What do you do when your VA social worker, who is your therapist, gives you an ultimatum? This question is kind of rhetorical and kind of really a question. That is exactly what happened to my husband at his mental health appointment last week.
I am present at every single medical appointment for my husband. Both out of necessity and out of desire on his part. I am responsible for getting him ready to go, driving him there and helping him remember what needs to be discussed and/or addressed at the appointment. As far as his mental health appointments, he has told them that I am his safe place and he feels more comfortable talking, with me present. This is something that had began while he was still Active Duty in the Navy and proved to be much more effective, because he was actually able to address issues with me there, where he had previously struggled to have any kind of successful therapy without me. His memory issue are a big reason for that and the fact that due to past trauma in the Navy, he struggles with being alone with people, especially medical people. He desired to continue this as he transitioned into the VA system. This wasn't an issue... until it was... last week.
As we sat down in my husband's mental health appointment, the social worker immediately brought up wanting my husband to do the appointments without me there. My husband asked why and told him that there was nothing he couldn't talk about in front of me and that he was much more comfortable with me continuing to be there. The social worker told him that if he wanted me present that he would have to start seeing a different provider for couples therapy (let's be clear, this has NEVER been "couples therapy"), but he wouldn't continue to do therapy with him unless my husband was alone. He put my husband right on the spot and he had to make that decision right then. My husband doesn't handle that stuff very well and it makes him confused, anxious and upset. He was looking to me with his "help me" face, but I knew I would labeled as controlling if I didn't tell him that he needed to make that decision himself. He didn't want me to leave, but he didn't want to have to start over with a new social worker either. He felt so put on the spot and confused. I left the appointment against my better judgment. I wish I hadn't, because I feel like he almost felt a sense of betrayal.
While in the waiting room, I requested to speak to the department head. I explained how uncomfortable I was with the ultimatum my husband was given and how he was put on the spot. But most of all, I was very upset that the social worker who KNOWS the trauma he had experienced by a medical person, that left him incredibly uncomfortable being left alone with people, especially medical people, would put him in that position. I firmly believe this social worker no longer wanted me present because I had addressed a few instances with him, where he was not properly documenting my husband's sessions with him. It's a lot easier to deny wrong he has done or mistakes he has made when it's only the brain injured patient, and not the caregiver spouse to hold him accountable.
After a lengthy discussion with the department head, I was able to speak to my husband when he came out of the session. He held it together in the session, but fell to pieces once he came out. He told me he didn't ever want to go there again. He told me how uncomfortable he is there now and that he knows that they don't care about him and he's just a number... another disabled veteran being pushed through the system. That was a set-back that he absolutely did not need! He struggles badly with trust and now they just added to that.
I still haven't been able to get my husband to tell me what he wants to do and how he would like to proceed. I need to talk to the department head this week, so he knows how we want to move forward with his therapy. How do I make him keep going there, when he's so uncomfortable? We're still waiting for Medicare and Tricare to fix their crap, so outside of the VA is still not an option as of yet. I'm feeling really unsure of where to even begin to fix this.