My Therapist Is Provoking Me

Why would my therapist who I have been working with for three years who knows I am suicidal taunt, tease, belittle, call me names, beg for help and make me more suicidal? - Fragile Client
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Dear Fragile Client,

Wow, that sounds abusive and my first reaction is to say, it’s time to get a new therapist. Anyone who is truly being abused by their therapist needs to move on sooner rather than later. The indispensable ingredients in any therapeutic relationship are safety and trust. It sounds like you’re feeling neither at an extremely vulnerable time; the client really is the “customer” and has the right to go elsewhere if she feels distrust or unsafe (or abused) with the therapist.

The only reason I can think of to stay – and this is a very personal decision – is if this represents exception rather than the norm of the therapy as a whole. You say you’ve been with the therapist for three years, so I’m wondering if you have been feeling this way the whole time, or if this represents a horrifying diversion from the norm? If the latter is true, and if you feel it’s worth your effort, you will have to discuss your feelings with your therapist right away. You may feel the relationship is beyond repair at this point. If, however, you feel it is worth one attempt to save the relationship, then it’s time to share the raw, unfiltered truth. If your therapist does not seem to “get it”, or respect and show compassion, or show a desire to make amends and drop the abusive behavior immediately, then it’s time to move on.

If this type of discussion is the route you want to take, I would bring it up as soon as possible. There is no excuse for feeling belittled – to say nothing of abused – in one’s therapy. If you don’t feel safe having this discussion, it’s time to find someone new.

You might also consult at least once with another therapist, for a number of reasons. First, you can get a feel for how another therapist works and relates to you, as a way of contrasting with your current person; you can also discuss the situation, to get a fresh perspective and most importantly some support for what sounds like a very painful emotional struggle. Suicide must be taken seriously.

In fact, I urge you to get help immediately if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or impulses. You can call the suicide hotline, or 911 or take yourself to the nearest ER and let a psychiatrist know what is going on. Please don’t delay if you are having any recurring thoughts or feelings of hurting yourself. I hope you find the help and support you need as soon as possible. Thank you for writing.

Kind regards,

Darren Haber
Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT is a psychotherapist specializing in treating alcoholism and drug addiction as well as co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, secondary addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma (both single-incident and repetitive). He works in a variety of modalities, primarily cognitive behavioral, spiritual/recovery-based, and psychodynamic. He is certified in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and continues to receive psychodynamic training in treating relational trauma, including emotional abuse/neglect and physical and sexual abuse.
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  • David Calhoun

    David Calhoun

    July 23rd, 2012 at 5:23 PM

    Is you therapist pushing you to achieve new things. Many times mine will give me the feeling that he has pushed me and bullied me only to find out a short time later that the feeling of being pushed is just a new direction that he has given me.

    We work through this about twice a year, but after the first time I talked with him and he explained what he was doing. This gave us a firm understanding and strengthened my faith in him and our direction forward.

  • Anonymous


    December 25th, 2012 at 4:49 AM

    An abusive therapist is a bad therapist and not uncommon. One need not be a saint or even a good person to get a degree.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on