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My Shy Therapist -- creative nonfiction by Cooper Karpf

I had been going to my therapist every-other-week for about two months, and I could probably count the total words he said on two hands. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an over exaggeration. But this man was SHY. I can’t fathom why you would choose to be a therapist if you don’t like talking to people. Maybe he was really social at one point and then some patient got him down, yet it was clear he hadn’t been a therapist for very long (he looked like he was 30 years old at most). I honestly don’t remember his name, so I’ll be calling him Mr. Mute. 

Mr. Mute’s hair was perfectly styled, but I couldn’t say the same about his outfits. Every time I saw him, he wore the same long-sleeve, blue button-down shirt and oversized jeans. I’ve always wondered if he was just wearing the same shirt and jeans every time or if he just had a bunch of pairs of the same outfit. In his mind, Mr. Mute must’ve thought it looked amazing. I’m not quite sure what was going on his mind though, because, like I said, he didn’t talk much. 

Yet I still stayed as his client. The therapist I had before him was very domineering and would give me the worst advice, so I assumed no advice was better than bad advice. My last session with Mr. Mute finally came in the first month of 2022.  

Just like every other session, I sat on the not-so-soft sofa while Mr. Mute slouched back in his leather chair. For the past month, there had been something I was holding back, something that I hadn’t told anyone except my closest friend: I was non-binary. I didn’t know how to tell Mr. Mute, but I was finally ready to come out and was desperate for advice. So after the usual “How was your week?”, I simply told my dear therapist, “I realized I’m non-binary.” 

Mr. Mute stared at me for a moment. Then he looked down at his lap in thought. As he did this, I prayed he wouldn’t say anything transphobic. This wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility as he had previously made a Hitler joke despite knowing I was Jewish. Yet what he proceeded to say was something I hadn’t predicted at all. 

“What’s that?” Mr. Mute asked. 

The first emotion I felt was shock (due to how young Mr. Mute looked), but before long, I felt a sense of anger. How could I confide in a therapist who didn’t even know what I was talking about? Why couldn’t he have said something just a little more polite, like, “Can you explain to me what that is?” And I had already told him I liked both girls and boys, so hadn’t he done any research on LGBTQ topics after that?

After a deep breath, I explained to Mr. Mute that non-binary meant I felt neither masculine or feminine and used they/them pronouns. Mr. Mute nodded, but it was clear from the look in his eyes that he didn’t really understand. That wasn’t important though. What I really needed was something he hadn’t given me in the past, and would never give me in the future: advice.

“I really want to come out to my parents,” I told Mr. Mute. “But I don’t know how to.”

It was clear he wasn’t getting what I was hinting at, so I clarified and said, “I need some advice. I mean, part of your job is to give me advice, right?”

The second part of that sentence infuriated Mr. Mute. I had never witnessed him raise his voice beyond a soulless, montone caliber, but now he was borderline yelling at me as he told me that no, his job wasn’t to give me advice, it was to listen and help me become more “introspective” so I could figure things out on my own. I don’t even think he meant this. He just didn’t want to do his job.

There wasn’t much to be said following that. I just sat there on the verge of tears, while Mr. Mute stared at the clock, waiting for the session to be over. I didn’t mean for him to take it personally, or to insult him, or… I wish I had stood up to him. He was my therapist and I was his client. He didn’t have the RIGHT to yell at me, if anything I could yell at him for being such a horrible therapist. I wanted to yell at him so bad. I wanted to tell him what a horrible therapist he was and how much I despised his blue button-down shirt and his perfectly styled hair. But I just sat there, not saying anything, as quiet as he was.

“Time to go,” Mr Mute said after an eternity, sitting up without hesitation and leading me to the door. 

As I walked back to my Dad’s car, I felt a flurry of emotions. No, not a flurry. More like an angry, suffocating blizzard. I felt so misunderstood, so defeated, and so enraged. If my therapist was unable to understand me coming out, how could my parents?

Once I entered my Dad’s car, I spoke in a near-whisper and used as little words as possible in the process of trying to not let my anger out. I couldn’t control myself any longer when my Dad questioned why I was being so quiet.

“Because I don’t wanna talk to you!” I yelled without thinking.

I knew I shouldn’t have said what I said, though once I did, all my emotions began pouring out in the worst way possible. For the entire thirty minute car ride, my father and I argued endlessly. I was fine before the therapy session, the only negative emotion I felt was anxiety about coming out to my parents. Now, my anxiety about the subject had tripled while I had also lost total control over my emotions. My therapist was supposed to show me how to handle these types of emotions, only to have made things so much worse. 

And so ended my time with Mr. Mute. I confessed to my parents - and myself - how little he was helping as I realized that if I really wanted to get better, I would need someone who would facilitate that growth instead of just trying to make things easier for themself. After a few weeks, I found a new therapist who I’m still seeing to this day, and who’s helped so much that I may not even need therapy anymore in the foreseeable future. 


Cooper "Ash" Karpf is an aspiring non-binary writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. They currently attend Ardrey Kell High School and will be going to UNC Wilmington in the fall of 2024, where they will be majoring in Film Studies.

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