Content Warning: This blog post contains mention of miscarriage and links to posts about pregnancy loss.
Once upon a time, I thought that counseling/therapy was a one-size-fits-all thing. Counselors are counselors, and all mental health professionals should be able to help anyone equally, right? It’s ok, you can take a minute to roll around on the floor laughing. I’ll wait.
Much to my chagrin, I learned the hard way that this is not the case. Therapy isn’t one-size-fits-all.
After my middle child was born, I was feeling pretty stressed out. My husband is in the military and we had gotten very short notice that he was the proud recipient of orders to move (PCS, aka Permanent Change of Station) across the country. So, with 1 month’s verbal notice (he didn’t even get the paper orders until 2 weeks out), we moved 2 adults, a 2 year old, a 3 month old, a dog, and 4 cats halfway across the country from Central Texas to the Pacific coast of California in a Ford Explorer with no trailer (we learned at the last minute that nobody rents trailers to Explorers). The move was terrible. The drive was long and stressful and rushed, the vehicle was very crowded, I had to fly back to Texas once our house in California was settled to deal with the movers packing out our stuff from our house there, the movers themselves were a nightmare and a half… the whole thing was a mess. It’s been 4 years and I’m just now recovering, although I still hold a (very deserved) grudge against the moving company.
So there I was with an infant and a toddler, in a brand new place away from my home, with my husband not home a lot because military. I didn’t know anybody in our new home and had left my entire support system back in Texas. I was tired (because new baby and toddler). I was stressed from all the crap from the move (trust me, you’re getting a VERY truncated version). And because of my history with PPMD, I wanted to see a therapist or counselor or some type of mental health professional for a sort of check up to make sure I was really doing ok and figure out some coping strategies with everything that was going on in my life. Makes sense right? Smart move, right? Right. Very smart move. I went online and got information about getting mental health care on TriCare Prime (our insurance), and was happy to learn that it was an easy process. I didn’t have to go to my Primary Care Manager (PCM) for a referral or get any type of pre-authorization, I could just pick a counselor/therapist who was TriCare approved and go see them and as long as I stayed under 8 sessions in the year, I wouldn’t have to get authorizations from insurance. I found a mental health professional who had quite a few years experience as a mental health professional and good reviews and I called and booked my appointment.
Imagine my surprise when I spent most of that appointment explaining Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum PTSD, what my thyroid had to do with it, and why I was there if I didn’t have a diagnosis and didn’t think I had any type of PPMD again. Not even kidding. I mentioned Postpartum Depression and the response was “Huh? Why don’t you tell me about it, what is Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders?”. It didn’t exactly inspire confidence and I never went back to see her again.
Fast forward a few years. After the whole mess with my missed miscarriage of the twins I was carrying as a Gestational Surrogate and some other crappy stuff, I ended up in a place where I realized I wasn’t dealing well with the trauma and grief I had found myself floundering through. I realized that I needed some professional help resolving everything. This time, I reached out the local birth workers community and did some targeted research on Google and was able to find a fantastic therapist who specialized in grief/loss, postpartum adjustments, and infertility. She had even previously helped lead a support group for postpartum moms. My experience with her was a total 180 from my experience with the other therapist a few years prior. It was such a nice feeling to not have to explain the basics and to be working with someone who had experience and education in dealing with the types of things I was struggling with.
The moral of the story is this: don’t just assume that any and every therapist is going to be able to help you, or that every therapist can help you equally. That’s not going to be the case. It is a huge help to find someone who has at least a basic knowledge of whatever you are dealing with. If you’ve been diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, you’re probably going to get better results with a therapist who specializes in PPMD or something related than you will with a therapist whose area of expertise is with academic underachievement or divorce. If you broke your ankle in a car wreck and needed surgery on said broken bone, who would you prefer to see and have operate on your ankle, given a choice: an Orthopedic Surgeon who’s been operating on broken bones for 20 years or an Obstetrician who has attended hundreds of births? Why should treating our mental health be any different?
Thanks for reading Therapy Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All: Part 1. Check back here tomorrow for part 2, in which I’ll give some tips (and links!) for finding a mental health professional who fits your need and tips for when you don’t have access to a mental health professional who specializes in what you need. And in the meantime, what has been your experience with trying to get therapy for PPMD?
Photo credit: Esther Dale