You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'therapy'.

Dear Christine, Loving in Livonia

  • Posted on January 8, 2018 at 10:09 am

Dear Christine, I’m a gay man seeing a male therapist for issues I had after a bad breakup. Basically severe depression. After several months of therapy, I’m feeling pretty whole again but I don’t want to stop therapy because I have fallen in love with my therapist. My therapist is also gay and has never given me any reason to think he feels the same way, however, I guess I hope that he does. I’ve also never told him how I feel for fear he will ask me to stop seeing him. Question: should I tell him? I so look forward to my Wednesdays with… Signed, Loving in Livonia Dear Loving, I encourage you to talk to your therapist about this transference. You are in a relationship as a client with a therapist and there are legal and ethical boundaries that need to be in place to protect both of you. Your therapist will probably want to discuss your emotions, needs and expectations. And he will want to be clear about the professional boundaries of the therapeutic relationship you both have. It is not unusual for a client to have strong feelings of affection or love for a therapist, as…

Torn in Trenton

  • Posted on August 21, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Dear Christine,

I just turned 50 last week and it hit me. I’m finally ready to come out. I’ve led the life I thought I was supposed to for all these years. Married 22 years, two kids who are now 18 and 20 years old, and a successful career in auto sales.  I’ve never cheated, never sought out the gay community until now.  I put in some search words to find out how to handle this and found you. I’m ready to do this but need a push.  How do I do it without hurting the people I love and where do I start?  My plan is to come out at work as well as to my wife and kids. I’m terrified and have no idea how this will play out. 

Thanks, Torn in Trenton

Dear Torn,

Good question.  How do you come out and not hurt the people you love?  I don’t know if that’s possible. It sounds like you have lived your life according to others’ expectations and it isn’t working for you.  You love your family.  But you haven’t been you, who you really are, at your core.

The start is being honest with yourself about who you are and what you are feeling.  Then, you start telling people you trust.  People who can accept you for who you are.  Get some support for yourself as you go through this.  Get into psychotherapy with a gay affirming therapist.  Join a Coming Out group at Affirmations in Ferndale.  Find people who will listen non-judgmentally and with understanding.

Perhaps you don’t need a push.  You will know when it is the right time to tell family members.  They will not hurt less if you don’t tell them.  And perhaps some of them have seen this in you all along, or have wondered about you.  It’s a scary time, but give those you love a bit of time and space to deal with this.  You have been struggling through this for a while now, maybe even 22 years or more!  Your family will need support too.  Individual psychotherapy and  family counseling can help, and there are free support from groups such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).  There is a chapter, PFLAG Detroit that meets monthly on the second Sunday at 2 pm in Troy at the Lutheran Church on Crooks Road just north of 16 Mile.  Their website has a page on Our Friends and Allies at  This list may open more doors to support and information for you and your family.

If your wife does not have an inkling, this can be very hard for her.  The hardest is if you are in love with a man and you’ve finally accepted yourself, and you are finally happy.  She could feel rejection, low self worth and find it difficult to be glad for you.  She may feel lied to an betrayed.  She may be understanding and relieved as this piece of information may make sense to her about you and the marriage.

Give your family and friends space and time to adjust.  Encourage them to talk to you and share their experience.  If they can’t share with you, then offer them resources such as PFLAG to assist them in adjusting to your new reality.

I have watched families go through this  situation.  There may be a time of distance, hurt or misunderstanding, but over time, sometimes months, sometimes years, the love can find a way to continue among all of you.  Keep in touch and let me know how your coming out process goes.  Take care,
Christine Cantrell, PhD


Labeled and Mislabled in Livonia

  • Posted on April 11, 2016 at 5:48 am

Dear Christine,

I have a question. Do you have anything to say about the misdiagnosis or misclassification of a bisexual person as  either heterosexual or homosexual? I dated a small amount of women and had a small amount of sexual experience with women, but it has always felt much better to me thinking about men than women.  I went to therapy because of depression and family problems, I first presented myself as heterosexual, then bisexual, then homosexual.  I consider my self as a “Top.”  The therapists told me gay top men are rare and you are not officially gay until you went all the way with a person with your own sex. I have terrible experiences with psychiatrists forcing me to like women, saying as a top I should be heterosexual. I would not say have zero attraction to women, sometimes I can be very attracted to them but I have always felt better and more comfortable about men in a sexual way. My first sexual experience with a woman was at 20 something, my first sexual experiences with men started at 30 something. I want to lead a homosexual lifestyle that values monogamy and integrity. I might date women as small amount (but I never want to have sex with a woman in the traditional way). At most I could give a sensual massage to a woman.  I want to lead a homosexual lifestyle, I still call myself bisexual but for most part I would rather avoid women sexually.

Signed Labeled and Mislabeled in Livonia,

Dear Labeled,
It sounds like you have been through a lot of therapy, and maybe not the most affirming, helpful types.  Since homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality are all healthy, normal ways of being, I prefer not to “diagnose” or “misdiagnose” anyone’s sexuality.  Sexual identity is very personal, and each person  expresses themselves uniquely.  Some people only have same sex partners but do not take on the label of gay or lesbian or homosexual.  That’s understandable, because labels are political things, and if you use a label, it is notifying other people about an aspect of you that you want them to understand, and if you use “gay” they will understand you to prefer same sex partners.  If you use “straight” they will expect you to be a heterosexual.  If you are more comfortable with bisexuality, which assumes some openness to both sexes, fine!  Be you, completely you!

In my humble opinion, being a “top” or a “bottom” doesn’t make you homosexual, or not!  What you feel and what you are comfortable with is who and what you are, not a position. Years ago, I had a gay couple come to see me and they told me that they were concerned that I would not see them as a couple because they did not live together.  Their last therapist told them they had to cohabitate or not be able to say they were in a committed relationship.  This was obviously long before gay marriage became legal.  There are lots of couples that are in committed relationships (same sex, opposite sex) but don’t live together for a variety of reasons.  Where you live, what position you prefer, none of that really matters to anyone except you and the person you are in relationship with!

If a therapist or a psychiatrist is forcing you to “like women” I’d encourage you to get a second or even a third opinion.  A psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or licensed counselor worth their salt ought to be open minded enough to help you discover who you are, not try to make you fit other ideal of theirs.  You are hiring these folks to help you, not to make things worse for you!  Pick a therapist who gives you the space and safety to explore who you are without pressure and without judgement.

Remember to be honest with yourself, first and foremost.  If you are attracted to someone and want to have a romantic relationship with that person, present yourself honestly with that person.  If you want monogamy and integrity, make sure you tell that person exactly what you need and expect.  Find out if that person is looking for the same qualities and characteristics you have.  And enjoy!  And have fun!

Feel free to write again with more questions.  I hope this has helped you.
Christine C Cantrell, PhD,

Panicking in Pontiac

  • Posted on July 30, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Dear Christine,

I’ve suffered from anxiety for many years. It seems to come and go and lately it’s back with a vengeance. My triggers are things like being in line at a grocery store and feeling like I won’t be able to make it through the checkout without passing out or freaking out.For years, I avoided doing the shopping. The other trigger is being in a meeting with co workers and feeling the need to run out before they see that I’m having a panic attack. Unfortunately, my job depends on me being able to be in meetings.

I tried therapy years ago, used drugs like Xanax and Prozac. I’ve even used a shot of booze to clam me. I’m really mad at myself and don’t want to use drugs or alcohol in order to avoid a panic attack.

I’ve been dealing with this at different points in my life so I’m fairly good at hiding it but by the time I get out of a meeting, I’m exhausted and also relieved that “I made it”. I don’t want to feel the fear in the first place though. Is there any way, after all these years of it coming and going, that I could get rid of it forever, or is it something I’m stuck with for life?

Panicking in Pontiac

Dear Panicking, Anxiety is very difficult to live with and can narrow people’s lives considerably. People who have never experienced panic don’t understand how it can dominate your life, making it unlivable. Don’t be angry with yourself about it. It’s not something you are doing “on purpose” but rather part of how your brain is wired. Some people have panic as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), like from a car accident or a robbery. This is an effect of theenvironment that has shaped you. Others have inherited it genetically along with half of their personality (half nature, half nurture). Some people acquire it from exposure to substances. I knew someone who panicked driving on freeways, so he avoided them as much as absolutely possible. Turns out he was a marijuana smoker, of 20 years or so, and the panic was a side effect of smoking pot. He was able to lessen the panic and be able to drive on freeways when needed after quitting pot for a couple of weeks. Paranoia and panic are common side effects of marijuana use.

There are cognitive behavioral techniques (CBT) that can help alleviate panic and anxiety, but nothing I am familiar with completely removes it. Some methods include Exposure techniques, in which you submit yourself to triggering environments or situations in small doses, using calming techniques you have learned in talk therapy. As you gain more control over the panic, you expand the exposure to the point where you can function as you wish.

Another CBT approach is through Energy Psychology. This group of techniques utilizes breathing, balancing the internal energy force the Chinese call Qi, and using Eye MovementDesensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This technique is usually done in a therapist’s office, after you have learned some techniques to calm yourself (creating and going to a “safe place” )and learning how to process these panic experiences when in therapy and learn to therapeutically dissociate them when you are living your life. EMDR can be a very powerful tool in the therapeutic setting, helping you address whatever the trigger is, resolve whatever trauma might be behind it, and let go of it so you can not react to those triggers. There are ways to “do” EMDR by yourself, the way Dr. Francine Shapiro initially figured out how to create a therapeutic technique. She was taking a walk in the woods, scanning the ground in front of her feet for rocks and roots, to make sure she wouldn’t trip. After 45 minutes of walking this way, she realized that something upsetting she was thinking about at the beginning no longer bothered her. She had the wisdom and creativity to wonder what themechanism is that helped process that upset. She narrowed it down to sweeping eye movements back and forth while thinking about something that upsets you. She distilled thisinto a therapy technique, but you can replicate it any time you take a walk, swinging your arms and legs freely (not carrying a bag over your shoulder or in your hands) and simply thinking about what bothers you. I have used this in my life when cutting the lawn and thinking, for example, about a rift between my sister and me that felt unsolvable when I started mowing. Forty five minutes later, the lawn looked neat and I realized I was no longer feeling unresolvedabout the situation with my sister. Walking like this is a way of generating “dual hemispheric processing” or allowing thoughts to be processed by the more emotional right brain with the more logical left brain (to simplify brain processing!) through the corpus callosum, the bundle of neurons that connects both halves of the brain. This is, roughly speaking, what the brain does during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. That is the phase of sleep when we often have vivid dreams and are usually completely still, so we do not act out those dreams. It seems to be a time when the brain is connecting experiences of the past 48 –72 hours with long term memory associations, knitting new experiences in the fabric of our sense of self and experience.

Panic serves a biological purpose, even if your brain is taking that to an extreme. Medications like Xanax can help, as that is a central nervous system depressant, like alcohol. But, likealcohol, it is addicting and the longer you use it the more you need to feel the effect. Longer acting medicines like Prozac seem to reduce anxiety and depression together, but not perfectly. Often side effects and/or inadequate relief from anxiety causes people to quit this (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) SSRI medication.

People who are anxious are generally encouraged not to drink caffeine and to get physical exercise every day, as the caffeine’s side effect often is anxiety, and the exercise can help dissipate muscle tension and sometimes provide emotional relief as well. Getting enough sleep is helpful too, as well as eating a healthy diet with lots of green leafy and colorful vegetables and fruits and whole grains.

One of the things I notice with many clients with anxiety and panic is that they are living in denial of something. For example, someone who is gay but in the closet about it to avoid fundamentalist family members from judging and rejecting them might often experience panic attacks. Also, it could be a parent of a gay or lesbian child, or some other situation that the parent finds distasteful, such as a child in prison, could cause the parent to hide this information from other family, friends or community, causing them to live a double life, and panic results. Living in authenticity, being fully who you are, brings a sense of peace and contentment, even thought getting there may mean you have to give up relationships or other important things in your life (job, housing, family, friends). Another example is a man who was a top salesman in his company, but was terrified of giving public addresses in board meetings, sales encounters and the like. I discovered that he also was earning a high income,well over 6 figures and he loved gardening. But in his neighborhood, yard work was hired out to the landscaping companies with uneducated immigrants doing the raking and pruning. Though gardening was an expression of himself and grounded him, literally, he only gardened in the back yard where neighbors couldn’t see him. Once, when he was in front, a neighbor drove up and asked to hire him for his own yard! That salesman was mortified!

So, if you haven’t tried CBT or Energy Psychology therapy, I recommend those techniques for those who don’t like using medications or those who have found medications lacking. Please be gentle with you, not angry. It’s not like you are setting yourself up. If this is the unique design of your brain, you need to find a way to work with it, not criticize yourself. You may have to live this way for your life, but you may well be able to find a way to make your brain more livable for the life you want to live. Take care,