Another Abandonment? My Therapist Won’t See Me Anymore!

Hi, I had been seeing my therapist on and off (due to me traveling in and out of the country) for the past month and a half, and today when I wanted to schedule my fourth session with her, she told me that she is not taking any more sessions. I was shocked because this termination was very abrupt. I have abandonment issues and unresolved anger which I desperately needed to discuss in the fourth session, and then she's gone. The worst part is that she reminded me of someone who left me a few years ago—and I actually told her that in the second session. This feels like being abandoned all over again, and although I've seen her for only three sessions, I feel that ache in my chest. She did not even suggest that we have another session to end things properly. I would have been able to make peace with that if we had one last time to "tie loose ends," even if this means I have to see another therapist after that session. I feel very hurt with this incident. What can you suggest that I do next? —Feeling Ditched
Dear Feeling Ditched,

It’s easy to understand why you feel hurt; your experience with this therapist is a reminder of previous abandonments in your life. Perhaps those abandonments are even the reason you are seeking a therapeutic relationship—so you can work out your feelings. Good for you! Working through complicated feelings, and arriving at a better understanding of why you feel them, is one of the great benefits of psychotherapy.

You have an “ache in your chest,” need help, and have the courage and wisdom to seek it. Unfortunately, you did not find the help you were looking for this time, but I hope that this experience will not put you off of therapy, and that you will try, try again with someone new. Although I don’t know some of the specifics regarding your situation, it seems to me that your experience with this particular therapist is not typical.

I am not sure of the exact timing of your sessions, such as when your treatment started, when the first three meetings took place, and when the hiatus occurred. Knowing the sequence and the rhythm of the proceedings would make it a bit easier to understand what might have happened. In any event, although you describe your relationship with the therapist as “on and off,” you were committed to the treatment and you felt surprised when you called to schedule your fourth session and found that she was unavailable. Clearly, you were expecting her to wait for you to come back and you felt hurt when she wasn’t there. In short, you were “on” but she was “off.”

Best I can tell, the therapist ended treatment over the phone. The usual practice is to meet together in person before terminating treatment. I agree with you that a face-to-face meeting would have been more appropriate. It is possible that the therapist’s time simply filled up while you were away and scheduling became more difficult, but I wish you had both tried to find a time that worked for the two of you to meet. That clearly would have helped you move forward, if only in the direction of another therapist you would feel more embraced by.

You wanted to say goodbye and achieve some closure to understand what was going on and maybe even feel better, as you mention in your letter. I’m curious as to what you feel a proper ending looks like—what you want to say to her, and what you want her to say to you. What are the “loose ends” you want to tie up? These are important issues, and I hope you discuss them with your next therapist.

You also asked for advice about what to do next. Again, I hope this experience won’t stop you from starting anew with another therapist. Find a therapist who can help you learn how to participate in a relationship that is, simply, “on.”

Best wishes,
Lynn

Lynn Somerstein
Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
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  • Sherry

    Sherry

    January 30th, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    Without knowing the situation it sounds like there was something that made this person uncomfortable with continuing… but that doesn’t mean that the termination of care couldn’t have been handled in a different manner.

  • Mack

    Mack

    January 31st, 2015 at 8:32 AM

    You wanna just say good riddance when someone pushes you aside like this but I know that that is probably not the healthiest attitude to have either. There are so many good therapists out there who would be willing to work with you- don’t give up on finding one.

  • Ann

    Ann

    October 14th, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    Please tell me where they are.
    Thank you.

  • popper

    popper

    January 31st, 2015 at 11:18 AM

    Same thing happened to me…only was seeing the ‘therapist’ for nearly two years. I was dismissed in an email !! I felt exactly the same. Seems to me this is so unacceptable. Especially by email….AND, this occurred right after an extremely life threatening event, whereby I spent 8 days hospitalized for a serious physical condition. If ever I need support this was it!! It’s egregious to target the most vulnerable, and they seem to get away with it!! I don’t agree that this is not the norm. I’ve had other experiences, not as bad a this, but nonetheless very unprofessional behavior with therapists. I’ve gone thru so many, I swore I’d never seek ‘help’ ever again. If this is what the psychotherapy community has to offer, who needs it? They need to be treating each other.! This is my experience, and in talking to others, so many people have gone thru similar miseries with their therapists !! I give these characters every chance, every lea way, but there comes a time to call it all to a halt. I don’t see much ‘help’ available, and I live in a city of 3 million people. Good luck to ‘feeling ditched’. I do hope you locate someone you can work with….Lost among many

  • Vicki

    Vicki

    March 15th, 2017 at 8:26 AM

    Hi Popper, I am sorry you went through that. I’m dealing with the same thing. Although, I had been seeing my therapist on and off for 12 years. I got a message after I got out of recovery for a 3 disk fusion in my neck stating that my insurance didn’t cover two sessions. I never heard from her again. I finally called after 8 months of not hearing from her. She straight out lied to me. I have had abandonment issues my entire life. Obviously, that is something we have worked on over the years. This is the ultimate abandonment. I still don’t understand. It’s been two years now and I’m trying to figure out how to get closure.

  • Les

    Les

    February 2nd, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    Do you really think that one last session would have made the loss any easier? Cut those toes and move on- find someone who truly cares about your well being.

  • Keeney

    Keeney

    February 27th, 2015 at 3:32 AM

    Not the point at all. We should be able to expect more from professional people that we do business with. There’s just no excuse for not being professional even if seems like moving on quickly would be the best thing. When dealing with other people professionally we shouldn’t have to “move on quickly because it’s the best thing”. We should be treated with thoughtfulness and respect and then be able to carry on with our lives without having that person impact us in any kind of negative way because they couldn’t be bothered to be the best that they could be and do the best job that they could make sure that what they did in their day only had positive results. I’m very serious about that. I absolutely do not expect perfection from human beings or myself, however I expect people including myself to try to do the best they can and be the best person they can be and not allow themselves to hurt others because of a lack of effort to be strong and do the right thing which is the only respectable way to go. I’m just so tired of people making excuses for being pathetic or irresponsible or disrespect for thoughtless. I’m tired of people attacking other people when they’ve been told that there something other than perfect rather than take responsibility for what they’ve done and try to do things better next time. I tired of people not feeling it’s worthwhile to do things well because honestly that’s probably why this world sucks like it does with everyone having such a low self image because they don’t bother to do things well, or successfully, or with pride.There is no excuse and we need to expect more from ourselves and each other in this world. Without high standards to shoot for this will be a world full of people that suck and are angry and mistreated each other, and so we can’t just expect someone else to be the best person so that we can be lazy. We all have to do our best …and I’ll now I’ll get off my soapbox!

  • Mariah

    Mariah

    February 4th, 2015 at 9:06 PM

    I, too, had an abrupt ending to my therapy ; I had worked with my therapist in analytic psychotherapy for nearly five years, much of that twice a week. We parted ways via email after an ultimatum from him that I had to make a choice between staying as his client or going to a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression (which I was going through at the time, and felt he didn’t understand). I had expressed apprehension over terminating therapy during our work together, so he knew I was worried about it, but cut me off without it. I’m still grieving. It’s hard, feeling abandoned by someone you entrusted to care for your well-being.

  • Kim

    Kim

    February 4th, 2015 at 11:33 PM

    Maybe it’s as simple as new clients took your time slot, given you were not attending regularly . weekly patients would fill up time slot pretty quickly .

  • Keeney

    Keeney

    February 27th, 2015 at 2:59 AM

    As an actual patient no matter how often she scheduled time, she should’ve been notified and informed ahead of time rather then told abruptly as if she had trusted someone who did not respect her feelings in such a relationship as this between A therapist to whom you confide your private life to and the patient. It’s business but it’s also personal and deserves more respect than that. It deserves more of a gentle touch.

  • Aundi

    Aundi

    February 6th, 2015 at 3:48 AM

    no excuse, this was just unprofessional and potentially dangerous for a patient who could be in a very depressed state of mind.

  • Keeney

    Keeney

    February 27th, 2015 at 3:23 AM

    I had a similar experience where I had researched carefully and found someone I thought had the ability to help me. We spoke on the phone and I told her the very very long and very serious situation I was in as well as making it very clear how desperate for help I was and that I had felt as though many therapist before had failed me, and what I needed was an advocate that wouldn’t get sucked into my parents drama but would be there for me, and she confirmed that she believed she could help me and we scheduled an appointment. I told her I had done so much research and put all this time into finding her and helping myself in general, we exchanging a few emails and I even got the courage to convince my mother to attend the second appointment which required a lot of convincing and a lot of bravery on my part because my issues are with her all of which this therapist knew. I filled out the online intake form with all of my information the night before my appointment but I’m sick and disabled which I hate but is a simple reality. I was not feeling well and I don’t leave home very much at all but really wanted to make sure I could attend the appointment. Then I read on the form that she did telephone interviews. I waited until the next day before I decided whether I could make the appointment in person or not, but I simply just couldn’t do it and so I called her and requested that we have our appointment by phone like I had read about and she waited until after our appointment time to respond and tell me it was an error on her form and that she does not do those kinds of appointments. I explained my health situation but insisted that I would do my best all the time to make the appointments but because I’m a disabled person it was no guarantee which -let’s be honest people- is just life and we deal with it and move on without much thought because expecting life to work the way you want it to off time is having unrealistic expectations. After everything she finally told me that because I couldn’t consistently and regularly make our appointments in person she felt she couldn’t help me and I had already waited for two weeks for this appointment while I was desperate for help, telling people aware of my situation that I had found someone anyway and was really looking forward to getting help, and I had invested so much into her already and she was telling me that my disability was the reason that she wouldn’t see me and that even though she was a therapist who is supposed to have a better understanding of the way that life works because human beings are complicated, she expected me to be able to be there every week in person and not have life interfere or cause us to have to adjust things at all. I couldn’t believe a therapist was discriminating against me and that she expected that life worked in such a way that enough people could do something all the time regularly and perfectly that it was okay for her to not work with someone who couldn’t. I begged her to reconsider and she gave me the names of two other people and said if I didn’t like them we could talk again…

    …which really meant that she wasn’t so against seeing me that she was refusing to do it 100% but that she would consider doing it after I wasted more of my time with two more people telling my private and personal problems which as a matter of fact took a pretty decent chunk of time to do and required far more energy then I had to explain the very long and complex situation to another stranger which took a lot out of me both physically and emotionally!!! I mean what? You could see me but you’re gonna make me go through hell before you’re willing to do it and you’re here to help? What the hell? That is just so messed up but goes right along with the theme of the rest of my life..

    …I hate to say this but because of the way my life is been going I really feel like people suck so much of the time.

  • Ann

    Ann

    October 14th, 2015 at 4:27 PM

    I just had a very unpleasant experience with a therapist. In February 2013 I hunted for a therapist who cared about their patients and could prescribe the medications I needed. I thought I had found a good therapist. She diagnosed me with 2 problems that I had never been diagnosed with before. I was her patient for 2 and a half years and I came to trust her judgement and I truly thought she cared about me. Back in March 2015 she advised me to seek a personal counselor, and to go to group therapy as an outpatient. I told her I had already completed a group therapy project in 2006, but agreed to go to another, and she suggested the outpatient program. She gave me the phone number and I called to find out if my health insurance would cover the cost. The employee I talked to over the phone told me it would be the next week before she could find out if my health insurance would cover the group therapy. She called me the next week and said “No” my health insurance would not cover this therapy. I called my therapist office and left her a message telling her we would have to find another place, and that I would need to wait until the school year was out in May because group therapy requires you to attend weekly classes 5 days a week for 3 to 5 weeks, and I did make an appointment with a personal counselor. I had appointments with my therapist every month after that, April, May, June, July. My therapist never said anything else to me about group therapy, and with a lot of things going on I had left the subject in a spiral notebook on my desk at home. In the middle of August 2015 I received a very short impersonal letter in the mail stating that my therapist was discontinuing my care, and told me to seek someone else. It was a cold 4 line letter that my therapist wrote herself. On Monday I called her office to ask why. The only person I could talk to was the office manager who really did not want to talk to me.
    I finally got her to listen and after I told her everything she told me there was nothing she could do, that I had been terminated due to non-compliance. I was furious. I told her that I had trusted my therapist and that I had no idea what I had been non compliant about. She said I did not go to group therapy and did not seek a personal counselor. I told the office manager that I was going to a personal counselor and told her about the group therapy, and that my counselor had never brought up again in 5 months. That the therapist had never said anything about it again.
    For the last 2 months I have been trying to find another therapist who would take my health insurance and one who is located in the 2 cities within driving distance. I still have no therapist and today is October 13, 2015.
    I have been abandoned by my parents and 2 siblings twice before. Once in 1994 for 5 years until 1999 and again in 2010 for 5 years, and this time it is ongoing. Needless to say I do not trust many people.
    My therapist knew about my abandonment issues, but she did not know that my father was in the hospital and that he died this last August 26th, 2015. I have had 8 different life changing events happen to me in the last 6 months. I cannot handle anymore. I have always been the peacemaker in the family. I do not want anyone to view me as a needy person, but I feel as though some people see me that way right now.
    Can anyone give me any advice or any kind of suggestions?
    Right now I feel like my life is crumbling apart. Thank you.

  • Anon73

    Anon73

    August 15th, 2016 at 3:33 PM

    First, I am sorry you had this experience. It seems like it was somewhat traumatizing to you. Second, I appreciate you sharing what happened and feeling “ditched” in the way that you are because something similar happened to me years ago too. I had been seeing a therapist for a few weeks. Our sessions were helpful to me. I also have childhood rejection and abandonment issues were had been discussing. Then one day, as we are talking, the appt becomes her telling me we will no longer be seeing each other anymore (without any warning). And how do I feel about that. I honestly felt upset and panicked – AND that she knew that and took some perverse delight in that discomfort. I was unable to find my words for a few mins. And she (I felt) somewhat sadistically said something like I know you feel rejected now, how does it feel for me to reject you ? It was awful. It was traumatic for me. And felt like she was using the hurt I had confided in her against me. In any case, thank you to reassure me that I am not the only one who has been ditched. I really hope that therapists, given the trust we give them, receive better training for when they decide to terminate a patient relationship for whatever reasons they decide to do it. The way it was done to this poster, as to myself, was cruel and irresponsible.

  • Jim

    Jim

    August 18th, 2016 at 10:38 PM

    My view is that I am due to a certain extent an amount of therapy, and if there is a connection it would be a small thread that can break. I will keep appointments and if they give me their number I will make sure to call at least once because I believe commitment is a style you have to own. I usually have my sister with me at the first appointments and I have noticed when she is too busy and can’t show problems arise and I believe that it is due to the therapist sharing information with others about me and those others are the therapist’s baggage.

  • Lou

    Lou

    September 11th, 2016 at 2:57 PM

    My therapist didn’t even call or email me, she just won’t respond after many warm and productive sessions. I could understand this if I had made her feel uncomfortable as therapists are people too (& we’re all equally flawed and crazy in our own unique ways), but our last meeting ended with a hug, smiles and the promise of another session to be scheduled . . . After this experience I will never seek therapy again & empathize with every individual on this forum.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    September 12th, 2016 at 7:06 AM

    Hi Lou,
    I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling abandoned, and I’m wondering to hear more about your experience. At your last meeting, which ended in a warm way, there was a promise of another session. I’m not clear if one or the other of you was supposed to make contact first? Maybe you could e mail the therapist and ask what happened.
    Take care, and good luck,
    Lynn

  • Lou

    Lou

    September 19th, 2016 at 7:21 PM

    Lynn,
    Thank you for the response. Due to the circumstances surrounding my need for therapy I decided to leave the United States and stayed in Madrid, Spain for 6 weeks which is where we connected. When I left she expressed a very strong interest in maintaining our relationship through a confidential video chat application. She told me to expect an email and I did not receive one; I wrote her a week later and did not receive a response. I could speculate all day, but will never truly know what happened.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    Lynn Somerstein

    September 27th, 2016 at 6:35 AM

    HI Lou,
    I’ve been thinking about what you said, and here’s some possibilities.
    1. Some kind of e mail mix-up.
    2. Did she work for an agency? Or did you find her through an agency? The agency may have its own rules about contacting people.
    3. Some misfortune, unknown.
    4. She’s a stinker.
    Don’t know if any of my speculations help, but I do hope that you not lose faith in therapy.
    Take care,
    Lynn

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