Wednesday, January 10, 2018

When Your OCD Therapist Retires

Nothing says 'thanks' like a puppy card.
Today was my last appointment with my therapist.

Don't get me wrong, this was not because I have achieved a zen state of perfect well-being and faced all of my demons; this was because she is retiring.

It's a very bizarre experience when your therapist leaves.  Here is this woman that I have spent years confiding in, telling her things that I don't tell even some of my close friends.  She has been there through the ups and downs of my dating saga with my fiancé, leading up to his proposal and into wedding planning... and now *poof* we will never speak again.  I wonder if it's a bit unsettling to her as well in some ways, not knowing what will happen to me and other clients - not getting to finish the story.

She warned me she was retiring about three months ago.  This woman certainly has every right to do so.  I know not to take it personally, and lucky I am stable enough that this isn't a true crisis. Still, it is a frustrating experience in many ways to lose your therapist.

With OCD, and the intrusive thoughts that accompany it, every time you share your story you have to worry about how it will be received.  This is true even when you talk to new mental health professionals, as not all of them are OCD experts.  Mental illness is very vast and mysterious, and a therapist simply can't be an expert in every diagnosis.  The intrusive thoughts trouble you enough, and then when you share them with someone new, you worry and wonder:  Will the person understand?  Will the person panic and think I'm a freak or a monster?  Will the person misinterpret what I'm saying?

I definitely had these fears when I found out my therapist was retiring, and they were compounded when she warned me that there weren't that many OCD specialists in the area... especially female ones.  Given that I prefer to work with a woman as my therapist, I was very worried I may be left to dry.

When we spoke originally about where I would go next, my therapist shared the idea that I could work with someone in her office who was practiced in anxiety and wanted to learn about OCD.  She believed that since currently my OCD was relatively stable, and since I had learned a lot over the years about OCD, I didn't necessarily need a specialist for regular visits.  

Though she suggested I could always get an OCD specialist for emergencies, I didn't want any part of this plan.  My OCD can come on strong seemingly out of nowhere, and I don't want to be a guinea pig for someone just learning about OCD.  The wrong reaction to an OCD crisis could be very damaging.  I've already had an experience with a psychiatrist who seemed to have no idea how OCD worked.  I didn't want to go through that again.

Luckily, I spoke up and I have an appointment booked next week with one of the few female OCD specialists (Always speak up y'all!). My therapist knows her, likes her, and was able to arrange to transfer a number of her clients to her.

So, today was bittersweet.  I gave my therapist her final update on my life, gave her a card with puppies on it that thanked her for everything, and gave her a little gift: three matching notebooks wrapped in a bow, the top of which reads "You are stronger than you think."  I thought this was appropriate, since she always made me feel that way.  I wish her all the best, and I can only hope that next week when I meet my new therapist/OCD spirit guide, that we can connect in the same way.


  1. Oh Laura, I wish you the best with your new therapist. I have experienced that retiring therapist dilemma before (and it came at a HORRIBLE time, eons ago but I remember like it was yesterday). In her case, she was quite ill and it came on rather suddenly but oh, the transition. Interestingly enough, the one I found turned out to be even better and more remarkable by far so it was all good. I hope your experience with your new one is all good, too.

    1. I'm so sorry you had to go through that! I thought about how hard it might be for some clients, if they were in crisis. For some people taking the first step to get to therapy is hard enough, and I worry that with this setback some might not want to continue even if they still need help. I hope everyone is able to make an easy transition... including me! Love to you and yours. <3