or have you ever tried an old white woman, or a younger black guy, or a middle-age Latina?

It’s not a pattern that I would generalize from, but I have never jibed with any of the middle-aged white docs I’ve seen, including those in the non-psychiatric fields. It’s not like we don’t get along at all, but I just don’t feel understood and quickly begin to dread my appointments with them. Once I was assigned to a middle-aged white guy who seemed “okay”, but I liked his nurse practioner better. This was just for medication, but even then, we’d sometimes talk about symptoms. I felt like she listened to me better and wasn’t as ready to poo-poo away my complaints about side-effects as her boss was. Normally my visits with her were for just 30 minutes, but once it spilled over into an hour with her and me just talking about crazy problems and how to fix them (with her readily admitting that she was not a therapist).

The therapist who I see is not a spitting image of myself. She’s forty years my senior, white, and proudly Jewish. I did not purposefully seek her out because of these reasons (based on her internet picture, I thought she was at least middle-aged), and I don’t know if any of these features have helped us gel. But because I tend to be a listener rather than a talker, falling into the position of an “interviewer” a lot of time as a defense mechanism, I find it easier to ask her general questions about things because her life experience is so different from mine, without being so totally foreign that we can’t relate to one another. I think women come across as being more empathetic and less judgmental, so a shy person may feel more relaxed in their company. I don’t know about other women therapists, but mine talks a lot, on her own volition. That makes me feel like I don’t have to talk as much and I can practice being a good conversationalist by not tuning out like I normally do when people talk to me.

If your problem is relating to the ladies, it seems to me it might be helpful to find an older woman who could act as your teacher. Not in any sexual way, of course, but more as a yoda-like guide.

You may not be finding the right kind of therapy, or simple “talk therapy” where you just talk about how you’re doing might not be right for you.

Quite a few posters on this board, including me, have found assistance in cognitive behavioral therapy, where you learn skills to stop counterproductive thoughts and start new ones instead. Depression can lead many people into self-defeating cycles of mulling over things and getting stuck in bad patterns of thinking.

If you don’t want to spring for another therapist right now or want an idea of what CBT is like first, check Amazon for books/workbooks on the topic related to depression. I found The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Depression useful, though I see that Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life rates very well and is recommended in reviews over the previous book by those who’ve used both.

IANADoctor/Therpist. Most of the advice I would have given has already been posted, so I’ll add just two things: sometimes, mood disorders (for example, Bi-Polar II) are misdiagnosed as Major Depression because the only time the therapist sees the patient is when s/he is in the depressive phase of the disorder. Ask your doctor or therapist to screen you for mood disorders.

Next, I found these self-help books immensely helpful in figuring out why I was always falling for guys who were either unavailable emotionally and/or had substance abuse problems: Getting the Love You Want and Keeping the Love You Find. Both are by Harville Hendrix, PhD. FWIW, his approach/philosophy is Jungian.

I wish you equanimity and fulfillment.

I agree with Ferret Herder that you ought to try CBT. People with anxiety tend to avoid as a temporary solution to things that trigger anxiety. You need a therapist who will be more active and encourage you to do the kinds of things that you tend to avoid. Talking helps, but doing heals. Everyone wants to feel better before they do more, but in reality, you need to do more to feel better.

Shyness is (IMO) somewhat innate. You can learn to be pleasantly social if that skill set is required in your work or socializing, but you will never be inherently “not-shy”. Trying to get to that place with therapy to change an innate characteristic of your personality is (I think) largely a waste of time.

Women do not necessarily inherently hate shyness unless it’s so crippling you come off like some kind of non-communicative cipher. If you are unself-aware to the degree that that you are coming across like a cipher, that’s a deeply embedded brain wiring issue that (to be frank) nothing really can change. I doubt this is the issue as your post indicates you are highly (maybe too highly) self aware of your behavior.

Assuming you are not physically frightening or otherwise aesthetically repellent it would appear to be more of an operational problem that the chicks are simply not digging you enough for a second helping of Ponch8. That’s generally more of a dating, meet and greet, strategy and tactics issue that your male friends can help you with more than a therapist.

Re “connecting”. When actively dating several years ago I tried “connecting” at social events. Overall it was a huge waste of time. Hoping a woman will find you charming when she is surrounded by friends and/or co-workers at some social event she does not want to be at any more than you do is a poor bet. It is not a context in which women are responsive to even subtle overtures.

Internet dating using was far more productive. I was in my 40’s then. I’m told some other sites are better for younger people these days, but worked for me. If you can get a somewhat compelling profile going then its usually not all that hard to get some lunch or dinner dates. Women love to be asked out if they think you are non-creepy.

So assuming you have all that covered, what happens at that point? Why don’t you think you get a second look? What do you think you are doing or not doing that yields that result?

lots of ppl have dozens (or hundreds) of aquaintances; all of us are lucky to have one or two real friends. and you may not be “dating material” i.e. a player. but will make an excellent husband. it only takes one—the one you find who “gets” you. don’t give up. take the money you’re spending on therapists and join groups who are interested in what YOU are interested in. or volunteer doing something you really believe in. feed your own need & you’ll find somebody who needs the same thing.

What kinds of work have your therapists given you? Have you been given homework assignments? Do you do them? Therapists can only do so much, I’m afraid. Most of the heavy lifting has to do be done by you; all they can really do is stand on the sidelines and offer suggestions.

If all their suggestions seem wack (Go out and meet people!), then maybe you’d do better with the self-help approach. Not all problems, even psychological hang-ups, need therapist’s involvement.

Like others have mentioned, therapists can’t cure shyness on their own. There is nothing they can say or give you that will make the anxiety you feel before talking to someone go away.

The only way to overcome fear is by confronting it. You basically have to put yourself in very uncomfortable situations until the fear goes away.

What a therapist can do is to make you realize beforehand that your social fears are harmless. Once you get into a social setting, there will be nothing you can do to stop your brain from going into overdrive with social anxiety. Unfortunately, those fears will seem very real in that moment, and will only go away after you confront them.

Keep looking for a therapist you’re comfortable with, but don’t expect magic. The movies make it look like people overcome their fears by some great breakthrough that makes all the fear go away. That’s not how it works in real life. The fear only goes away after you sweat and panic your way through whatever it is your scared of.

The first few times you’ll be a nervous and ungraceful mess, but eventually you’ll start to get better.

Did you ever try group therapy? Frankly I can name a bunch of people who have a lot of the same exact problems as you.

Often if you work one on one, you’re not getting the correct feedback.

Too often you look for goals that aren’t going to happen. And you focus on the misery to the point where you forget about the joy of life.

I’m 46 years old, never been in love, can’t get a date, all the things you said, and I want those things, but I also came to realize, it’s probably not going to happen.

So what am I gonna do. Sit down and cry? Or I can DO something about it. So instead of crying, I go out and do things that I LIKE to do. Things that make me happy.

Let me tell you, if something happens to you more than once or twice, it’s probably you. Now I don’t mean this as a rap, but I mean it to say, you need to change direction and stop beating yourself against the wall.

Sometimes you can’t do that. Maybe you LIKE the way you are. And if you do, why should you change just to find someone. And if you don’t find love and friends, that doesn’t make you a lessor person. You need to learn to accept what you are.

I would find a therapist that will allow you to get into some sort of group therapy, where you can get feedback with others that are going through what you are.

Sometimes you’re too close to the forest to see the trees.

Finally go to the library and get this book. It’s an oldie but goodie by Dale Carnegie, it’s called, How To Stop Worrying And Start Living. I usually don’t go in for self help books but this is a good one.