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AM I BEING ABUSED BY MY THERAPIST?

Question:

I HAVE BEEN IN THERAPY FOR FOUR YEARS WITH THE SAME THERAPIST. FROM THE START SHE INSINUATED THAT SHE DID NOT CARE ABOUT ME. SHE SAID "YOU NEED TO CARE ENOUGH FOR THE BOTH OF US". I REVEAL TO HER THAT I WAS MOLESTED AS A CHILD. SHE JUST SMIRKED AND SAID NOTHING. SO QUITE NATURALLY I FEEL LIKE SHE DID NOT BELIEVE ME. SHE HAVE SAID TO ME THAT I MAKE IT HARD FOR HER TO CARE ABOUT ME. SHE HAS CALLED ME TO SAY THAT SHE GAVE MY APPOINTMENT TO SOMEONE ELSE. I ASKED HER WHY AND SHE BECAME HOSTILE AND SAID "I HAD A CHOICE TO MAKE AND I MADE IT". I WAS SO HURT. I FEEL LIKE I’M NOT IMPORTANT. MY MENTAL ILLNESS IS BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER. IF I’M UPSET I CALL HER AND LEAVE HER A MESSAGE BUT SHE WON’T CALL ME BACK. I ASKED HER WHY SHE DIDN’T CALL ME BACK. SHE’LL SAY IT WAS BECAUSE SHE WAS BUSY. BUT, LATELY SHE HAS SAID THAT ALL I’M DOING IS SETTING MYSELF UP TO BE DISAPPOINTED IF I EXPECT HER TO CALL ME BACK. I WON’T GO ON BECAUSE I’M GETTING TOO UPSET JUST THINKING ABOUT THE OTHER COMMENTS SHE HAS MADE. NOW I FEEL LIKE THERES NO HOPE OF ME EVER GETTING BETTER. I KNOW I COULD GO AND TRY TO FIND ANOTHER THERAPIST. BUT I WON’T BECAUSE I’M AFRAID THAT THE NEW THERAPIST WOULDN’T LIKE ME EITHER. I JUST WISHED THAT I WAS DEAD. EVERY SINGLE DAY I’M THINKING ABOUT THE WAY SHE HAS TREATED ME. I JUST DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.

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Answer:

I am sorry that you have been through such difficult times with this therapist and over four years. However, I want to assure you that it is "not the end of the world." What I mean is that just because this therapist did not work out there is no reason for you to believe that there is no hope.

It is a common thing that a particular client and therapist are not a good fit. It is just too bad that it took four years to discover this. However, I would not define that as abuse.

Of course, I do not approve of the way this therapist handled the situation. The proper and professional thing to do when a therapist is convinced that a client is not working out is to refer that client to another therapist and not just abandon that individual. However, as in every other profession, there are those practitioners who are skilled and do the right thing and there are others who are not.

What you should do:

First, I strongly recommend that you stop calling this therapist because you are only getting more upset and frustrated. This therapy is over and you need to move on.

Second, if it is true that your diagnosis is Borderline Personality Disorder, and I have no way of knowing whether or not this is correct, then you should enter a different type of therapy than what you had with this last therapist. In fact, even if you do not have that diagnosis, I recommend that you enter a different type of therapy and here it is:

Third, I suggest that you find a clinical psychologist or licensed clinical social worker who is trained in and experienced with the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT) and who also knows how to use Dialectical Behavior Therapy(DBT). DBT is a type of CBT that is particularly helpful for those with Borderline Personality Disorder. In fact, group therapy using DBT is especially useful. These types of therapy are much more specific and geared towards helping people reduce tension and learn how to handle emotions and improve their relationships with other people.

Speak to your medical doctor about a referral or do a search on the Internet for this type of practitioner in your area. If you have insurance you can do a search among the therapists listed in the network for the insurance company.

Best of Luck

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Comments
  • JR

    It worries me that the word "therapist" admits so many variations. I had therapy for depression some time ago. The "therapist" in question had all the relevant letters after her name for this part of the world. In my case, she seemed to use this, and the fact that (fool as I am) I was willing to pay her) as licence to play with me as if I was a laboratory rat - or, perhaps, a template for an innovative recipe for ratatoille. I particularly remember an episode of "regression therapy" in which I was encouraged to "say goodbye" to my late mother. It was incredibly upsetting, and probably set me back years in my recovery from a number of serious and related "issues".

    Actually, it did not "work". In the sense in which this Thick Therapist intended, I have still not said "goodbye" to Mammy. Thank the Gods!

    The Doctor is right. Put this unworthy person behind you. If you still feel the need of therapy, find someone else more responsive to your personal needs.

    Best wishes and good luck!

    JR

  • Alicia

    Yes, that therapist WAS abusive....A therapist is supposed to care about you, and you should FEEL that they do.

    She "smirked" when you told her you were molested? That is horrific. That is abuse.

    She didn't bother to call you back? No excuse for that.

    She obviously has issues she has not worked out, and unfortunately YOU paid for her unprofessional behavior. That is why a bad therapist can be such a danger to a client if they are unethical, unprofessional or just plain inept, the misery and confusion they cause is terrible

    Sounds to me as if she was/is sadistic. Please find another therapist there are good ones unfortunately it takes some time to find one.

    Hugs, Alicai

  • Jordan

    I recently finally fired my therapist of 3 years for general abusive issues. The most severe being insurance fraud, but also including numerous non-sexual boundary violations. He was extremely inconsistent with appointment times, and then called me "demanding" when I called him to find out what time we were going to meet the next day,disclosed way too much of his own life, implied his beliefs were absolutes in the universe,broke confidentiality by sharing information about me with my then husband who he was seeing as a client while he was seeing me and I had been specific in saying I had no interest in saving the marriage, and his only "method" of treatment was a "long term relationship". He made some very mean statements over the course of the "therapy" and I always felt worse after going than when I got there. If I appeared "happy" on arrival it seemed he would make sure I wasn't smiling when I left. The sad part is that I just didn't know the difference between good and bad therapy and since the relationships I'd chosen in my life were dysfunctional/codependent ,this one fit the pattern perfectly!

    I am happy to say that now I clearly know my lifelong pattern and I think have found a "good therapist" who will assist me in building healthy boundaries and developing and creating the life I was meant to live.

    The bottom line is if it feels wrong it probably is....trust yourself and get away from it asap...you are worth it!

  • Anonymous-1

    If you know much about BPD, you understand that the distortion of other's words, actions, and even facial expressions , causing intense feelings of mistrust and abuse, is one of the most clear symptoms of the disorder.

    I do not believe this therapist was abusive, I believe that the author was incapable if correctly interpreting the interactions between the therapist and their self.

    I do agree with the last recommendation that the author find a therapist specializing in CBT because such a therapist will be adept at speaking in a way that the author will not misinterpret the interaction.

  • Anonymous-2

    It can be very difficult to know the truth when dealing with people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I had a girlfriend with BPD who bragged arrogantly she had been able to manipulate 3 of her psychotherapists and was generally mocking in her views of the profession. Of course, on a different day it would be a different story. This sounds to me like an angry client not being able to come to terms with a therapist's repeated attempts to stop treatment. During relationship breakdowns, BPD's will use threats, police, rage, tears, anything no matter how extreme to escape that fear of abandonment. The therapist probably smirked because she had heard the story a hundred times before or it was bought up at an inappropriate time, out of context, and just looked blatantly manipulative. Don't get me wrong, maybe the therapist is a bitch, but at the same time BPDs often project themselves on to the other person. Wouldn't be at all surprised if the truth was the therapist had been manipulated, then let down, abused, and got to a point they could no longer handle it.

  • Portnoy

    This is an old question, but I feel compelled to respond nonetheless.

    Dr. Schwartz seems to acknowledge that the therapist “abandon[ed]” (his word) her patient, yet he says that he does not consider that abuse. If abandoning a potentially suicidal client isn’t therapist abuse, what is?

    It is unconscionable that Dr. Schwartz did not recommend that you file a complaint with whatever professional body your 'therapist' belongs to—perhaps the good doctor, consciously or not, is being a little protective of a colleague.

    And the first couple of comments reflect typical reactions to people diagnosed with BPD and demonstrate why the diagnosis can be so insidious and damaging. Note that the commenters immediately dismiss everything the writer described because she has a BPD diagnosis.

    Isn't it possible that she could have BPD . . . AND the 'therapist' could be a jerk? Imagine having a diagnosis that compels everyone to dismiss any complaint you have about mistreatment by other people. Perhaps the complaints are valid, perhaps they are not, but it is very dangerous—not to mention cruel--to automatically dismiss someone's complaints because she suffers from some condition or another.

    A third party should be brought into the situation to assess it and go from there. That could be another therapist, or maybe the professional body that the current therapist belongs to.

  • Anonymous-3

    To the commenter below, I'm saying this as a person in recovery from BPD:

    I understand what you are saying about people automatically being dismissive of anything a person with BPD says. It can feel extremely invalidating to not be believed when a person feels they have been wronged, especially if not being believed about abuse occurred in the sufferers past. However, the problem is that with BPD having distorted perceptions of relationships and reading negative and abusive intentions in interactions where there really are none is extremely common and basically a hallmark of the disorder. Of course this occurrence is not the person with BPDs fault and has to do with having a past full of trauma which causes the feeling of constantly being threatened, but nevertheless, negative distortion very frequently happens. I think people with BPD need to at least acknowledge that and show some understanding as to why people tend to be skeptical when we cry mistreatment. I have to admit that I myself have often misread other peoples intentions including my poor therapist, countless times, and believed they were being cruel and abusive to me, then reacted emotionally just like this question's poster did, only to realize later on that I really was just splitting, having an "emotional flashback" and seriously distorting the situation in my own mind. Therefore, when a person with BPD makes claims of abuse, cruelty, coldness, uncaring or misconduct by a therapist, even I can admit that one really does have more of a need to look at all the purely objective facts in the situation and not simply take the persons statement at face value. That is certainly not to say that everything a person with BPD says is simply a distortion. Sometimes the accusations will in fact, be true, and everyone deserves to have their case heard objectively. It's just that it should be expected that people are automatically going to scrutinize the situation more intensely to see what the actual facts are.

    In the case of this question, I have to say I actually do not agree with Dr. Schwartz's response because I don't feel he should have taken a clear side in a conflict between two other people in a relationship when he has only heard half of the story. I think that without getting the therapist's take on what happened and hearing them speak on their own behalf as to what they did, said, etc., is the equivalent of using hearsay in a court case to assume that everything which is presented as having occurred is fact and then respond by confirming to the asker that their therapist acted unprofessionally and that they should seek out a new therapist. How does he know what really went on? There is no context. If this was, in fact, actually just a distorted perception based on splitting, it is possible that the therapist was really a perfectly fine therapist, but now that this person has had their distortion backed up by Dr. Schwartz's advice, they will leave their therapist instead of potentially working it out with them, possibly to their detriment. I know if I had been told by another professional to leave my therapist every single time I felt he was mistreating me, instead of talking it over with him directly and trying to work it out, I would have surely run away and never have had the ability to recover as much as I have. So, that is just my personal perspective on the matter.

  • Anonymous-4

    Dr. Schwartz:

    You call what the client described as "therapy"? Are you kidding me? She is a vulnerable person who paid for someone to abuse her for 4 years. I have heard this before. As in 25% of the people I have spoken with who use a therapist have stories of emotional or sexual abuse. The regulators need to take psychotherapy away from lazy-messy-overpaid-hack social workers and psychologists and put it back in the hands of M.D.'s who actually take the job seriously (and who these days charge less despite having educated themselves for 3 times as long). You psychologists and social workers are worse than the pedophile priests.

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