Fanny Pack Revisited

Vico Whitmore
6 min readJul 15, 2023

Since moving to California, I’ve tried three separate times to find a therapist who meets my needs. I didn’t walk into that quest thinking it would be easy to find a therapist who claimed to be trauma informed and actually managed to clear that bar. Finding a queer affirming therapist on top of that is basically asking for a miracle. I’ve probably ruled out a hundred therapist just based on those two needs. I’ve also been on the hunt for someone who is wise enough to read my intake form, see that I’ve been in therapy off and on for ten years, and not start with the bog-standard recommendations of yoga and meditation. It’s the first red flag I look for at this point and two of the three therapists I worked with waved it high and proud in the first session. I’ve also been looking for someone trauma informed enough to know that EMDR isn’t a magic bullet, someone who isn’t trying desperately to be world’s blankest slate, someone who knows their somatic tools and when they’re impractical, someone with new information and new ideas that I haven’t already dug up on my own.

I’m sure the issue is obvious by now. The more research I do the less likely it is that I’m going to find a therapist who can keep pace. After dropping my third therapist because they were bizarrely hung up on the idea that I might have DID, despite me not meeting the criteria for that diagnosis based on their own metric, I decided it was time for a different approach. At this point, I’ve decided to take a break from my search and lean into my TBR pile. It won’t fix everything, but it feels like a place to start. I got one book into said pile before I ran into my issues with Fanny Pack again. This time I’m glad I did.

For those not aware, Fanny Pack was the last therapist I saw while I was still living in Kentucky. While he did me a world of good in terms of my relationship with my parents, it became clear not long after I cut contact with them that he didn’t have much to offer me other than support through that process. After reading Scapegoating in Families, I think I understand why.

In the book, Pillari recommends a pretty specific treatment approach for scapegoated people. Basically, she proposes creating a safe, almost parental, relationship for patients. The expectation is that there will be an amount of transference on the patient’s end and that through the non-judgmental, unconditional, therapeutic relationship, the patient will begin to see the amount of triangulation and projection they’ve been subject to. Now, this is a layman giving the Reader’s Digest version of a very complex set of ideas, and I will be the first to admit that a good bit of Pillari’s book sailed right over my head. I am not an expert here. What I noticed, though, was that Fanny Pack did try to create that relationship for me. The problem was that the transference went the wrong way.

Fanny Pack told me on more than one occasion that he saw himself in me and that it made the therapeutic relationship difficult for him. I also remember him casually implying that I saw him as a parental figure, and how out of tune with my own feelings the statement was. I didn’t see Fanny Pack as a parent. I saw him as a mentor in the academic sense. I saw it as my job to go home after therapy every week, do my best to unpack what had come up, write my way through it, and come back in with where I’d landed. Often, I ended up several steps ahead of where Fanny Pack expected me to be, just by writ of constantly hammering out my internal experience. This motivated me to keep going within the safe guard rails of a professional’s guidance. I do think Fanny Pack succeeded in creating a safe container for me. It just never felt parental. It felt like I had the space I needed to do the work on my own with enough guidance to keep me from any harmful mistakes in my thinking. I was comfortable with my working relationship with Fanny Pack. He, on the other hand, did not seem to reciprocate.

That being said, having read Scapegoating in Families and Pillari’s three accounts of therapeutic relationships she had with her patients, I now see what Fanny Pack was aiming for. I can see why, especially in the first year, it looked to him like everything was perfectly on track. We got along great. I felt safe confronting him when he said or did something that didn’t work for me. I was making strides toward seeing my parents for who they were. There were cracks, though. Every time I pushed back on Fanny Pack’s interpretation of me as a person, every time I rejected something he held dear, every time I confronted him with his own issues around gender, he became defensive. Sometimes it was only for a split second, but other times it took us weeks to get through. Because he had transferred onto me instead of the other way around, he often stumbled where my experience and my needs diverged from his.

For the last two years I saw him, Fanny Pack would occasionally say that I didn’t need him or would point out that most of my improvement came from the work I did outside of therapy. I didn’t know what to do with those conversations. As far as I was concerned, I did need Fanny Pack. I needed those guard rails. I needed someone to be there to catch me if I went too far in any one direction. Fanny Pack didn’t see it that way, though. As time went on, the rift caused by his transference grew, and I found myself not bringing up my transition, my work situation, or even my early childhood trauma. At one point, I was being actively sexually harassed at work, told Fanny Pack about it regularly, only to find that he’d thought the whole thing was no big deal and that I’d been wasting my time talking about it. In the end, he saw that it had been painful for me, that I’d suffered a year-long sexual harassment and smear campaign at the hands of my manager, and that I’d been forced to confront my own people pleasing habits and set real boundaries whether I liked it or not. He was not present to support me through it, though. If anything, he made me feel more ashamed that I was affected by it at all.

You’ll notice this is not an exoneration of Fanny Pack. I doubt that he’ll ever get one. I do think I better understand what he was aiming for and where it went wrong, though. I can appreciate what he tried to do for me. I wish he had succeeded. Fanny Pack knew I needed a safe and supportive relationship and expected that because I brought everything to do with my parents to him that I was transferring onto him as planned. It took a year for him to realize that he saw me as a younger version of himself, and I don’t think he extricated himself from that viewpoint. When I needed him to help me through things that were foreign to him, I think it was a shock to the system that he couldn’t integrate. I also think he was right when he said that I didn’t need him.

For the time being, I’m going to see what I can accomplish without a therapist. To be clear, it’s really my only option at the moment. I’ve run out of therapists to contact who accept my insurance and look even remotely competent. That being said, I’m choosing to lean in. I think I can do myself a world of good with just a little more faith in my own abilities to work through my issues solo. While I don’t think I’ll manage to treat my own trauma and reprocess all of that on my own, I do think I can make it a little more tolerable for myself in the interim. I’m hoping that if I can get consistent with the habits that make me feel a little more grounded in my body and a little bit more real, maybe by the time I’m ready to start looking for a therapist again I’ll have more tolerance for the road ahead. Until then, there’s a world of books about treating trauma I can explore, and I’m looking forward to what I’ll find there.

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Vico Whitmore

Trans CSA survivor leaving a trail as I stumble my way toward healing. Support me on ko-fi! https://ko-fi.com/vicowhitmore