Election Therapy: Readers Tell Their Stories


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Stephen Savage

Have you talked to your therapist about the election? Or has this election just made you feel like you need therapy?

In response to our story, “Talking to Your Therapist About Election Anxiety,” we heard from a number of readers — both patients and therapists. Therapists have been surprised how many of their patients want to talk about the election. Patients say the election has been replete with “triggers” that tap into their anxieties. And another group of readers said the election hasn’t sent them to therapy — yet — but they are still feeling stressed about it. Here are some excerpts from their comments.

What Therapists Say About the Election

D Rahm from Michigan wrote: “In 30 years of practice I have never heard as much emotional pain as I have this election year. It started last fall and has really accelerated during the debates. Women especially, but also many men whose boundaries have been violated are distraught by the language of violence and abuse.”

Seattle Therapist from Seattle wrote: “As a clinical social worker who has been working with patient anxiety over political differences for 20 years, I see something new in the anxiety evoked by this election cycle. In general, condemning others for their political views, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic level or anything else is a way of avoiding what we hate in ourselves.”

Wynn Schwartz from Boston wrote: “Politics and religion are the third rails of psychotherapy. Therapists are often at a loss when their client’s politics strongly conflict with their own. My clinical psychology trainees rarely have trouble asking their clients to explore something problematic. But when therapy touches politics, trainees are awkward and uncertain about what they should appropriately ask. What does the liberal progressive therapist do when working with an ardent Trump supporter?”

DrLaura from Nashville wrote: “I am a therapist and never, in my life as a therapist, has politics ever been brought up in sessions until now. In the week after the 2005 tape came out and the second debate, every female client brought up how triggered they were; many of them were reminded of their own history of sexual assault. Some of my clients disclosed their own stories of being sexually assaulted for the very first time — never before having courage to tell anyone.”

What Patients Are Telling their Therapists

Banjokatt from Chicago wrote: “My immediate family is quite conservative and we have a policy that we will never discuss politics during family get-togethers. I have started talking about the election with my therapist. It’s good to know that there is at least one person with whom I can share my concerns.”

Michael Sapko from Maryland wrote: “I have brought up election anxiety in at least four sessions with my therapist. I felt embarrassed to do so since it seemed trivial. Now I take some comfort in knowing I am not alone. Am I weak? Maybe. Do I need to toughen up? Perhaps. But that is how I feel, and I have paid therapists to help me work through it. That hasn’t happened in any previous election, and I hope it won’t happen again.”

Ellen from Virginia wrote: “I was just sharing my thoughts on this with my therapist last week. The election has brought divisiveness and stress to my relationship with my two teenage sons. Yes, it has stirred some good discussions about politics and the democratic process, but I find myself getting angry with their entrenched opinions. I’m afraid that they are blindly following the male dominant opinion in this race, and I’m struggling to educate them to use judgment, balance and nuance.”

What Readers Say About Election Stress

Kathleen from Colfax, Calif., wrote: “I’m not in therapy but maybe I should be, thanks to the anxiety this election has triggered. But it’s not just that I’m anxious about who will win (although I certainly am). This is a very grim time, existentially speaking, but it’s not only due to Trump, but to the higher-than-imaginable support he’s received from so many millions of people.”

human being from the U.S.A. wrote: “When I heard Trump’s words on forceful groping, I recalled what I had to endure on the No. 2 subway train to the Bronx as a young kid working after school in Manhattan. I cringe thinking about the short 15-year-old I was, hanging on to the overhead strap in a crowded train which gave the guy in front of me an opportunity to do his work. I have sisters and girlfriends and know I was not alone. This is the type of routine behavior we might have in a U.S. president? And he bragged about it? Yeah, I’m stressed out.”

Jan Therien from Oregon wrote: “This election has challenged everything that my family tradition has held in high esteem. Social decorum, mutual respect, education, rejection of gaudy displays of wealth, empathy for those suffering due to racial injustice. It truly does feel as if the bottom has dropped out and I am in free fall where nothing makes sense.”

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