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50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy and Counseling

Angled-up view of bright traffic light on grayscale streetThe items listed below are significant red flags and important information for anyone in therapy or considering therapy. If any of the following red flags appear during the course of your counseling, it may be time to reevaluate your counselor or therapist.

Should you recognize one of these red flags, the first step, in most cases, is to discuss your concern with your counselor. Try talking candidly about what’s bothering you. A good therapist should be open and willing to understand your concerns. If your counselor doesn’t take your concerns seriously or is unwilling to accept feedback, then it’s probably in your best interest to consult with another therapist about it. Most therapists mean well and are willing to take accountability for their own “stuff.” So, it’s also important to give your therapist the benefit of the doubt … all people make minor mistakes. And sometimes what people think is their therapist’s issue is actually their own. These “blind spots” can be the most difficult to see and are well worth talking about with your therapist.

It’s also important to note that the following red flags have varying degrees of significance. Some of them are very serious violations of ethical standards, such as a therapist attempting to have a sexual relationship with a client. There is no exception to this rule, and if you find yourself in such a situation, you are advised to report to the state professional licensing board and consult with other professionals. However, a number of the red flags listed below do have “exceptions to the rule” and depend partly on the context. For example, it’s generally unacceptable for therapists to have dual relationships with their clients. So if a counselor is treating the neighborhood barber for his or her depression, the counselor goes to a different barber to avoid confusing the “client-therapist” relationship. However, in small communities it can be impossible to avoid certain dual relationships. Ethical guidelines are flexible enough to take this, and some other exceptions, into account.

In no particular order, it is a red flag if you find your:

  1. Counselor does not have sufficient and specific training to address your issues and/or attempts to treat problems outside the scope of the practice.
  2. Therapist is not interested in the changes you want to make and your goals for therapy.
  3. Counselor cannot or does not clearly define how they can help you to solve whatever issue or concern has brought you to therapy.
  4. Therapist provides no explanation of how you will know when your therapy is complete.
  5. Counselor does not seek consultation with other therapists.
  6. Therapist makes guarantees and/or promises.
  7. Therapist has unresolved complaints filed with a licensing board.
  8. Therapist does not provide you with information about your rights as a client, confidentiality, office policies, and fees so you can fairly consent to your treatment. Note: The requirement for information provided to new clients by therapists differs by state and licensure requirements.
  9. Counselor is judgmental or critical of your behavior, lifestyle, or problems.
  10. Therapist “looks down” at you or treats you as inferior in subtle or not so subtle ways.
  11. Counselor blames your family, friends, or partner.
  12. Counselor encourages you to blame your family, friends, or partner.
  13. Therapist knowingly or unknowingly gets personal psychological needs met at the expense of focusing on you and your therapy.
  14. Counselor tries to be your friend.
  15. Therapist initiates touch (i.e., hugs) without consent.
  16. Counselor attempts to have a sexual or romantic relationship with you.
  17. Therapist talks excessively about personal issues and/or self-discloses often without any therapeutic purpose.
  18. Counselor tries to enlist your help with something not related to your therapy.
  19. Therapist discloses your identifying information without authorization or mandate.
  20. Counselor tells you the identities of other clients.
  21. Therapist discloses they have never done personal therapy work.
  22. Counselor cannot accept feedback or admit mistakes.
  23. Therapist focuses extensively on diagnosing without also helping you to change.
  24. Counselor talks too much.
  25. Therapist does not talk at all.
  26. Counselor often speaks in complex “psychobabble” that leaves you confused.
  27. Therapist focuses on thoughts and cognition at the exclusion of feelings and somatic experience.
  28. Counselor focuses on feelings and somatic experience at the exclusion of thoughts, insight, and cognitive processing.
  29. Therapist acts as if they have the answers or solutions to everything and spends time telling you how to best fix or change things.
  30. Counselor tells you what to do, makes decisions for you, or gives frequent unsolicited advice.
  31. Therapist encourages your dependency by allowing you to get your emotional needs met from the therapist. Therapist “feeds you fish, rather than helping you to fish for yourself.”
  32. Counselor tries to keep you in therapy against your will.
  33. Therapist believes that only the therapist’s counseling approach works and ridicules other approaches to therapy.
  34. Therapist is contentious with you or frequently confrontational.
  35. Counselor doesn’t remember your name and/or doesn’t remember your interactions from one session to the next.
  36. Therapist does not pay attention or appear to be listening and understanding you.
  37. Counselor answers the phone during your session.
  38. Therapist is not sensitive to your culture or religion.
  39. Counselor denies or ignores the importance of your spirituality.
  40. Therapist tries to push spirituality or religion on to you.
  41. Counselor does not empathize.
  42. Therapist empathizes too much.
  43. Counselor seems overwhelmed with your problems.
  44. Therapist seems overly emotional, affected, or triggered by your feelings or issues.
  45. Counselor pushes you into highly vulnerable feelings or memories against your wishes.
  46. Therapist avoids exploring any of your emotional or vulnerable feelings.
  47. Counselor does not ask your permission to use various psychotherapeutic techniques.
  48. Therapist tries to get you to exert overt control over your impulses, compulsions, or addictions without helping you to appreciate and resolve the underlying causes.
  49. Counselor prematurely and/or exclusively focuses on helping you to appreciate and resolve the underlying causes of an issue or compulsion when you would instead benefit more from learning coping skills to manage your impulses.
  50. Your counselor habitually misses, cancels, or shows up late to appointments.

If there are other warning signs or red flags you’d like to share, please leave a reply in the comments section below.

© Copyright 2008 by Noah Rubinstein. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Augusta

    February 20th, 2008 at 11:38 AM

    This is a good, comprehensive list. Thanks for taking the time to write these down!

  • alisa

    September 27th, 2016 at 8:11 PM

    I have been using online therapy and at first loved my counselor. However, when I expressed some concerns over a few things – where I felt there were some miscommunications, or some reasons where she was “triggering” me (not her fault but I was trying to be honest), it was like she took it personal an then the ensuing week got cold and very different with me. Now she is telling me I’m unstable and need a second therapist? I’m very confused.

  • Marie

    May 28th, 2017 at 6:36 AM

    a similar things happened to me with two male therapist -once “live therapy”, once online. Very confusing experience. Both were “psychoanalytically” orientated therapist. Both “loved me” at the beginning, they tried to attach me to themselves, they were “valuating me”. All was great. However I noticed that they were not fine with going into my feelings, my somatic experiences. I was started “not to act ” the way they wanted. I doubted things, I started to show that something was missing….they went cold the next session. I was told many nasty things about me: how I had a psychotic structure of my personality, how my life sucked..etc…it was all kind of sublte. In the live-therapy I made it 35 sessions (I wanted to make it through, I wanted to prove that I am a good patient, I care for my health). I was finally also verbally attacked for the way how I look like, I was told that I never did anything right in my life. Meantime I had an accident and started to suffer from PTSD. This therapist was even more after me. I had a coach that helped to get out. 1,5 year later online therapy, no therapy inbetween as I am afraid to live the same. It starts to get the same patterns: He tells me that he is the great one, the only one for me (but it is very subtle, it is not easily to recognise in words), he tells me that those who seek healing and truth stay in therapy, for a long time (suggesting I was the black sheep, steadily unhappy). He applies the method of ambivalence – I gave myself the time to write after every session (with my notes) how I felt: I must confess that it is almost the same model (like a cycle): 1/3 of sessions feels helpful, it is quite enough for me, I am fine, I am hopeful, I want to find someone to help me heal, I am looking forward the another session. Another 1/3 of sessions (mostly following on the great session) I feel “something is odd”. It is like “neutral”. The therapist got cold, he does not show compassion, he seems not remember what I said last session, he seems not interested in the therapy with me, in me, in the therapeutic (his) work at all. Then the bomb comes. Last session out of the 3 -session cycle: I am insecure, I am afraid to lose again a therapist and don´t find my healing. Therapist distracts me from my problem, from my energy, from my sorrow. He focuses on the cognition. The talks in examples that don´t seem to have anything to do with me, with my current question I wanted to raise, nothing with my emotional sorrow. Out of the blew he tells something like “it was kind of your fault, the way how you are caused people to abuse you”. No word about the fact that my perpetrators were perpetrators, in contrast – I was made the perpetrator. Then he tells me that if I want a deep healing, I must stay long enough in the therapy etc….it feels like mind manipulation. I am usually just hopelessly sitting there and trying to bring my issue and my emotional sorrow again and again.
    Then, I suffer from dissociation, deep pain in my body and mind -the disconnection of my mind and emotions.Then I tell it (or write an e-mail as I have no courage to tell it all to the therapist, I also feel that he pushes me back to tell him). He replies that of course, he agrees with me and my trauma. He will not focus on that and that. However, he does not fully replay to what I was raising. The next session is great again. The next one is luke-warm. The next one causes me suffering.
    I believe that one can find it with a woman-therapist as well.
    Maybe some therapist use these methods to attach the people and let them stay in submissive position,
    maybe they are persuaded or had learned that motivation through neglect, abandon, criticism will help to heal the patient/client. I found in a psychotherapy book that it “inflicting suffering” will create the change through “catharsis”. Kind of exposure therapy. However, in my situation, I suspect that the therapist got after me after I had I raised discontent (as a way of punishing me for shooting down their authority). For me as a person that suffered and suffers, it feels as a torture. I am not able to leave this therapy. It created confusion (I had as well noticed that one session the therapist makes a point, the another session he makes completely a different point on the same issue ! -it confuses me hugely !).
    BTW, the therapist online also pushes me into being “unstable” and needing additional support (like a psychiatrist).This is fully a BS. I want to heal. It is so tough to escape from this. Great that there are these information on the internet and the shared stories of people. Some help. Alise, if you had not left yet this therapist and considering it, I had read that it is not good to leave abruptly. I am thinking about my leaving since the second session, being in the cycle of good/neglect/critisism/blaming (at least this is what I train myself to feel)…but I hope that I could walk myself out .
    I was also thinking that the therapist wants to get rid of me this way. The thing is that I feel that I am being persuaded to stay, the therapist does not allow me to leave at the same time.

  • Kimberly

    June 14th, 2017 at 5:38 AM

    I won’t go back to her, calling a person unstable is very very unsettling. Whether true or not it’s very telling of her character.

  • Brian

    October 24th, 2016 at 4:20 AM

    I recently met with an abusive therapist. He went for the jugular during our first 15 minutes. If your a male I would not recommend seeing male therapist. They are much too aggressive, and or say crazy things that are not healthy to listen to if your depressed. They will actually try to cause you additional pain and suffering. Watch out for therapist for who act zany, or over the top. That may be a sign that the person is mentally imbalanced, worse than depressed, or PTSD, but over the top pychotic. I had a very messed up therapist who was abusive. Look for the warning signs. Too person, not building trust, betraying trust, not a caring person.

  • Marie

    May 28th, 2017 at 7:13 AM

    I am sorry for your experience. Thank you for this share. I have a similar one, although I am a female. There were just no other therapist, only a male, they got to me….. I would have doubt my experience of the fact that therapist can cause the additonal pain suffering. Who else to go to …they are here for it, they are even paid for help ! I thought it was easy to find a therapist. After 5 years of searching and staying in therapies that obviously don´t help (it feels that they inflict additional pain), I still had not found. It is not ethical to use people in need to make them suffer more (sometimes with these male therapist I had met, I even thought that they inflict the shaming, blaming on me on purpose -as abusers do, it was not an accident or unskillful therapist). It was probably not my fault that I did not make it in the therapy again (and let myself abuse). The sad thing that I must pay money for it. I was considering to put a legal action on the one therapist, but he is only one of few in the town, they all know each other, I am not in good position….I feel that nobody would believe me, how could I prove that ? I wanted to ask for the money refund from the current abusive therapist (I had not been prevented about my rights, financial possibilites..), I wanted to mention the manipulative tactics I felt that he uses (and I found in a book he probably uses for his work), I wanted to tell that “it is not all right”, he applies methods in therapy that he did not prevented me, he did not ask my consent (method of exposure …otherwise “manipulation”) and that I repeatedly disagreed with the fact that I felt more pain, I was not allowed to process my emotions…..I wanted to write that it was a betrayl, not only of my trust, but also a betrayl of my verbal and written conditions. Then, I was thinking again, I gave myself time and I got afraid to write this. I figured out that in the bank account I send him the money to, is my address (I don´t know if it is normal or how it did happen)…..some fear, maybe fear of childhood overcame me. Then my mind tells me that “it is all in my mind, I overexaggarate” (the therapist told me “I was paranoid” -he made lots of time for repeating it to me). I started to be afraid that I would be bullying by him, at least in my e-mail…what would happen when I would not pay the money I had not paid yet when I figured out that it was abuse done against my will, without my consent etc….. It would be also fantastic to receive some money back that I already paid. But maybe, I will just be happy to manage to get out and don´t let myself talked into trying it again, he promising me that he will focus on the therapy that does not make me suffer….and I will “give up” because I will be sad that I have no help, that I had cut myself of help (when finally somebody shows up). I am pretty aware that these are the family-abused structures….but it is really hard to get out of there.

  • Mark H.

    May 28th, 2017 at 10:53 AM

    Therapists are human and sometimes they too lose it. I had that experience in July of last year. I posted in this forum what happened. I’m starting to think that some of these “experts” don’t even have the credentials they claim to have. It’s soooooo hard to really vet them. My advice, which I’ve also followed, is to NOT return to a therapist ever again if you’re not comfortable with them. Look for another!!! Then, stick with the person who you feel comfortable with and are being helped by.

  • Incognita

    December 1st, 2016 at 12:51 PM

    I suffer from major depression; I have not been in treatment for 2 years, because of my last experience. It started when I asked my therapist if I was late for an appointment, he was at desk having a conversation with another doctor I thought I had the day wrong. So I asked well the doctor starts to yell at me at the front desk, we went back to the office where he unloaded on me about missing, blowing off appointments, always coming late. The problem is I never did the things he accused me; he went on to say this was because of my anger issues, relationships with family problems. This was about everything except me asking a question in a polite manner. I attempted to leave appointment because I did not want to argue, he told me if I left he would not refill my medications. Next visit he had to apologize; I said everyone has a bad day, so I let it go. I kept in mind his using my medication to threaten me. Next, I had questions about my medication, the doctor got upset every time I asked a question or said I did not feel medication was effective. I had to go to another doctor to get answers about medication. He would also keep a list of everything I said he did not like; he would go to this list when there was a disagreement. I have a rare complicated disease with no cure; this doctor kept telling me, had another disease. I was seeing a specialist every time I stated no I do not have that disease he got upset with me. He would not speak with my specialist. From the day, I stepped in the door he was attempting to take me off my medication without stating what he was going to replace treatment. One of my last visits he yelled at me stating I demean him. I was an angry, a bad broken person who was not fixable. Hospitalized was I for suicidal thoughts days later, at the time I believed him. My last visit he told me he was going to treat me for a certain amount of weeks, what his rules were I could take it or leave it. He never once mentioned my admittance to the hospital. At that point, I asked myself why I am sitting here taking this and letting him talk to me in this manner. Therefore, focus was I on keeping a permanent therapist; working on our differences, I ignored bad behavior. I should have replaced him the day he yelled at me. I am glad I am able to tell someone my story; do not stay with a therapist that behaves badly.

  • Marie

    May 28th, 2017 at 10:54 AM

    I am sorry you had to go through this.
    This is awful behavior ! You were innocent and blamed (apparently for problems of others).
    It is injust.
    I found David Bedrick that speaks about the victimization and blaming.
    Perhaps it helps.

    I suffer from major depression; I have not been in treatment for 2 years, because of my last experience. It started when I asked my therapist if I was late for an appointment, he was at desk having a conversation with another doctor I thought I had the day wrong. So I asked well the doctor starts to yell at me at the front desk, we went back to the office where he unloaded on me about missing, blowing off appointments, always coming late. The problem is I never did the things he accused me; he went on to say this was because of my anger issues, relationships with family problems. This was about everything except me asking a question in a polite manner. I attempted to leave appointment because I did not want to argue, he told me if I left he would not refill my medications. Next visit he had to apologize; I said everyone has a bad day, so I let it go. I kept in mind his using my medication to threaten me. Next, I had questions about my medication, the doctor got upset every time I asked a question or said I did not feel medication was effective. I had to go to another doctor to get answers about medication. He would also keep a list of everything I said he did not like; he would go to this list when there was a disagreement. I have a rare complicated disease with no cure; this doctor kept telling me, had another disease. I was seeing a specialist every time I stated no I do not have that disease he got upset with me. He would not speak with my specialist. From the day, I stepped in the door he was attempting to take me off my medication without stating what he was going to replace treatment. One of my last visits he yelled at me stating I demean him. I was an angry, a bad broken person who was not fixable. Hospitalized was I for suicidal thoughts days later, at the time I believed him. My last visit he told me he was going to treat me for a certain amount of weeks, what his rules were I could take it or leave it. He never once mentioned my admittance to the hospital. At that point, I asked myself why I am sitting here taking this and letting him talk to me in this manner. Therefore, focus was I on keeping a permanent therapist; working on our differences, I ignored bad behavior. I should have replaced him the day he yelled at me. I am glad I am able to tell someone my story; do not stay with a therapist that behaves badly.

  • Julia

    September 7th, 2017 at 4:01 PM

    It feels like you made a really hard, but GOODcall.
    I’ve had Drs. do and say things that Really hurt, after a pretty supportive 30 year relationship as his patient,– I try to take the part that seems true and grow from it, but man it felt like a knife in the gut?

  • Chelle

    April 7th, 2019 at 6:38 PM

    I am a little confused on my therapist and I know she has anxiety issues and works part time because of it. She tends to tell me what is good and bad and although sweet and really like her as a person,we never get past how my week has been and I’m not sure we ever will if you know what I mean. I’m not even sure if I can see another therapist with my insurance.

  • James C.

    January 16th, 2017 at 12:54 AM

    My insurance recently changed, and as a consequence my therapist was no longer able to come to my home. He came to explain the situation, we discussed other possibilities, and I decided to allow him to refer me to a colleague that he “trusts implicitly”. Keep in mind I had been seeing him every two weeks for roughly 2 years. As it turned out, this colleague (who’s female) now only sees female clients. Ok, so I’m referred to another counselor in the office. My very first visit with the new counselor was disturbing to say the least. It’s very true that first impressions are everything, and this guy didn’t fall short in the “Offending the Client” category! He asked me to tell him about myself, my past experiences that come to mind, why I have services, etc. It had been two weeks or more since I spoke with him to schedule our first session, so he’d had plenty of time to review my file and familiarize himself with my past treatment and issues. My response to him was, “Tell me what you know about me and I will just fill in the blanks.” He had NO CLUE! When he went to pull up my records he started reading out a diagnoses that was completely off base, and when I pointed it out he realized he was reading the wrong person’s file to me (no names were given). Fast forward into the session and we are talking about my very first experience losing someone very close to me–my grandmother. She lost a very long battle with cancer in May of 2016, so as of right now it still hasn’t even been a year. Well, I have very eclectic spiritual beliefs to most, and I was telling him about an experience I’d had about 2 weeks after she passed that completely and totally reaffirmed my beliefs when suddenly it got hard to breathe, I began to sweat, and my heart started to race. It was getting a bit too serious and emotional for me considering it was our first session. I’m often dismissive in a very nonchalant way, so my response to the sudden anxiety was to shrug it off by saying, “Or, maybe I’m just delusional.” This man’s reply, which was very quick and off the cuff, was to look at me and say, “I used to be a psychosis specialist at a previous facility I worked for, and I don’t think you’re delusional. You may be flirting with psychosis though, but you’re not there yet.” Since that day I have dreaded every session with him. I should have walked out of his office right then, but I didn’t. I know why I didn’t and what I have to do to rectify it, but for some reason I can’t. It’s like I am constantly expecting him to behave differently while knowing that he won’t all because I loathe the thought of having to relive certain events yet again just to catch up another therapist that potentially didn’t do his or her homework before we met. I know that I basically just defined ‘insanity’, but I’m truly not. God I wish I had my old therapist back! (Not dependent either. Ok, maybe. I don’t know.)

  • Liza D

    January 16th, 2017 at 1:05 PM

    Hi Sam, Looks like you have some choices here. You could get a new therapist, and tell them up front that you would like to have your original therapist fax him/her your records for them to review before the first session–explaining that that is very important to you, since your history is complex and painful and you want them to have a basic idea about it so you won’t have to go through it inch by inch.

    Or you could start by returning one more time to this current therapist and talking about your concern with his approach. You could say something like, “When I came here for the first session, I expected that you would already know the basics about me. It was very painful for me to be asked to fill you in on so much of my history in that setting. If I ask my previous therapist to fax you my records, would you be willing to read them before our next visit?”

    Then see what he says. If you like what he says, you give him another chance; if you don’t, you find another therapist.

    Once you’ve got that dealt with, if you stay with him, you might decide what specific issue you want to work on first. And you might want to mention how you felt when he made that comment about psychosis not happening “yet!”

  • Matt

    October 17th, 2017 at 8:24 PM

    One concern (or red flag) I have had and continue to have is a therapist that doesn’t ask questions about you; or investigate things. You end up thinking that after 6 months, a year, two years even that they really hardly know you at all…

  • Marie

    May 3rd, 2018 at 6:10 AM

    Hi Jeremy.
    I am sorry for this terrific experience with doctors.
    Thank you for sharing.
    It has been a while you wrote this comment. I hope you are doing well.

    I have been all my life in a similar position. Since my childhood, I had been abused (operation removal of throat tonsils without anesthesia performed on me at the age of 5, emotionally abusive GP…a general neglect, ignorance to let to oversee and downplay my health problems until it got too late). I don´t see doctors anymore. I know that I suffer from “medical trauma”. It developped into PTSD. I have not been searching on it yet, it is too much for me. I also was 2x abused by therapist (I come from abusive family….the health care neglect of mine was part of that). Physicians and therapist have made a person with disablement of mine. On the top, I have no financial support from the system. I have many reasons why to hate them.
    I have many questions why I have been abused repeatedly, instead of being helped (as they claim they are: helpers).
    I had also pissed of some coaches. They ostracized me the moment I talked about my abuse in health care. The group (on facebook) of the close flying monkeys joined. It was tough…after some time being there with them and receiving some kind of support.
    As you, I kept bringing that up to the therapist and how doctors do not care about me.
    It might set them on.
    I had not experienced anybody who would tell: you had been abused. I am so sorry. They were not good doctors. ……You need so much better.
    There might be reasons why I run into these not so good doctors and therapists. The abuse for very bad …what happened to me.
    Instead of that I receive this reaction: They shame back. They gaslight back. The abuse in health care does exist. They tell me that I play the victim card. Nobody is good enough for me……

    This is what I see it might be happening for you:
    It is not your fault. You are just saying what happened to you. They get after you instead of helping.
    It is as one is being physically (or sexually) abused, tell it at police (or to the doctor) and these supportes will blame, shame, yell at me and physically and sexually abuse on the top. The motto: I will show you the abuse !!!
    I guess that these doctors are really not very good.
    How to get out ? I don´t know. I have no answer. I educate myself on auyrvedic medicine, I want my body to survive. My goal is to find good doctors. However, without me being healed from the wounds of the abuse at home, from the doctors, it will be tough. I might keep meeting abusers. It is depressing cycle.
    Thus, I do educate myself on therapy. On abuse in therapy and general. On gaslight in therapy

    I cannot get anybody to help me. As you say.
    I try to console myself that I have to be the healer…and all the suffering done to me in the health care has a meaning. A blessing in disguise. Otherwise, I would have checked out from this world already.
    I guess that the trauma deep down is big: I learn about the Internal Family Systems …to understand how severe traumatisation can cause a physical sickness. Trauma that has not been helped is actually PTSD.
    Not getting any help.
    How many many doctors and mental health care professionals don´t understand it. They simple don´t. They have not gone through severe trauma. They got help. They call others victims, playing on the victim card…because they had not healed their own issue well. It must point directly towards them and their blind spots.
    I also try to understand that healers for big things (traumas, sickness) are rare.
    Doctors who stand out the fact that some of their fellows do abuse (even if not intentionally). Doctors and healers who has to educate themselves to know their blind spots and wounds and don´t abuse back.
    I would take only these kind of healers. Healers of the healers. Hard to find them.
    Don´t buy the BS of them that “nobody is good enough for me”. It might be the opposite: they cannot help me. They are not qualified, not experienced, they had not worked on their wounds and, they might not be talented. To be a doctor, therapist, one needs talent. It is not a job for everybody.

    If you had some ideas on the medical abuse and how to tackle it, please share.

    Take good care of your body.
    (Auyrvedic life style is what is helping me. Doing yoga. There are also recommendation for people with diabetes….it can be cured if not severe).
    As well many trauma-life style helps me (yoga again, good eating, calming myself, practice self-compassion and joy).
    (it is possible that you don´t need so many medication !).

  • Christie

    September 24th, 2018 at 9:25 PM

    I had a counselor who was a bully. No one was safe in her group, least of all, me. She hated me because I am smart. I think she felt threatened. I don’t do that to anyone. She was a threat to me because she wrote the reports. I mentioned that I use aswaghanda to help me relax, and she wrote in her notes that I was using substances.

  • Anonymous

    May 9th, 2020 at 4:25 AM

    I have also been bullied and abused by healthcare professionals. They lacked empathy, made me feel even worse, bullied me, abused me. Initially, I decided to see a therapist due to a lifetime of abuse and bullying against myself by a large amount of various people in my life and then instead of supporting me the healthcare system and professionals then proceeded to bully and abuse me too! Their bullying and abuse have made me feel so bad and ruined my life to such an extent that not only can I never even think about trying a different therapist I can no longer even go to any place connected with ‘healthcare’ for fear of further abuse by them. The healthcare system is full of abusive people. An interesting thing that not many people think about is that some people are kind to most other people but single out one or a few people to bully or abuse. So someone could seem nice to the majority of people but to the person being abused or bullied by that same person that person is not kind! Also, people start ganging up against a person and then all decide to join in their fun!

  • Metoo

    May 21st, 2018 at 2:41 PM

    When I left a bad review in Yelp I had my comment removed. This woman was nuts, way more than myself. I was suicidal after only one session. She made fun of me and said well aren’t you the victim? All your life here? From being abused at home to school to your late stage cancer.

  • Barbara B.

    September 7th, 2018 at 4:40 PM

    Had my 3rd visit with a therapist today. He was all over the place, talking about the bible and drinking. All because I said I had two glasses of wine rather than 1. Then he started talking about religions not allowing you to dance, and went into how he is not going to have sex on the floor with his wife if he dances with her. Then he starts talking about sex and the bible not saying it was all about procreation. Then his wife texted him. He went on about her having migraines and throwing up, bp was high, and she was going to the PCP. I asked him if he needed to leave.
    This is my 3rd visit, and I am going for stress management. Not sure if I need to find another counselor. Perhaps he was just having a bad day.
    He was not prepared. Talking about my family and stress, I redirected him to my work issues and the stress associated with it, he went on about the bible, then about a patient that gave him a bad survey when I mentioned surveys, then the text, then ended the session a few minutes early. Ran out to his car and drove out of the parking lot, staring at me as he was driving away.
    I never had to go for counseling before, but I’m thinking I am not getting the care that I should be getting. Am I overreacting? Should I find another counselor? Give him one more week? Please advise.

  • eacb

    September 8th, 2018 at 11:00 AM

    should be pretty obvious that he is not qualified as a therapist. i’d want my money back….

  • Metoo

    September 25th, 2018 at 7:39 AM

    Sounds like predatory (bad news) guys… what I just read here is truly alarming. Run!

  • EyesOpened

    July 25th, 2019 at 3:52 PM

    VERY comprehensive. I was pleasantly surprised.
    I wanted to add one crucial thing. My unfaithful wife and I sought counseling, and we tried two different female therapists to help us work through things. My wife wasn’t willing to be fully honest yet, of which they were aware.
    The therapists both, by our second appointment with either of them, worked to shoehorn me into different types of psychological conditions. According to them, I had either ADHD and Autism, or had random hallucinations. Strange how none of that ever manifested in any way before I turned 49, right? How many people would I have run over, over the years? How many tests would have been inexplicably failed, etc.? As for hallucinations, in my case, I never do. It’s part of my body chemistry. Was that batch of antibiotic tainted? worked great but patients all saw crazy things? Not me.

    Yes, they both were using the cheater’s friend, Gaslighting, to make me doubt my mind and perceptions. They chose to try to help the wayward spouse hide, instead of seeking a healthy relationship for us. If you are male and in couple’s counseling, let phrasing like, “So, sir, That is why you should question anything you think or know right now,” or, even though what’s going on is mainly with your spouse, YOU are the focus, along with anything stray about you.

    Sexist red flags, which when replicated by different therapists except for the nouns, sound like a widespread sexist counseling Training issue.

  • Gwen

    February 13th, 2020 at 10:36 AM

    Great list. My old therapist Elizabeth hit a good majority of the items on this list. Awful, traumatic experience. I severely suffered for over a year after the relationship had ended. Therapists can definitely cause more harm than good. I recommend to everyone else in therapy to be vigilant in making sure the therapist and therapy are healthy and are helping you. If not, stop the therapy. There are great therapists out there who are skilled and healthy and can actually help you.

  • Anonymous

    May 9th, 2020 at 4:39 AM

    One can’t always stop therapy if one wants to even if they are abusive. Sometimes healthcare professionals force you to do things and won’t let you go even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Then they do more harm than good.

  • Anonymous

    May 9th, 2020 at 4:07 AM

    I’m disturbed by something on your list ‘too empathetic’? How can it be a bad thing for a therapist to be empathetic? We should be encouraging empathy not degrading it. A shame. I’ve had more than one experience with healthcare professionals lacking empathy but I would never have desired them to have even less empathy than they already had!

  • sam

    February 20th, 2008 at 11:39 AM

    It is a great list, I agree. And, I think it is useful for both client and therapist. Sometimes as therapists we do need to be kept on our toes. I think I’ll post this list in my waiting room for my clients and in my office for my own reminders.

  • debbie

    August 4th, 2016 at 5:36 PM

    I have had the same doc for 5 years, lately he has become judgmental and treats me like I am an inconvience. For example, he complains about his workoad. Should I feel guilty for being there? Now I feel like he hates me and is trying to get rid of me. He sometimes makes judgmental comments to me, usually about something somebody has done to me. He refused to believe I am depressed and tries to put words in my mouth. I am confused and very angry.
    There are few shrinks in this town and little choice. I didn’t stand up to him, but I do not want to go back to him. All he does is give drugs and he gets mad at me when I show anger. Is it his workload or is it me? I feel like writing a letter to him. He seems to take it personal that i am still depressed, even with meds. I am resistant to the drugs he prescribes because I am a healthy person and I don’t want to damage my physical health. I feel that he has taken advantage of me. I have trouble standing up to people.

  • Marvin

    September 10th, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    Yes, get out immediately. he needs the therapy. Never put up with someone like this no excuses. tell him what you think of him. He deserves it

  • Rob

    February 20th, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    My daughter goes to a therapist, and I am glad to see that this therapist seems to follow this list very well. She has made a huge difference in my daughter’s life and I am very, very grateful for her. Some of the items on the list I actually laughed at, such as answering the phone during a session. But, I am sure that if it made the list, someone somewhere has done it. But, I’m glad I haven’t had personal experience with this item-that would be very frustrating and maybe even embarrassing.

  • Liza D.

    September 11th, 2016 at 3:16 AM

    Hi Rob–about answering the phone during a session…

    Many years ago that happened to me! It was my first session with a male therapist. I’d been answering personal questions when his phone rang. He asked me to stand at the far end of his long, narrow office so he’d have “privacy.”

    I was there because I had severe backaches whenever I had to stand for a while–he did biofeedback. Many months of enduring this pain had me very depressed. After five minutes I was in pain. After 10 minutes it was becoming agony. But I was so cowed by the notion of therapy that I assumed this must be some sort of test… how much pain could I (literally) stand?

    To distract myself I gazed at pictures on his wall. Dear me! One was a collage of him and several women and men skinny dipping! One woman’s face was covered by a sticky note. My blood chilled. Just then he put down the phone and I resumed my seat (yes, I know–I should have fled).

    I answered his questions like a robot while my mind raced: This must be another test. He’d be judging me on whether or not I asked about the photo. I finally asked… about the sticky note. He explained that she was his former girlfriend; he’d covered her face because his current girlfriend didn’t like to see it when she visited his office.

    This guy was so creepy I didn’t bother to confront him. By the end of the session, sitting had reduced my pain. I left and never returned.

    I want to add that after numerous bad experiences with therapists I did eventually find an excellent one, and I’ve been seeing her on an as-needed basis for about 20 years with excellent results. The search can be long, but it’s worth it.

  • Tatiyana

    September 28th, 2016 at 10:01 PM

    Yes my therapist has answered her phone every section we had and I have only had 3. I am done. She wasn’t helping anything but making money to sit there and not help

  • Nancy

    August 8th, 2017 at 11:30 AM

    Yea, the phone. I just tried my first therapist for 3 appts. I struggled with whether or not I was giving therapy enough visits but one thing she said was, “you should be enjoying life” (and also told me she didn’t like the word, “should” because I say it a lot…that is what’s in my head and what overwhelms me! Then today I woke up to increased anxiety because I had an appt. with her….that’s not enjoying life. When I called to cancel, it was all about her not getting paid by insurance because I called too late. I told her I would pay her cash and she said, “ok $100”. ugh. So on the “red flags” list: she didn’t answer her phone, but it would ring and she would try to shut it off, then struggle with it to figure out how to shut it off; she would get up and down to look out the entry door (she was waiting for a personal friend to arrive), then get up when the friend was there to pass off her dog to them; and mostly she just sits silent and would give me no question! that’s super uncomfortable. I was looking for talk therapy, questions and conversation. She was too distracted and lost my insurance info., then called to get my mailing address after I cancelled all further appts. She should have had all that down.
    Thanks for being a place to vent.

  • Emma

    January 19th, 2018 at 4:53 PM

    Yes, I had a psychologist who not only answered his phone during sessions but would also yawn and constantly check his watch. I am yet to find a decent therapist, they all seem to have their own unresolved stuff and are the blind leading the blind or just abusers in disguise. I’m going to look for compassion therapists, it’s a method of therapy which uses compassion to teach self love and self compassion. Otherwise all other therapists you put yourself at risk for further mental abuse. Tread with care when choosing people who get paid to mess with your mind. You may end up worse than you were.

  • Jean Mercer

    March 5th, 2008 at 9:46 AM

    I would be concerned if a therapist’s degree proved to be from a non-accredited institution, or if his or her only training relevant to the problem being treated was through workshops outside of a degree program. I would also be concerned if the person presented as credentials “diplomates” or other certifications offered by self-credentialing membership associations rather than by national professional organizations, or claimed board certifications other than those managed by national professional associations.

  • Elaine

    March 19th, 2008 at 5:23 AM

    A therapist who sees a remarried couple when one of the partners was in counseling with the same therapist with their former spouse.

  • Britt

    April 1st, 2008 at 7:11 AM

    Should a good therapist in the beginning stages of the therapy request a historical summary of the client in order to provide good counseling? I have a friend in counseling and the therapist did not ask for historical family information. This friend comes from alcoholic family…..Should we be concerned?

  • Jeremy

    August 12th, 2016 at 10:25 PM

    I also wanted to say that I suffer from moderate sleep apnea and the therapist does not understand how years of not sleeping right has caused me tons of anxiety, depression, and an irritable mood. I had 7 days of no dreaming and non-refreshing sleep, to the point where I didn’t even know what day it was one day, and had to keep calling the office to check my appointment times. I think this also made her feel like I was not taking therapy seriously. She said that my so called lack of sleep was an eccuse as well. I also go between bouts of insomnia and sleeping for 12-13 hours at a time. Even up to 18 hours. That is when the lack of REM sleep catches up to me and I just pass out. Other times I am so exausted, it feels like I am going to pass out on the floor, then I go to bed and lay there for hours unable to sleep. Last night the Ambien didn’t even work for like 3 hours after I took it. That is another problem I have with my other medical issues and the therapist thinks it’s trivial. Not getting sleep has ruined my whole life, both personally and professionally. I am still waiting for my BIPAP machine after many years of misdiagnosis. I hope it can fix my anxiety and depression.

  • Claire

    September 6th, 2016 at 7:31 PM

    Hi Jeremy,
    It sounds like you have a lot of medical problems, that may be impacting your mental health. I understand — I have medical issues myself. I know how hard it is to change one’s diet, and a person has to have sleep. Have you considered a Functional Medicine doctor? This is someone who would look at you as a whole person, rather than coming from an angle of one specialty. If you could find someone you clicked with, perhaps it would really work out for you. Another thought is a Naturopath; I met with four or five before I settled on one. It doesn’t all have to be about supplements either. My naturopath and I discuss all kinds of positive life changes. I also have a primary MD. I hope you find a good fit with your medical care. Please don’t give up! I’ve had plenty of negative experiences like you have e.g. a pain specialist who wouldn’t prescribe and looked at me like an addict (umm, no, I simply have A LOT of pain), therapies that didn’t work, etc. But there are good people out there, too. Best of luck.

  • Robert G

    May 27th, 2017 at 2:02 PM

    I have strong feelings about this. I saw 10 therapists desperately searching for someone who could help me. Only 1 asked about my family and said I was lucky I didn’t end up in a mental hospital. Gestalt, Rogerian , and other styles think they are so brilliant that they can figure you out without taking a history. All my issues were in my history, and they were only speculating about how to help me. As far as I am concerned, if a therapist does not take a detailed history and THINK about it, they are commiting fraud. They’re just plain lazy and incompetent.

  • Mark H.

    May 28th, 2017 at 11:11 AM

    I TOTALLY AGREE, Robert G!!!

  • An

    July 5th, 2017 at 2:07 PM

    A healthy therapeutic relationship between both the therapist and the client solidifies the foundation for wellness for the client. Additionally, it is also vital for therapist to take into consideration the client’s background, culture, cultural norms, their childhood, current stressors, religion, and other factors that may have an influence on the individual. These factors may also have a negative impact on the client’s behavior as well. When I see client’s I take all of the following into consideration, and also gain insight on the client’s background. For example, if an individual was emotionally, mentally, and physically abandoned by their parents, this could have an influence on their ability to formulate relationships with others. Not being unaware of the abandonment in the individual’s childhood, could possibly become a barrier while in therapy.

  • John Petersen, PsyD

    April 21st, 2008 at 1:38 PM

    Not necessarily. Actually there is no research evidence to suggest this is important, although it is common and the norm in therapy practice. Many excellent therapists will skip this information in order to use the time to simply get started solving problems. Often problems can be solved without the history.
    It is important to track if therapy is helping and if the client feels understood. If either of these things is not happening by the third session, research indicates a good outcome of therapy is considerably less likely.
    If your friend feels it is important to tell his/her story and social history, it is worth while to speak up about that. The therapist should be able to adjust.

  • John Petersen, PsyD

    April 21st, 2008 at 1:39 PM

    Not necessarily. Actually there is no research evidence to suggest this is important, although it is common and the norm in therapy practice. Many excellent therapists will skip this information in order to use the time to simply get started solving problems. Often problems can be solved without the history.
    It is important to track if therapy is helping and if the client feels understood. If either of these things is not happening by the third session, research indicates a good outcome of therapy is considerably less likely.
    If your friend feels it is important to tell his/her story and social history, it is worth while to speak up about that. The therapist should be able to adjust.

  • Marvin

    October 17th, 2016 at 11:02 AM

    I saw 10 therapists over a course of 20 years. Only one asked about my family and she said I was lucky I didn’t go into a mental hospital. Every other therapist was about thinking, feeling, but no interest in what was really going on. Ignoring the family is like going to a doctor who just looks at surface symptoms and starts prescribing, without taking a history. All my issues were in my history. By not asking about them, the therapist can only make an uneducated speculation

  • Chelsea

    March 11th, 2019 at 10:33 AM

    I agree with you, Marvin. The therapist doesn’t have to get into all the details. It just makes sense that they would have a general overview in order to get a snapshot of who you are. I think the governing associations (Psychological, Psychiatric) should devise a simple survey, a cheat sheet of sorts, to fill out and give to prospective therapists. But pro-activeness doesn’t come easily.

  • Garry

    April 21st, 2008 at 11:07 PM

    If a person is from an alcoholic family and the therapist does not know addictions, I suggest they refer to a qualified clinician! That individual is an Adult Child Of Alcoholic (ACOA) and that is huge! That brings a host of other issues that must not be over looked!!!!

  • Ron Morgan

    May 5th, 2008 at 7:50 AM

    I would be wary of a therapist who is limited to one type of theraputic approach. For example, the therapist may say, “I’m a cognitive therapist,” goes to cognitive therapy conventions, is an active member of various cognitive therapy associations, etc. etc. Or Transactional Analysis, or Cognitive-Behavioral, or what have you.

    Not to sound condescending, but some therapists are overdependent on specific methods to compensate for their lack of skill in other methods, and end up steering the therapy to fit their method, instead of vice-versa.

    The really skilled, successful therapists I’ve seen have been eclectic, and are able to provide whatever approach or approaches are effective with their clients. So for me, if a therapist says, “I’m a whoopeekipperedherring therapist,” that’s a major red flag.

  • Chelsea

    January 11th, 2017 at 4:39 PM

    It’s unfortunate to read these accounts of bad therapeutic experiences. It’s so heartbreaking and frustrating to see people in need treated so poorly. I’ve certainly had my share of them; in fact, I can scarcely recall a therapist I truly liked and benefited from. And I agree that some of them are indeed weird.
    I will describe my now former therapist and you can judge as you see fit:

    1. She walked around her office without any shoes on
    2. She took at least a couple of telephone calls during sessions
    3. She habitually ran late (10-15 min.), though she did warn me in advance
    4. She made a critical remark about Christian pastors
    5. When I enthusiastically inquired about a book in her waiting room, she
    became somewhat sour, saying that some of the stuff in the book was
    useless, thereby discouraging me with her attitude
    6. When she misunderstood me one day, and I called to clarify her feedback,
    she became somewhat irritated, emphasizing over and over that my concern
    was a concern for a therapy session, despite earlier encouraging me to bring
    any concerns to her. I was forced to wait two more weeks as a result. When I
    attended the next session, she gave no indication of our earlier conflict.
    7. Today, when I decided to speak with her about my anxiety, she fell back on
    reminding me that meds only solve about 30% of the problem (which I
    disagree with), which discouraged me, because I had finally made a decision
    to move forward with treatment. She also told me that my other, non-
    medicinal attempts to correct my problem were “superficial”. I became very
    angry because I felt she was being negative and undermining my efforts,
    and when I attempted to communicate this to her, she blamed all of my
    disenchantment on me, and flat out refused to offer any alternatives to
    medicine. After shedding a few tears and telling her I’d been through too
    much in my life to entertain this kind of dialogue, I left her office.

    As a result of this experience, I will probably add a few red flags of my own. Thank you for reminding me that just because I present with emotional difficulties, any difficulties that may ensue with a therapist aren’t necessarily my fault.

  • Chelsea

    January 11th, 2017 at 5:27 PM

    I would also like to add that there was no structure/organization to our therapy sessions, and no goals were set. I kind of felt aimless, though I sure had plenty to talk about.

  • Chelsea

    January 11th, 2017 at 5:37 PM

    There’s nothing wrong with a therapist who is trained in a certain something. Where a problem might occur is if they only see their client’s issues through their specialty. I’ll give you an example: I once sought therapy because I was being bullied by my boss. Instead of dealing with the immediate situation, my therapist launched into a family systems explanation for my travails. But it simply didn’t apply. Instead of thinking outside the box (or suggesting that I see someone else), she kept interpreting my life events thru this narrow prism. Because I was emotionally vulnerable at the time, my own outlook became myopic. I suffered immensely for this.

  • Brenda

    June 3rd, 2008 at 1:23 AM

    Therapist makes sweeping statements of fact using words like “Never”, “Everyone”, ‘Always”;’ “You behavior would bother anyone”
    Therapist takes sides in couple therapy using personal point of view; “Your behavior would bother me too”

  • Terry

    September 8th, 2016 at 7:08 PM

    Try having your husband’s therapist ask to come in for a session and then leave you a mess. It still is an issue between my husband and myself. I really believe that there was something between them. He changed after starting therapy with her. She came to my home ‘for a session’ and it was horrendous. He refused to stop seeing her.

  • Rhonda

    June 28th, 2008 at 1:21 PM

    I was checking to see if it’s right that your Therapist tell’s you on the phone that she can’t se you any longer cause it’s to hard and she is not going to do abuse Therapy after 7 years leaves you flat with no referals nada nothing. She told me she was going to write me a letter and send me a referal and has a gift ect…it’s been 25 days and again nothing. I want my case notes from her and I have written 2 times a letter requesting them and nothing. I need some advice.

    Thank you

  • Audrey

    September 28th, 2016 at 4:47 PM

    Hi Rhonda,
    I am a licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the State of Ohio. I don’t say that to boast credentials but to let to know where I’m coming from on my recommendation. According the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics (revised in 2014), the only ethical reason to avoid disclosure of your record is based on the following:

    B.6.e. Client Access
    Counselors provide reasonable access
    to records and copies of records when
    requested by competent clients. Counselors
    limit the access of clients to their
    records, or portions of their records,
    only when there is compelling evidence
    that such access would cause harm to
    the client. Counselors document the
    request of clients and the rationale for
    withholding some or all of the records
    in the files of clients. In situations
    involving multiple clients, counselors
    provide individual clients with only
    those parts of records that relate directly
    to them and do not include confidential information related to any other client.

    You have a right to your record if access does not inherently cause undue harm. I disclose to clients during the intake session that my file is their file. If you go into the office and request the record, they should be able to make copies for you or at least give you a suitable time/day to return for the copies. It’s unfortunate that you should have to but is a proactive approach. If the therapist is ethically able to withhold the file from you for the reasons given, documentation is needed to show reasoning. Hope this helps! You can read more on the ACA Code of Ethics for further information here:

  • Ashley

    March 21st, 2017 at 2:24 PM

    Audrey and or any professional counselors,
    My finace’s nephew has been seeing a counselor for about a year or so. The counselor through this teenage boy employed his mother to clean his offices and talk about whether or not it has been done during his sessions. The Counselor also took his family’s dirty clothing to the Child’s house for his mother to wash and dry for a fee. The Counselor texts about appointment times as late as 10pm and on weekends(really odd??). The Counselor had the boy help him fix his car. The nephew is now in our care and just turned 15. He has behavioral issues that are being treated with medication and we entered him into baseball because we felt that would help him. He hasn’t had the outburst that he displays at home and his anger has improved immensely since staying with us. So much that he asked if he could go from seeing his counselor from every week to once a month at least through baseball season. I spoke to his mom and she said it was fine for now. When talking to the counselor he made a huge deal about it. Saying there was no way he was ready for anything like that and that he needs to talk to someone every week. He also talks to a lady from county mental health department. According to the boy the lady from county mental health talks to him about way more issues than the counselor does. The Counselor then contacted the mom and pushed to where the boy has to go and see him every 2 weeks. According to the boy all the Counselor asks him is how school is and then tosses a ball back and forth. He says the Counselor really doesn’t seem to help him or even try to discuss how home life is going and how he feels about the issues that are going on. Now to the nitty gritty of the matter. This boy has been emotionally and physically abused by all the members of the house hold(Mom, step-dad, older brother and sister). The Step-dad emotionally and physically abuses everyone in the household. The boy was removed and brought into our care. According to his mother DFS has stated that if the step-dad completes anger management and AA then the boy will be allowed to return home. However, the boy’s counselor has offered to treat the step-dad for anger management. So, the abused and the abuser would be seeing the same counselor. Is this a conflict of interest? When I was the child in this situation, none of us were allowed to see the same counselor. I feel as if each of their session’s will influence each other individual sessions. No matter what they will be talk about each other. The counselor is not going to completely forget their sessions and may draw upon what is said from one session to the next. I am also in fear that because of his very unprofessional actions and the relationship he developed with the mother that things are going to be simply swept under the rug. I do not want him to go back home to the same situation or to a worse one. I feel things could possibly get worse, if the parents feel that they can get by with things due to improper investigations and counseling. There is nothing really to stop a counselor from signing off on paper work that they completed a program or has done well. The boy likes living here and does better here but wants to be with his mother. I know that the boy’s abandonment issues are not being addressed because the mother is in denial that she ever abandoned her children. She in fact left her children at her parents home to meet a man in Illinois and did not tell any one of her plans. He was very very young at the time. I would say he was not even one or close to one. She did not return to get him until he was 4 almost 5. Then a year after that she came back for the rest of her children. What do you all think about this? When I expressed my concerns about the step-dad using the same counselor, she yelled at me stating it was none of my concern. However, while in my care the safety and well being of the child is my concern. The state should have done more in my opinion.

  • Pseudonymous Chonicus

    March 23rd, 2018 at 9:08 PM

    I was locked up illegally for a week (no warrant, record was forged to make the kidnapping look legitimate) after mistakenly showing up somewhere for another “outpatient” therapist, and horrendous and shocking as that was, the place now refuses to furnish me a copy of my records so NO lawyer will look at this. When I tried to call back for my records the joint called the police on me and then the frightening rude intrusive provocative questions…and this was four days after I was sprung from this horrid illegal imprisonment!! A week later I tried to attend a NAMI meeting (Nat’l Association for Mental Illness) to discuss issues re: my profoundly disabled housemate …the same issues which always create such loneliness and despair for me I an always seemingly forced onto the tender mercies of these moronic abusive hotline workers, who will call the police at the drop of the hat when they don’t want to let you talk anymore, and NOT for any issue of “protection” or “safety”. The abuse in my home was/is always emotional, and no matter how clearly explained it never seems to matter when the hotlines or police are involved.
    But not five minutes after showing up for the NAMI meeting the police were called AGAIN!! and I was once more rudely interrupted again with those ugly snide questions about MY “mental illness” (Actually I am caregiver for a mentally ill individual in my home!!) and after I got the police to leave I was firmly ordered to never try to return to the NAMI meetings there. NO reason, no respect, no recognition that I am an abuse “victim”…emotional abuse in my opinion being just as terrible as the physical kind. A couple days before I had managed to reach a caring person at NAMI and I think she really “heard” me in my discussion about hotline abuse and NAMI neglect (from previous telephone experiences with them) and said she would pass “my concerns” onto management. This attempted police bust was a possible outcome. Nice therapy I must say. And the records never did come. I am thinking at this point a certified letter with copies to the licensing board? PLEASE help me anyone…. with knowledge into the vast depredations of the psychiatric racket in America!!!

  • Rhonda

    June 28th, 2008 at 1:23 PM

    I was checking to see if it’s right that your Therapist tell’s you on the phone that she can’t see you any longer it’s to hard and she is not doing abuse Therapy after 7 yearsand no warning. She left me flat with no referals nothing. She told me she was going to write me a letter and send me a referal and has a gift ect…it’s been 25 days and again nothing. I want my case notes from her and I have written 2 times a letter requesting them and nothing. I need some advice.

    Thank you

  • Jean Mercer

    June 29th, 2008 at 11:21 AM

    Under HIPAA, you have a right to your treatment records, and I think it’s supposed to be within 2 weeks.

    You might not want a referral from someone who behaves like this.

  • Donna Wallace

    July 2nd, 2008 at 6:34 AM

    I am very sorry to hear of your experience of therapeutic abandonment, considered to be one of the most egregious problems in field of psychotherapy. If you feel you have been abandoned by your therapist or are in any other way being treated unethically or unprofessionally, you can report your grievance the therapist’s licensing board. This should be fairly easy to find online be searching for “your state” and “the therapist’s specific license or title” and the word “board.” There are thousands of great therapists out there; be sure to shop around and follow the guidelines on this site and others in selecting your next counselor or therapist. I hope you will not be too discouraged by this experience which is unusual and fairly rare I would say and that you will find another therapist very soon.

  • Deborah

    July 5th, 2008 at 7:26 PM

    I don’t agree with all of the 50 red flags on the website. I think if you the therapist cares about you, tells you he or she can help you, and you see yourself making some progress, then keep going back. The answering phones during session, this happens with my therapist. On the other hand, when I have a problem and need guidance, he answers the phone almost 24 hours a day. Even during other patients’ sessions. So when he does this for other people during my session, I think that’s okay. I would say though if you are seeing someone and you don’t like their behavior, let them know and talk about it. Or go visit other therapists as well and look for a good fit. Ask around for referrals and ask what the therapist will be able to do for you or what positive outcomes you can hope to achieve in counseling. Then stick it out.

  • Kimberly

    June 21st, 2016 at 12:23 PM

    I have to disagree. You t should never talk on the phone, keep looking at her cell or have any other distractions when they are speaking with you. That is time that you had often pay dearly for. Unless it’s an emergency.

  • Jenn

    October 9th, 2016 at 6:00 PM

    Wow! Any therapist who answers a phone in session is just downright rude!! My opinion is UK based (where therapists don’t routinely have phone contact with clients outside sessions except to arrange/re-arrange appointments) but even in the US if you guys ARE allowed to phone them, their phone should be OFF during session. You leave a message, they ring back either to acknowledge your call and if they can’t talk immediately (because they have another client coming in maybe) they should arrange a better time to talk over the phone or bring forward your next session. Whoever is in the room with the therapist should be 100% their top priority! I run my own Photography business and during meetings with clients my phone is ALWAYS off. End of story, no exceptions. There is simply no excuse to put your phone ahead of the distressed person in front of you. They have PAID for your time, the person on the phone HASN’T. I’m so pleased to see that my therapist has none of those 50 problems! I have never even seen her with a phone in her hand. Now I think about it, that’s probably why she uses a Filofax so she doesn’t even need to bring her phone into the room with her to look at her calendar (which is what I do with mine at the end of our sessions). Oh and “never done personal therapy work”? They’re not a therapist I’d trust then if they’re based in the UK, since part of their accreditation to the BACP involves being in regular supervision (which is basically therapy for therapists) End. Of. Rant.

  • Lisa

    July 19th, 2008 at 6:22 AM

    I have another perspective about answering the telephone during sessions. I am a therapist who recently reentered therapy with an analyst who leaves his phone on during all sessions, so that he “doesnt miss his phone appts”. The impact on my session was devastating. The phone rang excessively right in the middle of my discussing how difficult the therapy was for me. When he got up and said “I may need to take this” I was so angry I could barely speak. He did not take it, but when I asked what would happen if he did need to take it, he replied that I would need to step out of the room. I immediately imagined that if he asked me to step out, I would walk out and never return. It would feel humiliating to be asked to “step out”. All I can say is that I cannot imagine being in the middle of a really difficult moment, even more than I already was and having the phone ring and ring. As a therapist, I am always apologetic and quick to act when I accidentally leave the ringer or my voice mail on and there is a disruption in a therapy session. Sometimes intrusions are unavoidable, they happen. But how can one ever really relax into a session, knowing that the therapist is allowing the intrusion? I will discuss this further with this therapist, but am losing hope about a positive outcome.

  • daniel brezenoff

    July 24th, 2008 at 4:09 PM


    therapist falls asleep!

  • daniel brezenoff

    July 24th, 2008 at 4:11 PM


    Your analyst sounds like a narcissistic and rather incompetent person. Please consider expressing your emotions to him and then finding another therapist.

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    August 2nd, 2008 at 1:05 PM

    A very informative and helpful blog here.

  • Trimameafe

    August 2nd, 2008 at 2:59 PM

    Thanks for this excellent list! i feel more prepared to find a therapist now that i know the warning signs of bad therapy..

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    August 3rd, 2008 at 4:58 AM

    I would add that you should also expect some sort of clients’ rights statement and an Informed Consent document from your therapist. We post our client rights document and privacy statements in the waiting room and keep copies there for clients. In addition, all of our clients receive, read, and then sign and informed consent document, a copy of which is also in our waiting room and on our website. (see ).

  • Rl

    August 3rd, 2008 at 7:38 PM

    My Therpist still will not give me my file or any pictures ect. she said I would hav to get an order from the court. I think she is scared at what she put in her notes or something…don’t get it..She did everything wrong when she terminated our sessions and she knows it. I have never felt so bad she left me now with bigger issues. I feel ashamed that I ever went to her and confided in her regarding my abuse, I feel like she was the bigger abuser and to start all over will kill me to much stuff.

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    August 4th, 2008 at 7:42 AM

    I am sorry, RI, to hear about your difficulties.

    If the you were seen with a partner, then the therapist would need consent from all involved, or their guardians. If the file only concerns you, then under HIPPA regs you are entitled to view the file and make or have made copies at reasonable cost. If there is a lawsuit pending, that may complicate matters.

    I hope this helps.

  • admin

    August 4th, 2008 at 8:24 AM

    Hi Violet, I really appreciated your comment about therapists who cry. I want to let you know that I think it’s actually a sign of health when one can cry and feel empathy and tenderness. For therapists it’s important and natural to have empathy for clients, the experience generally helps people in therapy to open their hearts to themselves. Of course, some therapists cry because their own soft spots and unfinished places needing attention to a degree that interferes with the clients own work… I can’t tell for sure from what you have told me if this is a case of a therapist needing to clear some feelings up for themselves or you feeling vulnerable or something else altogether. For example, you may have also felt like she pitied you. Whatever the case, I believe that your therapist was pushing your button by crying, but that it is your button. My hunch is that this could be a wonderful opportunity for you to explore your feelings about being vulnerable. I tell my clients when they start therapy with me that it’s possible during the course of therapy that they may develop a desire to quit. A client’s aversion to run from therapy as fast as possible is often protecting the most important and vulnerable material. So I highly encourage you to talk with you therapist about how you are triggered by this, rather than stop therapy. Finding a therapist who is less triggering could be less productive for your therapy and there may be many gifts and treasures to discover by exploring this. Noah

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    August 4th, 2008 at 9:00 AM

    I will echo what Noah has said and so not repeat those excellent points here.

    I will add that the sharing of emotion (technically called intersubjectivity) can have a very positive and healing effect for persons, especially those who have experienced trauma and who may feel alone, uniquely violated, and defective because of the abuse. Sharing affect with a client can make the emotions less disturbing and help the person feel understood on a very deep level.



  • Laurie

    November 23rd, 2019 at 5:42 AM

    I had been seeing my therapist for 22 months. I found her very good and supportive for a long time. I began To have transference and I really fell in love with her. I am gay. I started to see her cause I was splitting with my partner of 44 years. Now and then she would say she didn’t want to hurt me and I felt like she was going to end our relationship. It became a dual relationship as she was a pastor and she told me she didn’t really want this but never said she wouldn’t treat me if I went to her church or bible study.
    Okay. Six weeks ago, she ended our relationship.told me I texted too much and crossed boundaries.i did cause I had panic attacks. I needed her connection. Never had this
    She yelled at me “Laurie,is this what you want” ? I’m done here.
    Told me I knew nothing about therapy. I said tell me what I dont know. She said if I don’t know — with a sneer, she couldn’t help me. I begged her to give me another chance. She said she’d have more respect for me if I didn’t beg. I also had said I texted less and she said, she had appreciated that. I said she might have said I did well. She said she thought she was talking to an adult and not a four year old. I left the office feeling sick. She said call 911 or go to the hospital if I felt ill. She drove past me, and I was hyperventilating over the wheel. I got home 20 mins away.
    I don’t blame her and I miss her attention terribly. I never loved anyone like I loved her.

  • Chelsea

    February 14th, 2020 at 12:50 PM

    It is important that a therapist have compassion when appropriate. However, to be emotionally demonstrative by weeping is an issue related to professionalism and self-control. To exude confidence is very important.

  • Violet

    August 4th, 2008 at 8:04 AM

    My therapist is a lovely woman except she has on numerous occasions started to cry during my sessions (not sobbing! but tears). She is very professional in every other sense although this to me is inappropriate and very unprofessional obviously leaving me feeling very uncomfortable! Would be interested to know if this has happened to anyone else? I have stopped my therapy with her, it got too much.

  • Chelsea

    January 16th, 2017 at 4:17 PM

    Violet, I think you’re on the right track. While we welcome and appreciate empathy from a therapist, it’s a little disconcerting to see them cry, especially as frequently as you describe. Empathy notwithstanding, it does reek of unprofessionalism (however unintended). I would forgo the psychobabble that casts doubt on your perceptions and preferences, and find someone else.

  • Alice

    August 11th, 2008 at 2:41 PM

    15 yrs. ago I went to a LCSW about issues within my marriage of 2 yrs. She learned she was pregnant by the 2nd visit we had and from that point on I became the listener during our sessions. Needless to say some of the issues I had involved our infertility & her constant talk of how happy she was about her news became difficult for me to hear and did not help me. After my 6 visits to her at $75/ea. (even w/insurance I considered it a sizable investment on my part) I finally explained to her that we were not achieving anything of value to me and told her that it would be the end of “my therapy” with her. I was not trying to surprise or hurt her feelings, but she was aghast in surprise. Needless to say, the whole thing gave me pause to consider therapy again, but I did during a time when both my Dad & mother-in-law were suffering cancer & sent to their respectives home admitted to hospice on the same date. It was a much better experience with the therapist I got 6 yrs. ago. Knowing the time I would need to spend with parents made it clear to both me & my therapist when we were done. I would return to her, but to be an informed therapy consumer takes alot of work. With lack of clear thinking & forgetfullness being part of my problems now I am reluctant to trust or test my abilities to get therapy care again, although I would like to do so. Are professional geriatric care managers a trustable resource to help one select therapy providers? I have concerns about conflicts they may have much like the drug trial researchers who also maintain private practice. I still have insurance, but co-pays are considerably higher now. Cost-effectiveness is key for me.

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    August 13th, 2008 at 7:08 AM

    A decent source of referral is your PMD (primary care physician). You could also consider asking trusted friends.

    hope this helps.

  • Tracy

    August 16th, 2008 at 7:30 AM

    Please add to your list
    Therapist uses your insurance to committ fraud then blames you for being impulsive and indirect when you turn him into the insurance company…. after “banging your head on the wall” for 7 months for him give the money back to the insurance company to allieviate the fact that you are now conspiring with him to defraud the insurance company since you know he did it.

  • M

    August 25th, 2008 at 3:08 PM

    I went to a therapist for almost 4 years. She helped me see that I needed to have my partner in therapy too. Her whole program is based on finding your truth and being in truth so this was considered brave work. My husband did not want to go to this therapist because he felt she and her partner husband were cultish. They have a book and a forum. She warned me about other therapists, but I found some one for marriage counseling. Meanwhile I still saw my therapist. Our sessions ended up being a dissection of the marriage counseling. She finally announced to me that I needed to make a choice to really dig in or not become enlightened. She said I was backtracking and that some of my forum posts showed “narcissistic presentations.” I told her that no one had the right to tell someone if they were becoming enlightened or not.She said her training made her especially capable of making these judgements. There were also comparisons on the forum of peoples work made by the husband/wife therapy team, like “so and so is making an amazing discovery while many of you are digging your head in the sand.” This was written as cowardly. This felt like control by threat. I finally did leave the original therapist, but I have struggled with the quitting and feeling like a coward ever since. Does this seem kosher?

  • Sophie

    January 29th, 2017 at 6:51 AM

    In the aftermath of my husband’s infidelity and porn addiction, he began therapy with someone that claims to specialize in these areas. He has pressured my spouse to get me to also come for marriage counseling. I thought it was unethical to see a couple for marriage counseling and at the same time see one of them individually. I have declined marriage counseling with my husband’s therapist. My husband also had an emotional affair with an old high school flame, with whom he met secretly for lunch dates for two years behind my back. His therapist suggested, on more than one occasion, that we have a session with him, my spouse, myself *and * the other woman in order to prove to me she “wasn’t a threat.” I am absolutely stunned he suggested this, and especially so since he claims to have done this with other patients! I can’t imagine why I would want to put myself in an inferior position to the other woman in front of her, my spouse and his therapist! Who is this guy advocating for, anyway?? I refused to attend any such meeting starting that my issue wasn’t with the other woman, but with my spouse. I find the therapist’s suggestion to be insanely unprofessional and unethical. My therapist obtained my consent to speak with his therapist, after which time he dropped the request for a therapy session that included the other woman. My husband continues to see this guy, and states that the therapist has also infused his personal religious beliefs into his sessions by telling my husband that if I were a “true believer” I’d have forgiven my spouse already (it’s been less than a year since my discovery of his lunch dates and tons of porn on his computer). I think this guy is scary and that my spouse should find s different therapist. Even my husband occasionally questions his therapist’s fitness for this profession. Should he find a different counselor based on these facts?

    Thanks in advance for your direction.

  • Jalaina

    August 27th, 2008 at 9:08 AM

    Another indication of an unskilled councellor may be, one that is too much on “your” side.

    While they intend to support your self-esteem, validate your experiences, and build your confidence; they can create an inhibition on your part to reveal less attractive thoughts or behaviors of yours, for fear of losing their positive regard towards you.

    Also, concerning a therapist reflecting the emotional content of the client’s communication.

    Sometimes client’s are so removed from their own experiences, they are unsure what emotion they do feel as a result of the experience.

    They may have removed themselves from the experience because the emotion was too painful. Seeing the therapist express the “emotion” that they fear having, may be painful for them.

    Depending on wether the client is ready to explore that emotion relating to their experience, they may move forward with the exploration, or away from the theraputic relationship.

    Often, when the therapist models emotion, as a result of the client’s disclosures; this display of emotion may give validation and permission to the client to themselves feel, or have a corrective emotional response to the causitive event.

    It seems to me that many children suffer a sort of dissociation from their feelings as a result of parental rejection, hostility, anger and displeasure; and try to defend and appease their parents by not showing an emotional response that would only further inflame their parents, or caregivers.

    Therefor, the therapist in demonstrating the emotion, can help the client in articulating the problem.

    Also the emotional response of the therapist, may be the “gut” reponse to more than just the words of the client, but the entire communication of the client verbal and non-verbal, of which the client is not aware; and at times the therapist is not yet aware of, until the emotional response is explored by both. The therapist then becomes a surrogate for the client’s emotions.

    This is especially true of dealing with trauma to “the child” within the client.

    Young children can suffer much abuse before they become able to well represent what has happened to them in verbal form. In order to remember an event, or the situations surrounding it, one needs a system to record it in one’s memory. Without being able to use language, there are very limited ways to record this, which tends to be the reason many people do not remember their early childhood.

    Even in early childhood, critical and abstract thinking are not available to record what has happened to one, and so the cause and effect of situations often can not be remembered by an individual in a way they can make use of.

    What was not put into a person’s psyche verbally (or logically), and is not represented in their memory verbally; needs to be removed in the way it was put in. Often only the emotion can be used to pull that experience out, in order to look at it, and deal with it, grow, and move on.


  • Meghan

    June 20th, 2016 at 12:45 PM

    I feel like I am having some issues with my therapist lately. I need a letter of clearance from her for a fertility clinic so that I can be artificially inseminated. She has clearly expressed her disagreement of this decision before in saying that I “have a lot to learn before I am ready to be a single mom” she now has taken a month to write this letter which still has not been done yet and every time she tells me she forgot about it she acts like its no big deal. She then feels like she needs to talk to me about my plans and offers me parenting advice which I never ask for. She also has made comments about how she “hopes I realize how lucky I am that I can work for a family business.” It’s just very weird and I’ve become uncomfortable. I’m not sure what to do.

  • Sarah

    June 21st, 2016 at 12:34 PM

    Well, it doesn’t sound like a very productive relationship and I might look for someone else who is more supportive of your goals and dreams. You don’t need anyone in particular as a therapist to sign off on your letter for the infertility clinic, any therapist – even one you see just for that purpose will do. They ask certain questions and that’s that. You don’t need their “approval” but they just need to make sure you are thoughtful and being intentional about what you are doing and are up for the challenge. Very standard practice.

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    August 27th, 2008 at 3:01 PM


    You make a number of excellent points here. I would like to just under score and amplify one, if I may. As is often the case with children, especially those who have experienced chronic early maltreatment within the caregiving relationship, adults may have difficulty knowing what they feel or experience. In those instances, it is very important and helpful for the therapist (or parent with a maltreated child) to reflect back what that person believes the client or child is experiencing/feeling. When asked, “what do you feel,” you may get, “I don’t know,” which may be true. In many ways, this reflecting back of the emotion and experience is what occurs in a healthy parent-child relationship and is an essential part of the development of a healthy and secure pattern of attachment. The developing infant and child comes to know what the child feels by seeing it reflected in back from a responsive, sensitive, insightful caregiver.


  • Victoria

    September 27th, 2008 at 5:28 AM

    Hows about therepists who ignore the issues you want to talk about, and press on things you dont regard as important? I had a therapist who kept trying for things in my childhood or family,, and I had to fight to try to talk about what I wanted to talk about

  • Marie

    May 30th, 2017 at 11:07 AM

    This happens to me, too. Not in every session, but a lot. Once I wanted to say how I became angry at some man who stepped into the garden (no fence) against my will….and how it could rely to…probably the men in my childhood. The therapist pushed to talk about another issue which he prepared, so I gave up. It was not that bad… I hoped I could raise it some other time. Many other sessions the therapist started to distract me from the topics I wanted to talk about -all those who were not related to my childhood, usually it ended up by a completely different issue that the therapist talked about (his favorite -sexual experiences, even though I was not in relationship), it was as he wanted to push me into these topics despite my current energy and feelings were somewhere else. At the end of those session I was confused. I could have not talked about what was happening to me. I had left the session with notes about some “other topics” about them I was not sure how these topics was related to my current situation. I tried to bring up my current issue again and again (a fight with the therapist). The therapist said couple of phrases to my share and started another issue…often very mind-related and I gave up. I tried to follow the therapist- topics in my mind.
    I ended in a state of “dissociation” (for those suffering from PTSD) after those sessions. I guess it means that I needed to process my emotional and body experience from the trauma and I was distracted from them into my mind, by also choosing another topic (the one the therapist considered important). Maybe a not good fit for trauma-therapy (however, I kept saying I have PTSD and search for PTSD therapy….I never asked directly :are you a PTSD specialist, do you have any experience ) ? I guess that for different therapist PTSD mean different things, for some is PTSD the one in the “mind”. E.g I am making things up (I am paranoid) and needs to talk it out my head and get me to “get over it”. I am learning that talking about the childhood events is not always a good idea for PTSD-patients/clients, it is far better to use the association, triggers -the current energy and feelings and try to make sense of all these layers.

  • Liza D

    May 30th, 2017 at 2:14 PM

    Just a thought… what’s always worked for me–and was taught to me by the fantastic therapist I finally found 20 years ago–was that when I’m at risk of dissociation I “Stay in the Present.” I focus on what I see, hear, smell, taste, and touch at that moment–I bring myself out of the bad scary past and into the present-day world. My life from birth through my mid-20s was a mess of chronic horrifying stuff mixed in with jolts of new awful events. It would take me 100 years to process every awful memory, and really there’s no need to. All anyone needs to do is to live in the present-day reality as best they can, without being distracted by flashbacks.

    I practiced Staying in the Present many thousands of times over several years, and got more and more and more relief as my reactions got quicker. Now it’s automatic. As I said, just a thought.

  • Marie

    May 31st, 2017 at 5:19 AM

    Thank you very much, Lisa D. It is beautiful.

  • Mara

    October 8th, 2008 at 7:24 PM

    I also have had a few unfortunate experiences with professionals who are supposed to help, and never hurt. My psychiatrist of 9 years terminated by sending me a form letter – she actually just put my name after the Dear… part. That was it. The damage she did – it was one of the hardest things for me to handle. I just can not understand why anyone, but especially a professional, would treat someone like that. Needless to say, I now have more trust issues than ever. Does anyone know if this is something that could be reported? Thanks.

  • Lisa

    October 9th, 2008 at 2:51 AM

    Dear Mara,
    In thinking about the termination through the letter, I have a couple of questions. One, had you been seeing this psychiatrist regularly? ie weekly or every other week? Two, has there been a long time since your last appt. or did you either cancel and reschedule or not show up for appts? Sometimes a clinician cannot have a patient on their caseload who is not keeping appts. It actually becomes a liability for them. They have no choice but to terminate after several attempts to schedule or contact you.
    If she is leaving her practice entirely, a letter may the way she notifies a large case load.
    If you have been seeing this psychiatrist regularly, I would indeed imagine that you would feel hurt by this kind of notification. This is worth discussing with her. She would need to know the impact of this letter on you.
    It is clear though that you do feel hurt by this, so I encourage you to contact the psychiatrist to express yourself.

  • Su

    October 9th, 2008 at 7:32 AM

    has anyone had their therapist ask ‘you don’t mind if i eat my lunch, do you? i haven’t had the chance to, and i’m really hungry!’ i was floored, and so spent my 50 min. w/ her eating a sloppy roll-up. and she was my meds mgmt counselor…. notice i said ‘WAS’!

  • Chelsea

    January 16th, 2017 at 4:28 PM

    Yes! I’m sorry this happened to you, but I also can’t help but chuckle a little.
    I have had a couple of practitioners who have eaten during a session. One ate a Whopper (there was a Burger King next door), the other, an apple. I never said anything, but I was mildly irritated. Is it people’s schedules these days that leave them no time for meals? Anyway, though I disapprove of the practice, I’m skeptical about finding anyone who doesn’t transgress some rule at least once.

  • Abbby

    October 9th, 2008 at 12:36 PM

    I also had a therapist that would sit and wait for me to say something and get mad that I was not working at it. I would ask her if we could draw or do something else that would help me to feel more comfortable and her response would be “we already tried that and that does not work with you” she also said she was not that kind of thearpist and I should go see someone else. As i worked with her futher she changed a lot she was not warm and fuzzy any longer but hard and mean. When she did dump me she said she no longer looked forward for me coming to see her, and i became harder to work with…..blah blah….she also told me that she no longer wants to take sexual abuse cases it’s to hard on her…well, the damage he did was more than I could bear. When I did discuss this with her she told me I have a personality disorder (were did that come from?) out of the blue? put the blame on me. I want to sue her for my money back I’m totally serious..9 years at $100 an hour. and she left me worst than ever It’s a crime to do this to do they get away with wrecking your life and you give them money? she was nice for a long time then turned on me like it was my fault I lost all faith in Therapist it’s all lies.

  • Laura, LMHC

    August 21st, 2014 at 6:50 AM


    I am sorry that you had such a terrible experience in therapy. I am a LMHC who has been working with survivors of sexual abuse for years. Not once have I made a client feel so uncomfortable. Most of my clients have told me several times how grateful they are and how much therapy has helped them. Please do not give up on treatment. It really does work once you find someone you can connect with. I know it’s difficult to trust in this but it is a way to prove to yourself that you can have this great opportunity to heal and regain some trust in therapy and with yourself. Best wishes!

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    October 11th, 2008 at 3:28 PM

    These have been excellent issues and a very good discussion. I think that a therapist should be cognizant of their client’s process and respond in a manner to elicit a constructive discussion. It is important to be in sinc with the client’s manner and style of relating and to connect with the client and then help the client look at their manner or relating in a therapeutic and helpful manner.



  • admin

    October 17th, 2008 at 11:12 AM

    As moderator of this blog thread, I decided to post the above comment by Trace because her second paragraph is quite supportive and valid. However, Trace’s second sentence was incorrect and potentially slanderous. I removed it.

    Here’s what she wrote:

    “LCSW are (just) Social Workers w/a Masters Level and not as much experience and are not held to Ethics as strictly as PSYCHOLOGISTS who hold Doctorates. Also, be aware there are some Social Workers who have Drs in other fields.”

    Here’s why I removed it:

    LCSWs can have just as much or more post graduate training in psychotherapy as any psychologist. Also, the idea that social workers do not adhere as strictly to their ethical guidelines as psychologists do to theirs is false and terribly misleading. Not only is it a generalization to speak of any group in such black and white terms, it’s an incorrect characterization about professional Social Workers. In fact, the ethical guidelines for Social Workers are highly respected in the field of mental health as an enormous effort to prevent harm.

    Any other LCSWs or folks from other mental health professions want to chime in?

  • Cormack

    June 8th, 2017 at 10:52 AM

    I am surprised the comment was removed; it does not sound slanderous at all.
    What you said about social workers adhering to their ethical standards as much as psychologists do is of course absolutely true. Ethics standards for Psychologists are simply much stricter in many areas; they are known to have the tightest ethical standards in the U.S. out of any other profession, meaning they can get in trouble and lose their license for a lot more than most other professions, including medical doctors and social workers. I can see how this person’s comment may have been misinterpreted, however.
    I am also surprised to hear you say that some social workers can have as much psychotherapy training as any psychologist. All psychologists have a minimum of 5-6 years of graduate training after college, and most get additional training and practice beyond that before getting licensed. I worked alongside many LCSW’s in some of my past jobs and I have never heard of any of them receiving more psychotherapy training than that. You are welcome to correct me, however, if I am wrong…

    That said, Psychologist or not, so many of your guys’ experiences with the therapists you talk about are remarkably terrible! If you have a problem with your therapist, regardless of whether or not you think it’s ethical, you should bring it up with them and tell them how you feel about it. A therapist should be considerate and able to adapt or find a kind way to explain why it is important they do what they do. If it still does not feel right for you, report them to their licensing board! (All licensed therapists must make this information available to you upon request.)

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    October 17th, 2008 at 12:24 PM

    I would like to echo the administrator’s comments. But before I do, I don’t understand why the administrator posted the material that was deemed incorrect and potentially slanderous? Why not just post Trace’s edited post with a note that parts of it were deleted for the reasons stated?

    In any event, the administrator is correct. If one goes to the website for the National Association of Social Workers and reads the code of ethics it is every bit a stringent, specific, and highly ethical as that of those who belong to the medical professional and psychology profession. In addition, the “not much experience” is also incorrect. Those with a MSW must do an internship that accounts for about half of the required 60 credits. A MA in psychology, for example, only requires 30 or so credits and no internship. An MFT or MA in counseling may have different requirements. To be licensed (LCSW, for example) usually requires passing a National test, presenting verification of a certain number of years experience (varies by state) and letters from supervisors.

    I’d be interested to hear from MFT’s, MSW’s, and LPC’s on this site.



  • Trace

    October 17th, 2008 at 10:38 AM

    Keep in mind there are differences in Shrinks.

    Investigate alot before you entrust your care, because it’s your Personal Risk you are handing them your mental health. Good Psy. is wonderful, a bad experience affects you for Life.

  • Dr. John Petersen

    October 17th, 2008 at 12:20 PM

    Sure admin, chiming in here about the LCSW vs. psychologist choice, and speaking as a psychologist…. The research is very clear neither discipline is better than the other in terms of therapeutic effectiveness and this finding is across disorders. Years of experience is also not at all correlated with effectiveness. The caution to “investigate a lot before you entrust your care” is fine as long as the client is not second guessing their own judgment. What predicts a good outcome is the client’s judgment of the goodness-of-fit between client and therapist, as well as the client’s judgment of improvement in the first three sessions.

  • Barry McBride

    October 17th, 2008 at 9:16 PM

    Thank you for the site and the interesting topic.
    First let me clarify.
    I’m an MSW in the process of completing my licensing hours (3200) post degree.
    I will complete those hrs in March or shortly after March of 2009 and begin preparing for my LCSW tests.

    In the State of California there is a written and an oral exam. The oral exam is now a written series of Vignettes. I will also take the “single” National Exam. (This is by choice as I work for the federal government and could just take the national exam and leave it at that). But California does not participate in the SW national exam so you MUST take California two exams to practice in California. I still don’t really need to take the exam but it is a challenge so I will push myself to do it.

    It has taken me 6 years (counting 4yrs undergrad) to complete the degree alone. And two years minimum to complete the post degree 3200 hours of supervision. That’s 8 years and now I’m looking at two separate tests (3 actually). Mind you I have been working in the field long before & during my degree quest. As a case manager and addictions counselor.

    Now as for the degree it self.
    It was required that I complete a minimum of 80 units. Of those 80 units not one unit of the internship is counted as a “class” or part of the 80 units needed to graduate. It is counted as Hrs.

    In social work this is a true internship and it is part of the curriculum to qualify for the MSW degree. Very much like the medical degrees.

    You must complete during your degree! an internship of 1080 hrs minimum.
    This is usually completed within two years but in some cases with approval from the academic standards board at the University, you can extend the degree to three years.

    Also let me just say that the MSW degree is still the ONLY degree in the mental health field, except psychiatry. That requires the student to attend a major university. ALL other degrees have online courses that have been approved by their respective boards/professional organizations.

    The standards for the MSW degree are huge. For good reason, the MSW degree is also the oldest mental health degree and profession in mental health, except psychiatry. In the years to come you will be seeing more and more (DSW) & PhD in Clinical Social Work there are many programs now and more coming.

    I have therapist I rely on that is an awesome guy. He is a PsyD and a wonderful therapist and person. I have had other therapists of different degrees but we just seems to be able to connect on many levels and I think that’s what people should be looking for when attempting to get help with very personal and private issues.

    The ability for two people to relate and communicate on even ground with trust and honesty. This process takes time, patience and requires focus on the relationship. Credentials are very important as well as licensing.

    What is a LCSW? ——–
    The American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work (ABE) sets national practice standards, issues an advanced-practice credential, and publishes reference information about its board-certified clinicians.

    Clinical Social Work Defined
    Clinical social work is a practice specialty of the social work profession. It builds upon generic values, ethics, principles, practice methods, and the person-in-environment perspective of the profession. Its purposes are to:
    Diagnose and treat bio-psycho-social disability and impairment, including mental and emotional disorders and developmental disabilities.
    Achieve optimal prevention of bio-psycho-social dysfunction.
    Support and enhance bio-psycho-social strengths and functioning.
    Clinical social work practice applies specific knowledge, theories, and methods to assessment and diagnosis, treatment planning, intervention, and outcome evaluation.
    Practice knowledge incorporates theories of biological, psychological, and social development. It includes, but is not limited to, an understanding of human behavior and psychopathology, human diversity, interpersonal relationships and family dynamics; mental disorders, stress, chemical dependency, interpersonal violence, and consequences of illness or injury; impact of physical, social, and cultural environment; and cognitive, affective, and behavioral manifestations of conscious and unconscious processes.
    Clinical social work interventions include, but are not limited to, assessment and diagnosis, crisis intervention, psychosocial and psycho-educational interventions, and brief and long-term psychotherapies. These interventions are applied within the context of professional relationships with individuals, couples, families, and groups. Clinical social work practice includes client-centered clinical supervision and consultation with professional colleagues.
    Adopted 12 Feb. 1995
    All rights reserved.

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    October 18th, 2008 at 2:24 AM

    Dear Barry,

    Very nicely stated. Thank you for taking the time here. The MSW is a “professional degree” (as are the dental, medical, and law degrees, for example), designed to prepare someone for the profession. The MA, MS, and Ph.D. are “academic” degrees. As you mention, the internship standards are pretty intensive and the requirements for licensure are also very stringent.


  • Barry McBride

    October 19th, 2008 at 4:25 PM

    Your so welcome Art.

    Yes the MSW degree is just that, a professional degree.
    Which is a little different than an academic degree you mentioned.

    That being said, I do think that it is extremely important that we (in the mental health field) know what others do and what their qualifications/skills/talents happen to be.
    Mainly, for the obvious purpose of referral and using our strengths in the mental health field as professionals to better help our clients.

    We all know people who may be of a different degree or background that excels in a certain type of help they can provide a client. I think there should be more focus on coming together in our profession and using our strengths/talents to help our profession and improve our client outcomes and professional stature within society and with other professionals.

    No one wants to think that they have nothing to offer a client. But, all to often that is the case.

    I think it is imperative that we as profession begin to operate similar to the medical profession. They form medical groups and they have their specialists in certain areas who like what they do and do it well. There should also be some front line general practitioners in our field.

    Mental health groups of all backgrounds would help facilitate this, much like medical groups. I’m a firm believer that all of our degrees and backgrounds are important and have a place in treating our clients. But we all must be able to recognize our own limitations. Whether it is personality, skills, education or personal background.

  • AK

    October 19th, 2008 at 4:42 PM

    I’m giggling about the post that asks about the Therapist who eats. My Old Therapist would make me wait for 20 minutes cause she was starving as I read an old magizine she chomped on her to go lunch..when she was finished she would come out and get me. She would finish our sessions and charge me the same even though she was eating…I asked her “what I have to buy you lunch too?” man after paying $150.00 plus lunch no wonder I don’t see her any more. What a rip

  • Barry McBride

    October 19th, 2008 at 7:59 PM

    I agree AK
    It is a rip—Move on!
    Find another therapist that is a professional.

    Sometimes it takes a few shots at finding the right therapist for you.

    I personally would walk out of the session or prior to the 20min being up if my therapist treated me that way. That’s what appt’s are for it is your time not the therapists.
    No excuse.

  • Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

    December 28th, 2008 at 5:59 PM

    On Dual Relationships. The above statement of “. . it’s generally unacceptable for therapists to have dual relationships with their clients . . . is outdated and inconsistent with the standard of care of psychologists, social workers, counselor, or psychiatrists. Dual relationships can be unethical and illegal, they can also be unavoidable or even mandatory, yet some dual relationships are clinically beneficial. We need to be flexible and learn that the meaning of dual relationships can only be understood within the context of therapy. Dr. Ofer Zur

  • Dr. Arthur Becker-Weidman

    January 3rd, 2009 at 9:54 AM


    I think you make a good point, which is that the relationship between you and your therapist is what is essential to getting help and benefits from therapy. (Always assuming your therapist is licensed and appropriately trained for your issues).


  • Deb

    January 3rd, 2009 at 8:50 AM

    In regards to the LCSW vs Psychologist …. I admit that I have been wary of Social Workers due to some of my professional experiences with Social Workers … and was quite dubious when I began therapy with a LCSW …. but after 2 years of weekly sessions, I have no qualms about my therapist. I note, however, that it is not so much the training that has been important as it has been the connection we were able to establish ….

  • Alek

    January 6th, 2009 at 8:45 AM

    Hi. Good site.

  • denise

    January 10th, 2009 at 6:24 PM

    I have been seeing a counselor for 16 years for many family events. I cannot afford to see her now. when i told her this she told me that she thought i should not leave therapy. she told me to only pay what and when i could She knows I see another counselor as well through my psychiatrist. I am not sure what to do. I feel guilty but I am more comfortable with her. Also the second counselor keeps her uneaten lunch supplied by the drug reps in her top drawer to munch on between appts:)

  • Doug

    January 12th, 2009 at 11:52 AM

    I appreciate the opportunity to share my experiences. During my 4th brain injury recovery I too was hugged after each session without being asked. I have a hard time with boundaries and confrontation so I discontinued therapy without explanation even though I really needed further help. I am online seeking that help now after 7 years and noticed this blog. Also going way back to high school, the so-called counselors should not be allowed to advise ‘D’ students to “give up on college and go to a trade school” no matter what their skewed opinion is. What I needed was to overcome fear and devise compensating learning tactics. Since then I have earned a 3.7 GPA at a computer trade school, scored a 97 percentile on the nationwide GATB (General Aptitude Test Battery) and had my IQ tested at 149. I doubt those counselors could match that. I regret skipping college due to my fears, lack of understanding my brain injuries and listening to really bad advice from ignorant school guidance counselors. Think about adding the following item to your list. They should not discourage you from honorable goals.

  • Diana Lynn Pruitt, LCSW

    January 21st, 2009 at 7:42 PM

    Dear Denise:
    If you believe that your treatment has been beneficial and you believe in your counselor’s clinical competency, then I strongly encourage you to allow your therapist to work with you.

    I have gratitude for many clients that show dedication and trust in their treatment with me. Some work harder than others, some more internally motivated than others. I strongly believe that I have an ethical responsibility to continue to see internally motivated clients although their ability to pay has changed. Do I owe that same loyalty to those who are only externally motivated? No, because it would be a disloyalty to keep someone in therapy that is not clinically progressing regardless of their ability to pay. If a client is committed and loyal to their treatment, then yes, I would (and have) reduced their fees to what is reasonable for that client at that time.

    As I know the above commits will ruffle some of my collogues feathers, I do want to say I do not believe in “free” therapy because I believe clients must be financially invested in the treatment process even if it is a nominal fee. I believe it is clinically significant to the client’s treatment as well an avenue for me to support the community that I live. In the event that a potentially new client cannot afford the services, there are many community counseling services that receive funding for those who are financially limited and in need of therapy.

    As these economic times have become fragile in the past year, I have had a couple of very motivated clients who have been laid off from their places of employment and they have lost their health insurance by no fault of their own. Many clients have issues of past abandonment with authority figures or persons they had entrusted. I believe that refusing to see them in their time of financial crisis would be ethically irresponsible and clinically would be considered to be an issue of abandonment.

    So, Denise, it looks like you have a great topic for your next session…how has this issue revealed clinical significance on your issues you are addressing in therapy?

    PS-I love this forum! Very thought provoking as a therpaist and excellent real life continuing education. dp


    January 26th, 2009 at 2:07 PM

    To add another to the list: A therapist telling you not to talk about certain issues, i.e. abuse, political beliefs, death etc, because they are inexperienced to work with the issue /s, or the issue brings something up for them.

  • Hate BH THerapists!

    January 30th, 2009 at 5:56 PM

    My exgirlfriend’s therapist is too personally involved with her. Didn’t let her go everytime she tried to quit therapy and I was never let any involvement in the process.
    Supposely the woman gave her one diagnosis to then change it. They are obssesed with each other and that leads nowhere.
    Not my problem anymore, thank God Im away from crazyness and I wish now the therapist knows FOR REAL the kinda bullshit she’ll be exposed to from now on…good luck dudes
    Therapists are allowed to do whatever in the world they want and noone can hold them accountable for anything. It is plain bullshit that you can file a complain and hold them accountable.
    Noone should have that much power.

  • phone calls not cool

    February 11th, 2009 at 5:06 PM

    i saw a counselor who answered his phone four times during my session. he kept apologizing, and then taking the calls, making appointments, etc. This is a sign of poor organization in my opinion, distracts from the work at hand, and is terribly disruptive. i was revealing very heartfelt things when he kept having to stop. Enough. If there’s an emergency going on, then tell me before the session. If there is not one, then the likelihood of it occurring and your being able to do anything about it during the 50min we are together is unlikely. Please answer the calls between appointments, at night or in the morning. Being always available is not helpful, and a lot less productive.

  • Mary

    February 17th, 2009 at 5:54 PM

    Dual Relationship?
    Is it an ethical violation for a therapist / licensed counselor to facilitate and pressure a patient/client to move into their apartment-condo community?

    Is it an ethical violation for a therapist/ licensed counselor to socialize and fraternize in the capacity of “drinking buddy” with a patient/ client?

  • denise

    February 19th, 2009 at 8:29 PM

    my therapist keeps telling me to write my feelings. at the end of the session she always wants to copy my notes. i’m not sure why? she also has a tape recorder in her office, when i ask her about it she says its not on but i have seen other tapes on her receptionists desk. why would she need to tape our sessions?

  • Sheri Lynn

    March 22nd, 2009 at 8:57 PM

    I was seeing a therapist for depression, anxiety, and numerous emotional issues. I noticed she did not write down much during our sessions, but I didn’t say anything. When she couldn’t remember that I had a son, or other important things pertaining to my life I wondered if she really was paying attention to anything I was saying. During one of my sessions she asked if I wanted some tea (she was seeing me at her home) as she was going to make some, I said no thank you. She then said “While I’m gone I want you do close your eyes and think of the worst thing that has ever happened to you.” I did as I was told, my mind was racing through so many experiences it was a bit overwhelming. When she returned with her cup of tea she sat down and brought up a completely different topic, with no correlation to the prior subject. I waited awhile thinking she’ll get around to asking me what I came up with while she made her tea, but she never brought it up. I didn’t understand so I said “Aren’t you going to ask me what the worst thing that ever happened to me was?” She replied “Oh yes what did you come up with?” I stood up and said “I come here for help and you cannot even remember important things I’ve shared with you about my life, if I have a child or what we discussed the last time I was here and today you ask me to close my eyes and thing of the worst thing that’s ever happened to me, WHY??? So you could go get a cup of tea, obviously it wasn’t of any importance to you, but I do believe what you just did was one of the worst things I’ve experienced in a long time! This will be my last session.” I have learned a great deal from that experience and what I need from a therapist. I appreciate this website very much, and am glad you posted warning signs to help educate us as patients. Being vulnerable and needing a qualified therapist to understand “YOU” and your specific needs is extremely vital in the recovery from a fragile soul. God Bless you, and may your hearts be healed so you can enjoy the beautiful things life has to offer each and every one of us.

  • denise

    March 27th, 2009 at 7:09 PM

    I don’t understand, I started on supplemental disability insurance and then my therapist all of a sudden after two years wants to start on a treatment plan. I got the feeling i’m out the door. They are also not taking any new medicare or disability patients. I do see another therapists off and on now and they keep asking me if i am seeing her. I think they will drop me if i am. I don’t think they can drop me if i am not see any other therapist, someone told me this was abandonment. I know medicare is next to nothing but my doctor is great but to see her i have to see her therapist so it’s a catch 22 .

  • Giggles

    March 28th, 2009 at 2:21 AM

    I too was seeing a therapist for a number of years. I had a good relationship with this person, and started to heal. As I developed other supports, that the average person would have, such as friends, a faith community and a chosen family, the therapist naturally stepped into the background. Then the friends died, the faith community kicked me out and the chosen family left and moved out of the country. I was still seeing the therapist, at the time, but the therapist has not given me an appointment in over 15 weeks, prefering instead to have me check in by phone (leave a message) and would call me back and leave a message. Granted I was not being charged for this, but found it highly annoying. I had an outstanding balance due, which was scheduled to be paid from the next paycheck and I went out on disability, and the payment was delayed only until the disability payments started coming in. The therapist has now been paid. However things have deteriorated to the point where I no longer feel comfortable talking to this person….all this stuff has happened in my life and I have not had a face to face appointment in 15 weeks or more, and this “leave a message and I will call you back in 24 hours” is a joke. It’s more like if I get a call back, it’s a week or two weeks later. I am grieving, I am experiencing spiritual abandonment, I am on disability and just had surgery, and I can’t get an appointment with a therapist who I have been seeing for a number of years? I am all done

  • kate

    April 12th, 2009 at 10:54 PM

    As a new LPC I am glad I found this forum. I think it is a great way for both professionals and consumers to keep up to date and really see the concerns people are having. What I find so distressing is that many professionals are not helping their clients understand the therapy process, and what its all about. In my own opinion, I don’t believe in keeping people in the dark about what is going on with their treatment, that is beneficial to no one. I am saddened to have read so many accounts of unprofessional behavior. I always encourage people to be informed consumers, and to know the different ways that you can file a complaint if you feel that you have been a victim. I also encourage people to keep the dialogue open if you feel that something is off about your therapist, or your therapy. Sometimes, it can be very beneficial to openly discuss your concerns about certain behaviors, such as the eating during sessions, taking phone calls, excessive wait time etc.
    As an MSed and LPC I had to complete a masters degree of 60 credit hours from an accredited university, plus over 700 clock hours of true internship experience. After this was completed, in order to be licensed by the board in the state of Ohio, I was required to pass the National Counselors Exam,and background check. From my experience I have learned that while there are many different helping professions such as psychologists, clinical social workers, clinical counselors, and psychiatrists, their degree and experience is not always going to tell you how they will be in sessions. How you connect with that person is going to tell you.
    I think every therapist brings something different to the table, just as every client does. Sometimes you won’t click with the first therapist you see, don’t resign yourself to feeling that you are stuck. You have every right to find a therapist that you feel comfortable with. With that in mind though, make sure that you give someone a chance, sometimes it just takes a little time for the therapeutic relationship to grow.
    “We cannot stop the waves from rolling in, but we can learn to surf”

  • Allison

    April 16th, 2009 at 1:09 PM

    I want to file a claim on my therapist, she makes me sick she took advantage of me and raped my soul. How can these so called professionals get away with this behavior…??? I can’t wrap my head around it…why I stayed as long as i did was out of pure malnipulation, she was making me feel like I needed her or I would not surive…what a bunch of crap she had me so stressed out I would pull my hair out in bunches, have night terrors, rip at my feet due to stress, made me go on anti- depressents or she would not treat me any longer ( i did and went off them, witch my DR. told me to) Threaten to take me to the hospital or call the police if I disasociated on and on…I was abandoned by her she was more interested in play acting at the rennaniance faire. I just feel sorry for her clients she has now….

  • Virginia Kelley, PhD

    May 13th, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    Very useful list of considerations and discussion.

    One recommendation I would not completely agree with is the suggestion of getting a therapist referral from your medical doctor.

    In my experience, many or most medical doctors make referrals more on “political” than clinical grounds – they are often likely to refer you to someone they know from someplace, rather than making a referral on the basis of knowing the person’s clinical work. A regular doctor, in my opinion, has more or less no special ability to make a therapist recommendation. And – of course there are exceptions.

    Better – if you know someone who has a therapist s/he likes and respects, seek a referral from that therapist. Or see if anyone you know knows a psychologist or social worker, as these professionals know therapists and their work.

  • John Smith

    May 14th, 2009 at 1:21 PM

    While most of these seem excellent warnings, there do seem to be a number of contradictory examples, or examples that seem too vague.

    I mean it seems like on the one hand you say watch out for the therapist who tries to move you out of your comfort zone and watch out for the therapist that doesn’t.

    Therapists ought to have both the experience and the practical knowledge that allows them to move towards painful issues at a pace suitable to each individual.

    But for us to judge a therapist without the same experience and training seems like it would be too easy to prevent useful therapy from occurring. Often we don’t have the objectivity to judge whether a therapist is being unnecessarily harsh or pushing too fast.

    I guess what I’m saying is there are many things listed that make for sound advice, such as warning against therapists who are unnecessarily rude or attempt to date their patients. However other things seem too close to what could be necessary treatment and as patients we probably won’t be able to judge whether the therapist is doing their job or acting inappropriately.

  • Michelle

    May 14th, 2009 at 8:17 PM

    I think that is somewhat true. However, it is important that as a patient, I click with the therapist. If I am challenged to the point where I don’t care to go back, or I feel a strong sense of shame from the words the therapist uses, and there is no looking into these feelings, just blame coming my way for not being committed…I think I need to listen to my instinct that says, “I no longer feel safe to be vulnerable.” If I can’t let my feelings out, or my inner child feels censored…where the heck is the therapy? When we are pushed too far, and the therapist refuses to back down, there is a problem. The therapist who promotes their own agenda misses the cues. This could happen to any professional, but to not claim or own it is untherapeutic.

  • Jalaina

    May 15th, 2009 at 1:14 PM


    Usually when a client goes to a therapist, the first order of business is to find out what the CLIENT’S goals are. A good therapist knows they can’t force someone to be something they do not want to be. A good therapist knows that if the goals being worked on, are NOT the CLIENT’S GOALS, the the client will NOT do the necessarry work to acheive them.

    So unless a therapist just wants to knock their head against a brick wall trying to force “what the therapist thinks the client SHOULD want” down the client’s throat…then they will FIRST find out the client’s goals.

    This being said, often the client doesn’t know what they want…or is vague to the point of lack of direction for what they want…or is ashamed of what they want… and so say something “else” as their goal (a good therapist would suspect this, then or soon afterwards, but is NOT a mind reader)…or the client’s goals change during therapy. All of this causes the therapy to not be effective, or AS effective, as both should want it to be.

    SO both the therapist and the client should reiterate often during the course of therapy, what they understand the goal of therapy to be. The therapist should teach this to the client from the start.

    Therapy should help the client, know how to do therapy on themself…and eventually not need the therapist.

    Now, there are a group of clients whose main goal in therapy is to hear themselves validated. This, they feel, gives them the courage to continue. The energy, the esteem to face life.

    Often the therapist will believe that so many other tasks could benefit the client more than just validation…just making the client “feel better” for the moment. BUT, a therapist can not get a client to work on something, IF they do not want to do this. AND, a therapist can’t trick someone into doing the work either.

    At this point, the therapist might feel frustrated about not being able to move forward, being stuck in what they feel is an unproductive level, and the therapist’s “own agenda” might contaminate the sessions.

    A good therapist, will be aware of when this is happening to them. A good therapist will often be in therapy themselves to help themselves face, and deal with their “own agendas” and the “pain” they feel in doing therapy for others.

    (Because beleive me, doing GOOD therapy is emotionally BACKBREAKING work. Which tends to make me suggest that a good therapist will NOT have eight hours back to back sessions during the day. Very few people can do their maximum best work, for eight hours straight.)

    If the therapist trys to confront the client on areas the client has not agreed are areas they want to improve…this may feel like an ambush.

    If the therapist has not prepared the client to do work on these areas, and the client is coming mainly because they want a “PROFESSIONAL FRIEND”, the client may well feel attacked, abandoned, put down, cheated, mislead.

    That client has come to the therapist for one thing, the thing that makes them “feel good”, that is comfortable for them; and the therapist is trying to change the “rules.”

    I personnally think of “feel good” therapy as the kind of “therapy” that a massage is. It makes you feel a little better for the moment; BUT it does not do the prime task of therapy, which is to make you your own therapist, someone who eventually will not need another person as a crutch to cope with the world.

    Some people are not looking for “therapy” per se. They are looking for a home; a surrogate parent, family or friend. A place to dock their boat when life feels stormy, and is out of control.

    They want a permanent place to be told that they are “OK” even if they are not. Told they are “pretty/handsom” even if they are not; or could be better. They want a place to feel soothed, valued, and accepted.

    As for “clicking with the therapist”, I think when people start looking for a therapist, they have to realize all therapists are not created equal.

    No more than you would marry the first person you dated (as all dates would be equal) would the first therapist you saw, have the likely hood of meeting your particular needs and style.

    Also, sadly, sometimes after you have been married for a while, you may have grown beyond your mate, and wish to move on.

    This said, “moving on” is different event, than the client and/or therapist becoming frustrated ; when a client who fears to do the next steps in the path to their goal, leaves the relationship to start over with another therapist.

    The fault here would be with the therapist, because the minute that the therapist starts feeling frustrated, the therapist should re-check to see they are going in the direction the client wants. The therapist should help the client see what is happening in their relationship, not just leave the client wondering what IS going on. (If the therapist realizes that they are not capable of helping the client grow to the level the client wants; the good therapist should offer to help the client find the person who can.)

    Sometimes this means confronting the client, but with the VERY things the client says they want. The goals may need to be re-thought, or new goals added after this is done.

    When the client “faces the facts” that they are resisting moving in the direction they said they wanted to move, this will often be painful. BUT, know this happens in many, many cases.

    People tend to soothe themselves for not being “as good” as they think they should be, by saying they want to be “that good.” When really, what they want, is to continue to do exactly what they have been doing.

    It is the conflict between the conscience and the ID, and is normal. It is up to a good therapist to make this understandable and workable in therapy.

    We have all gotten “STUCK”. One part of us believes in our changing, wants it. The other part finds it embarrassing, overwhelming, and impossible. The good therapist will recognise the battle that both the client and therapy will be in, when “moving forward” is tried, and will be as prepared as they can be.

    Sometimes the therapist hopes the client will have developed enough “trust” in them to move them through the past behaviors and thoughts to the new behaviors and thoughts.

    If the therapist is relying on trust alone, and there is not enough trust established, the client may leave therapy. It will be the therapists mistake, but the client’s loss.

    Everything a good therapist does, SHOULD, be like an indredient added to a recipe. Everything should be with a purpose in mind, and an anticipated result.

    If the therapist confronted the client; the therapist should anticipate the result, AND be ready to deal with the result, they intended to create.

    Before the therapist confronts, the therapist should know the client well enough to be able to anticipate the result. An exception to this would be, if the therapist has not been able to find a way into a resistant client, who may not be there voluntarily, and may use confronting as a tool to try to uncover some insight into what makes the client tick.

    Now, as for ending a session and feeling like you have been hurt, or punished, or shamed…

    In the end, it is the therapist’s job to know the limit of their time with the client. This means, therapy is like doing a load of clothes. You have to know how much time you have not only to wash them, but to dry them. You realize if you don’t dry clothes you have washed, the clothes may mold and be ruined.

    The same is true for therapy, if you leave the client holding a bag full of bad feelings at the end of the session, the client may quit therapy.

    Just so, a good therapist, needs to plan the session so that if painful feelings will be experienced, the good therapist needs to make sure they will have enough time to help the client make sense of all of this and see the achievement they have made by working on the painful areas. By the end of the session the good therapist will have re-established the patient’s sense-of-self, in a strengthen form.

    Ever heard when you are trying to strengthen your physical fitness, that you have to “feel the burn”. Same is true in therapy. You break the muscles down to a degree, in order to rebuild them. AND just like exercise there is a warm up, and a cool down period.

    You will often KNOW IF YOU HAVE A GOOD THERAPIST, mainly by the fact, that at the end of a session, you will feel “LIGHTENED” of some of your burden. You may feel happier, able to cry where you were not before, more hopeful and so on…instead of feeling “beat up” and worse than when they came in.

    This said, IF you have been having a GOOD and productive relationship with your therapist in general, and you have ONE or a few sessions here and there where you leave feeling not much better or even upset; the therapist may have had an off day…like us all. You will need to confront the therapist, each time this happens, and see what THEY say, then act from there if you are satisfied…or not, with their explanation.

    When a therapist gets angry…or has any emotional reaction to something in therapy…a good therapist always explores what is causing this. A bad therapist will say, the client MADE me feel this way. So to have good results, you will not only need a good therapist, but a good client.

    When YOU have an emotional reaction to something that happened in therapy, take a look at it. Discuss it with your therapist. See how they react. Do they help you come to terms with it, or leave you hanging. Geuss which one is a sign of a good therapist.

    It is just a rule of human nature, that people don’t like to change. So, people wanting to grow, need to take a fair look at themselves and ask, am I resisting because I don’t want to do the work? Am I angry because someone is telling me this?

    Lots of people go to therapy, expecting the therapist to do the work. Clients often expect that because they have put in the time sitting there “in therapy” talking and listening, they will come out better, smarter, changed.

    Sorry doesn’t work that way. Therapy is WORK. HARD WORK.

    You face things you would rather not, you experience and re-experience hurt, shame, awful heartbreak. You have to readdress those miserable painful issues that damaged you in the first place. Some of which you did not even realize at the time were happening to you.

    Generally, pain comes before change. It’s like the birthing process. A baby coming throught the birth cannal is not just slipping happily through. It is an exhausting, painful (for both sides) difficult path. Even a baby chicken hatching out of the egg, has to FIGHT to get his new life. In therapy, one attempts to find themselves and “give birth” to their NEW self.

    A therapist CAN’T do the work FOR you. You have to decide what you want, what you are willing to work for. You have to decide how much you can take, at what time.

    You have to tell your therapist what THE GOAL is. So make sure you are clear on what you are telling your therapist you want from them. Another common behavior of humans is to “expect someone TO KNOW” how and what you feel.

    “I told her to go…she should have known I wanted her to stay.” “I told him that presents were not that important to me, he should have known I did not want an iron.” Depending how smart your therapist is, how attuned to who you are, you may have to be very, very specific. “HEY GUY, I’ll ask you what kind of person I am, and you say WONDERFUL!” “I’ll ask you if I was right, and you say YES!”

    Realize each therapist has different tallents, or lack of tallents. One might be intelligence. If you happen to be a gifted person, probably only another gifted person will be able to lift you beyond yourself. It is said, that one can only truly teach to the level they have themselves reached.

    Consider this, all you need to get that degree is a passing grade. Some schools may pass on D students, many pass on C students.. There are only a few A students in any bunch. They show their diploma, not their grades.

    If you were an A student, you may need a therapist that was too. So if you need speed, get a Masseratti, not a VW, to get what you consider a “good” therapist.

    Every body learns best in different ways. Processes information in different ways. We tend to feel best understood, and understand others that function in the manner we do. So you may need to search for a “fit” to feel that you have a “good” therapist.

    Hope this helps finding a good therapist, and getting the good therapy that you want.


  • Barry

    May 15th, 2009 at 5:47 PM

    Hi Jalaina

    I do agree with much of what you are saying.
    Although grades in graduate school are not the same as in undergrad.
    Here is a sample of grade requirements for grad school:
    The 78-unit curriculum of the MSW degree program provides the mix of academic, experiential, and research experiences essential for MSW degree students. Students must maintain a program grade point average of 3.0 (or a letter grade of B on a 4.0 scale) and meet the knowledge, skill, and professional performance competencies outlined by the program. The minimum acceptable grade for required (core) courses is a B- (2.7). Grades in selective courses must be a minimum of a C (2.0). Courses with grades falling below the standards set for required and selective courses must be repeated. Students are financially responsible for the cost of repeating courses where grades obtained do not meet the minimum standards.

    The minimum grade in regular classes is a B-.
    Selective courses are courses apart from the regular curriculum of your choice.
    This is pretty standard for all disciplines in today’s world.

  • Lifesnadir

    May 28th, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    I am looking for a therapist / social worker who is willing to do telephone therapy and who will bill Medicare. Some professionals believe Medicare will not cover phone therapy, but they do. I just need the Medicare papers to sign.

    Anyone here willing? Or know of someone? (someone good– I’ve had my share of bad therapy before)

    Main issues: 1. prior abuse ; 2. now physically ill, disabled, bedridden and unable to go out to “get therapy” 3. life-adaptations and adjustments as my health condition worsens

    I deal fairly well with my emotions / problems on my own but need some help / direction with some areas. Previously learned coping skills wear out fast when in this kind of life situation; would like to find some new skills to last at least few years more before having to develop another new set.

    Not sure how to connect to someone here (if anyone is willing); possibly the Admin could give my email address to a professional interested in working with me?


  • Zarin

    June 11th, 2009 at 9:25 PM

    There is a psychologist in Vancouver who professes to be a lot more than she is in the field of traumatic stress/psychological trauma. She denigrates other psychologists, although not to their face. She thinks she is the best. She is extremely convincing. She can display BPD-like symptoms and if she apologizes it will be with a very qualified apology – she doesn’t really see anything wrong with what she does. Given she works with people with BPD and personality disorders her own problems should be well addressed. She isn’t even aware of all of them. She never bothered getting professional supervision. Hopefully she is now. She has serious boundary issues and had a serious occurence that happened with a psychiatrist at VGH Out-Patient Psychiatry where action needed to be taken. Some in the therapy community know, many more don’t. They should. Be careful and if you think you are doing therapy with this woman, run.

  • Debby

    June 18th, 2009 at 12:17 PM

    I feel that my therapist has judged me on my weight, being a stay at home mom, and not driving. She asked me what I weighed in high school, I told her, and she said, “So you were bigger than all the other girls.” She said I’m not a real stay at home mom because I don’t drive.

    I always feel worse about myself after every session. She canceled three sessions in about 4 months last year; I had to wait another month after my scheduled appointment to see her again.

    If I wanted someone to tell me what a loser I am, I would call my mother in law. She’d tell me for free.

  • Margaret Connely

    June 19th, 2009 at 6:05 AM

    I have experienced 2 incidents that I feel hindered my therapy. I was in therapy for 3 1/2 years for the treatment of DID with my first therapist. FIRST PROBLEM – I was hypnotized without being informed. I confronted him when I realized it, but it kept surfacing during therapy and I feel contributed to the problem I had with transference because I felt violated by my therapist and kept seeing him as the person who violated me during childhood. SECOND PROBLEM during the 3rd Christmas, I gave him a %50 gift certificate to a book store. After the holiday vacation he returned it and said “Clients with your diagnosis have a history of overstepping boundaries, not that Ive experienced that problem with you in the past, but I think it may be starting and I intend to stop it before it gets out of hand” as he handed me back the gift certificate. That statement made me feel more worthless than I felt before I started therapy, and was the reason I left therapy with him, and the reason I will never have therapy again with a male therapist.

  • Julie

    June 23rd, 2009 at 8:50 PM

    More to add to the “Warning List:”

    Therapist falls asleep.
    Therapist throws a tissue box at you, (instead of offering one).
    Therapist laughs at what you wrote in a journal.
    Therapist repeatedly insists on a specific diagnosis, even when client has proof otherwise.

  • Forest

    June 25th, 2009 at 12:11 PM

    When I was young, I was served liver and onions. It was absolutely horrible. I gagged and gagged while trying to eat it; tears even came to my eyes. UGH

    After that terribly unsatisfying experience I did not conclude that all food is terrible and that I just could not ever eat food again.

    I did conclude that that particular dish did not meet my needs in any way whatsoever and that I would not be going back to liver and onions one more time.

    I do wish that the patients on this list and elsewhere who have had terrible, undesireable, gag-worthy, tear-provoking experiences with therapists would not blame all therapists or all therapy for their terrible experiences. It would be an absolute shame to miss out on Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream with the fudge and brownies in it because I didn’t like liver and onions and decided never to eat again. and it would be a shame to miss out on the awesome opportunities and wonderful growth available in therapy because you had an experience that was displeasing in the past.

  • Kim

    July 6th, 2009 at 11:28 PM

    My therapist….

    feels too maternalistic, protective, weirdly admiring of me. All the offers of ride homes I never asked for or accepted (I don’t drive, it’s a short walk home, etc.), offering her daughter as a house sitter, (Yeah, we turned that one down fast.), asked if my husband could build a dog ramp for her dog like he built for ours, ‘Oh! I’d pay him of course!” He said no.

    She has been pushing ‘The Alexander Technique’ on me and I was wary. She finally was going to pick me up at work and take me to watch her session, I wasn’t thrilled but had a hard time saying no. It might work and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. The session was canceled by a severe storm two months ago and I haven’t heard from her since. I have a book of hers, I need to return but I’m dreading the session. I’ve seen her a few years now, right now is the worst I have felt emotionally and psychologically w/no outside event (a death of a family member, loss, etc) in my life.

    I keep flashing on her telling me how ‘intimidating’ and ‘Billy Badass’ (Her words) I was when I first came in but now I’m so gentle and soft and tenderhearted, like she BROKE ME, bridled me, tamed me or something. I don’t feel any more subdued, gentle, serene. And, to be honest, I was and always have been as intimidating as the family dog.

    There’s more, (a session w/a visiting family member that went horrible, she lost control of the session in a few minutes and allowed my brother to stay a few hours after I had to leave) but what do you all think so far?

  • Virginia Kelley, PhD

    July 18th, 2009 at 7:57 AM


    Mail the book back, or put it in a sealed manila envelope and leave it in someplace where she can pick it up, and send the therapist a note.

    If you have reason to believe that an effort to achieve closure by having a good bye session will leave you feeling worse (pressured, criticized, demeaned, drained) — don’t go. There is no point in making yourself vulnerable in a place you don’t feel safe.

    You should never leave a therapy session feeling bad in this kind of way.

    I’d say the best thing to do is write a respectful letter telling her you’ve decided not to continue your therapy at this time. Either tell her why very briefly — “I am aware I need a therapy situation in which the professional boundaries are managed differently,” for example — or just thank her for her help (even if somewhat insincere) and be done with it.

  • Sally

    July 24th, 2009 at 5:50 PM


    I’ve returned to therapy after having been out of it for more than five years. I’m just needing a sounding board and to figure out some crap but I visited someone yesterday and am wondering if he’s going to work.

    He had TWO phones, his cell and the regular one and while we were doing the initial question and answer eval his cell phone and also the regular line rang constantly. I ignored it and kept talking, but he finished the eval and said he had been expecting an important call and would I mind if he just checked his cell phone real quick and then when he got back we could chat for awhile or I could just come back.

    I said, ok, and he went and came back in like two minutes and apologized. He sat down and we talked for like 20 more minutes but the whole time the phones were absolutely ringing like mad!

    I realize from this site(and I consider myself a pretty experienced client/patient) that I should have said, will these phones be turned off or put in the other room during our regular sessions?

    I have an appt with him next week so I will see, and I will say something if they go off, but I’m kinda feeling like he might not be the right guy.



  • G.M.

    July 27th, 2009 at 11:06 AM

    There needs to be some kind of work shop for therapists on abandoning a client with no resolve or closure, thats just damaging to the client.

    My former therapist decided to abandon me after 3 years of therapy, because I was suicidal and he didn’t want to deal with me any more. He sent me an email making it sound as though I had terminated therapy and now he won’t even let his answering service take a message from me. He use to encourage me to call during a crisis and we would even text back and forth and then one day he just started acting really strange towards me, saying things that would hurt my feelings, but I was never sure if he meant them that way or not and the way he terminated to therapy feels like it was more of a personal attack instead of just deciding he couldnt help anymore. I really think he wants me to be hurt. Its really thrown me into a downward spiral and I feel like all of the progress I made has just been beaten out of me. I dont even know what I did to make him decide he hates me so much. But it makes me question therapy and it makes me leary about trying to find another therapist. I think psychologists should be aware of the impact they actually make on their clients and avoid causing them more harm.

  • Mary McHale

    August 6th, 2009 at 6:00 PM

    When is unilateral termination by a therapist ever ok? Any and all answers could be healing.

  • Margaret

    August 21st, 2009 at 10:51 AM

    Other red flags:

    Counsellor blames you while making excuses for your family, friends or partner. (related to #11 & #12).

    Counsellor doubts, second-guesses and challenges your EVERY thought, opinion and course of action, regardless of its significance to your issues.

    Counsellor ignores your explicit requests to focus on a specific issue during a session, and instead keeps returning to other issues.

    Counsellor assumes that because you are upset/unhappy about a situation, you don’t understand it and you don’t know what to do about it. (You can be upset about something and understand it quite well and know exactly what to do – these things are not mutually exclusive.)

  • Helbo

    August 22nd, 2009 at 8:54 AM

    My T wanted me to join an ongoing group for “socialization skills”. I had uncomfortable feeling about it, but chalked it up to my needing social skills. Last week I discovered one of our members was a registered sex offender, and my T knew. This was not ever disclosed to me at any time. We found out he reoffended and returned to jail. I suspected this was a sex offence and searched the sex offender registry, only to find a picture of my group member (the member was into child porn), who now has my phone number (we were encouraged to exchange phone numbers). I have quit the group, My T thinks I’m over reacting! I think he acted unethically.

  • tricia csaszar

    August 27th, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    when he or she makes promises to help you in a certain amount of time but doesnt and claims shes too busy to help .
    never ever returns yoor phone calls .
    feeling of dread up to a week before an appoitment then feeling better afterwards the appointment is over

  • tricia csaszar

    August 27th, 2009 at 10:07 AM

    never returns uyour phone calls.

  • Michelle Samuel

    September 11th, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    I have been a therapist for 20 years, and I was really upset by this article.
    3. “therapist does not define clearly how she is going to help you” – well, sometimes I do not know at the beginning of therapy how to help someone. It is an unpredictable journey. Sometimes I am not sure what the cause of the distress is. Rather than provide unnecessary explanation, I prefer to continue and explain as we go.
    4. “therapist does not define when therapy is complete” – the goals of therapy change many times during therapy. What is important is to listen to client when he feels it is complete, rather than artifical definition.
    11-12 “therapist blames family or partner”. Well, what about parents that are – or were – abusive physically, emotionally, sexually? What about a woman in a domestic violence situation?
    27-28 – “therapist focuses only on cognition or only on emotions” I start from where the patient is. For highly intelectual and defensive people it may be easy to start from cognition, and later access their emotions. Otherwise they may escape. Others may benefit from starting to deal with their emotions. Why is it bad?
    37 “therapist answers phone”. I am guilty of that. My husband is frequently out of state, and I am the only one who can answer for my children. Of course, I make sure it will be very short yes/no answers. I do not think anyone was ever offended.
    41-42 — you cannot win. You are either too emphatic, or not enough.
    44 – “therapist is affected emotionally”. Am I supposed to be made of wood? Of course I am affected emotionally.
    48-49 – With addictions and compulsions it is more important to learn to control the problem, rather than to “understand” it. Only later it makes sense to understand to causes. i can have therapy with somebody for years, but it will do nothing if he continues to drink.
    Who wrote this article? Is that person a therapist?

  • Dr. Abigail

    September 11th, 2009 at 10:41 PM

    Hi Michelle,
    I read this article and have a total different take on it than you…I think it’s an excellent collection of warning signs. I was so shocked by some of your comments that I felt compelled to defend the author and to protect those people who might be considering therapy from some of your misunderstandings…

    Here are my responses to Michelle’s comments:

    #3 Of course therapy is an unpredictable journey, but the therapist should have some sort of framework for helping people which she/he can share with their client. Too many talk therapists simply let their clients talk, emot, and go in the same circles session after session without ever getting anywhere. A good therapist should be experienced enough to communicate how they actually help people to change. If you don’t have a framework for doing therapy or don’t know how to communicate the basic process you might consider getting some consultation or training to better shape your overriding understanding of how the therapy process works. Seriously!

    #4 If you read this one logically you’ll understand that providing the client with an “explanation of how you will know when therapy is complete” DOES include the therapist expressing to the client that the client may know or feel when the therapy is complete. Too many therapists never talk about the ending of therapy, don’t make termination okay; this is a disservice to the client. You’re right that the therapist cannot predict the therapy pathway in advance, but an experienced therapist will communicate, with good timing, what it could feel like or be like for the client to overcome, move past, or heal specific issues…as those issues arise.

    #11 and 12 There is a difference, Michelle, between acknowledging a perpetrators responsibility and blaming. I think that most therapists would agree that a client stuck in anger and blame is not a client who has healed from their abuse. Sure, anger and blame is often a part of the process, but isn’t the outcome of healing to have moved past the blame and anger?? I think so indeed! A therapist does a disservice to the client by joining with the client in blaming another.

    #27 & 28 I agree with you here Michelle. It’s great to start where the client is at. But I don’t think the author of this article is saying that she or he does not do that. The author is simply stating that it’s a red flag when the therapist “focuses on thoughts and cognition at the exclusion of feelings and somatic experience” OR “focuses on feelings and somatic experience at the exclusion of thoughts, insight and cognitive processing.” In other words, a useful therapist remains conscious of both, takes a middle path, holds a balance… Sure, you can meet a client where they are at, but could it not be useful for someone stuck in their head to learn to be in touch with their body and their emotions?? And vice versa, is it not useful for someone with a histrionic personality constellation to learn to access their more rational and logical capacities?? I would say yes to both, and I think the author here is trying to say that also…

    #37. I think you’re either fooling yourself (denial) or simply ignorant about what goes on inside clients if you truly believe none of your clients have been impacted by you answering the phone during their sessions. I suggest you consult with other therapists about this. I think answering the phone is a big no-no which can undermine the safety of the therapeutic relationship…especially for clients with particular relational woundings.

    #42 and 42… When did this become about winning Michelle? Don’t you agree that some therapists fail to empathize, connect, and relate emotionally to their clients…hide behind the veil of professionalism a little too much? Don’t you also agree that some therapists have their own unfinished business that causes them to have their exiled /unconscious stuff triggered and, in turn, causes them to over-identify and over-empathize with their clients? I think this is certainly the case and I agree with the author of this article that therapists need to be able to open their hearts without over identifying and becoming blended with their own pain….If the therapist can’t stay centered in Self, the client won’t benefit!

    #44 the operative word here is “OVER,” meaning too much… As with many of these warning signs, too much of one thing, is not always a good thing. Of course therapists are affected emotionally, but if the therapists own stuff is getting triggered during a session, then the therapist is going to be less effective… The healthy therapist does his or her own work so they can stay empathetic, emotionally connected, but not overwhelmed, over-emotional, and over affected. Imagine how it would feel for a client to see their therapist breaking down? It’s like having the tables turn, losing the steady “rock” that helped you weather the storm… And now the client is worried about the therapist’s well-being and doubting he or she can help you… Sure, it can be okay to experience tears and sadness for a client and depending on where the client is at, it may be helpful or unhelpful for the therapist to show that he or she was affected and moved by the client…

    #48-49 Michelle, I think you’re confused… The author, I don’t think, would disagree with your statement that “With addictions and compulsions it is more important to learn to control the problem, rather than to “understand” it”… the author is simply stating that it is a red flag when a therapist does one approach without the other…she’s not talking about which approach or focus comes first.

    I think you’re statement, “Who wrote this article? Is that person a therapist?” is fantastically rude of you. Your comments don’t demonstrate that you’ve really understood what the author was saying and I think you’re the last person who should be leaving such a rude comment…

  • Dennis

    September 11th, 2009 at 10:46 PM

    Dam I hate it when therapists talk about how many years of experience they have! You think “years of experience” is going to necessarily make someone a good therapist? Such a bunch of ego BS.

  • Kelly

    September 25th, 2009 at 9:38 AM

    I have just got away from a therapist who embarked nearlly all 50 of the items on this list, he played havoc with my head and i want to say if your going into therapy, keep the list in mind!

  • Kelly

    September 25th, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    well excluding the thing about sexual advances, still clocked around 45

  • Elizabeth Talbott

    October 1st, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    how about a therapist who stops seeing you because you where admitted to a hospital because of sucide threats.

  • Devastated

    October 19th, 2009 at 9:50 PM

    WARNING, WARNING, Therapists who, for their own self-serving purposes, use hypnotic techniques without warning the client (who has severe PTSD), causing the client to black out for an hour and 15 minutes, waking to what sounded like an age regression, being in severe pain and continues to be. Technique verified by a famous professional. Maine OLR did nothing after complaint filed. Therapist lied about session. Lost my job, lost my will to live, lost everything. Therapist assaulted client; her peer group and her supervisor, a well-known psychiatrist all know, and did nothing. Therapist lied about session, but proceeded to drop hints of what happened during that black out session. Since I can’t remember, what the hell am I suppose to do with that? The pain is tremendous. I hope this therapist’s life sucks as much as mine. Someday she will be accountable for what she did! My mother may have raped me, but this therapist committed a worse crime because she was suppose to be a professional; she was suppose to follow the social workers code of ethics! She left me in harm’s way and only cared about herself.

  • Rob

    November 18th, 2009 at 10:29 AM

    I met with a counselor very recently. I found him on a male survivor website.He took 2 phone calls, was 45 minutes dleayed for our meeting as well as pursued his own agenda. He made assumptions about me after 45 minutes, and then made horrible claims as to my intent. I left there feeling raped and more tarumatized then before I got there.

  • Devastated

    November 18th, 2009 at 1:04 PM

    I have found that the national ass of social workers; the amercian ass of social workers, the offices of licensing and regulation; and even the police and attorney general’s office, have no care as to the bad therapy that is rampant in this country. it is always the therapist’s word(who’s right) against yours (and you are always wrong). The therapist can even lie, delete notes, whatever. I think this is an epidemic and the code of ethics is a crock because it seems these therapists do not have to follow or be held accountable. The OLR here in Maine won’t even do anything about a therapist not fowarding records. Here is what they consider a disciplinary measure: a therapist took in a client’s cat because the client was in the hospital. They severely disciplined this therapist. This is sooo much worse than what my therapist did – hypnotic technique causing a blackout and extreme, excrutiating pain. NOT!!!! Who the hell are these a-holes running these organizations?!!!!!

  • Brian

    October 24th, 2016 at 4:25 AM

    I sympathize with a number of patients who have had bad therapist. I had a run in with a very messed up for lack of better word therapist. He also did not believe that I had PTSD. Who is setting standards for these cons. I feel that the medical profession is broken. You don’t know the number of times that I have had doctors who have gone bezerk on me for being 5 minutes late. They have no forgiveness. Once one of my doctors did that, he then had me barred from going back to the doctors office. There is no God.

  • Virginia Kelley, PhD

    November 18th, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    Re: phone – I find it unworkable if a therapist answers the phone during sessions, and as a patient in such a situation the knowledge that the therapist was poised to disrupt the interaction unpredictably whenever she “needed” to answer the phone would make me wary of going into sensitive or vulnerable territory. I think people should be able to count on not being abandoned (during the framework of the appointment time)if they’re encouraged to “be open.”

    I suppose that a patient who truly does not mind is okay with such a therapist. Though part of me also says — some of the people who “don’t mind” may not mind because they are too used to not knowing what they need, which from my point of view is not so great.

  • Frances

    November 30th, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    If your therapists violates the original financial agreement and jacks your fee up to a very high rate and says she has to do it because she doesn’t have a pension.

  • Virginia Kelley, PhD

    December 1st, 2009 at 4:41 PM

    Re: dissatisfaction with a therapist’s treatment of you: my opinion: if you feel a therapist has taken the wrong tack with you in some way, and that the whole thing can’t get resolved in the therapy situation, the most important thing is you and your emotional well-being.
    I would say, if you can’t work it out, leave the therapist and find another therapist who understands your experience and will help you process what happened and move on with your life. By all means tell the original therapist why you are leaving and what you think of her practices, if you feel this will be important to you to help you move on. If you are afraid of getting something back from her which will upset you, on the other hand, like a verbal attack, don’t feel obliged to tell her – the main thing is, take care of yourself.
    I think privacy and confidentiality are necessary for effective therapy in most cases, even though I agree that a downside is the unlikelihood of a patient’s being able to bring sanctions to bear on a therapist for most questionable practices.
    The one thing a patient can do if she really feels the therapist has done something unethical (rather than ineffective, say) is report the complaint to the state licensing board of the therapist’s profession. Though immediate “justice” is not likely, you can definitely have an effect by placing such a report in the person’s file. If others appear, there is the likelihood of a consequence for the therapist.

  • patsycolbert

    January 1st, 2010 at 5:25 PM

    Not sure what is going on with the therapist I have hired to help me “cope” but this person is condescending, totally thinks some of my goals unworthy or just plain unrealistic, told me what to eat, to do yoga, teased me about my age (yeah right), so as of tomorrow, it’s time to move on. A month or two is way too long to spend with this person. A lot of damage to the human psyche is possible. I’m not reaching my goal of no longer being down. But then this person claimed that no one is ever really happy. Why I went back after that is beyond me. The young lady who came out before me looked miffed at this counselor too. Poor thing.

  • Lynn

    January 13th, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    I so agree about the Ego thing with these Thearpists ….I have never in my life seen such Diva’ attitude…I’m the best I out rank her ect. Why don’t they shut up and listen that is what they get paid to do and why we hire them, not to listen to how flippen great they are…Please

  • Mimi

    February 3rd, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    I agree with the list except for (4) and (5). I’ve never had a therapist tell me, in the beginning, anything about the end of treatment (and I think it’s up to ME to decide when I’m ready to end it), and I don’t see why a therapist would necessarily have to consult with other therapists, unless it’s a supervisor but I don’t know if all therapists have supervisors.

  • Angela

    February 18th, 2010 at 10:57 PM

    I have a question I was in therapy with an LCSW and anyway a few months back I saw her in the store I ignored her but I did see her and I told her when I went into therapy that following Thursday that I had seen her and her face was red so she preceeded to tell me that that was because she had just gotten back from Yoga but she never told me where. I joined Yoga because my ice skating coach told me she thought it would help with flexibility so being thoughtful I checked two different Yoga centers being really thoughtful of the one the therapist may be going too and that was on a Sunday. So I went to the one I thought she would not be at and she was there I did not pay attention to classmates or anything and I came in and put my mat down and did the yoga then I looked over at the classmates and my therapist was standing on the mat right by me but I was there before her I even asked the Yoga teacher but she called me a liar and I was not lying to her. So anyway that next week I wanted to respect her time in Yoga so I went to a different Yoga Center with the same teacher and she asked why I was at the different center and I told her that my therapist was in there and it was a conflict of interest and she said yes but then you are paying for two gyms she asked if there was anyway around it and I said I do not think so. So the Yoga Teacher told me she was going to pay atttention and let me know what days she was there that way I could come to that gym but respect my therapists privacy which I wanted to do anyway but instead the Yoga Teacher told her that anyone no matter who they were had a right to be there and she needed to be accepting of that. That following Thursday I came in and she said Angela just so you know this will be our last session together and it had to do with the Yoga and she said nothing I said would change that. She then told me if I called her or emailed her she would not read or listen to the message she would delete it and that if I decided to kill or hurt myself she did not care becasue she was no longer my therapist and that if the Er called she would tell them she was not my therapist. She gave me referrals but no numbers so I looked the therapists up and none of them are accepting new clients none but I Cannot get ahold of her about other referrals what should I do with all this I feel like a failure but I was not trying to cause anything I answered a question that was asked that is all and she left me. Abandonment is hard for me because everyone I had got close to has either left me or died and I told her this and she said the only way she would not see me is if I decided that but I had no idea this was coming and was completely unprepared for it. She then emailed all her therapists in the office and told them they are not allowed to see me using my name without my premission I know this because htat therapist accidentally emailed me when trying to get ahold of my therapist and all the email said is Lindy I received this I assume she is your client how should we proceed but I never told her what therapist I had seen and out of 6 therapists in that office how would she know that it was Lindy I was seeing. I have seen 26 therapists and they all make plans to help me then I leave and they call her and those therapists call me back or email me then and say I cannot work with you what can I do I really need help badly I really need a therapist but no one wants to help.

  • Kathy

    February 19th, 2010 at 12:09 PM


    I can totally understand what you are going therapist left me over the phone no warning nada…she wont give my new therapist all my notes (because she will get in trouble) and I have to beg her to get them…I would find a new T tell her what she did to you and file a huge report on her with the help of the new therapist…they love to get other therapist in trouble ..EGO thing! I really don’t understand why therapist do this to clients, they are already hurting and they hurt you more. Good Luck

  • Tracy

    February 21st, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    Hope this can help someone out there, it’s what I’ve learned so far.
    If you decide to file a Licensing Board complaint against a therapist please consider the following when doing so:

    1. Include all information you have include emails,dates of phone calls, copies of your own notes of therapy sessions and ANYTHING else you may have no matter how immaterial it may seem. PROOF is paramount…everything else is “client said/therapist said”. Do not think your former therapist is going to say you are correct in complaining! Many Licensing boards claim to “investigate” a claim, but in fact, they just gather information and assess it. There is not a real “investigation” per se. In many circumstances you probably will not be asked a single question regarding your claim. Licensing boards are also notorious for not providing nearly enough space on their complaint forms for you to provide an adequate amount of written information…just attach it, even if they say to limit it. My State’s form gave one page for information, my original complaint was 3 pages….the appeal was 84 pages total. It included emails, copies of calendars, dates and some content of phone calls and 20 pages of my writing.

    2. If your complaint gets beyond being purely “dismissed”( see the above for possible reasons why, not enough info is a primary reason), but the therapist only receives a warning letter, or similar “slap on the wrist”, and you are not satisfied that the case was properly reviewed/ “investigated” ( there’s a good chance of this as most Licensing Boards are overwhelmed) request in writing a full copy of your complaint file through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), You are allowed to receive this information through Federal Law! Then you can appeal your case if you’d like and you will have more information “to go on”. (In many states the complainant is not given any other info from the time their complaint is filed until after the Licensing Board decides the case.) Unfortunately this is your only option unless your case is clear cut enough to go to a hearing, and very few are. After obtaining and reading my case file I realized the therapist had blatantly lied in many of his responses to my complaint. When I appealed the case I was able to provide hard information proving that he lied, in addition to the original ethics complaint. Again, as if in a court case …proof is necessary! A Licensing Board can not base a decision affecting someone’s career on hear-say evidence! . Doing so would not be fair and just.

    3. Do not be afraid to be the “squeaky wheel” with the Licensing Boards investigator. Again they are very busy and your case will sit “in a pile of paperwork” if you remain a silent partner. Call them, ask where the case stands, they will not be able to tell you exact info regarding the case but can tell you where it is in the process. and it will help keep your case moving.
    Do not just file it and forget about it like some people recommend. At the same time do not dwell on it as it is much out of your control, but be involved when needed.

    I hope this info can help someone just starting the process …my case is still ongoing. (It started in November of 2008.) If you do file a complaint with a State Licensing Board be prepared for it to take a very long time! While deadlines exist Licensing Boards tend to be lenient on giving out extensions for therapists getting their records together, and that’s after they already exceeded the deadline. Some therapists are not very cooperative with the process and some are just really not prepared to deal with it from a records standpoint. ( again an FOIA request is useful here…my former therapist became very creative when compiling information to send in!)
    If you have an issue with patience in life…this is a great opportunity to practice it!

  • Susan

    February 21st, 2010 at 4:24 PM

    in theory, this all sounds good, but I did all of the above and more and the therapist got a slap on the wrist. I even went to the attorney general and the NASW (there is a 2 yr time limit for complaints, fyi). The Maine OLR did not investigate or truly read a thing. Later I filed another complaint because the therapist woulld not forward records to new therapist. The whole system is a sham. The OLR of Maine emailed me and said if I ever contacted them again, they would go to the police. Their creed is to be there for the individual’s rights, but what a crock. There is no one out there who cares about what happened to you. And the therapist has the money and lies to get away with emotional rape and assault. Being on SSDI, I can only afford the pills to say goodbye to this stupid f*in world. It’s one thing to be raped by your mother, but then again by a professional (sic) therapist and abused by the system who says they have your back….it’s too much.

  • Susan

    February 21st, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    oh, and I just HAVE to mention. The Maine OLR disciplined, DISCIPLINED a therapist for taking care of a client’s cat while the client was in the hospital. Where I come from, that’s doing a good deed – the client had no one else and no matter the conflict of interest, what my therapist did, she should have been arrested for, but got a slap. My ptsd became severe from what that therapist did and her peer group and a nationally known psychiatrist backed her up. They stick together like the mafia. But I also have proof from a famous professional who has been on oprah several times, of what this therapist did to me. No one cares. I would be better off having cancer….if it’s physical there seems to be compassion. a 58 year old female raped and threatened by her mother and all i have ever wanted was help, but instead i get abuse after abuse.

  • Lifesnadir

    February 21st, 2010 at 9:50 PM

    TO ANGELA from February 18, 2010: Honey, your T has labeled you to other T’s as a “boundary breacher” and “problem”. You are NOT, based on your story, BUT the T has power you don’t have. So I’d go to the next nearest town, if possible. If that’s impossible, then I’d write the facts–short, to the point. “When I found my therapist was attending the same Yoga class, I tried to switch to a different gym (thus incurring double costs). When the yoga instructor asked why I wasn’t going to the 1st gym, I answered I didn’t want to make my therapist uncomfortable. The instructor took it upon herself to ‘confront’ the therapist without me knowing or asking her to do that. My now ex-therapist took offense, and fired me. My only intention had been to give my therapist privacy.” When you interview ANY new prospective therapist, READ the statement from PAPER instead of trying to explain– explaining in the moment can make you sound rattled and scattered. Instead, you need to sound calm and composed. You can say it’s distressing that this misunderstanding occurred, and that you need to get back to work on YOUR GOALS. Don’t focus on the x-T when interviewing the new T… say, we were working on my (depression, whatever) and I want to keep working on my goals; can you help me? Before calling, think of 2 goals, in case the new one asks “What goals?” Example: We were working on better coping skills to use when I feel depressed. (Ts love the phrase coping skills) Or, I was working toward leaving my husband and I still need to develop a plan for how I can move out on my own. (Ts love working on goals & plans to better a situation). I hope you hear that your ex-T has twisted the story to get out, to quit. So you need to twist the story back to the truth while avoiding the appearance of being torn up about the ex & what she did to you. If you come across as real needy or blaming, all the other Ts will be prone to believing HER story and they won’t give you a chance. I still think you need to try a different town, though.

  • Lifesnadir

    February 21st, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    TO SUSAN from Feb 21st 2010: The only thing suicide does is ROB YOU of re-claiming YOUR life. I think our society in general has gotten so nasty, mean, and too many people think only of themselves. Since Ts live in society, they can also become tainted with mean streaks and the “I’ll do whatever I want to–when I want to” mentality. No matter what the mean folks do, they can’t “own” you and they can’t own your Soul. And none of the mean folks will care one iota if you’d kill yourself. So YOU have to care about YOUR LIFE. You have to find the will to find reasons to live. I hear your mom hurt you; that’s got to be one of the deepest hurts to live with. And that so-called therapist hurt you. And there’s probably others who’ve hurt you too. I know how awful and confusing it is to have those burdens and not know what to do next, how to get away from the pain. But…I also know that YOU, inside you, there’s a special lady who can take all the bad things and use the experiences to make a really positive impact in other people’s lives. Find a way to use what happened and turn it around so that you aren’t making SOMEONE ELSE’s bad actions make YOU look or feel badly. Even if you can’t ever make “them” acknowledge what they did to you, you can STILL make it ALL work in your favor. Right now, you feel you’ve lost your power, confidence, hope. But all 3 are still inside you. FIND your positive qualities. Kick imaginary dust in the abusers’ faces and work to re-find YOU. You’re the only one who matters, not them.

  • Susan

    February 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Lifesnadir , I appreciate your comments and good wishes. However, if, and that’s a huge IF, I were to ever try to leave this stupid world, it will not be because of the asshats that live in it or have hurt me. It would be because of the tremendous amount of pain I am in. A pain no one can heal or fix. Like I said, I would be better off having cancer. There are days I can hardly make it through….no one gets it.

  • Tracy

    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    Hi Susan

    Under HIPPA a therapist is required to release your records to a 3rd party upon your request

    Here’s a link explaining how to do this and the requirements:

    However as part of most states complaint process the therapist is required to submit copies of your therapy notes….an FOIA request of the full file should include your notes.

    Please remember as well that your former therapist was only one person on this planet, albeit one with many problems. As you know many therapists become therapists because of their own troubled backgrounds. What I’ve learned from my experience is that I am 100% responsible for my life and my choices…even the choice to stay too long in therapy with that therapist.Previously when others in my life (and my former therapist) were throwing up what most people would see as bright “red flags” to “get away” my navigational system was off line and I would stay…and try and make it work. I do not do that anymore. I have learned to listen to myself, and to pay attention to what my body is telling me. The choices I make today are based on loving choices for me, forget anyone else…do what is loving for Susan.

  • Tracy

    February 22nd, 2010 at 9:30 PM

    Hi again Susan

    One more thought…
    Even the most brilliant, caring and compassionate person can not heal or fix you…only you, can heal you …regardless of the depth of the pain you feel… you have that ability…we all do!
    If you want to imagine that you have a terminal illness, then heal that…it’s the same process. Think of how you would accomplish that. All healing… is self-healing.

  • Susan

    February 22nd, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    I don’t know about other states, but here in Maine, I have been told by other therapists and the OLR themselves, that a therapist has the right to decline forwarding records. Just as well, since they are altered and lack the truth. Sometimes I can be a whiner, but most of the time I am a survivor. I raised 3 sons (all doing great); been married to a very understanding husband for 32 years, and am expecting my 3rd grandson. But I have been in pain for over 50 years and for my family’s sake, kept it inside and didn’t take it out on my kids or anyone else. I’m proud of the life choices I have made, but very depressed that I lost my job because of the ptsd (and a therapist who did nothing to help me keep it). My days are awful, but I make the best of them. And I have dogs that bring smiles. As far as healing myself, I have been trying for over 50 years. This is not the place to go into it, but the trauma was so great, I dissociated and healing might just not happen in my lifetime. But I have never given up, hence the fact that I am again trusting another therapist….I think she is number 8 or 9. I do listen to my body, which is the problem. If I was a marijuanna user or could take a pill to numb myself, I would be better off. Sorry this was way too long. I fight the pain everyday not to kill me.

  • Susan

    February 22nd, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    and, Tracy, you might not understand this, but I only stayed with this therapist because she used a hypnotic technique on me w/o warning or permission, causing me to dissociate and thereby raping me of information that she stole and would only share with comments inserted here and there. I stayed because she kept promising me she would take me to the pain and what she was able to find out during my dissociation. Even offering to bring in Dr Claire Frederick, a famed psychiatrist…..the therapist changed her mind because her peer group convinced her she could take me to the pain and “fix” me. But she couldn’t. And when she started yelling at me, blaming me, that is when I got my head together and realized she couldn’t help and found the strength to leave her. And wow, insight is huge when you have escaped that kind of control.

  • Lifesnadir

    February 22nd, 2010 at 11:09 PM

    February 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 PM #108

    But Susan, we DO get it. I was emotionally and spiritually DESTROYED by a therapist in 1985. My pain was beyond words, especially because the T had convinced me that not even God would want me around. It took 20 years but I’ve made some progress toward healing from that. BUT I also got injured so I’m in severe, horrific physical pain every day — it’ll be 12 years soon. So *I* do know PAIN. I’m the only one who could fix my mind on living rather than dying. You can switch things around, too, so that the pain isn’t consuming you.

  • Jalaina

    February 23rd, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    Having read a number of posts by people in the deepest distress possible, just a few comments… Please read through this, even if you start and think, Oh no, not that again!

    Frequently the emotional pain that we feel, is so attached to who we are, and what we have been through, there seems no way to be able to separate it from ourselves.

    In instances like this, here are several suggestions that may help.

    (The depth of relief depends on how hard you struggle to go deeply into these suggestions.)

    FIRST. Release your “self”.

    It is very hard to do. Pry the thoughts, worries, grievances, prides that make you who you are, away from yourself.

    You need to have a focus, and reasons for doing this. But this is exactly what many of the people that have sought “real” spirituality or “real” truth have had to do to find it.

    There are certain thoughts that are real, but nebulous and difficult to understand. Keep thinking about them. Keep re-examining them. For instance, Something that is real, has always been and will always be.

    If you want to fill your cup with something better, you must first empty the cup. Do this by becoming selfless.

    A CAUTION. Using a minister or a teacher is like using a therapist…some will have “a” talent, so that others say “what a good man, healer, whatever…

    Be ready, so you will not be disillusioned. These “leaders” have many faults. They may have one or two “gifts”, but they will also have failings. Being a good surgeon, does not mean that you are a good man.

    Often when patients, or students see failings in those they have counted on, they feel that nothing that they have gotten from the teacher, therapist, minister…is valid. The person in pain, throws out the baby with the bath water, and feels even more depressed and hopeless than before…when they realize, their “hope” has lead feet.

    If you decide to seek truth, spirituality, selflessness…you have to remember to use ANY counselor as you would when you go into a garden store, trying to pick plants for your home. Take ONLY what you want, what you like, what can help you and fits…and leave the ugly, the wrong, the diseased behind.

    Occasionally councellors may bring up using a higher power to assist in healing. A superficial practice will NOT help, or not help long.

    To become spiritual is to lose most of yourself. To release the ties that bind you. To diligently seek to understand the way of truth, and love. This is NOT what 99.999 percent of the people in church or pounding the religious texts possess, OR try to possess. Read, study, pray for help in finding your way.

    It is very rare that someone succeeds in finding this selflessness. If you feel hopeless, try selflessness. This does work. But be aware that it is similar to taking an antibiotic to get over an infection. You may feel better after starting the therapy for a while, but if you do not want a relapse, you have to keep on taking your “medicine”.

    I understand that many are so exhausted already, with all that they have had to live through, and even taking one more breath seems to be too much. Here is where PRAYER comes in.

    Ask for what you want. Sometimes the answer will be no. Sometimes you get what you ask for and don’t know it. Sometimes it takes a while to get the answer.

    Be looking for the answer you have asked for. It may come from anyone, anywhere. God, not having lips and vocal cords…may use other people’s. You hear it on the radio. Read it in the news. One of the nice things, is you usually get more than one chance to hear the answer…you will probably hear the same thing several times, and you will realize it in an “ah ha” moment. Thinking that was the answer!

    Be careful, only good comes from God, only love comes from God. If your answer is not loving and comforting to you…keep listening for a different answer.

    Asking for what you want can be dangerous, because often you will get it. Asking for what you want also shows you have not abandoned your will yet, your self. That is why when many pray they leave it in God’s hands to do what is best for them. The trouble with this, is that you often will not see that it has been done…or it is not to your liking. So in the beginning when you are trying to learn to believe…ask for the basics of what you want.

    TWO. Sometimes, it helps in healing yourself, to try to “help” others. Again, there is an element of “forgetting oneself” in order to do for the other what they need.

    THREE. Sometimes in pain management, the client is encouraged to embrace the pain, make it yours. Whatever this means to each one.

    When people experience pain, it is a signal to them to flee, that they are being damaged. In life, often you can not flee what causes your pain; so your mind becomes continually striving to get away from the pain.

    Then what happens is like when a record is played over and over, a deeper groove is made where ideas of the pain and hurt are frequently played. Soon the walls of the groove are so high, it is hard to play anything else.

    To embrace the pain, is to “re-see” the pain in a way that EMPOWERS you. You may celebrate that you survived, or that you carry a huge burden but that you are not beaten by it. Others like runners or people doing exercise go for “the burn”, it says what they have done is special, real, will make them stronger.

    We get stuck in pain, because instinctively we run from it. It takes moving from instinct to intellect, to re-see the pain and to stop the pathological running from it; that takes up all of our energy.

    Some of the martyrs, were severely mentally, physically, and sexually abused for years and years before they were killed or died. I have no opinion on martyrs or saints, but I can only imagine what it must have taken from them, not to let the anguish tear apart their resolve, that they must have been able to stop themselves from fleeing, and re-see what was happening to them.

    FOUR. I have heard and read, that abuse fractures the soul. Damages it, wounds the soul so badly, that the person, though they see, can not see. Though they think they have direction, does not know where they are going.

    Abuse can cause a separation between the person and God. Perhaps because the person can not believe in a God that could allow what has happened to have happened. It may cause an anger against any kind of God that would let this injustice happen; so deep, that the anger against God is as much, or more, than that reserved for those who have harmed the individual.

    Here it is important to understand, that you can not fully understand God or why something happened. It is important to understand that what is required of you is not necessarily to believe..but to choose.

    Since you can not know what is true, you have to decide for yourself, what it is you WISH was true. Do you want a world where the mean, the evil succeed, and get away with anything they want to do…or do you WANT to believe there is more…even though you can not see what or how it could possibly be working.

    Even if the “bad” unthinking world exists. Even if there is no God and we are alone. Are you going to be happier, healthier believing that? Then choose, and make what you want to believe real…at least for you, and those you touch. (For those who are off-put by my not insisting that there is an all powerful God; no one believes because they are told to, they believe because they have found it themselves.)

    You pick the world you want, and then you make it true for yourself, by being the hero of this story. You embrace the pain you have gone through, and you make it a reason, a purpose, a success of survival, a badge of honor instead of horror.

    You may acknowledge, some of your greatest times of growth have been during the worst times in your life. You may acknowledge that while the good times were a great relief, that most of us just tend to be fat, dumb and happy during them…not looking for the path.

    So when you look at horrendous pain, while it is true it can destroy you, if you can find the way through it, it can also create the greatest masterpieces.

    Anyway for what it is worth, add this to signs of good counseling
    -offering a higher path,
    -helping to refocus, find a purpose for, and embrace the pain
    -understanding how helping others increases self-worth, and heals.
    -letting go of the self, to find a larger existence.

    one last bit of info…

    When someone does commit suicide, it gives a kind of permission to all that loved them, that this is an acceptable way to handle their own problems. So when you kill yourself, it is more likely that those that you left behind, will also.

  • Tracy

    February 23rd, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    A long but eye opening article…if you think your therapy experience was bad…check this one out…

  • typergirl

    February 24th, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    How about: Pushed political Ideology on you? Like Feminist therapists/therapists who are feminist who push very politically specific ideology on you, without giving any information on different perspectives of the same issue. Or therapists who are christian pushing certain political ideology, etc. Doesn’t matter what ideology it is, I HATE when therapists shove their own political ideology on me, during therapy. Suggesting books is one thing, but stating political theory as fact is another?

  • angela

    February 27th, 2010 at 10:23 AM

    Thank you everyone that has helped with my question about the therapist and about turning her into the licensing board which we did we meaning my grandma and I because I was afraid to at first. I went to two therapists this week both agreeing to work with me so now I have to make a decision which is going to be really hard they both have ph.d’s but ones a social worker the other on is a psychologist I told them about what had happened and the one therapist the psychologist said you need help with boundaries um no I think its your therapist that needs help with boundaries you never even said one word to her until she talked to you now thats being the professional. The other therapist said I probably did need help with boundaries because most people that have been abused especially in there own family do need help with them because they have never been clear cut. I just am confussed as to who to see. I wish this could be easy. I have type 1 diabetes and so the diabetes center told me a way to help base it may be to ask both of them if they have experience with diabetics and the one that does choose her but that to me just seems complicated. Any ideas from you guys on a way to help make the decision?

    Please let me know.


  • Tracy

    February 27th, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    Hi Angela

    Good for you in going to the Licensing board! Just remember it can take quite awhile, especially if the therapist does not fully cooperate…meaning they can stall and get extentions of time to get their info in. If you don’t feel the Board fully investigates the case do not be afraid to file an appeal, after getting a copy of the whole case through an FOIA request ( you have to write a letter the Board or State Dept.of Public Health depending how it works in yor state) In my case the appeal is taking longer than the original case, but I submitted much more info the second time around.
    As far as choosing another therapist, I would interview one more before making your decision if it is within your means to do so. That way it’s not an either or decision. In choosing the third I would find someone who has a sound medically based background…perhaps an APRN? if it’s difficult to choose between the two it might be that neither of them is a “good fit” for you…do not accept less than you deserve!

    Good luck and congratulations on moving forward!

  • Jalaina

    February 27th, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Other than being aware that diabetes may cause you cognitive (thinking) problems when your blood sugar is either too high or too low; I don’t see why your therapist needs to be knowledgeable about diabetes. Just let them know you are diabetic, and that stress may affect your blood sugar. Give her/him a list of what high blood sugar and low blood sugar may appear as, if you develop it; with directions of what to do and who to call, if this happens.

    If you want someone that can deal with your diabetes, you will need a “medical” person. You appear to be wanting someone to help you with your feelings, thoughts, life; NOT your medications or side effects of the medications.

    A psychiatrist MD.(medical doctor- first before they studied for his/her specialty in psychiatry)will have medical knowledge; but many of them feel uncomfortable dealing with the medical aspects of patient’s problems because they don’t generally focus on them. They are strong in handing out medications for emotional problems, and usually not as strong in having techniques or abilities to interact with patients about their emotional sides.

    A psychologist, doctorate of philosophy, training is largely made up of studying psychology, and learning techniques to apply their knowledge in that arena. They should have had a good deal of supervised practice in giving therapy, as well as having spent some time on the “couch” themselves to work on any issues they have themselves. I have found the BEST therapists in all areas, tend to have continuing therapy to help them deal with issues that arise in counseling others as well in helping themselves become self-actualized. Ask if they continue to have counseling themselves, or someone they call when they need help to deal with their issues. (just because they go to someone, does not make this someone better for you…they picked them for THEIR needs, just like you are doing.)

    An APRN is an advanced practice registered nurse, or nurse practitioner. There are different specialties in advanced practice just like in medicine and psychology and just any will not do. You would need one that is certified in mental health if you hoped for any type of skilled counseling therapy from her. She would be a nurse first, and should have a basic understanding of diabetes. I do not believe that APRNs receive much training in using therapies on patients while in school, they may attend classes on their own, and then you would probably see a number of other letters, or certifications listed after their names.

    (Please realize, that even if a medical person was trained in a subject, how often they use that knowledge directly impacts whether they remember it correctly or well. Like foreign language someone might have taken years earlier, if they don’t use it, they probably have lost a lot of information they needed to use it correctly.)

    Even a registered nurse is allowed to do counseling, that does not mean she/he knows what they are doing, or will do it well…it ALL depends on the person, THE INDIVIDUAL.

    Social workers at the Masters level, I believe are allowed to do counseling…same problem as a nurse, though they may have received more training in actually counseling and have some guided experience in doing it. ALL depends on the person.

    There are MANY specialties in psychologists, and councellors.
    I STRONGLY suggest that you take a look at the different types of specialties and pick the one that fits you best. There are therapists that specialize in PTST (post traumatic stress disorder), bi-polar disorder, borderline personalities, sexual abuse, family, marriage, children, adolescents, eating disorders and so on. (I’d find out what your therapists thought your main problem was) Find out what training and certification they have in those areas if they say these are their specialties. I can say little green martians are my specialty, and they may be, but without some sort of proof that I have studied and know what I am talking about, what good is it?

    Beyond the type of person you get to help you, do a internet search on their name. See what they may have published, and read it if you can find it. Do they have any professional memberships? Perhaps they have a site where you can read their writings and see if what they are saying seems like it would jive with what you are needing.

    Look at the schools they went to. All schools are not created equal. Look at ALL the schools they attended: undergraduate (up to a Bachelors in Science or Arts) graduate (Masters, and Doctorate levels) and then any postgraduate training they have had (to become specialized in their area, such as a MD going from general to a specialty.) Certain schools are VERY important and produce the best doctors. Take a look in publications, often on-line, of World News and Reports, or plug in “list of best universities they will often give you an idea of which universities are best at what.

    Call the licensing board, to see if they have any complaints against them. Get the “right” board on the phone and ask for suggestions in how to try to find the best doctor. Look up the license number on the internet. Often the boards will publish information on each licensee and you may find it with their name or license number.

    Look on the internet for “best doctors”. There are a number of sites that want to tell you( for a small fee, or sometimes free trial membership) information about the doctors you are considering.

    Ask your doctors, nurses if they know of anyone good, and why.

    Finding the “perfect” pick is going to be as hard as finding the perfect man/woman to marry. First know the basics of what you would like from them, and shop around. I know that may be difficult, but you would not expect the first person you dated to be “the one.” How much less chance are you going to find the “right” person to help you fix yourself the first time. Discouraging, frustrating, frightening, annoying…to have to do all this? YES!

    good luck

  • Sue

    March 9th, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    In my experience, clients should tread carefully when terminating a relationship with a narcissistic therapist. After I foolishly tried to have an honest discussion with my scornful psychologist, he did everything in his power first to keep me under this control and then to diminish me as I struggled to defy him. Twenty-five years later, I still discover aspects of this experience I need to process.

    Paradoxically, the syrupy therapist I saw after Dr. Disdain was equally destructive. She was infantilizing, feeding a dynamic that she was the magic answer lady, and I was the helpless child basking in her munificence. And in effort to be her “good patient,” I fell into a pattern of self-pity and victimhood that’s taking me years to reverse.

    In retrospect, the first business of a good therapist is to disown any claims of omniscience and establish the patient ultimately is his own savior. Even when “guarantees” are not stated, they easily can be implied. Both therapists happily took my money and let me hold my delusions of rescue.

    By the way, a Cleveland Plain Dealer piece several years ago exposed that state licensing boards rule wrong-doing in a shockingly small percentage of cases.

  • Chelsea

    February 14th, 2020 at 5:46 PM

    One of the many things this site accomplishes is to expand our notion of what constitutes bad therapy. We’re discovering the magnitude of the problem. It’s not just the traditional depictions of bad therapists as seen on tv, for example. It’s that so many problems plague the therapeutic community as a whole. Doesn’t have to be the frumpy goofball of a psychiatrist in a questionable facility. It could be a seemingly affable LCSW operating in a seemingly decent venue. One LCSW on another site admitted this: one doesn’t have to look too far to find incompetence in mental health (paraphrase).

  • Confused

    March 13th, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    My session with my therapist yesterday was so strange,I told her I was tired and sleepy.She suggest I go to sleep in her office and this question really shock me,she ask me what time do I go to bed I told her I go to bed around 10:00pm,but I fall to sleep around 11:30pm.She ask me what do I do between 10pm to 11:30pm.This is my fifth session with my therapist,but last session she went all out asking about my personal life,do she supposed to ask patients those kind of questions.

  • Lindsay

    December 12th, 2018 at 5:01 AM

    I am a therapist and I frequently ask people how much sleep that they get, what time that they go to sleep, etc. Many people do not realize the impact that self-care, specifically sleep, can have on my mood and every day life functioning. Therefore, I often provide education around sleep hygiene and ways to improve this. I think it is completely appropriate to ask about sleep habits

  • HalfPrice

    March 13th, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    you could come sleep in my house and I’d only charge half. But no, I think this is very inappropriate. They do ask personal questions and I’m not sure where the line should be drawn….mine asked me when I had sex last.

  • Chelsea

    January 16th, 2017 at 5:55 PM

    I believe there is too much attention given to one’s sex life in therapy, which can be a sign that the practitioner has issues in this area. It may be a carryover from the days of the sexual revolution.
    One therapist, who I was just getting acquainted with, asked me if I was going to Florida for spring break (I was in college at the time) and having sex with a lot of men.
    Another (a neuropsychologist) asked me if I was sexually active and when my last sexual experience was. Though his questions were part of an intake questionnaire, I was only being tested for ADHD, so I didn’t feel they were necessary.
    If your condition or presenting issues can affect sexual interest and performance, then fine. Otherwise, I would advocate keeping the subject out of the session.

  • Confused

    March 13th, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    If my T ask me about when I had sex,I will ask her to see that question. She’s a pretty woman,but i wouldn’t anythig to happen. She seem like the controling type.I try not to do the eye contact thing.

  • Diana

    March 15th, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    Another red flag to look out for, is a therapist who is away several times a year. You may want to ask how much time they take off throughout the year. My therapist loves to travel and he is often gone. Mant times at 2 to 3 weeks at a time. His time away from the office leaves me feeling extremely insecure, at best.

  • chelle

    March 20th, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    Well i went to a therapist the other day and the one i went to see didn’t seem interested in what i had to say, she kept throwing in her personal experience and said i was fine and don’t need to see one. she also turned around and said that she doesn’t know what we would talk about in therapy and doesn’t seem to understand i had alot of bad things happen to me and when i told her things she kept interupting and seemed to be a bit unsure of what she was meant to be doing over all i wasn’t impressed now i have to look for a new therapist as she wasn’t right for me. she also done about 14 of these poor parctice methods so i won’t be recommending that service to anyone thanks for the info

  • Bambi

    March 20th, 2010 at 1:58 PM

    My T is terrible, she argues all the time with me, while I was talking to her on the phone and asked her for an appointment…she said “what you want me to cancell all my appointments and just talk to you on the phone? I said…No, and I did not ask you to do that. I think she hates my guts, she talks down to me all the time..she asked me to please not act like I know everything…I’m only telling her how I feel and what I know about me. Im taking a break

  • Bambi

    March 20th, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    Oh, and another thing….Plese don’t tell a new T about the old T. They will use it against you big time. They will treat you the same as the other one did..after all who are they going to believe?? or please don’t ask your old T. for a summery to give to your new T. I read mine and it was full of lies…they try to make it look like they did there Job that you paid for ,,,,,right it’s a scam.

  • Barry

    March 20th, 2010 at 8:00 PM

    Psychotherapy is a process that has both benefits and risks. It often involves discussing unpleasant aspects of your life. As a result you may experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, and helplessness. However, psychotherapy has been proven to benefit the vast majority of people who go through it. We are dedicated to helping you grow, change, and solve problems. Therapy is not an easy process and there are no guarantees, but most people find that the effort they put into therapy is worth it in terms of building happier, more fulfilled lives.

  • Bambi

    March 21st, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    Therapy is not easy Berry, but when you get a bad one that keeps you a victim, argues all the time, and hates you~ then we have a problem. I understand the process, however it’s very sad that the ego’s get in the way…they know better than you on how you should feel ect. I hate it and I will never trust another one again. They really can reuin your life, and take a lot of your soul and money.

  • Susan

    March 21st, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    exactly, Bambi! It’s one thing to suffer abuse at the hands of family members, but then to go to what you think is a professional who has a huge ego and selfish personal issues, is devastating. Mine used a hypnotic technique on me, allowing me to remain dissociated (blacked out) for over an hour. For her own selfish purpose. She thought she was God and could fix it all. But she did so many things wrong besides that….once calling to cancel an appt and crying on the phone cause she had lost her mother. The woman is in her 60’s and that was unprofessional. She was using my caring feelings for her by doing that. I couldn’t see her for 3 weeks because I felt her loss and felt I couldn’t share my pain when she was in her own. I have severe ptsd and this woman made it worse. And to top it off, the office of licensing and regulation here in maine is a sorry organization for disciplining those that really should be disciplined. There are no legitimate recourses for poor therapy and they are allowed to run amuk! Affecting and damaging lives while they collect money and go on with what they are doing.

  • Sue

    March 21st, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    My perspective is receiving harmful psychotherapy 25 years ago. Initially I did think therapy helped me. My syrupy psychotherapist placated me and gave me an outlet for my bad feelings. I could wear the badge of the poor victim. No wonder I felt lousy.

    Now I understand being the poorest-victim doesn’t help me cope with life. Nor does returning-to-mommy when I was in my 30s, and being allowed, or led, to over-idealize my therapist as the magic lady who would alleviate my pain and solve my problems.

    I think psychotherapy over-sells itself. A therapist at best can only provide tools to recognize self-sabotage or false constructs. (Unfortunately, the first false construct is often the therapy itself.)

    The pain of harmful therapy vs. the pain of growth is distinguishable. The former centers on the therapy relationship: a feeling of being disrespected, poorly heard, preempted, controlled, domineered, discounted or disregarded. Or the therapist feels all powerful, the client weak and dependent. I read that in many of these posts.

    A healthy discomfort centers on the client’s understanding of her life external to the therapy room.

    I trust anyone who took the trouble to find this page and post is correct to question to quality of therapy. Therapists are merely people who have had a few years of schooling. They aren’t necessarily more self-aware than anyone else. They can be bullies, they can be manipulative, they can be over-needy. They can feed their client’s illusions that they are omnipotent and magical.

    I hope someone who feels pain with a therapist can trust her own judgment and find something else authentically helpful.

  • Barry

    March 21st, 2010 at 1:40 PM

    The ONLY person the KEEPS you a “victim” Bambi is you and your unwillingness to move forward.

    For instance:
    If you are mad at someone for a week or two after their betrayal, lying, cheating, or whatever. That is normal…

    But…..If you are still angry at that person and blaming that person for all your problems in life, a year / two / three later… Bambi that is your fault.
    No-one else’s. You have chosen to remain where you are for whatever reasons. These are exactly the things that should be discussed in therapy.

    Therapists are not there to be your purchased friend. You have a professional relationship with them. They are there to assist you. NOT fix everything and make everything better for you. The degree that this gets done is strictly up to you and how hard you want to work on YOUR issues, not the therapists.

    When you say “they can ruin your life” – they can only do that if you allow that Bambi. You are in control of how your life proceeds and whether or not you are happy.

    Bambi, if you are that unhappy with your therapist simply move on. Every doctor is not the best doctor in the world or the right one for you. But, because you ran into one that you don’t like or agree with why would you punish yourself by stopping your growth & therapy.

  • Sue

    March 21st, 2010 at 8:34 PM

    “Bambi that is your fault.” Ouch. I can think of many kinder ways to say that.

    Untangling bad therapy can complicated. If we see the therapist as our one safety net, then cutting that loose feels dangerous. Like the woman summoning the courage to leave an abusive spouse.

    Like Bambi, I carried hurt from therapists–for years. The therapist’s bullying was like an accident I continually relived. For years I continued to peel away the complicated layers of the experience.

    Psychotherapy has taken the image as a panacea today. Getting a divorce? Lose a job? Suffer a trauma? Go the therapist. We have godlike expectations of therapy because that’s the image we understand. My two therapists, the syrupy earth mother and the bully, did nothing to dissuade me they were going to solve all my problems. I started a dependent puppy dog at their feet and that never evolved. When the bully threatened with the dire consequences if I left his care, I empathized with him rather than own my feelings. I wanted to be a good client so I could get well.

    After some psychotherapy years later I left again and since got much better results with body therapies. There are many ways to heal.

    If someone is stuck in a damaging therapy I’d tell her to trust her own feelings and compass. The client pays the bill– it’s only for the client. If it hurts, leave it and consider it a giant step toward taking charge of ones own life. That taking charge is what healing is about.

    I understand Bambi’s anxiety. I was terrified to leave my bully therapist. I obsessed and hurt for years. Ultimately I’m glad I did.

  • Sue

    March 23rd, 2010 at 2:51 PM

    “The ONLY person the KEEPS you a “victim” is you and your unwillingness to move forward…that is your fault…You have chosen to remain where you are for whatever reasons.”

    Though I understand this message, I would feel belittled by its tone and would receive it iatrogenically.

    I sense in this communication an absence of insight into the subordinate construct. In 40 years since leaving the family of origin, I worked diligently to dismantle my submissive responses, continually finding how intractable they are.

    Delivery is as important as the message. When the subtext was scolding, disdainful, superior or infantilizing, it reinforced my disempowerment.

    I never “chose” to remain paralyzed but found hierarchical hard-wiring is a stubborn critter to unplug.

    In essence: Easy to see the next guy’s mistakes. Less easy to help him.

  • Susan

    March 23rd, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    wow….I had to use a dictionary for your message, Sue :). “iatrogenically”? Well, I think you were trying to be comforting but with too much smarts :). Barry, it’s obvious that you ARE a THERAPIST or you wouldn’t have said what you said in the WAY that you said it. How crude and cruel. Intense therapy is complicated at best and leaving a therapist is not always easy….not too mention the brainwashing that occurs with some therapists. In my case, I stayed only because my therapist held the key (after hypnotically blacking me out w/o my permission) – she knew what had happened and I stayed to get that answer. When, finally, I saw it wasn’t coming from her, and she continually lied….I gathered my wits about me, but it took every ounce of strength to not be the victim AGAIN, as I had been with my mother. Funny, the therapist has convinced herself that I need to maintain ties to her (what an ego), because I emailed her a few times requesting the information she has. Fortunately, I am now in a healthier and better relationship with a newer therapist, but not without having seen 7 more before her. Barry if that is the way you talk to people, you should see someone about that!

  • Barry

    March 23rd, 2010 at 6:32 PM

    Ditto to the following:
    In essence: Easy to see the next guy’s mistakes. Less easy to help him.

    Thank you for YOUR interpretation.

  • Barry

    March 24th, 2010 at 5:09 AM

    Yes its terrible that I don’t agree!
    terrible, terrible terrible…

    Stay stuck if you like, happiness is your to have when you want it, your in control.

  • Sue

    March 24th, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    Susan–I cheer your forthrightness and agree wholeheartedly. I wasn’t trying to trying to show off a vocabulary. I was stating a gut reaction… clinically. (Though after what I’ve been through, iatrogenic is a good word to know.)

    “Yes its terrible that I don’t agree!
    terrible, terrible terrible…”
    I would receive this iatrongenically as well. I concur with Sue’s assessment of the efficacy of your ministrations and recommend further exploration of unresolved power conflicts.

  • Lifesnadir

    March 24th, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    Barry wrote: “Stay stuck if you like, happiness is your to have when you want it, your in control.”

    I think every therapy abuse victim would say the one thing bad therapists stole was the ability to be in control.

    Unfortunately, “new agey” quips won’t and don’t solve the problem, Barry. Neither does cognitive therapy type “quick fixes” like “You can choose to be unstuck.”

    Triggers to the bad therapy experience re-trigger thousands of therapy abuse victims. For example, my ex-T took me to a quiet farm to do rage-reduction therapy (clue 1 for bad therapy). As I tried to stand up from the blanket, he grabbed my ankle and pulled me down, and pushed me face down onto the blanket where we had just before been sitting to do ‘therapy’. He shoved his hand onto my back, pressing me into the ground/blanket and reached his hand beneath me to my crotch. I fought but couldn’t get away from him. Fast forward to 23 years after that event…. I was sleeping and rolled into my belly in my sleep. As I woke up, I ‘flashed’ to the images, sights, smells, feelings and the utter powerlessness I felt that day. It took me hours to shove “him” out of my head (AGAIN).

    TV commercials trigger… I knew no one but that therapist; I’d just moved to a new town. A lot of his abuse, ending with the rape, occurred before Easter. Now, even 23 yrs later, TV commercials for Easter season trigger ‘thoughts of him’. I hate it. I’ve tried everything.

    No, happiness is not simply thinking one is happy and thereby becoming happy. I know how Ts take control and power away and my T still intrudes in my world now, 23 yrs later. It is not as simple as Barry would like to believe. Barry has obviously never had his rights trampled or his body and mind violated by sadistic, egotistic, and power-hungry bad therapists.

    No, Barry, I don’t believe life is “terrible, terrible, terrible” BUT what some Ts do to clients IS very terrible!!
    Blaming an ex-client for still hurting from what a T did or said IS blaming the ex-client. I know *I* never in a million years thought MY ex-t would RAPE me!!!

    But he did.

    And I’ve spent a long time healing from what he did to me. I take responsibility for healing from what he did, but that doesn’t erase or remove the fact that he raped me.

    Blame the victim??? NO.

    Blame the bad therapists for what they did? YES.

  • Sue

    March 24th, 2010 at 10:30 AM

    I have little confidence generally in psychotherapists to have rudimentary insight into client-therapist boundary issues. Whenever the subject arises, so many of them become frightened and protective as witnessed by the example above. Literature and discussion are scarce. That therapists do damage appears to me taboo to discuss.

  • Bambi

    March 24th, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    Thank you guys for the help…I think Berry is my Therapist sounds just like her…! reading “his” posts I realize I need to get a new T. “his” response are hurtful, I wonder why he is so angry and bitter,maybe in the wrong field of work. Blaming the victim is a cop out for not doing your Job right in the first place.

  • Susan

    March 24th, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    Lifesnadir, I am so so sorry for what happened to you. Sometimes you can’t trust those around you, but when you see a professional, you already have a level of trust established just because they are who they are. What happened to you was so wrong & I understand completely how you continue to suffer from it. I hate sex offenders so much, priests included, that I would like to see some ethnic cleansing – shoot them on the spot. I am a female sexually abused by my mother – I have suffered for 50 years and it is not from my lack of trying to get better. When you have ptsd (which I think you do) and pain that comes from the core of your soul, it is not a matter of “be happy, get over it”. Those people are just plain ignorant. I wish good things for you only.

  • michelle T.

    March 24th, 2010 at 4:18 PM

    Listening to these posts reminds me that we all become triggered by others. I had the experience of having core issues triggered in therapy, and it has taken a long time to unpack it to the point where I can let go more and more of the shame of quitting with the therapist. I found a therapist who is trained in Hakomi, and it has been life affirming. I can begin to look at my coping mechanisms without so much shame and guilt. I would highly recommend a therapist with this training, it is refreshing not to be on the blaming me, or blaming someone else pendulum. I am able to stand back and say, “Yes, I quit this therapist, yes, this happened to me, yes, I can feel the vulnerability and pain in this situation, AND, I don’t have to wear a scarlet letter on my chest for it anymore.” Don’t give up.

  • Sue

    March 30th, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Any therapist who scolds us, patronizes us, who leads us into feeling beholden to him is not being a healer. If he leaves us feeling shamed, stupid, dependent or inferior…that he is more powerful, magical, wise or holds answers to OUR lives…is not healing. Anyone who leads us into self-pity…is not healing. So is self-reflection to the extreme of not functioning.

    I thought one therapist was helping me (or making me) feel better. Now I see I was follower to her guru. I feel scammed in a way.

  • katheen

    April 10th, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    My son is transgender. I found out a few months ago. I had been seeing a therapist on another matter and i went to her to talk about it and the first thing out of her mouth was”DID YOU SEXUALLY ABUSE HIM? Should i have walked out? I just said no and we went on from there.

  • Susan

    April 10th, 2010 at 6:49 PM

    hell, yes, you should have walked out. But I don’t think many of us would…..however, I would look for another therapist asap!. Shame on that therapist for saying that….if she had those kinds of concerns, she should have approached it in a different way, not just blurted it out. Transgenders or gay people may or may not have been abused. I was sexually abused by my mother, but I am strictly heterosexual. It means nothing, imo. good luck.

  • Virginia Kelley

    April 10th, 2010 at 9:26 PM

    That therapist is not competent. There is so much wrong with her response.

    For one thing, it is very ignorant for a therapist to start looking for an explanation at all of someone’s sexual preferences or gender orientation. No one educated believes that these things have causes in the person’s past, or that they are things that need to be explained and fixed.

    For another, it is also ignorant and incompetent for a therapist to have some proposition in his/her mind that various things were “caused” by sexual abuse. Don’t stay with anyone who either asks if you abused other people OR tells you you were abused and don’t remember it.

    For another, and this would come first, really, this person entirely failed you, her patient, when she did not focus entirely on your thoughts and feelings about what you were talking about.

    Sorry this is going this way if you are attached to that person. If you don’t live in a place where there is a community you can find that is intelligent about these topics, I think you are better off finding an online forum for the parents of transgender kids than talking to someone who’ll impose some made-up “theory” on you to put herself at ease.

  • S. Lynnn

    April 10th, 2010 at 9:44 PM

    I went to my appt. on Monday, I have not been feeling really good about my visits for a while…Man, this women is a cold hearted, non-feeling, piece of work. I’m still in shock of what she said to me in my session..she balmed me for getting abused, she did not listen to a word I said to her. I poured my heart out and she said….I have to leave and go home now…OMG are you kidding me??? when I was leaving she said, do you want to come back next week? I left sick, ashamed, bruised, very about getting abused..I came up with the only thing I could think of and I think she just hates me and wants me to quit, I can’t think of why she would have it in for me..She does things to me on purpouse, when I call her in a complete distress or e-mail her she does not call me back or she calls my work and when I miss the call and call her back, 2 minutes later after waiting for 3 day’s she let’s it go to voice mail when I know she has to be there…then she tell’s me…I called you back and I did try…Why are you up-set??? she is a sick lady with some huge problems!!!! I’m not paying her for that session last week..she can sue me for the money…I never seen a women DR. behave in such a manner talk about getting abused again

  • Tracy

    April 11th, 2010 at 7:04 AM

    Kathleen and S. Lynnn

    Please consider that these therapists are giving you a “gift”, the gift of learning to know that your intuition is screaming at you to get away and not hang around in a situation that does not serve your highest good.
    If you were “abused” as a child you may have the habit( at least at some level) of thinking that situations like those you mentioned are “normal”. Both of those therapists seem to use the technique of “blame the victim” which is rarely effective when used by an incompetant( perhaps sadistic) therapist. There is truth in it, when used appropraitely, in seeing that you keep yourself a victim by attracting the same scenarios (including finding and staying with abusive therapists)to heal the original abuse issues. ( I did it too!)
    I’d suggest finding a new therapist with clear boundaries
    who has done their personal work,(this may be easier said than accomplished) who can be there empathetically and compassionately for you, but holds you responsible for your actions( or inactions) that keep you stuck. This is NOT saying you are responsible for being abused, but you are responsible staying stuck in abusive situations,that as an adult, you do have a choice to leave…staying with an incompetant and negelctful therapist would fit that category.

  • Chelsea

    January 16th, 2017 at 6:29 PM

    The so-called laws of attraction as they relate to bad therapists are, in my opinion, a doctrine employed by the New Age movement that unfairly projects blame onto clients. Finding a bad therapist is not necessarily the result of the laws of attraction. Referrals can be obtained from any of a number of means: the yellow pages, medical offices, word of mouth, etc. Are those in need of therapy somehow supposed to intuit from an entry in the phone book that the therapist they are about to see is no good? What spiritual poppycock. On the other hand, if a client has misgivings about a therapist, but continues to see them, that’s a little different. However, keep in mind that the client may be suffering from depression, low self-esteem or other issues, and may have difficulty finding the resolve they need to sever ties. If the relationship is abusive, the client’s ability to extricate themselves from the situation may be hindered or delayed.

  • Sue

    April 11th, 2010 at 9:22 AM

    I’d urge anyone who has found a way to this page, whose therapy mainly generates self-doubts, dependency and bad feelings, to leave the therapist. If discussing conflicts will only upset the doctor’s fragile ego, leave without discussion. It can be painful, but there is healing in getting away from these frauds. Therapy is supposed to be helping us.

  • Tracy

    April 12th, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    Inspired by this topic in my personal life and in the conversation here I have posted a page on facebook called “walk way from bad therapy” Please feel free to visit or join.
    The page is for those who have experienced harmful,neglectful and perhaps even abusive treatment while in the “care” of a mental health professional. It is intended to be supportive in nature for those who need to walk away from bad therapy.

  • Sue

    April 12th, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    Thanks Tracy, I just joined you there. Though I’ve “walked away” some time ago, I still have layers of the experience I continue to explore. Several years ago the “Therapy Exploitation Link Line” put me in touch with a couple of women with whom I corresponded. I found that was helpful.

  • chelle

    April 26th, 2010 at 10:47 PM

    I have recently been sent to counseling, but my therapist wasn’t very good at dealing with my issues. She told me I need to make better friends and join lots of groups, the problem there is I suffer from anxiety and confidence and self esteem issues, she then told me to just go on medication and I really don’t need the help of a counselor, I feel so ashamed after the way she treated me, she never even took my issues seriously and kind of laughed when I disclosed very important issues to her, she even told me there is no way my child hood issues would still affect me today but they still do. She always turned up late for sessions and never gave me the full time I was told I would get. I’m even scared to find another therapist in case the same thing happens again. Maybe she was bored of listening to me because she couldn’t even remember things I had told her which meant telling her the same thing in every session.

  • Sue

    April 26th, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    In my experience, it’s important healing to walk away from therapist who made me feel bad. There’s a choice of what follows, whether going to someone else, taking a break, or getting confidence from another modality including exercise yoga, etc.

  • kate

    May 8th, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    I see a psychiatrist and have for 10 years, i just counted them up now. I actually see her for med checks. I have seen a therapist for about the same time. that was for childhood abuse. she wasn’t in the same practice and about 3 years at my psychiatrist suggestion. I see her for Dialectic behavior therapy. I really like her and she helps a lot. but she helps me with anxiety issues. Now I go to my psychiatrist who read the therapist notes and decide that since now I’m having problems with my husband I should see a Licensed drug and alchohol counselor in the practice for a few times. So I did and it really did help with understanding my husbands drinking.So I have am not sure if i should drop my therapist that helps with childhood abuse and concentrate on my current issues of continue seeing them both. While still contemplating this and not being one for change I go to my psychiatrist who did not really say much about it although she did comment “You know I have been seeing you for a while” so I am totally confused, was that a clue that she is going to dump me now that i am on disability? Now I question all my therapies.? what do I do?

  • Dolores

    May 12th, 2010 at 4:45 PM

    I saw a therapist for 4 years, the first year was ok. after that I was going through chemo and radiation. During that time my therapist told me about her divorce and asked me to do absurd things for her, which at the time I did. I also helped her further her career. One day without warning I walked in and was told she couldn’t be my therapist anymore. She claimed I new too much about her life, she was the one that told me everything. I reported her to the Bd. of Misconduct, after 8 months my case is still pending. I had more then enough proof as to what she did. It amazes me how they can let a person like this to continue practicing.

  • Susan

    May 12th, 2010 at 5:21 PM

    welcome to the club! These regulatory groups, such as the Maine OLR are a joke. They neither investigate nor truly look at the damage done by the therapist. All you have to do is read the SW’s code of ethics and realize just how many therapists have violated it. All my therapist had to do was tell lies and she was believed…she is the professional and I am a piece of shit. She used a hypnotic technique on me allowing me to dissociate for over an hour and the Maine OLR did nothing (tho I had as much proof as was possible) – not even investigate or talk to her peer group and her supervisor (a famous psychiatrist, btw) – all of who KNEW what she did. You know who they did discipline?! A therapist who kindly watched a client’s cat while he was in the hospital. Say what?!!! I lost my job, am on ssdi and am in excrutiating physical pain everyday because of what this therapist did. I hope she is having a hard time living with what she did.

  • Tracy

    May 12th, 2010 at 5:26 PM

    Hi Delores
    If it helps at all…my case is ongoing now for 18 months!
    Congratualtions on having the courage to report the actions of this unethical therapist and please keep posting your story wherver you can! Creating awareness in the public eye is paramount in letting folks know that they do not have to tolerate unethical behavior of therapists! Licensing Boards are supposed to be protecting the public and vulnerable clients and it seems far more often they protect the interests of the so called “professional”. Unfortuanately,a therapist will rarely lose their license for less than a criminal act…and even then…some therpists are only suspended or placed on probation!

    So keep fighting the “good fight”…you will be at least satisfied in knowing that you acted in your best interests and helped yourself as much as you could…and perhaps you will be helping others down the line avoid mistreatemnt by an unethical therapist.

  • Susan

    May 12th, 2010 at 7:14 PM

    oh, I’d like to add, too, that it seems to me there are so many bad therapists out there who are using their sessions to benefit themselves. Two examples: the one therapist I was seeing that dissociated me, in the last year of seeing her (4.5 years), she called, crying on the phone, because her mother had passed away. Professionally she should have contained her emotions and said she had a personal emergency and had to cancel our session. I was so upset, I couldn’t see her for 3 weeks. Not to mention, she’s in her 60’s for god’s sake…get over it. She also had a habit of disclosing alot of personal info about her kids, other clients, grandchildren…I knew more about her family it seemed, then I did my own. Another therapist I saw, in just the second session, she, trying to compare her emotional distress to what might be wrong with me, told me of the day she was driving her car, had to stop at the crossing guard….she waved but the crossing guard didn’t wave back. This upset her for several days….then she asked me if I was feeling the same way about life….well, let me tell you, stupid therapist, my mother sexually abused her 8 yr old daughter. Two sessions, and it was abundantly clear to me, the skills and needs of that particular therapist!

  • Sue

    May 12th, 2010 at 9:17 PM

    A journalist told me that only a minuscule percentage of complaints before state boards result in disciplinary actions.

    My own complaint, concerning my psychotherapist who became hostile and insulting when I tried to terminate, not upheld. He account painted me as thriving brilliantly under his masterful care until I tried to initiate termination. Then he portrayed me as a borderline wacko unable to distinguish him from my parents. He talked about the “difficulties of this case.” What about “you’re not helping me; I want to quit” is difficult?

    The grievance board was too obtuse to grasp the inconsistent logic in this account, apparently. In fact my psychotherapist later joined the grievance board himself!

    I challenge therapists who care about ethics to go back and re-read some of those discarded complaints. There’s a lot to be learned by actually listening to clients.

  • Isabella

    May 17th, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    I am in a family counseling type situation with my husband, child and mother-in-law. My MIL has been diagnosed as having severe depression/bi-polar. There are many details which prohibit us from walking away but we have to stay and deal. She is a volatile person. My problem is our therapist is also an elderly woman and has decided to take on my MIL as a patient one on one along with our family visits. We feel she has become very biased with her and they have a rather close relationship now. She coddles her. Everything to constant emails, hugs, e-cards, and sending us condescending emails which include criticizing my husbands feelings. She even breached his confidentiality and told my MIL with in minutes via email what his thoughts were on a particular situation. The therapist wanted to ‘warn’ her so to speak. During my MIL’s manic ‘high’s’ she even tells us were are supposed to trust her and give in when we don’t feel safe even to deal with the horrible out lash of her then, severe lows. Once the therapist even told is via email that she was really hurt and having a hard time with is because she was dealing with the anniversary of her mother’s death. And this is our problem how?? We are so stuck. IS she violating major ethics here??

  • CandyA

    May 17th, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Therapist talks down to you. “See you’re learning.”

    Give me a break doctor.

  • Jose R. Miranda

    May 20th, 2010 at 9:38 AM

    Thank you for making this list of 50 warning signs and red flags. I strongly believe that you should also make an online list of warning signs and red flags of a bad CHILD psychologist. Here is a list of what I feel are red flags and warning signs of a BAD child psychologist. If a child psychologist does any of the following wrong doings, the parents need to seriously consider another therapist for their child.

    1) The psychologist is the parent’s agent and advocate, siding with the parents and always wanting to please the parents, even if the parents are wrong, even if the parents are ignorant, even if the parent’s whims and wishes are inapropriate, unhealthy, and not in the child’s best interest. The psychologist is the parent’s agent, stepping on the child, and violating the child’s rights, including the child’s right to recieve true help, all with the cheap and flimsy excuse that “the parents are the ones who are paying” or “the parents are the ones who made the decision, not the child”.

    2) A good psychologist has as a therapeutic goal the child’s HAPPINESS, and all things that are in the child’s best interest, and for the child’s well-being. A bad psychologist tries to “fix” or “repair” the child, so the child will be “normal” and as the parents want their child to be. A bad psychologist is more concerned with the child being “normal”, more concerned with pleasing the parents, and less concerned about the child’s happiness.

    3) Ignorant, insensitive parents with less than honourable intentions think that a child psychologist is a person who “fixes” or “repairs” a child, so the child will be “normal” and as the parents want the child to be, and have the flawed and mistaken belief that taking the child to the psychologist is just like taking the car to the mechanic. A bad psychologist is the parent’s agent, and promotes this attitude in the parents. This is the belief of bad psychologists and bad parents, but I am an intelligent, educated man, and I know better. A child is not “fixed” or “repaired”. A child is HELPED.

    4) The psychologist is a CHILD psychologist, has a specialty in children, but does not love children, respects adults more than children, seems to forget that children are human beings, and focuses on pleasing the parents, rather than helping the child. If the psychologist does not respect children, then, frankly, the psychologist has no business working with children !

    5) The child psychologist seems to regard a child as an object, a thing, perhaps even as a laboratory animal, rather than as a human being. The child psychologist respects the adults, the parents, more than the child.

    6) The psychologist is an arrogant academic, looks down at children, and performs with children research that is unethical, or research in which the children are hurt or harmed.

    7) The psychologist relies too much on play therapy (therapy with toys). The psychologist thinks that play therapy is the only option with children, and underestimates a child’s capacity to talk about her/his problems verbally. Fact is that a child, even a small child, has the capacity to talk about a problem verbally, with words, and a GOOD psychologist knows this. I believe that venting feelings and talking about a problem is much better than playing checkers. A GOOD psychologist tries to have verbal communication with the child, and takes out some toys only if the attempt to have verbal communication failed. Every good psychologist knows that children are capeable of talking about a problem with words, not just with play. A bad psychologist does not seem to know, or to care.

    8) The child tries to discuss a problem with the psychologist. Once the child finishes talking, the psychologist forgets about the child, and once again listens to the parents. The psychologist listens only to the parents, not the child. This is WRONG, because there is always a component of the information that only the CHILD can give. A psychologist that only listens to the parents is not getting the full picture, and is in a poor position to help the child. A child has the right to be heard, to be believed, and to be taken seriously. A child is a human being.

    9) The psychologist is an insensitive person who does not validate a child’s feelings, including anger. The child expresses anger, and the callous and insensitive psychologist shamelessly says to the child: “You are putting on a show”, or shamelessly tells the parents: “The child is angry. She/he looks so cute”. This is very callous and lowly by part of the psychologist, the psychologist who does this should be ashamed, and should get a life ! A child’s feelings, including anger, are REAL feelings, and these feelings must be RESPECTED and VALIDATED.

    10) The psychologist is respectful and cordial with the parents, and disrespectful or rude to the child.

    I feel that if a child psychologist engages in any of these wrong doings, even once, the parents should discontinue their child’s treatment with this unqualified person, no longer take their child to this unqualified doctor, run away, never to return to this unqualified doctor, and seek a better psychologist for their child, for the good of the child, and of all the family. A bad psychologist can do much more harm than none at all.

    As a child, as a little boy, my parents had me in “therapy” with a bad psychologist. I did not improve. The TRUE reason why I didnt improve was because Dr. D (the psychologist) was a bad psychologist. Unfortunately, my parents, in their ignorance, have always had the mistaken belief that I did not improve because I had no remedy, because I was hopeless, which is not true. I prayfully hope that my parents will stop being so ignorant, that they finally realise that Dr. D is NOT a good psychologist, and that in relation to Dr. D, my parents finally see the light. If only my parents would have had me in therapy with a good, competent, qualified psychologist, I KNOW than then I would have improved.

    Later on, at age 17, and in my final year of high school, I entered my very first TRUE therapy with a psychiatrist, a man. This time it had to be a psychiatrist because I was mentally ill, and needing medications. I told my psychiatrist about my childhood experience with Dr. D, and he agrees with me in that Dr. D is not good. I FINALLY recieved help, for the first time, at the ripe age of 17. I finally recieved TRUE help, LATE.

    Dr. D is a lousy psychologist. Her PhD in psychology is too big for her, and nothing but a bastardised badge. Dr. D, get a life !!

    Jose R. Miranda, from Puerto Rico

  • Annie

    May 25th, 2010 at 10:04 AM

    I successfully sued my former therapist in a court of law. This man was posing as a therapist and was a minister. I sued him and the church he worked for. He was posing as a Jungian Analyst and I had therapy with him for two years. Needless to say, it was a nightmare filled with false memories, sexual innuendos, emotional abuse and lies. I also successfully stopped him at the licensing board in my state, as he was eventually attempting to become a licensed mental health provider. The entire ordeal lasted 4 years, but in the end, he has been stopped. My advice to anyone who is getting therapy is to take your own notes after each session and write down what transpired. Save any voicemails and emails also. These are the things that won my case for me. This is a GREAT list you have provided and I wish that I would have seen this when I first started therapy. I had to learn the hard way.

  • lor

    June 14th, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Hi everyone I got a goodone…today my Thearpist sent me a letter telling me we don’t fit..this is after not answering my calls or e-mail put me in turmoil and crisis after saying….”how many personalties are there? 2-3?” I’m like what??? then going home thinking I’m Sybil totally up-set for a week then she knows I’m up-set and tells me oh it’s no big deal you just dissociated that’s all…a week later after being abandoned by her…right….I will take this to court and get a case going…she can’t do this to people and get away with it.

  • Tracy

    June 14th, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Hi Lor

    It is ok for a therapist to “fire” a client if they know the “fit” is not good, and in the long run you are MUCH better off! ( Sounds like she knew she screwed up with you and had to extricate herself)
    However she should have offered you a referral and her termination procedure is qustionable at best
    Definitely file a Licensing Board Complaint, so that way at least you will get a a file started on her.
    Good Luck!

  • Cynthia

    June 21st, 2010 at 10:45 PM

    Does this sound right? my T. told me in a session how many are there of you 3-2? ( huh?) she left me in pure terror for a week, she did not answer any of my e-mails or calls asking her to help me figure it out, why she should say that, I was scared and felt so abandoned by her, I stayed up late on the internet for a week trying to find out what DID was and what she was talking about, Sybil? really? that is what I paid you for? to make me feel like utter crap..? I just moved my Rest. to a bigger location did it all in 3 weeks…I’m exhausted, then one of my employee got caught smoking pot and hiding he said..”im scared of you that is why i did it” I said good I’m your boss and not your friend, I have a ton of money invested in this and your lucky I did not call the cops…I had a Aha moment, because I said that to my T. I was scared of her. I wrote her and told her about what happened this was her response…She Did not know about the pot thing because that was not the point, it was the scared thing…Dr. ______response ” I dont think that a boss has the right to abuse her staff, it’s a trade off you pay them and they work hard for you, that was not nice of you to do that to him you are wrong how dare you do that. WTH..? I went to see her that day in total confusion, I told her the whole story…the moral was, I was scared to come to Thearpy because of what you would say to me or find out..that was my aha moment..instead she dumped me with a note to read in private, then came the e-mail that I sent her for the year after I told her please don’t I have to much stress…my Dad is dying, I’m opening my business, her leaving me, feeling abandoned..ect…nope she sent it and more!! It’s like she hated me so bad that she wants me to suffer..and of course she sent it when she is gone on vacation…nice…her last email to me? oh I will never leave you, you can get as mad as you want…I will still be here…nice

  • Sue

    June 22nd, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    Cynthia, have no credentials here, but I’ve gone through the bad therapy wars, and this is what I’d tell a friend. A bad therapist is doing a client a favor leaving them. Much better cutting things off than staying in and REALLY messing with someone’s mind. Ethically, she’s obligated to refer you to another therapist, and the fact she didn’t PROVES she doesn’t have her act together.

    As for “Sybil,” no competent therapist would say that. So irresponsible. So unprofessional. (Multiple personality disorder now is discredited anyway.) Every normal person has many sides to a personality.

    You sound like a highly competent person. Running a restaurant, moving to a larger location (in three weeks!), managing employees. You’re in the world doing things, she’s s mess. Maybe that’s HER problem.

  • Lifes

    June 23rd, 2010 at 1:47 AM

    Re: Sue’s post #168 June 22nd, 2010 at 8:53 AM:
    Multiple Personality Disorder or MPD was *NOT* discredited. They revised the criteria and re-named it Dissiciative Identity Disorder. Many people diagnosed in the 1980s still use the label “MPD” since to them it makes more sense personally.

    Many people tried to “discredit” the story of “Sybil” and the real woman the book was about. Maybe that’s where you mistakenly thought MPD /DID was discredit. But the woman known as Sybil did have MPD and her personalities manifested throughout her life.

    Some Ts have an “awkward”–at best–delivery when broaching the subject of MPD. “How many of there are you?” or using MPD to blame the client for doing something they did not do, but “Was it another part of you.” Even someone with MPD/DID would resent that kind of comment(s).

    As always with Ts, ignore what doesn’t fit; run from Ts who try to insist something is true that is not true.


  • Sue

    June 23rd, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    Lifes, thanks for offering that information.

    But happily we agree on the “bigger picture” situation that the poster’s therapist slapped a disturbing label on her.

    Cynthia, from your account, I would flee that therapist because she sounds like an antagonist, not an ally.

    In layperson’s terms, I’d call what she did gaslighting. I’m curious if there’s terminology when a therapist uses categorization as a weapon.

  • DolensVita

    July 27th, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    hey Jose from puerto rico – you received “good help” at the age of 17, “late”. I’m 58 and I have never received good therapy and fortunately my life is coming to an end. you should be grateful for receiving the help at all let alone at the age of 17!!!!!!! \

  • LifeSucks

    August 3rd, 2010 at 9:37 PM

    for ALL therapists: didn’t have the consideration or the balls to say you couldn’t help me; that I was out of your professional reach. You allowed me to leave thinking I was to blame. You didn’t give me any referrals knowing I was in harm’s way. the cherry on top of whatever my mother did.

  • Lois Muir-McClain

    August 5th, 2010 at 5:00 AM

    As a therapist with a profile at GoodTherapy, it is sad to read some of the posts where clients have been treated poorly or even damaged by their therapist. I think one important thing to look for is how open the therapist is to you bringing up your feelings about them. Are you able to be honest? Can you discuss with your therapist what they said at the last session that hurt you? A good therapist will allow for these differences of opinion, and be willing to face his or her own misinterpretation or shortcomings. A good therapist can admit that he occasionally makes mistakes or perhaps is sometimes wrong. This shows his ability to learn and to grow right along with you.

    Of course, sometimes the therapeutic process is a painful one; it requires remembering sad events, grief, and making difficult changes. But a skilled therapist will realize when the change is healthy and when he or she needs to slow things down a bit to allow for some “catch-up” or breathing room. Healthy change takes time, and pushing someone too quickly to change can be detrimental to the process and the therapeutic relationship. Even if you sometimes feel annoyed or even a little angry with your therapist because he has brought up something that “gets to you”, in good therapy, you should still feel that ultimately you can trust the therapist and that he has your best interest in mind.

  • RR

    August 5th, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    In reply to Lois Muir, I wish some therapist took the time to think how you do. I was just Terminiated (hate that word) from my Therapist, the last session and phone call she reminded me that it’s ok and to trust her because she will never leave. Well, the next day an e-mail came with a note that read “I sent you a letter” in the letter it read: I tried my best with the fruits of my education to help you, I can see this is not working and we are not a good fit (done) I’m sicken, I’m sad, I feel abused, I feel depressed, I feel unwanted and ugly, I feel used, I feel so, so hurt. I have tried many times through e-mail to see WHY? and get some kind of answer. Her refferals are not taking new clients, she left me stuck in full blown crisis..I told her what happened to me being sexually abused by my last therapist for a long time. I never wanted to tell because of the shame, she was a woman therapist and would get me to dissiocate and get real little, then act out her “mommy issues” I told her what happened in therapy, as I was telling she just stared at me, then she said are you done? I’m hungry and you have to leave…I got up feeling so ashamed walked with my head down and cried in my car for an hour. I asked her for the process notes she said I can come in and she would read them to me..BUT, she woud only do that if I bring in another therapist I’m working with (Huh?) I don’t have one and she knows that. She won’t give me a correct dianogise I guess I have something…So what kind of therapy do I need if she wont tell me what is wrong..Why is this can you go see someone for a year tell her everything..she leaves you with nothing but numb. There needs to be rules on client dumping and the Psychologist needs to be held responsibe..after all they took an oath, “DO NO HARM” hummm, she needs to put her arm down. She reuined me, they both did.

  • Mark

    April 10th, 2017 at 10:12 AM

    WOW!!!! I’m sorry for your horrible experience. I can see that I’m not the only one who has experienced similar mistreatment. Too bad these “non professionals” can’t be held accountable more easily.

  • Sue

    August 5th, 2010 at 12:35 PM

    It’s comforting to the profession to attribute negative outcomes on client resistance, or that other biggie, transference. Talk to consumers however, you’ll hear all manner of toxic behavior by therapists: anger, eruptions, diagnosis as weaponry, and a carnival of manipulations.

    The rupture here is much deeper, unfortunately, than change-is-painful.

  • LifeSucks

    August 10th, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Lois, you are out of touch with reality. There are so many therapists in private practice who are not held accountable for the treatment (sic) they give. The violations of the ethics rules is rampant. I’ve been abused by several therapists, but the one that did the most damage used a hypnotic technique on me w/o permission or warning, causing me to black out for over an hour, dissociating. This therapist got her jollies from assaulting me. And when she realized she couldn’t help, she got rid of me. I am in the most pain ever and cannot wait to die. Assaulted by my mother sexually when I was 8, but can’t remember, only have pain. The therapist found out from the session what happened. She stole (raped) my most intense, private and personal pain from me. And sent me on my way w/no referrals. After I was able to clear my head some, I realized what happened and even got confirmation of the technique used, but the OLR did nothing, not even investigate. The therapist had me arrested for sending emails. I lost my job, am on ssdi. But she can walk into a court and afford lawyer fees, just to say she is afraid for her safety. Give me a break, I never leave the house. But I have no rights, my letter to the court was ignored: be present or have a lawyer!!! This woman should be arrested for what she did to me. I will suffer the rest of my life for what she and my mother have done. And I have no control or no way to get help – and believe me I have tried. She did exactly to me, what ‘supposedly’ my mom did when I was 8. Thank God, I am 58, smoke like a chimney, sit on my ass….just a matter of time and I will be able to leave this f’in stupid selfish world. It’s all about other people and their needs, never mine. That therapist will one day have to be accountable to God for what she did & she and I can rot in hell together. AH! If I was her, there is no way I could live with myself after doing what she did and then not making sure she set me up with someone who had the info she stole and the training to help me. If I didn’t think suicide was wrong, I wouldn’t be here now. A therapist w/o a consience is a therapist who does not truly care. The lies…..unbelievable!

  • R. Renee

    August 10th, 2010 at 2:01 PM

    to life Sucks:
    I went through the same thing as you with my T. she would make me “go away” and then assult me. When I moved away from her she terminiated me. It took 1 year and I went back to therapy this lady hated me and I really think she did not beleive me, she was condinsending and mean, she terminated me too because I would take everything personal. I have to tell you something, I fought a fight not to go see anyone again, never I give up, I want to die ect. then I got the courage to fight againest her abuse with a private attorney pro bono, they are out there. I also found a loving “healing” therapist that I just started going too, all she had to say to me was ” I don’t want you to suffer from the pain she caused you, let me help you, give it to me” I felt a warmth come over me and I knew she was there for me and I could tell her and I was safe. Dont let this ugly monster win…Fight…and if that get’s you know where find someone to help you fight…you deserve a great life free of abuse and hurt..give your 8 year old a chance to live a happy life…she has been hurt enough…give your adult you life, your here for a reason make it happen.


  • LifeSucks

    August 10th, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    NO! I appreciate your empathy and story, Renee. But, NO! First, I filed a complaint with the Maine OLR – they didn’t investigate and I bothered them so much, they threatened me with calling the police! I wrote the NASW…nothing; I wrote the ASCH – it was my fault. I have been yelled at by the police; the courts won’t listen. I have written several lawyers…no one will take the case, because they say it is too expensive and hard to prove; it would have to be pro bono; they also say there is a 3 yrs expiration (6 yrs for kids). I don’t know what the hell my purpose is here on this f’in earth, but I have tried it all. It is too late. Twice I have been put into a situation of having no control or help whatsoever. I feel like God doesn’t love me, but he sure is watching out for those around me. I have been in a cloud (for protection) for 40 years; that therapist stripped away the cloud, which now sits above me & I am in pain every f’in day. It hasn’t escaped me that I have a 33 yr marriage; a husband who has made me feel safe – why I married him, not for love…that wasn’t in the cards. I have 3 sons who survived me as a mother and now have 3 grandsons. I have been to more than my share of T’s after the bitch that assaulted me. Having cancer at least would mean, people all around working to help me and people that care. There ARE NO THERAPISTS out there that can deal with Mother/Daughter sexual abuse. Here’s to my not waking up another day in this hell hole.

  • LifeSucks

    August 10th, 2010 at 3:40 PM

    oh, btw, here in Maine, therapists are like the mafia. They stick together like a clan. Trying to see a therapist to HEAL from the abuse of a therapist… – they defend the therapist’s actions or they don’t believe me. Period! It has been 9 years since that therapist assaulted me and I am in just as much pain as the day she did it. And I’ll tell you what, that therapist offered to bring in Dr Claire Frederick (famous, look her up – she has a nice shrine for a website). But the T’s peer group convinced her she could go it alone. Dr Frederick should be ashamed for allowing this to continue when SHE knows the truth.

  • Sue

    August 10th, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    To Life Sucks: You CAN get through this. To me, it takes the realization that the guru is a fraud. I fire my former therapists as authorities and reframe them as the self-deluding desperate-to-keep business bozos they are.

    They made promises they could never deliver. They’re snake oil salesman. I was conned at the carnival. No lover, and certainly no therapist I PAID TO HELP ME now is deserves my self-sacrifice.

  • R. Renee

    August 10th, 2010 at 9:18 PM

    To Life Sucks..I know how sad you are because it happened to me too. Not only was I abused when I was a kid I was also raped at 4. Then trusted a therapist to help me, I trusted her for 10 years….she did her mommy issues on me and tried to re-parent me. She made me beleive that she was the hero that saved me from the bad men…Well, not only that she then terminated me on the phone…then 1 year later the Psychologist does it to me knowing I went to her for the anger issues and the thearpy abuse…she did it with a letter,,,the day after I told her my story. So, the moral here is this…God loves you, he saw what happened to you and Me, he knows, he cares, he will take care of it in his time. Go have to do that for me, you need to fight this hurt, find someone to hear you, step away from the computer, when you feel hurt and sad take a walk scream and cry but don’t dwell, you needed a Mommy and she was not there for you..the therapist took advantage of you and me and that is very sad…But we have to Live and thank god for our blessings. If I read what I’m saying to you a week ago I would of thrown the computer at the wall and said right this is impossible…but, I found someone to listen..I haven’t told her yet, but in time I will, I’m starting “slow” and I DESERVE to heal me..I was just dumped by a Dr. who hated me for a year…but, the person she by accident told me to go to just saved me…Trust again, I know god will send you your Angel. I would love to compare our terribe experiences…go to Tell Thearpy . org God Bless you and Life no matter how bad it is does get better, I promise.

  • LifeSucks

    August 10th, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    Renee, I couldn’t be happier for you. Tho few and very very very far between, there ARE t’s out there that are good. I am glad you have found a new life and a new purpose. Good for you! I mean that. Right now I am more about justice, getting the truth from that session. I have fought and fought and fought; there’s nothing left. I refuse to try and find another (underline) T. It has all taken too much out of me. Unless I am being helped, I get worse and worse and have more and more pain. Best to just take the meds & try to bury again the pain. Really, what life is there @ 58 when you have no friends, have lost your job, have even been traumatized by being arrested for sending emails? You are either younger w/more days ahead, or you have motivation to have good days. I do not. I’m not even interested in eternal life. Will check the site you mentioned.

  • Sue

    August 11th, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    I also contacted the site:
    and they put me in touch with resources. I’ve shared experiences with women who also are going through their own recovery from destructive therapy. For everyone I’ve talked with, it IS crazy-making (I feel SO hurt and deceived) but paradoxically, there can be a healing to it.

    I think therapists damage us by pretending to reparent us or save us. They don’t have magic powers. I think the most another person can do is give us a little guidance creating our own lives and helping ourselves. Therapists are selling something that don’t have to sell.

    I find more things to help myself feel better-exercise, walks, (beginners) yoga to videos, making something good to eat. There are shooting stars tonight.

    I bet there were many good and capable things you’ve done, and done for yourself. It’s a matter of not letting false prophets define us. My therapist made all kinds of threats about the consequences of leaving him. He defined me as the ultimate friendless screwup. Yeah, right. The consequence of leaving him was HIS checkbook.

  • Sue

    August 11th, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    I also lost my complaint. The therapist admitted the nasty he said, they were to “challenge” me. And my negative response to them was “transference.” Oh, and I was thriving brilliantly under his magnificent care until suddenly I slipped slipped from reality under the hypnotic influence of “transference.” The complaint board bought his story. No justice. He later joined the complaint board.

    Nonetheless it’s my life. I’ve had a long struggle to deflate his authority and see him as an unqualified narcissistic man not ethical enough to let a client leave.

  • R. Renee

    August 11th, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    To Life Sucks,

    I found what your looking for, please go to www healing go to the radio show that keira love was on…listen to the 2 part show…she will give you some excellent advice. She is a therapist now who was abused by her therapist. There is hope, there is healing you just need to find the right contact to help you and I think she can…she has an e-mal on her site, I would send her an e-mail and TELL her, that is a positive move to move forward to healing.

  • LifeSucks

    August 11th, 2010 at 3:02 PM

    yes, R, and I am strong enough and capable enough to recognize bad therapy or therapy that isn’t going to help me….sometimes it only takes a visit or 2. When I saw one therapist who’s day was ruined and she was devastated because a crossing guard did not return her wave, I knew I was in the wrong place. But I have huge objection to a T who assaults and emotionally rapes you when they cause you to black out, stealing info you have kept inside and protected yourself from. You have no control over that and there is nothing you can do about it; if you remember and can talk about your trauma you can work on it. If you are assaulted by a therapist in Maine, you’re shit out of luck.

  • Diana

    August 11th, 2010 at 5:09 PM

    I’ve been on Blogging Therapy for several years now. I initially enjoyed reading professional options and comments regarding ethical issues that arise from time to time. Unfortunately, I haven’t read a professional blog entry in months.

    Over the past year, it just seems like it is an avenue for unstable individuals to rant and confirm why a therapist will no longer work with them or way they lost the complaint they filed.

    I would like to make a request that take a closer look at the mission of the website or do a better job at selecting what posts they put through Blogging Therapy. It only appears to be a place for hostile individuals to be belligerent and condescending towards the profession as a whole. Maybe a better name of the website should be “disgruntled ex-clients”…and I am serious not being facetious.

    I use to encourage my college students and colleagues to subscribe to, but I would never commend it now. Maybe I am the only clinician that feels this way, but I felt I had an ethical responsibility to state what is not being said.

  • Dr. Medfor

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    @ Diana – You’re not considering the fact that all the comments on this post relate to the original article: 50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy & Counseling…

    Of course you’re going to read lot’s of complaints here!

  • gabriel h.

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:09 AM

    hi Diana, let’s not minimize the fact that people do get hurt in therapy and there are BAD therapists! And don’t blame Good Therapy for that fact. they are doing a great job trying to encourage healthy therapy and informing therapy seekers about what safe therapy and harmful therapy should look like! Your complaint just doesn’t make sense.

  • gong

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    I agree with Diana that there are a lot of ranters on this thread and I’m sick of all the victimhood. All these complaints can tarnish the value and benefits of therapy in the minds of people who are exploring counseling for the 1st time. – G

  • timothy

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:14 AM

    i second some of your thoughts diana. however, i think it’s very fair that good therapy gives voice to all feelings and as someone above said, people do get hurt in therapy.

    i do think good therapy should start a blog about success stories in therapy so as to not scare people away from seeking help.

    like another said, some people unfortunately may get scared away by all the complaints and horror stories, which is truly the minority experience.

    most therapists are decent and non-harming!

  • Whitney

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    “I haven’t read a professional blog entry in months.” – writes Diana. I think you don’t know hot to navigate this site and that you probably only get alerts to this one thread.

    You can judge a blog by one thread or by the commentators and there are MANY professional articles and threads started here daily. I applaud gt for not squashing and censoring people’s opinions. if you’re really a professor than you should appreciate this and also do your homework! -Whitney

  • Sue

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:59 AM

    ” It only appears to be a place for hostile individuals to be belligerent and condescending towards the profession as a whole. Maybe a better name of the website should be “disgruntled ex-clients”…and I am serious not being facetious.”

    I was so pleased Diana responded because this affords us the opportunity to analyze the important issue of why iatrogenesis is so neglected by almost the entire psychotherapy profession.

    Diana’s post is marvelously illustrative of an iatrogenic therapist-client dynamic. First, note (I assume Diana is a therapist) she fails to be in touch with her own countertransference, which overflows with its own hostility and victimhood. (If you don’t stop this unpleasant discussion I’m going to retreat from this website.)

    Equally revealing, notice the weaponry she employs in efforts to invalidate client feedback : “unstable…rant…hostile…belligerent…condescending.” So authoritarian, shaming and labeling. And she’s unloading on several people here who are distressed and trying to find there way.

    This is EXACTLY what the clients are talking about. Rather than listening to what clients have to say, the healers are discrediting it and quashing it.

    I’m happy to tell you why harmful therapy puts clients in such conflict. It’s a shameful robbery of time, money, trust and hope. Anger is a perfectly rational response to feeling “conned” on a soul-deep level.

    I love this conversation, because we’ve finally touched the heart of the problem. Now, can we hear from ANY psychotherapist, who will, instead of quashing the discussion, have the courage to respond thoughtfully to the issue of harm in therapy?

    And if you pull out the shaming, labeling weaponry on me darlin’, I’ll call you on it.

  • LifeSucks

    August 12th, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Thank you, Sue. So eloquent and caring.

  • Sue

    August 12th, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    You’re welcome Life-s. (High 5 :-)) We’re dealing with some complicated booby-traps delivered by experts in rigging the game. Seeing through their hooey will make us STRONG, STRONG, STRONG.

  • Tracy

    August 13th, 2010 at 6:00 AM

    Dr. Dan L Edmunds has a terrific perspective written in an article that is titled “The Meeting of two persons: What Therapy should be” and can be found at


  • Sue

    August 13th, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    Great article, Tracy.

    I’ve met some “disgruntled ex-clients.” They are articulate and perceptive women who, in recovering from their experiences, developed an understanding of events far beyond their ex-therapist’s capacities.

    I would love to see forward-thinking conversation how psychotherapists might learn from negative client experiences. I wish there were more in the field such as Jan Wohlberg of TELL and Gary Schoener here and UK therapists Yvonne Bates and Richard House. How many clinicians have LISTENED to testimony of those harmed?

    I’d love to see conversation about how client feedback might be synthesized to improve education. Consumers wonder about screening, consultation policies, and continuing education.

    How do we might professionals LISTEN rather than trying to subdue clients with name calling?

  • LifeSucks=LifeTolerable

    August 13th, 2010 at 10:34 AM

    I agree, Sue. That post gave me flashbacks and I think proved the problem. There is so much anger involved, but I was told anger is healthy (according to the T that tried to get me in that state for so many years). As long as anger goes no further than that, I see it just as a progression through the stages of reaction, hurt and recovery. I would just give anything to have found the right T. But I am tainted now and faithless. I do enjoy reading the recoveries and strengths others on this blog express. Moving through my anger and other issues, I now have for the first time in a while feel like I have moved one step closer to making amends with God, which to me is all that matters. Validation from those like you and Renee have only helped. The above post was sooo like bad therapy, I see her never changing cause I have not seen a T learn from their mistakes, but rather defend them to the end. So sad, for them and their clients; so unfortunate.

  • Admin

    August 13th, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    Hi Everyone,

    My name is Chesna, I’m a team member here at GoodTherapy.

    This particular blog, “50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy & Counseling,” was created as a resource to provide people with information on how to identify potential warning signs of unhealthy psychotherapy. This blog post is a place where many people have shared their stories of real and very unfortunate harm, and they are welcome to do so. These personal stories bring to light the exact issue that triggered the creation of

    Our founder, a licensed therapist who has been in the mental health field for 20 years, encountered so many individuals who had therapy experiences that ranged from ineffective or negative all the way to truly damaging harm. This is what sparked his idea to create a site to inform people about this very issue and simultaneously arm people with information and resources to get access to good therapy.

    By bringing these stories to light AND offering resources to help people evaluate therapists and the practice of therapy, it is our hope and mission to reduce harm in the mental health field. We believe strongly that healthy, collaborative, non-pathologizing and empowering psychotherapy can help individuals find a way to access their innate and core abilities to feel peace and contentment (or whatever goals they are striving for).

    I was happy to hear one poster’s recommendation that GoodTherapy create a space where people can share their therapy success stories (and there are many!). I am happy to report that this project is already in the works and we are excited about the positive impact it can have. In the meantime, there is a broader discussion (updated daily) about therapy available on our main blog

    I would also encourage anyone who has experienced harm to not lose hope. If you are in crisis, please visit this page: where you can find access to immediate support. Please know that there are many qualified, heart-centered, knowledgeable and dedicated therapists who can help.

  • Sue

    August 13th, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    Post #187 is rich because it’s there, in black in white, anger, shaming and control in healer’s guise. I loved it. Notice it’s the clients able to peel back the strategy of it.

    My recovery is a long journey because my therapist reinforced himself as an authority (over-idealization is their term), so I believed his scorn and belittling above my truth. When the therapist told me I was crazy I thought maybe he was right. I had to reverse engineer his strategies to demote him to a charlatan who would do anything to preserve his self-delusion and his income stream.

    Hearing other stories helped me as well. In addition to my conversations through TELL, a book by Ellen Plasil called Therapist is about her recovery from the worst therapy imaginable, seduction, a cult. A courageous book.

    Another high 5, Life Tolerable. I’m so happy to write those words. You’re helping me too.

  • Yebel

    September 10th, 2010 at 4:52 AM

    I just found out that the office I go to for therapy has a policy I was not aware of. It seems everyone in the practice can see my file including the nurse. When I first started there a couple of years ago I asked if everything I say is completely private and I was assured it was. I see a lady Psychiatrist and a male social worker for different issues. She tells me that all the very private things she keeps in her head. I find it hard to believe that after 2 1/2 years she never wrote anything personal in my file. I know there was alot of things put in there by both of them and it did not seem to bother them that this really upset me very much. I can’t believe that other people now know some of the things that happened to me in my life time.Even though I am a guy things can still me upset enough to want to cry and smash the hell out of things. The only reason I found out is because I needed a refill out my meds and she was on vacation and another Doctor called me to go over them and to clarify things that they wrote. Then he tells me any therapist any nurse can read it. Has this happened to anyone else?

  • Liza D

    April 11th, 2017 at 1:20 AM

    Within an agency, the rule about charts is that the only staff members who can look at them are those who have a professional reason to do so. Thus, when our own therapist or meds doc is away and you or I call or come to the office for help, someone can look at your chart to find out how to help us.

    Agencies tend to be busy places. No one’s paid to sit around flipping through client charts out of curiosity. They have enough on their own plates (their own duties) so the last thing they’d want to do would be to read through the chart of someone who’s not their own client.

    I understand your concern. To me, it’s a good thing that if I needed more meds the on-call doc could check my chart to see what’s worked and what hasn’t; or if (God forbid) my therapist fell ill, one of her colleagues could skim my chart to prepare to see me in a crisis.

  • john

    October 5th, 2010 at 7:12 PM

    Thank you for posting this; it has really been helpful. I started seeing a mental health counselor and she displayed many red flags.
    In the first session I gave her the run-down of my life and the problems I had and past experiences. She kept blaming my family, my father and even spoke of him in a distaste. She didn’t seem interested in what I thought was best, didn’t even approach it and just spent 90 percent of our visits talking. AND worst of all she would not remember what we talked about in our last session and would act surprised when I started talking about it.
    I left our last appointment feeling like a complete crap and depressed; I thought I had done something horribly wrong and kept searching for an explanation.

  • Matthew

    October 8th, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    I unfortunately had a bad couples therapist who had a counter-transference issue, and was shaming and demeaning. When I brought this up to her she did not even remember what she said, and completely denied that a counter-transference was even possible because she was trained differently! I appreciate this list. Thanks.

  • Matthew

    October 8th, 2010 at 10:10 PM

    I wanted to add that when I brought all these issues up about the couples counselor to my regular therapist who I have seen for ten years and have recovered With his help from Agoraphobia, PTSD, and BP2 he said unfortunately many of his interns are poorly informed about counter-transferance issues. This is perhaps due to the fact the old tradition of depth psychology is absent from much of contemporary training. I had seen a lot of bad therapists briefly before I found a good one.

  • Tracy

    October 9th, 2010 at 6:36 AM

    Hi Matthew

    I agree with you….there are many “bad” and incompetent therapists out there. Until State regulations begin to include mandatory therapy and a psych evaluation prior to licensing, and required career long peer consultation for all mental health “professionals” ( just as CEU’s are required in most States), clients will continue to be harmed by their therapist’s counter-transference issues.
    How can a mental health professional even know they are experiencing counter-transference without so much as a single therapy session being required prior to receiving a license to practice. When interviewing prospective mental health professsional every client should be asking how many years of therapy the mental health professional has had, and if the therapist attends at least a monthly peer consultation group. If the therapist refuses to answer or is evasive or the answer is “none”….thank the mental health professional for their time and leave….go find another. If in an area where MHP’s are few…you’re better off worth no therapy….than bad/incompetent therapy
    For more information you can go to facebook and read my “Walk away from bad therapy” page.

    I too now work monthly with one of the “good guys” ….but my experience with a previous therapist was a harmful and horrible as he could not see his counter-transference and tried to make his issues mine.
    In a way, the experience with him taught me a lot….and I now know for sure that will never place myself in that situation again!

  • Musty

    October 20th, 2010 at 12:43 AM

    Thank-you for this helpful article. I think the “50” is a very comprehensive list, augmented by additional ones in Comments.

    To the people who’ve experienced abusive therapists/therapy, especially any who feel there’s no way for them to recover from the trauma. “In giving voice to your thoughts and feelings choose your words carefully, every one of them; for sooner or later you *shall* live them.” — Musty (That’s me!)

  • Sue

    October 24th, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Inspired by the practitioner-client disconnection I witnessed on this thread, I posted a blog, “A Disgruntled Ex-Psychotherapy Client Speaks Her Piece,” hoping for a constructive talk-back with the profession therapy about gone awry. I’d like to see many more of these conversations.

  • EssEff

    October 29th, 2010 at 10:02 PM

    I’ve had therapy off & on over the years and the LCSW’s were the most helpful so far. I recently started therapy for a specific issue with someone who has expertise (a PhD) in it. Her style is “different” and things weren’t clicking for me, but I decided to give it a try. This list helped validate my concerns. She talks a lot, cuts me off whenever I start to mist up, I feel like she plays “gotcha” whenever I contradict myself (isn’t that to be expected if people have mixed feelings they need to resolve?) and I often feel I’m being scolded. She does it in such a nice way that I didn’t notice it right away, but I did notice I’ve been more reluctant to open up than I was with other therapists in the past. Yet I also find myself discovering things I wouldn’t have thought of without therapy. I would probably have made those discoveries with someone else as long as I have the opportunity to talk & think & feel.

  • Sue

    October 30th, 2010 at 9:26 AM

    EssEff, in my opinion, the way a therapist says something is as important as what she says. If she talks to us as if she “outranks” as, she fails to convey a healing respect and self-respect. I don’t see many therapists getting this.

  • EssEff

    October 30th, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    The clear message is that she doesn’t respect me because of the very things I came to her for help with. The scolding stuff is usually after I tell her something because I’ve identified it as a problem, so what is she adding to my insight? I already told her I know it’s not healthy. grrrr

  • Ellen Truschel

    November 19th, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    The therapist falls asleep.

  • EssEff

    November 20th, 2010 at 6:23 AM

    I had one more session this week after 3 weeks off. She was insensitive about something very important to me, and I felt judged again. Then the next day I did something stupid due to being upset and I thought of what she’d say about that so now I know I have to quit. I’m too chicken to do it in person. I’ll just call and cancel. This blog has been a great help to me. Thank you all.

  • Tracy

    November 20th, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    Good for you EssEff! Surely call and cancel…why pay to fire the therapist when you know it’s not working out!
    Keep looking for a new therapist you “gel” with…you’ll know it when you experience a feeling of safety and confidence. If you want to check it out,I have quite a
    bit of info on hiring and firing a therapist on a wordpress
    blog called One world…many crazy humans!

    Take Care!

  • Sue

    November 20th, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    EssEff, if you’re feeling disrespected and put down by a therapist, she’s not helping you, and it’s best to fire her. If your instinct tells you that she will “act out” when you quit, then best leave with little discussion. I made the mistake of trying to discuss termination with my bad therapist, and he became really unhinged and destructive.

  • gfydk

    December 5th, 2010 at 12:40 AM

    I had asked my T. that terminated me to read me my file..well we met and I felt so hurt and scared all I did was shake, all she did was look at me and try to intimadate me by writing notes. SHe said…”your a sick girl” wow..she never gave me a diagnosis, she said terrible things to me, I’m calling the board and filing a suit, she kept me stressed out for a year. Her reason for termination…I did not move forward in therapy…not true I told her more than anyone and have proof…she screwed up and is trying to find an excuse….does not work..she even called my new t. to get her e-mail address to CC her on a letter. I confronted her and told her I never gave her permission or a sign release to talk to her about me..she said It was not about me..Huh? she never met the new T. or should have any reason to e-mail her they do not know each other…she is trying to reuin me big time…she wont get away with it

  • KT

    December 5th, 2010 at 7:29 PM

    Attention “gfydk”, please email me. I successfully sued my former therapist. It was quite an amazing experience. I am available to offer any advice you may be looking for. I know how you feel, it’s a terrible feeling. But, there IS healing through the process of standing up for yourself and what you believe to be true. It was just exactly 4 years ago when I realized the harm I had incurred through my therapy. The lawsuit settled one year ago. It’s a harrowing process, but worth it.

  • Sue

    December 5th, 2010 at 11:16 PM

    KT, I don’t think most of us have a way of reaching each other by email. Do you have a blog where gfydk can contact you?

    (Alternately, Tracy started a Facebook group, Walk Away From Bad Therapy, where you might convene.)

    gfydk, what you describe is abusive and a violation of confidentiality, among other misconduct. TELL Therapy Exploitation Link Line can help you by linking you with peer support with others who’ve gone through this.

    It is crazy-making when a therapist becomes unhinged –it happened to many of us. For me, the recovery was understanding it’s THEIR instability and has nothing to do with me.

  • Tracy

    December 6th, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Hi gfydk

    How did your old therapist get the name of your new therapist?

    What I would do is find another therapist and not say anything to either of the other two. Specifically say to the new therapist that she does not have your permission to consult with your old therapist(s).If she asks why…say you want a fresh start. Unless medications are involved, you are under court ordered therapy, or your situation is otherwise “complicated” the therapists shouldn’t need to consult each other. A therapist can terminate you if they do not think they are helping you and that you may have better results with someone else….they are however required to help you with a referral if you request one, and can not strictly “abandon” you.
    I wish you luck with a Licensing board complaint / and or lawsuit, as it will be difficult for you to actually prove what was said in the therapy room, and without evidence it’s tough to “win” your case. and you can bet on it that the therapist will lie to save her sorry butt. If you do file a complaint I do suggest supplying any kind of evidence you can….emails, letters, voice messages….without them eveything else is therapist said/client said.
    I am sorry to hear you were hurt by this therapist…but in the long run….she wasn’t helping you and there is a therapist out there that can better serve the good person you are.

  • EssEff

    December 7th, 2010 at 10:53 AM

    Thank you for your support. This has been a stressful couple of weeks and I could have used someone to talk to, but not that therapist! She would have made things worse, or I would have feared she’d say something insensitive which amounts to the same thing. I’ll wait for her bad vibes to wear off before starting with someone new. I don’t want to waste money talking about her! I need to talk about me.

  • Sue

    December 7th, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    EssEff, you impress me as centered and insightful. The last thing I’d need is a therapist dragging me down when life is stressful already. As you talked about earlier, power games can be quite subtle, and PhD after her name doesn’t stop anyone from being a mean girl, unfortunately. Best to you.

    Re complaints: I concur with Tracy, that complaints can be difficult to prove, licensing boards seem to give therapists an extremely wide berth about what is acceptable and bad therapists will be as deceitful in a complaint process as they were in sessions. I had the job of healing despite the therapist’s lies and losing my complaint.

  • Karen

    December 7th, 2010 at 8:03 PM

    Is there anyone out there that is familiar with MST or Multisystemic Therapy?

  • EssEff

    December 7th, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    This therapist made a point of asking me about my atheism in our first meeting (it was on the 4-page questionnair I had to fill out) and self-described as a Christian but she insisted she could help me despite that. She made a point of saying the other people in her practice are “Christian” (in this part of the country it usually means fundamentalist nutjob) and that they wouldn’t be so understanding.

    Sadly, the closest person I could find by searching this site has this lovely write-up: “I am a Christian psychologist and neuropsychologist. I believe that each person was made by God for His glory, and that we are all one body in Jesus Christ. I believe that the engineering of the human body and brain demonstrate the awesome generative power of Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, and that this wonderful engineering hardware requires software that is based on God’s plan for humanity found in the Bible. I utilize a cognitive neurodevelopmental approach, as well as traditional therapy techniques. But the rock of my practice, which is my ministry also, is based on Christian principles.”

    Maybe my real problem is that I need to MOVE!

  • Tracy

    December 7th, 2010 at 9:21 PM

    I had never heard of multisystemic therapy…however, after 5 minutes of research it would appear the “therapists” the multisystemic people hire need only a Masters Degree or a B,S. with “extensive experience”….their job ads on a few sites say nothing about being licensed… other than a needing drivers license.

  • margarets

    December 13th, 2010 at 12:37 PM

    EssEff, get a copy of your file from the old therapist (the bad one) before initiating your complaint process. That way she can’t change anything in the file to make herself look better or you look bad, after your complaint is filed. She’s not supposed to mess around with your file anyway, but don’t trust her.

  • Tracy

    December 13th, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    Good point margarets.
    Remember also that a therapist is only required to provide a copy of their session notes. They do not have to supply you with their personal notes…some therapists keep them…some don’t…and they don’t have to tell you that! They may contain a great deal more of harmful material that can be used against you! They can be obtained in a malpractice case, but not for a Licensing Board Complaint. The therapist however can use them and you will not have the right to that information. Licensing Board Complaints are only administrative in nature, though if it is determined the therapist committed a criminal act, it can be referred for legal action to the appropriate authorities.
    Much of what was said in a therapy session becomes a “client said/therapist said” matter in a Licensing board Complaint….and is very difficult to prove. Written emails,letters and voice mails are necessary for “proof”. The only way a client can protect themself really, is to record the sessions with some form of media.
    Oh and …yes …you are 100% correct…you can expect the therapist to lie and distort anything you said…and to claim that you are the one distorting the information or acts of the therapist…gaslighting at its best!
    The power differential continues throughout the Licensing Board Complaint! Don’t forget….a Licensing Board is mostly made up of the therapists peer group…only some have a public member. In Connecticut , there isn’t even a Licensing Board and complaints are reviewed by ONE, UNPAID, peer consultant. Hope you don’t live in Connecticut!

  • margarets

    December 15th, 2010 at 8:39 AM


    Argh – it’s just so unethical to allow therapists to keep separate notes etc, that are effectively secret from the client, but can be used against the client. I just checked the standards of practice for my ex-therapist’s regulating agency and yup – separate notes are allowed. It’s not clear whether separate notes could be used in a complaint process without the client’s knowledge though. Here’s what the standards document says:

    “The tools or data used by the [therapist] in developing a professional opinion may be or need not be included in the record. Such tools may be personal notes, memos or messages, test results, sociograms, genograms, etc. Once placed in the record, however, they become an integral part of that record. If they are kept separate from the record, the [therapist] observes the same standards with respect to confidentiality, security and destruction as with the record.”

    So basically the therapist can put the notes in and take them out, according to what serves the therapist’s purpose. Who’s watching, right? Even if the therapist is supervised, how does their supervisor know what the therapist is hiding? It’s not hard to keep secret notes, or write up extra notes later and back-date them. The whole thing is a joke and totally one-sided.

    I agree with you that recording sessions is the only way for a client to protect themselves. I think ALL sessions should ALWAYS be recorded as a standard practice. An ethical therapist would have no problem with this.

  • Kim

    December 15th, 2010 at 10:46 AM

    I agree that recording sessions with a voice recorder should be done by all therapists. However, my therapist recorded our sessions, which included his repeatedly making sexual suggestions to me. When I sued him, 48 recorded sessions mysteriously disappeared and he gave FIVE different answers in deposition as to why he destroyed them; one of which was that I told him to destroy them. What a sick man.

  • Tracy

    December 15th, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    Kim….What a jerk! What I am saying is that the client should record all the sessions…unethical therapists destroy tapes as you found out! I have to wonder that while some therapists record their clients sessions and are in possession of the tapes….how many therapists would be ok with the client recording the session and the client being in possession of the tapes? It would be a very interesting study as to how some therapists act and what they say if they knew they are being recorded by a client as compared to a session where there is no recording. I am speaking of those already licensed and not still working on their education or accumulating their clinical hours) My guess however is that an unethical therapist wouldn’t take on a client that insisted on recording the sessions in the first place.

    Margarets… the process is completely one sided…and what really sucks is that the notes you write about the therapist are not considered …and they will say “well how do we know you didn’t make this up”. The therapist is given professional consideration despite harmful acts and the client is treated like the the problem…what can we actually do to change the system? Other than educating others on how to choose a “good therapist” and protect themselves in the first place..there really is nothing that can be done…. protect yourself, and increase awareness of the problem. I’ve written many blog preces on this subject matter and my own case …click on my name and it should take you to the blog.

  • margarets

    December 17th, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    Oh, I definitely meant that the client should be in possession of the recordings! Now with digital technology it is very easy to arrange for both client and therapist to have copies of the recordings. I expect there are ways to ‘lock’ the recordings so that neither party can tamper with them or delete portions and so on. And of course this is a far superior method of documentation than one-sided notes kept in a file folder with no proper oversight.

    As it happens, psychotherapy is only starting to be regulated in my jurisdiction (I’m not in the USA) and there is a task force set up to work out what the regulations should be and so on. The public consultation process starts next year and one of the things I will recommend is that all therapy sessions be recorded and copies provided to clients as standard practice. Clients should have the choice to opt out of having sessions recorded, but this must be documented, with the client’s signature. But therapists should not have the choice to opt out; they MUST record sessions unless the client chooses otherwise. I think there should be a standard document regarding recordings that all therapist should use. No exceptions.

    Tracy, I’ve looked at your blog – love it – and when I set up my own blog about my experience I’d like to link to yours. Won’t be till some time next year, when my complaint process is over.

  • Virginia

    December 17th, 2010 at 11:58 AM

    Here is a question for people who believe all therapy sessions should be recorded – what is the scenario under which you feel you would find this to be in your self-interest?

    What occurs to me is that if you have the presence of mind to be aware that a therapist may take some approach that would not be good for you, for what reason would you want this recording? if you find you dislike or distrust a therapist’s approach, and are aware of it, why wouldn’t you just discontinue that relationship, rather than continuing to attend sessions and pay for them and make recordings of them?

  • DolensVita

    December 17th, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    I damn well wish there had been a recording when my therapist, after only 3 months of visits, used a hypnotic technique on me, dissociating me and causing me to black out for an hour and 15 min. The pain in my heart afterwards was like a truck had run over it. I couldn’t leave because she had stolen something from me, thereby keeping me emotiionally hostage. But how do you form a relationship on a lie – she denied all. But her peer group are witnesses. Unfortunately the complaint division neither investigated or cross examined the peer group, including the supervisor, the well-known (sic) Dr Claire Frederick. The therapist gets to go on with her life, and me, now 10 years later, lost my job, have severe ptsd, have severe excrutiating pain, severe panic attacks. But that therapist emotionally raped me & if I were a different person, I’d do anything to get that info – it belongs to me! But I won’t and I suffer and neither the f*in police, courts, or the Maine OLR gives a rats azz. The therapist even told me how passionately interested she was in hypnosis. But she couldn’t look into the future and see she wasn’t going to be able to help me. And, amazing she has no qualms about the pain I am suffering. Sad, very very sad.

  • Sue

    December 17th, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Virginia–I had sessions with one therapist recorded for a benign reason–so I could review them later. However I’d favor recording for a different reason–it creates some transparency. I’d think a less scrupulous therapist might think twice if he knew he wasn’t conducting his business behind a completely closed door.

    As for “why don’t you just discontinue the relationship…” I’ll do my best to paint the picture. The client probably doesn’t have true presence of mind so much as dawning awareness. I might compare it to a wife leaving an abusive spouse–she somewhat knows the damage, but she thinks she needs her husband. It’s like a messy divorce. And a sick therapist, evoking his “authority,” can create all sorts of roadblocks to defer the termination or at least gaslight and devalue the client’s perceptions. So, as Marilyn Peterson points out in her somewhat dated “At Personal Risk,” the client has to flout years of conditioning in obedience to authority figures in order to “just leave.”

    A blog, A DISGRUNTLED EX-PSYCHOTHERAPY CLIENT SPEAKS HER PIECE, describes how complicated the untangling this relatiohnship can be.

  • someone...

    December 17th, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    I am so glad I found this article—when someone who is an “expert” does things that bother me, I always second-guess myself and believe them when they say that the problems are all on my end. I had a horrible therapy experience, and this has been one of the few things that’s helped me pull myself out of the hole I was flung into after only one session.

    What happened to me to begin with was an odd form of abuse (my roommate was purposely sleep depriving me, keeping me to around four hours of sleep a night for several months), and most people seem to dismiss it as no big deal, even though I had massive health problems as a result, almost broke down from the chronic exhaustion and illness, and was on the verge of dropping out of college. The administration ridiculed me as a melodramatic, ranting lunatic and wouldn’t believe a word I said; I still have flashbacks about sitting in offices being bombarded with insults about what a burden and a drama queen I am.

    After hardly listening to me, this therapist told me it wasn’t a big deal and that, if I had a problem with it, there must be something wrong with me. She attacked the way I live my life. She pulled random, minor events out of my past that she’d coaxed me to remember and told me they were the problem. She kept making nasty comments even when I started sobbing, including telling me that I “don’t know what happiness is” (what?). By the end I thought I was defective in every way and was ready to commit suicide. Thank goodness I can find help on the internet…

  • Tracy

    December 17th, 2010 at 4:32 PM


    If you filed a complaint with your State Board and the case is closed, you can obtain a copy of the file through a written Freedom Of Information Act request. You should be able to obtain your psych notes. this way as well.

    Virginia…let’s just say once bitten…twice shy! One bad experience with a therapist many times is enough for a client to never go back. Being able to record the sessions might just get a client back into therapy. Personally …I would not go to a therapist who insisted on recording sessions, and today…I wouldn’t choose a therapist that I felt the need to record sessions —I would be out the door at the first red flag!. I am just in favor of allowing recording should the client want to…and wondering how therapists feel about that.

    Sue…good explanation of the whys!

    Someone…I can relate! So sorry to hear of your experiences!

  • margarets

    December 17th, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    Virginia – The answer is that it can be very difficult for the client to recognize bad therapy at the exact moment it is happening. Bear in mind that the client is already emotionally distressed and vulnerable when they begin therapy. This in itself interferes with clear thinking. Therapy requires them to drop their defenses and “trust the process”. In a nutshell, the client is ripe for manipulation.

    There are specific techniques one can use to manipulate people into all kinds of thoughts and behaviours. Cults, terrorist groups, and con artists use them all the time. All advertising is manipulation. It wouldn’t be at all difficult with for a trained therapist to use these techniques for their own purposes.

    Consider too that becoming a therapist is an excellent way for an emotional or sexual predator to get lots of access to victims. Kind of like the same way pedophiles sometimes coach children’s sports.

    Of course an unethical therapist isn’t going to declare their evil intent during the first session. They won’t say “I’ll spend the first six months grooming you to be my sexual plaything and *then* make a pass at you” or “I’ll keep asking you to recall painful memories to induce an emotional crisis so that I can keep you in therapy until my home renovation is paid for”. No, they will keep that to themselves but pursue the agenda anyway. The only way a client can recognize this is happening is by noticing red flags. Memory can be unreliable, especially when one is emotionally distressed. So the recordings give the client a opportunity to review what actually happened in the session.

    Recordings also ensure that the therapist doesn’t misremember basic facts about the session or the client’s situation. (My therapist never took notes during our sessions and I eventually figured out that she didn’t remember basic facts about me. I think she may have mixed up my story with someone else’s and based much of her approach on info that was just plain wrong. But it’s not like she ever told me she was doing this. I had to figure it out from all her ill-fitting remarks.)

    Recordings should also keep unethical therapists in check. They’ll think twice before suggesting that a client get naked as a way to “deal with their shame around sexuality” or whatever b.s. they come up with.

    Worst-case scenario, recordings provide evidence in complaint processes. Lots of things go wrong in therapy. Look at all the cases of therapists being disciplined or having licenses revoked – and those are just some of the cases that have come to light. Unfortunately, therapy can be a very risky undertaking for the client.

  • Sue

    December 17th, 2010 at 11:51 PM

    Well spoken, Margarets and Tracy. The client wants to feel better and is ripe for a therapist’s persuasion that some nonsense is healing. It is like a cult, and bad therapy is indeed a folie a deux.

    Though my abuse was not sexual, I still found insight in Susan Penfold’s excellent “Sexual Abuse by Healing Professionals.” Penfold is herself a psychiatrist and a victim of abuse.

    There are a number of important issues that got only cursory attention in the literature I combed. One is the all-to-common authoritarian construct of the therapy relationship, which disempowers the client and makes her ripe for abuse.

    Another is the matter of realistic expectations. I expected far more of therapy than it can ever deliver. Unfortunately, no therapist made the slightest effort to disavow me of this notion.

  • Carrie Flores

    January 13th, 2011 at 8:18 AM

    I think I need to leave my therapist of 5 years. All along we have had issues. She accepts expensive gifts, is constantly late or changes appointment times, groans when her next patient arrives, self-discloses issues about her husband and children, discusses other clients and makes jokes about them. But she calls me her friend and because I have transference I have become so close to her…like a mother figure. I am too scared to leave but I know she is a bad therapist. How do you survive the termination. I suffer from depression and relationship issues.

  • Sue

    January 13th, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Carrie, an important thing for me in this cult deprogramming was to remind myself that one person doesn’t define our lives and the process of leaving something negative will in itself be healing.

    Unfortunately, therapy easily can reinforce our self-definition as having “issues,” as discussed in Tana Dineen’s book, Manufacturing Victims. Every human being alive has fears, conflicts and flaws, and therapy can magnify this,unfortunately. If you want to read a woman’s survival of one of the worst cases imaginable, there’s Ellen Plasil’s book Therapist. I found terrific peer support too through

    Congratulations on your insight. You definitely will survive. What feels bad now can turn out to be liberating. Best to you.

  • Carrie Flores

    January 13th, 2011 at 7:11 PM

    Thank you Sue. I am in so much pain. In my heart I know I need to leave her…she is not a good therapist.However, I can’t imagine life without her…her hugs…her love and concern. I hope it was all real. I don’t want to think about being fake. How could i be so stupid.

  • Sue

    January 14th, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    Carrie, That’s exactly how I felt. It was a dilemma, do I believe the condemning things my therapist said about me, or do I admit to myself how I was conned? Neither are happy scenarios. (I went with the latter.) As I mentioned, I got great camaraderie from Tracy (above) started a Facebook group, “walk away from bad therapy.” I wrote about my many complications and conflicts in “A DISGRUNTLED EX-PSYCHOTHERAPY CLIENT SPEAKS HER PIECE.”

    I do believe therapists can be sincere…if not very good.

    You sound very clear-headed. There is freedom on the other side.

  • Virginia

    January 14th, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    Carrie, I don’t think you need to convince yourself she is all bad in order to feel free to leave. She sounds like someone who has some genuine warmth, and who also does not have the kind of professionalism you need in a therapist at this point. It may or may not be the case that she did provide something you needed, as you do feel cared for by her, even though you are quite sure that you need something else.

  • Lurker

    January 24th, 2011 at 7:53 PM

    A therapist tells you and your mom to buy a vibrator, because she doesn’t want you to have pre-marital sex.

    Yes, I had a therapist really do this! I was 17, and she wanted my mom and I to walk in a sex store together.

    This is inappropriate and violates the boundaries of mother-daughter relationships.

  • Sage

    January 25th, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    For just one thought regarding this subjsect…A vibrator may actually “encourage” sexual experimentation….very dumb therapist! “Hey if this feels good, the real thing must be even better!”

    Whether the shopping for a vibrator with your mother violates boundaries of any mother -daughter relationship would be entirely dependent on the nature of boundaries of the mother-daughter relationship. Every relationship is different, and some may not find shopping for “personal items” together any sort of violation, where as to someone others it’s a ghastly prospect! (My mother would look the other way just driving past the store!)

  • Cathy

    January 31st, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    What about a therapist who insults you (via your diagnosis) when you suggest focusing on cognitive-behavioral therapy to work through your issue…and that therapist indicated at the beginning that they specialize in CBT?!


  • Alison

    February 9th, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    I had a therapist who took advantage of me and sexual abused and exploited me. I didn’t have any adults to turn to at the time and was 17 years old. It has been 6 years now, and I still have not gotten over it. The abuse went on for about 2 years. I have seen 3 psychologists and counselors since, but none have worked out and I’m getting frustrated. All three counselors/psychologists have been through the University I go to (not sure if that has anything to do with it), with 2 of them being doctoral students. The first counselor was not so bad, but I got busy with schooling and really didn’t see him that much. The second was a woman, and she seemed like a grumpy, old woman who was bitter with life (and tended to turn that on me). The third (and most recent) I just left. He tended to get defensive, and angry with me. He would raise his voice, and ask me multiple questions one right after the other (like when you fight with a spouse and it gets ugly). He was not sensitive to the fact that I was shy in therapy (due to the first psychologist sexually abusing me), and I think he took it really personally (I think he really wanted to help, but put too much pressure on himself).

    I’m writing this because I’m frustrated. I have mostly gotten over my difficult childhood, forgiven my parents, am trying to deal with the fact that my sister gets raped by her boyfriend (and is a slew of other messed up from growing up in our household) and my lack of support, working hard on my relationship with my boyfriend (due to both of our families being dysfunctional, so we have to work twice as hard to make up for that), but I cannot seem to move past feeling guilty from the first psychologist and having issues surrounding sex or flashbacks. I think I could handle this in time, but I’d like to move past it faster and get on with my life (I feel like I lost so much time already by growing up in my household). I think things would progress quicker if I could find a decent psychologist, however, I’m loosing faith in this idea.

    This list is a great start for helping me be more clear on what to look for. But I’m starting to get discouraged about how many counselors I’ve been through and was wondering if I could get some feedback or thoughts from the peanut gallery? I appreciate it!

  • EssEff

    February 9th, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    I found a different therapist and a few weeks later I got an e-mail from the old one. The subject line was “Plans?” Coincidentally this was right after the shooting in Arizona. After mulling over a few possible responses I realized I would second-guess myself if I chose any of them so I just didn’t reply.

    I think my new shrink taught the old one though, and I’m starting to have doubts about him. He’s better, but seems to have a hard time empathizing with things he hasn’t personally experienced. I’ve had other therapists who empathize with *feelings* and it doesn’t matter to them what the source of the feeling is. So I may be moving on again. I feel like I’m spending too much time explaining parts of my life that really aren’t that unusual, just unusual to him.

  • Sue

    February 9th, 2011 at 3:03 PM

    Alison, many of us have found it difficult to find good therapists after harmful therapy, because the violation is close to home for them. Be encouraged you know what you DON’T want in a therapist.

    Recovery is a process for many of us. My non-sexual experience happened long ago, and I go years not thinking about it. Then something triggers the conflicts and I have to read and revisit (on my own, NOT in therapy.) I learn, grow and find freedom in this exploration.

    Many have found sharing experiences with peers useful, and the Therapy Exploitation Link Line can help you.

    Among books on TELL’s reading list are Susan Penfold’s SEXUAL ABUSE BY HEALTH PROFESSIONALS. If you want to read of a journey through the worst imaginable exploitation and recovery, Ellen Plasil’s THERAPIST is another title.

    There isn’t a standard recovery, any “shoulds” or a time-tables. For me, maybe there was a benefit in exploring and understanding many things I wouldn’t have if the violation happened happened. I see therapists now as highly fallible human beings, with fears, self-deceptions and agendas like everyone else.

  • Tracy

    February 9th, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    Hi Allison

    So sorry to hear that you’ve suffered all the trauma and abuse that you have, and you do need help getting through this.

    Keep trying to find a “good therapist”. I would get away therapists associated with the university and it’s system at this point if you can. Is there a community counseling service in your area? You might get a good recommendation for a understanding therapist from a rape crisis center. You DO NOT have to continue seeing a therapist after the first interview if it doesn’t feel like a good fit! You are hiring someone to work for you! Please see my blog for information regarding this….look up wisdomovertime at wordpress blogs or at google. I have multiple articles posted on finding a therapist, as well as my experience with bad therapy.
    Also….since your sexual abuse only ended 4 years ago and if you are in the United States, file a complaint immediately with the Licensing Board in your state! The therapist that exploited and abused you needs to be “reviewed” and perhaps his license to practice taken away or sanctioned so he doesn’t hurt anyone else, if he hasn’t already. You can also file a report with the local police department where the assault happened. Many States have Statutes that extend back 7 years in the case of sexual assault. That therapist is 100% responsible for his sexual misconduct with you !!!!!!! As you were a minor at the time the charges will be even more severe… on top of possible rape charges he should also face charges of having sex with a minor.
    Depending on your willingness to participate in the process, you can hire an attorney and file a malpractice case…..again…there might be a Statute of Limitations, so don’t wait too much longer… there are some attorneys that will take your case for a percentage of the amount of damages rewarded.
    However, I would recommend finding a therapist first….some therapists are not willing to take on a client that is already involved in a malpractice case against another therapist.

    I was not sexually abused by my former therapist, but I was financially, psychologically and emotionally exploited (he committed insurance fraud, and made other boundary violations) I took my time, did a lot of careful interviewing, and found a very caring therapist who was able to give the corrective experience I so in need of!

    Take care

  • Tracy

    February 9th, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Hi EssEff

    If your not comfortable fire that therapist! and move on…don’t waste your time,effort, and resoueces…you derserve the best! Keep searching!

    Take care

  • SM

    February 9th, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    This is a good list. Last year my wife and I entered counseling – I was OK with her selecting the counselor. In reflection, it is only by God’s grace that the 5 sessions didn’t do us in completely. He talked mutiple times about how great his own marriage was (even called his wife ‘hot’); his ego was off the charts; in our one-on-one sessions, he told me that he thought we’d make it, while suggesting the opposite to my wife. I can see now that he made no real effort at helping us find a path toward success -in fact, by session #2, he was quoting supposed research that suggested that many kids actually do fine after divorce. My wife and I are both Chrtsians – and though he presented himself as a faith-based counselor, he showes near zero compentancy in considering our religious values in helping us address our challenges. My wife and I are doing fairly well today. Any others with similar experiences?

  • Sue

    February 9th, 2011 at 10:05 PM

    Good posts, Tracy. Sexual abuse is one of the few actions sometimes taken seriously by licensing boards and is illegal in some states. A blog from a woman also recovery from sexual abuse:

    SM, so glad you and your wife got through it an are doing well.

    I don’t know William Doherty, who seems to be promoting his own training, but he covers the subject with some consumer-friendly articles: HOW THERAPY CAN BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR MARITAL HEALTH. Also his BAD COUPLES THERAPY: HOW TO AVOID IT.

  • SM

    February 11th, 2011 at 8:24 AM

    To continue my comments on my experience with marital counseling…in hindsight, we should have ‘interviewed’ the therapist in advance. And if he/she was uncomfortable with the idea, we would have passed. In five sessions with our counselor, I quickly saw biases that had little to do with what was best for our relationship, and rather an agenda he had for quick-fix therapy…i.e. if you think your marriage is broken, it probably is, so be empowered to ‘move on’ with no guilt. Yikes.

  • Nina

    February 16th, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    Define 48 hour cancellation…Here’s the scenario. My regular weekly appointment was Monday at 2:15. I called Saturday at 3:00 and spoke to Therapist. She told me I would be charged the $100 Last Minute Cancellation Fee because Sunday doesn’t count in the 48 hours and I should have called Friday to avoid the charge. When I questioned the validity of that because Friday 2:15 to Saturday 2:15 is only 24 hours, so Saturday 2:15 to Sunday 2:15 would make 48 hours….so Sunday does count she became very angry with me and said that everyone knows that Sunday is not a “business day” and 48 hour notice means “business days” and that we had discussed this long enough I was wasting her time at that point, I am responsible for the $100 and she ended the call.

    I subsequently learned that if canceling within the 48 hour timeframe, you have the opportunity to try to reschedule your appointment for another time to avoid the charge. When I asked her if I could reschedule, she told me she didn’t have any openings the rest of the week.

    At the beginning of several of my appointments she asked if she could eat a sandwich.

    She took phone calls or checked her cell phone for emails/text messages during my session.

    My appointments never started at 2:15. She would send me to her office, then discuss billing issues with her employee, then get a cup of hot tea, then get a glass of water, then get a piece of gum, then find my folder, then finally start our session. Most of my scheduled 40 minute sessions ended up being 15-20 minutes.

    During one session she told me that my personality “was annoying at best”. I cried the whole way home.

    She would launch into the same story about a previous patient that she had with a similar situation and when I would try to stop her and say, “You’ve told me about her before, but my situation is very different.” she would continue with the same story but try to put a different spin on it….and I still don’t know what her point was in sharing another person’s situation with me?? Not to mention that it took 10 minutes out of my already shortened session.

    She told me that I was too controlling because I have a calendar on my refrigerator that I write all of my three teenager’s activities on….so I know who has to be where/when. She told me that they should know where they have to be when…..and how does she expect them to get there? They aren’t old enough to drive??

    She also told me that I was too controlling because I routinely checked the status of my children’s grades via the school’s on-line reporting system. She told me that I should let them fail on their own. That I shouldn’t check their grades and just wait for the report cards to come and then the children will learn the consequences of their actions because they will have received low marks.

  • margarets

    February 16th, 2011 at 11:39 PM

    Argh. Just got the final word on my complaint re: my ex-therapist. They totally blew off my concerns. Even with solid evidence to back up my claims, they dismissed them. However – and this is interesting – they want me to keep my complaint and the response confidential. Now why would that be? They’ve essentially vindicated the therapist. They did not reprimand her for a single thing, so presumably they found her conduct acceptable. Why would they want to keep that quiet? This agency certainly presents itself to the public as being concerned with standards and ethics. Their decision is an indication of what standards they actually accept in practice. Why shouldn’t the public know about it?

    Just for one example, my ex-therapist claims to *currently* be a faculty member of a therapy training institute. This institute no longer exists, it has no website, no mailing address, and no phone number. I can’t find evidence that it has offered any courses whatsoever in YEARS. But the complaints committee figures that her training certificate from 1996, from the same institute, is good enough evidence that the institute is still functioning and she’s still a faculty member.

    The agency may find that level of honest and accuracy acceptable, but I doubt the general public would. Heck, that kind of misrepresentation on a resume would be grounds for dismissal in a regular job.

    Just to warn as many people as possible: this therapist is regulated in ONTARIO. Don’t see any therapists in Ontario. It’s too risky and clients have no protection.

  • Sue

    February 17th, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    Margarets, I’m so sorry you lost your grievance. I understand only a tiny fraction of complaints are decided in favor of the consumer. Anywhere. My grievance was more subtle, and though my therapist admitted his behavior, he deftly smokescreened by demonizing me and avoided consequences. Talking to others who have gone through this was more helpful for me than any subsequent therapy.

    Nina, to me, your therapist sounds unprofessional and not supportive.

  • margarets

    February 17th, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    Thanks Sue.

    I knew going in to the process that this was the likely outcome, but I felt it was important to do it anyway. Silence just breeds more abuse, so I spoke up and let the chips fall where they may.

    However, I was not prepared for the last-minute “gag order”. (At least I’m pretty sure it was last-minute, I’ll have to check all the paperwork, but I don’t recall the requirement of confidentiality being mentioned before.)

    Doesn’t the whole thing smack of a pedophile trying to silence an abused child? Where’s the transparency? If this agency finds this therapist’s conduct acceptable, let them stand by their decision in plain view.

    Anyway, I don’t think this agency has the actual legal authority to just tell me to keep quiet, though they may think they do. Or they may be just trying to scare me.

  • Sue

    February 17th, 2011 at 10:09 AM

    Margarets, I know what you mean by transparency. Since there was no settlement, I don’t know how they can impose a gag order, but you’d need to get an official opinion on that.

    It was a real gut-hit when I lost my grievance. Do mental health professional have standards at all, or is their primary interest protecting their colleagues? Many of us who’ve been through grievances report that former therapists have lied or twisted events to discredit us and win their cases. So much for professional ethics.

    That said, the biggest project is moving on with life (for me blogging and activism evolved as part of that.) I deliberately never name names in my blogging because 1) I want to avoid any possible legal exposure 2)I don’t want to invite the louse back into my life.

    I recommend the Therapy Exploitation Link Line highly for support from others who’ve survived this. Tracy has started a Walk Away from Bad Therapy group on Facebook, or if you can reach me via my Disgruntled Client blog I mention above.

  • Tracy

    February 17th, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    Hi Margaret!
    Argh…the darn fox ate chicken for dinner again! (Fox gaurding the chicken coop scenario)
    Sorry to hear your complaint was dismissed. You are in good company however among those of us who filed and became aware that justice for clients of unethical therapists is nowhere to be found! A client is generally unprotected unless repetitive sexual acts are involved….and there is evidence/proof!
    I’m in the US and completely unfamiliar with regs in Ontario, but here in the US unless you specifically have a court order for a gag order, or have signed away your rights through a legal agreement you can talk to and say whatever you want to say. Ask the regulatory board to send you IN WRITING the legal statute or law that requires a gag order/silence, or a copy of something you signed agreeing to one. If this is just a verbal “please keep this quiet”…you are free to do as you choose! :p to them!
    You can also start a blog detailing your experiences….I have one at wordpress under the name wisdomovertime. I would stay away from using the therapists full name unless you have “proof” of the wrongdoing you are speaking of….but there’s nothing wrong with a first name, or a last name, or initials!
    Please let others know your experience! It’s important that others know the types of therapists they could possibly encounter ….hey….not all are bad…but a few rotten apples can do alot of damage!
    We MUST speak out about this! Otherwise it is like “silencing an abuse child”!The web is the best place to bring your story out and reach the most people possible! If you don’t want to start your own blog please add your story to one of the comments somewhere on my blog! I have blogging to be most therapeutic in healing from my experience with an unethical therapist.

  • margarets

    February 17th, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    Thanks Tracy and Sue!

    I was going to blog about the experience anyway and just use obviously fake names. It’s not like they can monitor every word I say for the rest of my life or keep an eye on the entire internet for every blog post I might ever make.

    I’m still reeling a bit today but prior to this I was mostly over it. I’ll be calmer in a few days.

    But but but – I need to unburden one thing right now, something that gives a clue to the whole therapy scam. I originally went to the therapist to discuss the fallout of a workplace harassment experience I had. Looking over the therapist’s notes, I found that during the first session, she wrote “harassment”, i.e. in quotation marks. As in: the client perceives it as harassment, it’s an allegation only.

    It was the first freaking session, how would she know if it was “harassment” or actual harassment? Harassment is extremely common; there is nothing remotely implausible about saying you’ve experienced it. At that stage she knew practically nothing about my experience – what was said and done and by whom – and we never really did discuss it in depth because she kept trying to focus on my childhood (what a therapy cliche). So in the very first session she made a massive assumption about my ability to perceive reality. Which explains A LOT about the therapy.

    Oh yeah, another thing. I’d been seeing a guy but it wasn’t going well. In one session I told her that we’d had sex for the first time. In her notes she described it as a “new level of intimacy”. Er, no. It was just sex. I should know – I was there. But she honestly believed that she understood the relationship better than I did.

    Honestly I feel like getting a sandwich board that says “THERAPY IS BAD FOR YOU” and walking around in front of her office building for a couple of hours. Heh. There’s no law against that.

  • Tracy

    February 17th, 2011 at 4:27 PM

    Hi Nina

    In order for therapy to be successful there needs to be a good therapeutic alliance….that doesn’t seem to be present in your situation. I would leave this therapists “care” and find a therapist that displays the qualities of empathy and unconditional positive regard for the clients they are hired to work for.

    You hire a therapist …you can fire them!

    As far as the charge for the canceled session….
    If you signed an agreement ( or informed consent) and it was clear on paper that the therapist charges for sessions canceled without “2 business days notice”…then you owe her the money….write a check and in the memo area….write “buh-bye” or perhaps you might want to write “for tea bags”!
    … stick it in the mail and don’t go back.

    If on the other hand you never signed an agreement, or had a verbal agreement , or you without a doubt thought she meant 48 hrs (“2 days” ) then just don’t go back and find another therapist

    Life’s too short and therapy too expensive to waste your time with an unprofessional and perhaps incompetent therapist!… she does seem to have a significant counter-transference going on…who really has the control issues….?
    You can always post a review about her on a website by that title… “therapistratings”

  • Sue

    February 17th, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    I started to read professional literature to understand what happened in my harmful therapy. What struck me was how the field is so cloaked in theory and jargon the therapists often miss the obvious by thinking that nothing is what it “appears” to be. Some therapists are even think that unsuccessful therapy “negative therapeutic reaction” is in fact a client so narcissistic and envious of the therapist that he fails at therapy to get even! The jargon, theory and hidden meanings seem to preponderate over common sense.

    Add to that less-than-wonderful reasons some get in this field, to solve their own problems, control issues, family peace-maker metaphors, omnipotence delusions, and it’s a minefield out there. Sadly, even the worst of them have convinced themselves they’re doing good. That’s why they’re so good at convincing us.

    Margarets: Between one therapist and another I was in a quandary about sexual harassment at my job:

    First therapist’s response: Is he so bad, he hired YOU didn’t he?

    Second therapist: Ohhh, he has boundary disturbances.

    Friend: You don’t have to put up with this.

    Needless to say, only the friend was helpful.

  • Tracy

    February 17th, 2011 at 6:47 PM

    Margaret, I Love your sense of humor!

    It sounds like your ex therapist and my ex therapist are twins! I am so happy and thankful at this point for the experience with an unethical therapist, and my experiences with the incredible incompetantcy at the Ct DPH as it has lead to many important lessons and insights unavaliable to me before all “it all went down”….it also validated what I really felt was going on to be real and not what the therapist said. The guy was a “man of many words”, not a “man of his word”.

    Keep speaking out!

    Hey….btw…even psychcentral had an article posted this week that peer support was found to be as effective as CBT! So perhaps it’s the first admission that there is no evidence or scientific proof that therapy works! In my opinion, if peer support is as effective as CBT….then it has to run circles around therapy with an poorly skilled therapist!

  • Miguel

    February 18th, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Margaret and others

    Obviously there are dangers in therapy and in anything else in the world. The danger is not in the therapy itself, rather in the way therapy is used, as it is the point of this blog. All therapies can be helpful, from medication only to specific psychological techniques. Some therapists can focus on childhood (not a cliché, rather a psychodynamic approach), while other therapists don’t want to know about your childhood at all and prefer you to focus on the ‘here and now’ (e.g. metacognitive therapy); while others look into the future (e.g. solution focused therapy, motivational interviewing, interpersonal therapy). Why so many? The same reason we all don’t like the same things, same films, food, clothes, type of people, so there are therapies for everyone.

    Indeed, a good therapist is called Integrative (because they use skills from many different therapies to address their clients’ needs). As a psychologist myself, it was very useful to see this list and actual rating myself on this and as someone else has said before, I will have this in my office for clients to have too.

    I just think, and this is my personal opinion, that we cannot go into extremes of fascism, or saying ALL therapies are bad, or ALL therapies are wonderful. There is always a middle ground and people just need to find their way around it.

    One thing I agree though, before you go to therapy independently if they are counsellor, psychologists, or psychiatrists or family doctors, check whether they are qualified and experienced. You would be surprised how much Bad Therapy is done by people who have been in the business for many years. Also, ALWAYS ask if they get clinical supervision from other therapists and if they are critical towards their own therapy.

    Every time I see a client, I ALWAYS write down my own achievements in the session and things I need to do better next time, and will be open about it with my clients too.

  • margarets

    February 18th, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Sorry Miguel, but no, not all therapies can be helpful. Some are VERY harmful (Center for Feeling Therapy, Synanon, Primal Therapy) and many others are a total waste of time. Most have zero to very little research to back them up. An eclectic approach isn’t any better – all it means is the therapist is making it up as they go along. I’m not just saying this either; I’ve read the literature.

    Another thing: therapists can lie, just like anyone else. Mine did.

  • Sue

    February 18th, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    Can I propose some conversation about the points above?

    I had a good education, had even worked as a journalist, but had no idea of the homework and self-protection required when I embarked on therapy. The evolving relationship was me as a follower to the therapist guru, leaving me feeling even more powerless. The breakdown stemmed both from my unrealistic expectations, which I believe the therapist fostered or at least condoned, and the clinician staunchly defending his theory which had no basis in reality.

    If it’s our responsibility to arrive wary, educated,and vigilant, how can we expect to arm the average consumer with these resources when there is so little information available about the hazards? The literature of harmful therapy is neglected even for professionals.

    It’s good to tell the consumer to protect herself, it’s unrealistic to expect her to arrive, new to therapy, with the skills and overview of a case supervisor. Should she be fully aware when a clinician is going off-rails or applying technique inappropriately? With the bitter professional debates about high profile malpractice cases, clearly there’s not even agreement about that.

  • margarets

    February 19th, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    Good question, Sue. Often people don’t seriously research something until after they’ve had a bad experience, whether it’s therapy or a roofing contractor. I had actually heard of many of the bad-therapy cliches before I started with my therapist, and I honestly believe that therapists knew they weren’t supposed to do all those old bad things anymore. E.g. I thought everyone knew that psychoanalysis has been totally debunked and that Freud was a nutjob. But no – there are still plenty of psychoanalysis true believers out there, as there are with many other bogus therapies.

    So we can blog away but I think often we are preaching to the converted.

    In the meantime, the likes of Dr Drew, Dr Phil, Oprah and innumerable self-help authors skilfully promote the therapy culture and it becomes ever more entrenched.

  • margarets

    February 19th, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    ack – that should read “I honestly believed that therapists knew” – past tense – I definitely don’t believe it anymore!

  • Sue

    February 19th, 2011 at 5:51 PM

    I agree that the media inflates therapy’s mythology and unrealistic promises. Re blogs. It has helped me integrate my experience and reminded me I’m not alone. I hope there are further ripples. However there is so little literature on this subject, there’s a large gap to fill. (I appreciate your writing and look forward to your insights.)

  • Sue

    February 19th, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    On client responsibility: My worst experience was handed by two co-therapists, one a psychiatric nurse who periodically would shriek at our therapy group members. She even snarled “something about you makes me want to kick you.”

    Her co-therapist failed to stop this or moderate her rages, and even tried mightily to dissuade me from terminating. The people who trained and supervised this nurse failed to teach her when she’d lost control. The subsequent therapist I saw avoided criticizing a colleague and changed the subject. The nurse’s licensing board refused to hear my complaint.

    From these indications, wanting to kick one’s client is perfectly acceptable care among psychiatric nurses.

    With all these professionals evading responsibility, does its burden completely fall to the consumer? If so, the mental health industry needs to revise its concept of informed consent.

  • margarets

    February 20th, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    Wow Sue. A nurse said THAT, with witnesses, and none of her colleagues addressed it? Yikes!

    That sort of behaviour would probably be rationalized by some therapists as giving you feedback on how you come across and the emotions you provoke in people, or confronting you on your issues, or some nonsense. When the more appropriate question is: Why does this health care professional want to kick anyone and maybe they should find another line of work?

    I’ve bookmarked both your and Tracy’s blogs. When mine is up and running, we can link up. I’ve got some ideas for online activism on these issues.

  • Sue

    February 20th, 2011 at 4:41 PM

    Margarets. Look forward to linking and your ideas.

    Yes, the nurse said that, and more, and no one addressed it. Group members objected–meekly–after a couple of her tantrums, but her co-therapist made no attempt to stop or mitigate her anger. He himself was no slouch in the scorn department,and justified his digs by saying he was “challenging” me. Shades of Alice Miller’s “for your own good.”
    Needless to say, it was a useless, inhibited therapy group.

  • Mary S

    February 28th, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    Thank you to the originator and to all the contributors to this web page. It is better than anything I’ve found so far about counterproductive therapy. I wish a resource like this had been available when I first tried therapy, about twenty-five years ago. I tried to go about finding a therapist intelligently, much as I would go about buying a car or a house. But information about therapy was difficult to find. I tried asking questions over the phone, but didn’t really know good ones, and often didn’t understand the answers. I did not go back to the first therapist I tried – she seemed to talk too much about herself, and her office was in a dark, moldy-smelling basement with dingy furnishings. That was a rational decision. The second therapist seemed OK at first, but after three sessions I had serious doubts; she seemed shallow and not very professional (e.g., when I asked what we did in therapy, she replied, “We talk.”) When I told her my decision not to return, she said, “You expect too much; that’s your problem.” Unfortunately, I was very vulnerable to internalizing that kind of comment. I tried a third therapist “on the rebound”. She turned out to be worse. When I asked questions about what she was doing and why, I got responses such as “Do you realize you’re asking me to give up my control?” Therapy with her was a crazy world. Regrettably, I stuck with her for three months. I was in much worse shape psychologically than before therapy.
    I tried again. I asked the new therapist over the phone if she let her patients know what she was doing; she assured me that she did. But when I asked her in sessions her reason for doing something, she would either change the subject or say something like, “I have my reasons.” She also laughed at me at some particularly insensitive times. I found a book that mentioned “therapist/client incompatibility.” It was presented as a controversial topic, but the authors indicated that it might sometimes occur. They gave a checklist to help decide whether a client’s problems with therapy were “resistance” or “incompatibility”. I checked equal numbers of items in each category. Not being inclined to give myself the benefit of the doubt, I continued a couple more months with that therapist before finally quitting (at which point she said, “You’ll never get better if you keep seeking the perfect therapist.”).
    I have tried therapy off and on again since then, being wiser about quitting when the handwriting was on the wall. I suspect that some of the better therapists might have been helpful if I had tried them before the harmful ones, but by then I just was not able to trust much. The last time I tried (about five years ago) actually was the most helpful. Being in my sixties gave me a little more confidence that maybe I knew a thing or two about what was and was not helpful for me. The therapist wasn’t great, but his occasional boundary trespasses gave me a reasonable amount of practice in asserting boundaries, and he did usually back off when asked. To my delight, the combination of grieving, being assertive, “speaking my voice,” and occasional “confessing,” along with his “good enough” acceptance started making a noticeable difference in my will and ability to do things to help myself. Unfortunately, he didn’t see the improvement and didn’t accept my word that I was improving, so he started initiating more interventions, which were counterproductive. For example, he said he thought I was harming myself by focusing so much on ways in which I was different from him. I told him of all the evidence I had encountered that paying attention to differences can be a key to understanding and to changing behavior to be more constructive. He responded that if I cared about evidence, I should see a cognitive therapist. So that experience turned out to be two steps forward and one backward.
    I will look into the possibility of posting more about my experiences on one of the blogs mentioned by posters here.
    Again, thank you. This page should help some clients avoid negative therapy experiences such as mine. Possibly it may also help therapists prevent them.

  • margarets

    February 28th, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    Hello Mary – reading over your post I had several thoughts:

    The fact that you kept trying new therapists shows that you are open-minded, though I’ll bet your ex-therapists thought you were resistant!

    The fact that you walked away from bad therapy shows that you actually have a decent sense of your own boundaries.

    And yeah, by the age of sixty, you DO know what works for you and what doesn’t. Mr Johnny-come-lately therapist should respect that. Sheesh.

  • Sue

    February 28th, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    In my opinion, if the apprehension around therapy is about marching forward to deal with a frightening issue, that’s resistance. If the apprehension is about personalities, the ordinary offenses of life: the clinician’s rudeness, tactlessness, obtuseness, or the feeling we’re training them, then the problem is them.

    Mary, from your account, I get the impression your therapists’ “resisted” you acting on your own behalf as an informed consumer. Wonder if they’d had been more comfortable with a naive, worshipful patient.

    When therapists so gingerly broach the subject of bad therapy, they often couch the problem in terms of “compatibility” as opposed to simple incompetence.

    I’m curious. Do you remember to what book you were referring for that checklist?

  • mary s

    February 28th, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    No, I don’t remember the name or author of the book that had the checklist. The only thing I remember about the checklist was one question in the “incompatibility” list that went something like “You are giving into the therapist’s personality rather than to the process.” I didn’t know how to answer that; part of the problem was that therapist 2 had said in the first or second session that in therapy I was the star; I gasped, since part of what I hoped for help with in therapy was social phobia problems. She then said that I might not like the process. So I didn’t really know how to separate “the process” from the therapist. A couple of years ago I came across a checklist on the web for “bad therapy” where one of the criteria was “You don’t know whether you are giving into the process or the therapist.” That was easier to answer, with a a resounding yes.
    I definitely was naive when I started therapy. I had read a book before starting that described feminist therapy as a “nurturing” process, but was too naive to realize that there was tremendous variability in what therapy was, including within feminist therapy. Therapy didn’t seem at all nurturing to me. But one therapist pronounced that I couldn’t accept nurturance from a woman. That was another thing that didn’t fit with the evidence of my experience — but that I internalized and felt ashamed for. The problems I went to therapy were bigger problems in therapy than in ordinary life; therapy didn’t help with them, but just took on a life of its own.

  • Sue

    February 28th, 2011 at 10:17 PM

    Mary, you describe my therapy as well. It became just another layer of toxins, untruths and authoritarian construct as opposed to the healing the profession advertises.

    Wow, your cast of characters you discuss certainly handed out the digs. I think many of them don’t understand that the consulting room is not magically different from real life. A put down is a put down, shaming is shaming, and bluster isn’t any different just because someone with a MSW or PhD uttered it.

  • margarets

    March 1st, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    OK, I really *must* get on with this blog I keep promising, because one of its major entries will be a very comprehensive reading list re: iatrogenic therapy, unvalidated therapies, flawed premises in therapy, and a good whack of therapy horror stories. The texts validate everything posted on this thread!

  • Sue

    March 1st, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    Margarets, I’ll look forward to your list. What resonated with me was how little I could find on this core subject, particularly less extreme abuses which are far more common. And how often the breakdown is blamed on the patient/client, leaving the therapist inculpable. And I found almost nothing for consumers about recovery.

  • Susy

    July 5th, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    My daughter & granddaughter lived w me to ENAE my daughter to acquire her BSN & had my granddaughter for whom I provided total care as dad not in pic! I was involved I everything from the birth to making parties, furnishing room, schoolwork & wore many hats! My daughter & I were best friends (I thought ‘ now she is involved with an extremely controlling narcisstic guy who my granddaughter told me doesn’t let her gal & always yells at her & mommy! This guy came over unexpdctey & moved my fam out 3 days after congrats ltr to work in OR & my niece told me that just the nite b; she said wasn’t ready tomove yet! So, no one transitioned my granddaughter who left me a sad note that she wants me ‘here’ & where am which broke my heart! She told me numerous times how mean he is & -st 6 months or so , I awoke 4 so I’d b up to greet my granddaughter ‘ drive her go school. I witnessed him call her fat & call her in house midday for no reason after she waited 2 hrs GOR her friend to play ! My granddaughter cried hysterically & shocking my once assertive daughter begged him to allow her own daugter who barely knew or saw him go out! He yelled,”are u trying to undermine my Uthority!” & my angel was finally allowed out 2 hrs lTer (I left in shock which I regret!?) that’s abuse from my research plus I v been text by angel & she must not b lowed to caus she eraced it & school wouldn’t allow me to come say hi ! My poor baby girl has ways had me to protect her & I’m at a total loss! I may call police to take her n report the abuse I saw! A y advice? I think it’s been since 10/12 but I saw her during 2nd grade but (as a retired tchr especially!) I can’t bear that I never help or saw HW & no one else did except guy who yells at her. My daughter’s learning to talk like she “should” & learning to “listen”! He publish humiliates my daughter & tells her she’s no good w finances so not allowed to buy anything + he’s always kicking her out as he didn’t put my daughters name on house although she pays majority of bills!? OMG… I must act now but how? There’s even much more if that’s possible (equally scarey or worse!)

  • Susy

    July 5th, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    I meant to reply that I hope all goes well for everyone in this most difficult time where time is of the essence! My angel was happy skipping lil girl who now says,”it’s only me…GG!) sad tone & pitch & he never says a nice word to her ever:-((
    I must get her out but didn’t want more trauma

  • Mary S

    March 1st, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    Some things relevant to Sue’s last remark: I have found the following to be some of the most positive developments to me as a survivor of counterproductive therapy:

    1. Psychotherapy with “Impossible” Cases: Efficient Treatment of Therapy Veterans, by Barry Duncan, Mark Hubble, and Scott Miller, 1997. The phrase “therapy veteran” indicates not just that a client has had experience with therapy, probably with little or no success, but that they may have wounds and scars, and perhaps psychological trauma, from the experience. The authors describe how they went about trying to find ways to help such people, and what they came up with. Their method has evolved into what is called Client Directed Therapy. They have written other books on the subject, but they are not as good, to my mind, as this one.

    2.Michael Lambert, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University, has been very concerned about iatrogenic therapy, and has been working to develop methods to prevent it by providing feedback to therapists and clients. He was president of the Society for Psychotherapy Research a couple of years ago, and his presidential address was devoted to the problem of iatrogenic therapy. Last year he came out with a book, Prevention of Treatment Failure: The Use of Measuring, Monitoring, and Feedback in Clinical Practice. I haven’t read it; I have read some of his articles, which can get somewhat technical (which doesn’t bother me; I’ve got a nerdy/geeky streak), but might put off some people. He has had success in lowering deterioration rates in at the Brigham Young counseling center. I recently read an article by him that discussed the problems involved in trying to do research on the topic — part of the problem is that funding agencies don’t seem to be willing to fund it.

    3. Clinician’s Guide to Evidence-Based Practices: Mental Health and the Addictions, by Norcross, Hogan, and Koocher (2008), although intended for therapists, can also be a good source of information for clients. It is in some sense a description of “best practices,” and seems quite consumer friendly in tone – for example, there is a list of questions they suggest asking new clients, which includes such things as asking the client if they have any treatment preferences (and taking that into account when looking for suitable treatments).

  • Sue

    March 2nd, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Mary S. Thanks so much for that list. I’m familiar with Duncan who was kind enough to link to my blog, but haven’t read that specific book.

    The most helpful of my reading:
    “Shouldn’t I Be Feeling Better By Now?” by Yvonne Bates, A diverse collection of client essays exploring how subtle and not-so-subtle ways psychotherapy turned harmful. (I had to get this book from the UK and searched several used book sites to get the best price.)

    For consumers: Manufacturing Victims, What the Psychology Industry Is Doing to People. by Tana Dineen. Dineen critiques the “victim psychology” and pathologizing mindset which creates a detrimental influence on our culture.

    Of Jeffrey Masson’s two “anti-therapy” books, I preferred Final Analysis, a first-person account of the carnival he witnessed going into and leaving a career as a psychoanalyst.

    Ellen Plasil’s “Therapist,” depicts the worst therapist imaginable, but more importantly, the author’s courage in surviving it.

    Susan Penfold’s Sexual Abuse By Healing Professionals was useful to understand non-sexual abuse. (Survivors have thought the damage isn’t from the sex itself, but the events leading to it.)

    David Smail’s How to Survive Without Therapy, is mostly a critique which I enjoyed.

    A blog visitor recommended Theodore Dorpat’s Gaslighting The Double Whammy, Interrogation and Other Methods of Covert Control in Psychotherapy and Analysis. An insightful book about how therapists take power over their clients.

    Narcissism and the Psychotherapist by Sheila Rouslin Welt and William G. Herron talked about traps of the profession as did Michael Sussman’s A Curious Calling. Both books (for professionals) gave me a glimpse into issues from their viewpoint.

    Of the books, only Dineen’s title was for consumers and Bates’ book, though for professionals, did have consumers in mind.

    Both Tracy and I have blogs mentioned above, and you can reach us there, as well as Tracy’s Facebook group, Walk Away from Bad Therapy.

    If I haven’t recommended TELL, the Therapy Exploitation Link Line, in the last ten seconds, I’ll repeat myself.

  • Mary S

    March 5th, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    This isn’t something I’d include on my positive list above, but I think that those who have filed complaints against therapists, or are considering filing such complaints, ought to read the following page from the website of the American Psychological Association, the professional association to which most U. S. therapists who are psychologists belong:

  • Elizabeth

    March 8th, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    I have been in therapy for the past 5 years with a wonderfuk therapist. I started therapy for addiction and problems with my first marriage. Now that I am clean the fact that I am bi-polar has surfaced and I am being treated.

    While I am happy with my therapist I do have some questions about unusual or boundry crossing behavior…She initiated communication through email, text (her private cell phone). She does self-diclose but not to the point where the session becomes about her. She has told me that at some point in time I will have to get rid of the “toxic” people on my life (meaning my family) and she initiates a hug at the end of most sessions. I don’t feel these things have harmed me or my therapy in anyway, I just want to know if anyone else has this type of relationship with their T.

    (Note: I have never and will never call her outside of normal business hours unless I am leaving her a message on her office phone. All communication via her cell phone has been emergency only)

  • Sue

    March 9th, 2011 at 8:36 AM

    Elizabeth, your relationship in therapy sounds complicated, and I only can offer reactions as a lay person.

    I found it ultimately destructive for a therapist to save me, attempt to “direct” my life in any way, or pretend any kind of personal relationship. A therapist becoming too involved with clients, or mix them into her personal life, and that ultimately can backfire.

    I also don’t believe in “toxic people” per se (unless we’re talking about history’s most notorious villains.) There certainly can be unbalanced toxic relationships, some of which can be re-balanced to some degree, some which can’t. I don’t think it up to the therapist to tell us how these repairs should progress. It’s our lives.

    I believe ultimately we have to solve our own problems, and therapy can only be a catalyst.

    A key question: How you think your therapist would react if you talked with her about your concerns. You might know her well by now, and even have a sense of how she’d take the discussion. There probably is a reason that you found this thread.

  • margarets

    March 9th, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Elizabeth, reading your post my thoughts were:

    1) Five years is a long time to be in therapy. Did you set goals with this therapist, a treatment plan? Have you determined how you will know when it’s time to leave therapy, i.e. when you’re ready to deal with issues on your own?

    2) Is your therapist qualified to diagnose bi-polar disorder? I believe only psychiatrists are supposed to diagnose mental illness; other psychotherapists should refer clients for a proper assessment. I recommend getting a second opinion. The fact that once you got clean, your bi-polar “surfaced” sounds to me that your T is looking for ways to keep you in therapy.

    3) All the boundary-crossing stuff you describe is a red flag to me. Also, I am suspicious that she advises you to get rid of your family. That kind of thing is a red flag for trying to isolate you and make you more dependent on the therapist. Do *you* think your family is so toxic that you need to cut them off? Some families are that toxic, but it is a very personal matter and a decision that must feel right to *you*. What the T thinks is irrelevant.

    4) I agree with Sue that there is a reason why you found this thread. Something about your therapy just doesn’t sit right with you. And you know what? That’s a perfectly good reason to quit therapy. Or at least take a break, collect your thoughts, and then decide how to proceed.

    5) I think that if you’ve recovered from a divorce *and* an addiction (congrats by the way, that is a major accomplishment), you are already a very strong person, and probably ready to manage on your own.

  • Sue

    March 9th, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    @Mary–What struck me about your link is it’s all about the distress of the practitioner. There’s not the slightest concern for the client. I’d think any client distressed enough to file a complaint had damaging treatment regardless of whether it is ever judged an “ethics violation.”

    @Elizabeth: I wrote this ever so lightly, since I’m the typo champion. However…paradoxical…er… Freudian slip in the first sentence of your post.

  • Elizabeth

    March 9th, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    In Response: I should clarify that my 5 years of therapy has been episodic, not continual. I have a Pdoc that I see monthly who is the diagnosing doc. I very much believe in toxic people, and my family is 100% toxic.

    I have made wonderful progress with her help and I feel comfortable bringing up any issues I may have with her. Today in my session I asked why she allowed communication outside of session and the use of the cell phone, she said that by not pushing boundries I earned these things. Having an opportunity to contact her if I had a crisis. The main reason she gave me her cell phone number was due to the fact that she shifts between 4 different buildings throughout the day and isn’t always able answer her office phone and if I was running late or needed to cancel I could get ahold of her. We discussed other things and I left feeling my questions had been answered. I believe she can help me work through my current problems and I can go out on my own (knowing I can return if I need it)

    @Sue- Our buddy Freud was problem the biggest rule breaker of them all; holding dual relationships, crossing many a boundry and lord knows what else…but thank you for your observation.

  • Mary S

    March 9th, 2011 at 8:45 PM


    I agree with the recommendation to get a second opinion about the bipolar diagnosis. Diagnosis of mental disorders is very tricky, far from an exact science, so a second diagnosis of something as serious as bipolar disorder is always in order. In particular, various physical causes can have symptoms that may be misdiagnosed as bipolar (e.g., steroid medications for inflamation; some forms of epilepsy), and an overzealous therapist might diagnose some thing milder (e.g.,cyclothymia or just ordinary mood swings) as bipolar. So try to find a good diagnostician for the second opinion.

    Also, the fact that you have been working with your therapist for five years sure sounds like a red flag to me that something is fishy about the therapist.

    I also agree that getting clean from addiction is a major accomplishment and deserves a lot of respect (including, of course, self-respect).

  • Mary S

    March 9th, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    Yes, your impression of the info on the link is the same as mine: the focus is on the distress of the practitioner, with no concern for the client. By the way, the authors of the book from which this is an excerpt also wrote a book on ethics in psychotherapy, and one of them is currently president of the American Psychological Association.

  • Sue

    March 10th, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    @Mary-There’s a contemptuous book by Lawrence E. Hedges advising practitioners that a complaining client often is in the throes of “transference psychosis.” I translate that to mean, if the client complains, she’s invariably crazy. It’s all about them. Ethics indeed.

    @Elizabeth. I was referring to a rather ironic typo, the next to last word of your first sentence. (Mind you, I’m the typo queen.)

    Re: toxic people. While I certainly agree people in our lives can be angry and do great damage, I’ve found that “toxic people” is a counter-productive label because it renders me a passive victim.

    I prefer to remember that people act destructively out of their own fears and insecurities. Hurtful people are hurting people.

    It’s sometimes possible to re-make more functional relationships, whether that means setting limits, confronting or avoiding them. I feel it’s the relationships that are toxic, so I avoid labeling other human beings as intrinsically poisonous. I realize that I’m disagreeing with many of the therapists and self-help books of the land.

    When I encounter a difficult person, I do my best to problem-solve. My skills at that are a work-in-progress.

    I certainly understand extremely difficult families. Sometimes things can be evened out, sometimes not. How you deal with this is your call–not your therapist’s. You seem like a strong person.

  • Renee

    March 10th, 2011 at 3:19 PM

    I got my notes from my old therapist after asking for 6 months. I had to get a third party to pick them up, I went with my friend who handed them to me in her office. She changed dates, she had the wrong birth date she changed my words to make me look like I was sucidial (was not) I have a severe case of PTSD that got worse after her ugly termination and abandonment. She thinks I needed the file to file a claim on her, hense the changes of her notes. I lost my business because of the depression from my Therapy with her I just fell apart and did not pay attention to my partner paying the bills ect.. I left her a message regarding my files and how I lost my business and everything After I said that to her my Landlord leaves me a message saying he received a letter from the Sheriff stating im not balanced, narcissistic and revengeful. I left her an e-mail asking to see if she called the Sheriff on me…she said NO she contacted no one. Its funny she was the only person who ever said I was narcissistic and that is in writing and the revenge came from her thinking I was going to file a complaint. So, when I went to pick up my file I asked her to sigh a piece of paper stating she was not the one who called the Sheriff on me….she refused. As I sat down and read her notes she changed them to help her case, she said I had sloppy business skills, I called my emoloyees stupid (so not true) I was tired all the time over worked not making sense… I paid her in cash and I never new how much I had, I would never take a receipt from her..I complained when I had to pay her all this is not true I have an e-mail saying “your always good at paying me” one part of her notes talked about termination the first months I saw her….I do not get it. what do I do…she is so mean…she left out the part when I came to see her to have her read me my file she looked at me and said “your one sick girl” nothing like that on her notes..or swaring at me all the time, saying I have DID and never explaining it to me or why she would say such a stupid thing …when I confronted her about that she terminated me….help she ruined my life…I have nothing now…

  • Mary S

    March 10th, 2011 at 3:58 PM

    Thanks for the additional information/clarification. Your situation does not sound as worrisome as it originally did. Also, the fact that you were able to talk constructively with your therapist about your concerns sounds like a good sign.

    Sue –
    Your comment reminds me that my therapist3 once said, “Transference has occurred without my intending it to.” Uhh ..

    However, some therapists now regard transference as what the client brings to the relationship, and countertransference what the therapist brings to it.
    That’s quite a change in meaning. The revised meaning is something that makes sense to me, and gives the client the opening to say, “I wonder if your response is countertransference.”

    I looked up Hedges’ book. It sounds to me not so much contemptuous as off in his own world. In fact, he says he does not like the phrase “transference psychosis,” but prefers “organizing transference,” since he maintains that this phenomenon is quite normal and common. He believes that this “transference” stems from some early trauma, possibly even before birth. His point seems to be that complaints often occur when the “organizing transference” arises. He doesn’t seem to blame the client so much as try to convince the complaints board that it is just a stage in the therapeutic process that the client is going through. What I wonder is if he uses informed consent, telling the client that this might happen.

  • margarets

    March 11th, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Well of course a complaint is really just “transference”. That explanation serves two important purposes for the therapist: 1) It absolves the therapist of all blame, and 2) it cannot be proven or disproven. Ding ding ding! Therapist wins!

    And what is the remedy for transference? Why, more therapy. Lots and lots of therapy, which equals lots and lots of fees. Therapist wins again!

  • Sue

    March 11th, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    @Mary-I found Hedges’ world pretty scary.

    @Renee- Therapy with a crazy therapist can seem crazy-making. I had to to realize that the therapist was never going to save me, and it all was an unreal world. He made me feel “sick” to keep me hooked, and it’s a distorted lens.

    I too felt like the therapist ruined my life, but that was more of the self-pity he taught me to do. Once I saw this and started to overcome this, I felt stronger.

  • admin2

    March 11th, 2011 at 6:44 PM

    Hi everyone,

    I am Faith Markham, Topic Expert Coordinator here at and I manage the blog. Thank you all so much for sharing your stories and creating such a meaningful and supportive forum on this post.

    I wanted to let you all know that Good Therapy is currently assisting Glamour Magazine in an investigative report on sexual exploitation in therapy. Please see our blog post (here: for more information and details about how to potentially share your story. Feel free to also leave any questions or concerns you may have about this as a comment on that post.

    Faith :-)

  • margarets

    March 11th, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    Hello Faith! Actually I’ve been thinking lately that the blog admins deserve praise for creating this space for this discussion.

    I imagine it’s difficult sometimes to read the negative comments about therapy and therapists, so it’s a mark of your open-mindedness that you give commenters free rein.

    So, thanks!

  • Sue

    March 11th, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    Faith, adding to Margaret’s thanks as well. This isn’t an easy subject.

  • Mary S

    March 13th, 2011 at 6:59 PM

    I agree with Margaret and Sue. Very much appreciated.

  • Norse

    March 28th, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    Does anyone have anything good to say about therapy?

    I’ve see very few positive posts, and everyone seems to be ignoring them.

    How am I supposed to feel confident in ever seeing a therapist if the results are only negative, and no one can be helped?

    Is there no use in trying?

    Should I just give up?

    Every comment here is telling me that there is no hope for me. All of you are telling me, that there is no hope.

    Maybe it’s good I came here to see that no one can help me.

  • Lindsay

    December 12th, 2018 at 9:31 AM

    Hey there, don’t lose hope! I have been reading all of these posts as well, and many of them are very discouraging, but they are coming from a place of hurt and anger resulting from their work with therapists who were less than ethical. I’ve also noticed that it is the same few people replying to almost every single post or thread. It can take a while to find a person who is the right fit, but when you do, it is worth it into therapy can be extremely beneficial! I’m sorry that you feel as though things are hopeless . That’s a tough way to feel. But keep trying to find the right fit, they are out there!

  • Lee

    March 28th, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    I had a therapist who habitually called to change the time of our appointments. Sometimes she need to start 10 minutes late, or early, sometimes she wanted an hour later or earlier. Once she gave me the wrong time for an appointment, and I showed up, and she thought we were meeting an hour later. I had her on my voicemail confirming the time I showed up for, so she couldn’t claim I had “misunderstood” her. It got to the point where if the phone rang a few hours before our appointment, I was anxious that it would be her calling to change the time. The days I had therapy I became anxious about hearing from her. Finally I had to leave. There were other issues as well…but this one was really a big problem.

  • Lee

    March 28th, 2011 at 8:15 AM

    Well, I’ve been reading other posts on here, and they are all really helpful and informative. I want to share some other experiences I’ve had for the sake of hopefully helping others, including perhaps therapists who may be reading.

    So…..another therapist who worked with me while my mother was seriously ill with emphysema, seemed particularly uninterested in helping me come to terms with my anger about her illness. I was struggling with anger because she had been a terrible parent, and now needed alot of care from me. This was at a time when I was putting myself through graduate school, and working full-time as well, and I felt overwhelmed. My mother’s lung disease was directly related to her lifestyle, the fact that she had smoked between one and two packs of Marlboros for most of her life, and never exercised, and didn’t eat correctly. Basically, she didn’t take care of herself. I found it hard to cope with my anger, because I did want to be there for her, but I was also finding it difficult to create balance at that point in my life. I had to be in graduate school to obtain the license I needed in order to keep my job, so leaving wasn’t an option. I was under state requirements to acquire the necessary credentials in order to stay employed.

    I sensed that this therapist wasn’t really on my side, and would ask her how to deal with my anger, and she would simply say it was normal. Which didn’t really help me cope with it any better. I found myself getting impatient with my mother at times when I was taking care of her, and needed help in dealing with that, because I didn’t feel good about it. Once someone is ill, that’s it. There’s not much that can be done, and being unkind or impatient is not really helpful. I wanted help to deal with this ongoing situation.

    I finally left, because while I couldn’t put my finger on it….after all, I’m not a therapist…I sensed that my therapist didn’t approve of my feelings about my mother.

    On the day I left, as I was walking out the door, she stopped me and said that she felt I should know, that she was a smoker!!!

    I walked away completely stunned, and wondered why she continued to work with me, knowing what I was struggling with.

    I thought that it was a very strange thing to do, and then to acknowledge it as well, struck me as highly unprofessional.

    I would love some feedback on this. thanks!

  • margarets

    March 28th, 2011 at 7:09 PM

    Norse, this focus of this thread is questionable therapy, so naturally there will be many posts about bad therapy experiences. No doubt there is info on the internet about positive experiences too. There are good therapists, though I personally believe they are rare, exceptional and probably just naturally wise and compassionate people (i.e. their psychotherapy training didn’t make them that way). If you keep looking eventually you will find one.

    Lee, those are two pretty big red flags! The constant changing of appointments is just plain rude, and what good is a rude therapist? Re: the other issue, my guess is the therapist felt you were judging your mother’s smoking, and felt judged herself as a smoker, and therefore felt defensive and couldn’t work up any sympathy for your situation. Let’s face it, that therapist could very well be in your mother’s shoes at some point, and she knew it and didn’t like it. Why else would she bring it up, of all the things she could tell you about herself, right? I think that was her clumsy way of saying “don’t talk about smoking it makes me uncomfortable” or even “I can’t really help you with this because of my own issues”. She wanted you to make the decision to end therapy and solve the problem, so she wouldn’t have to do it. So it’s just as well you got out.

    Just my two cents.

  • Tired

    April 1st, 2011 at 12:21 AM

    I went to a therapist; didn’t feel comfortable going to her so I went and found another, and it worked out well. I found out later that the first therapist I saw had counseled a couple for marital issues, and ended up marrying the husband! She contributed to the breakup of the marriage. I have that on pretty good authority because I was working for a divorce lawyer at the time and she knew what had transpired. Good thing I trusted my gut and chose going to someone else – clearly that first therapist had some ethical issues!

  • Sylvia

    April 1st, 2011 at 6:34 AM


    Thank you for this thread and the list. Good to know I’m not alone. I’ve had a really bad experience with psychotherapists and psychologists. I’m still suffering from flashbacks, and although it’s been about 6 months since it’s finished, it’s still weighing heavy on my mind and heart. I was going to describe my experience with couple therapy here (as it was my longest and most important encounter with a therapist) but now I see the post got really long, and I still haven’t got to it, so I’ll leave it for later; for now I will just tell you about my online experiences with psychologists, which was before the face-to-face couple thing.

    Just to give you a little background, I decided to consult an online psyhologist when I and my ex had been together for about a year. Our relationship was strange from the very begining – I generally felt very neglected, ignored anc challenged by him, he was passive and often got angry when I mentioned I was hurt by something, or defensive when I spoke about my needs etc. On the other hand he got extremely emotional sometimes and broke down in tears, told me he was scared to open up because of his past and needed to feel more confident. I tried my best to make him feel safe and show understanding to even seemingly bizarre behaviours and explained the way I feel and why I feel this or that in a certain situation a hundred times. And I couldn’t get my head around why this wasn’t working. I lacked support and understanding, was in a rather difficult situation also in other areas of life, so finally it ended in panic attacks and depression for me. That’s when I decided to write to an online psychologist. I think they’re not the same “category” as counsellors you see face to face, so I’m not going to go into every detail of it, though I think they can be just as detrimental – at least it’s my experience. I was desperate and needed some opinion; all the articles I read about relationship problems and advice I took from them didn’t work. Before I started reading this stuff I had been thinking constantly why I wasn’t feeling OK in that relationship, trying to sort it out, I sought in myself, was far from blaming the other party, and when we had a disagreement, I took everything I heard from my bf seriously, acted on every suggestion, even though he didn’t seem to try to see things from my perspective at all. I read about self-esteem, differences between men and women, self-sufficiency, clear communication, all that modern mumbo jumbo. And when that didn’t work, I thought maybe my bf was an Aspie – but wasn’t, as it turned out. I did all the research, though it was clear for both of us there was a problem. He always had an excuse not to think about things (got angry when I wanted us to write down our expectations).

    So being desperate as I was, having got back to my home town, as I resigned from my job because of panic attacks, I decided it would be best to use psychological services online. Online for two reasons – first, my town is rather small and was scared I wouldn’t come across a good psychologist, second, the story of my relationship was so complicated that it would be better to write it all down, and also I had the chance to present my background – a lot of information at once, which I woudln’t be able to present during a normal eye-to-eye session. I bought out the package of 3 e-mails, so there was room for elaborating on things, clearing them up etc. if something didn’t seem right the first time. However, the final conclusion of that lady was that the same as she put forward in her first mail – that I expected too much of a relationship because I lacked huge amount of stuff during childhood, and it’s not my boyfriend’s task to fulfill those holes, so I should get therapy. I mentioned my talks with bf were very competitive – he would get confrontational about slightest things – and at some point it really started bothering me as I could never get my point across and he always had to win (also in any games we played). She asked me what exactly bothered me about him winning all the time and I answered what I knew – that at the begining it didn’t bother me at all, I was quick to express praise and accept his viewpoint on things, but it turned out that whenever I did that it automatically labelled my point of view as incorrect, sometimes I was also right when he was wrong, but he’s never admit it; and so I just started to feel denied and giving in became equal to rejecting my own standpoint. She said the way of thinking I was presenting – feeling of jealousy when a partner is winning, feeling you’re losing out, not being able to enjoy partner’s success – is damaging to a relationship, and that I should make my partner happy because by making partner happy we increase our own happiness. Getting answers like this was really painful to me – 1. I got no recognition I can feel like this because clearly my partner isn’t doing all those things she’s writing about – eg enjoying my happiness, 2. suggesting I’m not acting right, not doing those things, when they were natural to me, suggesting I am sabotaging my relationship. I felt like someone was denying me all that lovely stuff they were talking about and making me feel guilty about it. When I answered I didn’t know what to do because every attempt at a nicer conversation, making it more fun or close, ended in failure for me, she would still say the same thing. I also told her I didn’t get any recognition from him or adoration (he wouldn’t invite me out, pay compliments, flirt etc.)- either before or after the relationship started – whenever I mentioned my achievements, he would just say ‘aha’ or mention his own. The lady told me to do a Martian test – whether you really have to show praise every time one mentions their success and also said what’s natural to me is not necessarily natural to others. Same goes for the adoration part – she told me to ask myself what adoration meant to me as kindly informed me it differed in the beginning of a relationship and later – though I had mentioned I got it NEVER from him – and at the end of our correpondency concluded that what I was describing was only my problem (she just wrote it straight like this), and that I expexed everyone around to adore me, so I should get therapy. It was also suggested my bf had a pretty high self-esteem and was generally ok. Her conclusions were intertwined with some musings on relationships and advice following from them. One of those things was the idea that you should not try to change your partner but see how to change yourself so that you’re bearable to your partner, to resign from egoism daily etc. – they’re all valid things, I’m sure, but not working in my case, since I’d been doing all this, and still it wasn’t working. My partner – just the opposite, I was the one to accommodate, so serving me passages like these put me into more confusion and guilt I already got from doing everything wrong – because whenever I would address a problem with him, he’d get defensive and put the blame on me. I therefore suggested to the lady that I should also get something from this relationship and not only give, to which she replied that love is not about barter but mutuality. It’s hard to argue with this. Also, I told her I missed some bond with my partner, and if all this is just about not expecting and not meeting needs, if I just don’t open up and not rely on my partner, then why be in a relationship at all. She replied I wanted to become one with the partner but that entails using or even abusing the other person to meeting my needs, and also the expectation that he should live in my world, when we are two different worlds that should co-exist. Plus beautiful passages about open positive communication, bulding love on empathy, sense of humour, trying to find out the other’s expectations – everything that I had been putting to practice so long and it didn’t work. I felt really bad reading suggestions that I hadn’t done enough of it, whereas it was clear my partner wasn’t doing all this stuff – but there was absolutely no hint of a possibility there could be something wrong with him. It was really bad, but I had no other explanation for all this. I started feeling really, really bad when bf ‘won’ another discussion – because it should not bother me, it’s just a sign of his healthy self-esteem that he ignores my stuff and promotes his, and other things like this. I tried communicating even more, though I already wrote to the lady that even though I do communicate my needs, he wouln’t meet them, though he claimed he wanted to. She said that maybe it was a matter of habit – he was used to functioning in a certain way for more than 20 years and it would be hard to change, she even gave a ‘real-life’ example of how difficult it is for her to stop being messy. And threw in an inspirational story on how we should accept what we can’t change in other people. There were many more ‘highlights’ like this in this correspondence – I was never confrontational with her, if I had doubts her interpretation fitted my situation, I always wrote why. Still she wouldn’t change her mind one bit. The conclusion was I expected bf (and ‘everyone around’) to meet my needs that should have been met in childhood. In my last letter I even asked straight whether it wouldn’t be better to break up if there are seemingly such huge differences between us, and so many things I ‘disliked’. Well, the answer I got to that was just that – suggestion I was using him to meet my needs and getting frustrated if he wasn’t able to, and he was not there to meet such needs, so I should get therapy. This left me devastated – I felt something was wrong with this, but just as I couldn’t reject every thing my bf was saying about me (I always treated his reproaches seriously and tried to accommodate), the same way I couldn’t just reject the “specialist” opinion, especially that I had 3 e-mails to explain the matter and her opinion didn’t evolve. So I thought that there might indeed be something wrong with me, even though I really did all I could, acted in accordance with rules of communication, taking into consideration all the possible differences between the sexes and people in general, never assuming the other person understands everything the same way as me, never attacking, rather giving out positive signals about what I’d like and all this stuff, never forcing him to act in any way, making sure he wanted to meet my expectations according to his vision of a relationship, comparing our visions etc. And it’s still suggested I’m not doing it right, assuming too much for myself and generally it’s only my problem, and he’s ok. Some months later I wrote to another psychologist online – she told me to treat what she wrote as a hypothesis (yes, at least she made such a disclaimer) and that the problem might be I am a very feminine woman who likes talking sharing her feelings, and he was a manly male, who just cares about facts. And that I should understand that rivalry is man’s natural environment (I mentioned our competitive talks). I answered that e-mail saying that it was also manly to be courteous to a girl or maybe try to conquer her, make her feel safe etc. so it’s hard to accept he’s just manly when he’s lacking other ‘manly’ traits. She wrote back saying that indeed it’s normal to expect to have your needs met in a relationship, and that I apparently I was open to meet bf’s needs but for some reason he wasn’t open to meet mine, so all she could suggest was couple therapy. And so we went to therapy… But that’s a different story.

    I will just tell you what I know NOW. My boyfriend is an Adult Child of an Alcoholic and his behaviours that I couldn’t understand are all typical of the syndrome – he’d get defensive for fear of getting hurt, he was scared of rejection so he didn’t initiate stuff, he was cynical when I tried flirting because he’d be scared of being ridiculed, he was scared to show enthusiasm when I talked about my stuff for fear of getting close, he’d put the blame on me for all my hurt, as he was scared of not meeting my expectations well enough, he always had to win because… and so on. I don’t really understand why no-one suggested such a possibility. I didn’t mention the fact my bf’s father was an alcoholic to the lady I wrote to – (I’d learnt it a few months after the relationship started,I probably knew it at that stage but probably wasn’t aware it could have such a huge impact searching for causes in all sorts of different areas), but I think now with all the info I gave her she could have asked a bit about his background. Of course I’d heard about the syndrome, but somehow didn’t know much about it and didn’t get seriously interested as I had a different idea of an alcoholic family, I guess. I knew his father and he hadn’t been drinking for a few years, and from what I understood from my bf his father drank a few years when bf was in secondary school, so not throughout his childhood. For some reason I couldn’t see the link – my bf obviously couldn’t as well – all the blockages, issues he told me about in the beginning were of romantic nature – past disappointment, so neither of us saw connection to childhood. Later it turned out that my bf’s father had begun drinking rougly when my bf was born, so it must have had an impact for sure. Btw, when we went to couple therapy at some point we talked about our families and mentioned the fact of my bf’s dad’s alcoholism. It never made any difference to the therapy anyway.

  • Mary S

    April 3rd, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    To Norse (and others who may have similar concerns),

    Please do bear in mind what Margaret said, that this particular web page is focusing on what can go wrong with therapy, so does not give the whole picture of therapy.

    Tired’s post gave a good example of how a client can “fire” a poor therapist, then find one who is good for them.

    Here is some more detail that might help you get a better picture of the overall situation: From what I’ve read, researchers who study the effectiveness of therapy estimate that about 10% of clients have negative therapy experiences. So proportionately, that is small. But if you take 10% of all the people trying therapy, the actual numbers are very large. You are seeing a sample of that 10% here, but not much of the other 90%. (I don’t know what the analogous percentages of harm from medical treatment are, but we have all heard of situations where someone acquires an infection because of inadequate sanitation in a hospital, or has a serious side effect from a drug, or a preventable drug interaction, or encounters an unscrupulous or incompetent physician. But despite these harmful effects, medical treatments very often really help – and can be lifesaving.)

    My reading also indicates that in studies of therapy, not all of the remaining 90% or so do benefit from the therapy being studied – some percentage (it seems to vary depending on what the person goes to therapy for, the particular type of therapy, and the therapist) don’t get worse, but don’t get the improvement they hope for either. Still, the ones who don’t benefit from the therapy and therapist in the study might benefit from a different type of therapy or a different therapist. In fact, there is a lot of evidence that the therapist-client fit is important. A therapist who may be good for one client may not be good for another, and vice-versa.

    So the take-home messages are:

    1. Be aware that you may need to “shop” carefully for a therapist. They are not all of equal quality. The information on this web page can help you recognize some red flags that can help you avoid a poor therapist and a poor fit. You may have to try one or two sessions with a therapist before being able to make a decent decision as to whether or not they are worth trying more. Also, even in good therapy, disagreements may occur. But if you can’t patch them up, or if too many red flags arise, it’s time to cut your losses and start over again. I know this can be hard, but it is better than continuing to work with a therapist who may be harmful, or even wasting your time, effort, and money on something that is not likely to be helpful.

    2. Be aware that not all problems can be solved by therapy. But sometimes they can be helped a lot even if not completely solved. (Medical analogy: There is no cure for diabetes, but good medical treatment can help you live better with it.) So be sure to be wary of a therapist who makes grand promises of outcomes.

    3. Therapy often requires hard work, and/or facing painful things by the client, and may involve setbacks now and then. (Again, the diabetes analogy fits: A diabetic needs to develop good habits of eating, taking medications properly, and exercise in order for the medical help to be effective. This can be difficult, but is well worth the effort.) So be prepared for such inherent difficulties. But a good therapist will help you as much as possible through the difficult times, and won’t introduce unnecessary difficulties.

    4. For some people, self-help can be as effective as, or better than, therapy. So don’t dismiss it if it seems workable for you. But also use the same care and caution in selecting a self-help method as you need in selecting a therapist. If it doesn’t make sense to you, or if it sounds too good to be true, then it’s probably not likely to be helpful. And expect it to involve some hard work, occasional setbacks, and possibly facing some painful things.

    Good luck and best wishes!

  • Brit

    April 4th, 2011 at 8:12 PM

    My very very close friend says his therapist will not let him bring his mother or even his partner to therapy. He gets to therapy at around 9 AM and doesn’t come back from it until 6 PM at earliest. He goes to his therapist’s home. His therapist has him and some of his friends as facebook friends. Maybe I’m just being overly cautious but that sounds off to me. Can someone explain this to me? I was even unsure if he was actually going to therapy because it sounds so weird but he definitely is. So I’m now concerned with these issues.

  • Mary S

    April 6th, 2011 at 8:09 AM

    This sounds more like a cult than therapy. Do your friend a favor by checking into this “therapist”. Ask for the therapist’s name (if you don’t know it already) and the name of the “therapy”, then search them on the web and see what you can find.

  • Brit

    April 6th, 2011 at 6:09 PM

    Is there a place on the web where I can search a databse or something of liscenced therapists? And does the fact that he works through the air force make any difference?

  • Mary S

    April 6th, 2011 at 8:13 PM

    Brit, I don’t know the answer to your questions.

    Can anyone else reading this help?

  • margarets

    April 8th, 2011 at 7:27 AM

    Mary S, please cite the research that says 90% of therapy clients have a good/helpful/worthwhile experience.

    Sylvia, your experience reminds me a little of mine. I was in a lousy relationship (although brief, thank god) and my therapist kept making excuses for the guy’s lousy behaviour and implying that the *real* problem was me and my issues with relationships. Except she didn’t know anything about me or my issues with relationships, because we never discussed it. At all. To this day she has no idea whether I’ve ever been married, how many times, if I’ve been in relationships with women also or what. It was all speculation on her part.

    This is why a bad therapist will always find fault with *you*: it keeps you in therapy, and keeps you paying their fees. The LAST thing a bad therapist wants you thinking is that you are basically OK and can figure out your problems on your own. A bad relationship is an *excellent* source of fodder for therapy sessions, so a bad therapist won’t want you to break it off in a hurry. The LAST thing you will hear from a bad therapist is that it’s OK to end a relationship that is making you miserable (because you might start getting ideas about quitting the therapy that is making you miserable too).

    If you’d asked me, as a friend, what I thought of your relationship, I would have given it to you straight: whatever the cause of your bf’s issues, he’s not treating you with kindness and respect, you don’t have to ask for kindness and respect or wait around for it, that’s not healthy, and it’s TOTALLY OK to bail on an unhealthy relationship.

    Brit, your state govt (if you are in the USA) probably has a licensing agency for psychologists and social workers, but “therapist”, “psychotherapist” and similar may not be regulated titles and therefore anyone can call themselves by those titles regardless of their training or experience. You’ll have to research this. Be warned that licensing is no guarantee that a therapist is any good. I agree that your friend’s therapy sounds very cultish, but if he believes it’s helping him it may be VERY difficult to get him away from it.

  • margarets

    April 8th, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Brit, do you mean that the *therapist* works through the Air Force, or your friend? If it’s the therapist, I would hope that the Air Force has vetted him very carefully and would only hire someone with proper qualifications and licenses, and would kick out a therapist engaging in questionable behaviour. All-day sessions, going to the therapist’s home, being Facebook friends, bringing family along – all of these qualify as questionable.

  • Brit

    April 8th, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    The “therapist” works through the air force. Thats how my friend found him because he’s in the military too, just not the same branch. I’ve convinced him to call and try to convince his therpaist to let SOMEONE (preferably me so I can either validate my fears or calm down) go with him this week but if that falls through, I’m demanding a phone number. I’ve also asked a psychology prof. that I trust and she agrees with you guys explicitly. Thank you for the help! :)

  • Mary S

    April 8th, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    I didn’t mention research that says 90% of therapy clients have a good/helpful/worthwhile experience, because I am not aware of such research. Can you give me references?

  • Sylvia

    April 9th, 2011 at 10:27 AM


    What you’re saying makes sense, however I find it surprising that that psychologist of mine implied the problem was me and the other party was OK in view of the fact that it was just an online consultation – a package of 3 mails, and what she advised me was stationary therapy – apparently not with her, as I mentioned I lived in a totally different place, so she would have no profit from it anyway. I just guess she was plain dumb and wanted to “show off” using modern mumbo jumbo, as some other therapist (whom I just happened to get familiar with, but she wasn’t my therapist) noticed.

    After one year I sent an e-mail to that online psychologist expressing my opinion – on the site of their service they encourage the clients to give reviews, so I did. I wrote about what I’d found out about my boyfriend’s issues, and that I was dissatisfied with the consultation as it led me in the wrong direction, enhancing the pain in the relationship, although it had been suggested in my e-mails that I sensed there was something wrong about it and expressed my doubts. I wrote that my problem was not merely giving a wrong diagnosis, but sticking to a diagnosis that is detrimental to the client and suggesting the course of action that in fact had been causing the problems in the first place. If she had given me something that just didn’t work, it would be ok, just a mistake, but if she insisted on something that is just the opposite of what should have been done (more altruism, less egoism – exactly the cause of the problem – of course it’s an oversimplification, but just to give you the idea) despite my doubts and examples to the contary, that’s very unprofessional and also lacks human touch.

    The answer I got is that lady was no longer working there but they would pass my mail over to her. In the meantime someone else answered for her. She wrote that she had gone through my correspondence with that woman, and it may have indeed looked like I had not got the empathy and understanding I needed at that time. At the same time she wrote she wasn’st going to defend the competences of that lady because in her opinion she didn’t need that. If I got her right, it was my fault again. She stated that I could have written to that woman: “Please show me more empathy because I can’t see it in the lines you’re giving me” and also “Please give me another hypothesis because the one I got doesn’t really make sense” (wasn’t that what I did really? just not in such a bold or blunt way) or I could have asked for a different psychologist as that was also an option. She also told me to notice a certain thing: that despite the fact I felt hurt by my ex-bf, I still sticked to him, and despite the fact I felt hurt by that woman, I still sticked to her. This is quite interesting because when I first wrote to that psychologist about my problems in the relationship, I also mentioned that I had a tendency to stay in situations which weren’t good for me – I wrote about a long and toxic friendship and a previous relationship, and even gave reasons why I think it was the case I acted this way, and I said that maybe it was yet another situation like this, that I didn’t want to see I was being mistreated and I was holding on to many explanations for my boyfriend’s behaviour, just like in the previous relationships, where in fact I should not accept them, as it always ended up badly for me, when I ignored my inner voice. Having that just given on a plate, the lady would say I indeed had problems with self-respect and my friendship had been bad for me, but the girl I was friends with still made me feel like I was better than her (because she expressed her jealousy often, discouraging me or sometimes even acting maliciously in order to prevent me from doing my stuff, developing – mainly it was about academic performance but also passions – she seemed jealous of my intelligence and played down the importance of learning, working etc.) and my then boyfriend didn’t make feel like I was better (he used to ignore or downplay my successes, always had to win, picked on details, so anything I said or did was never good enough) because he had a healthy self-esteem and it bothered me, because I felt threatened or whatever – but it was my problem because my needs for recognition were just screaming unfulfilled, so I should think about my career and get therapy. At the same time I shouldn’t neglect my inner voice, and maybe my panic attacks were trying to tell me something is wrong in the career department. It was, of course, but I still think the inner voice was pointing mainly to the relationship. That’s a side note, sorry for being chaotic, hope it’s still clear what I mean. The letter I got from that psychologist’s colleague ended on a “positive note” – that the crises like the ones I’ve been through in the relationship and also with the psychologist lead me to search for answers in myself, get to know myself more, develop. It was also said I had a lot of inner knowledge and should use it. Jesus, if life was that simple that we always knew what we felt was right despite signals pointing to the contary and had no quandaries, who would need psychologists?

    I don’t really understand when a psychologist is surprised you didn’t end a relationship with them or their peer when you felt something was wrong. As if it was that simple. I clearly stated when I had doubts about some hypothesis, not that I accepted everything blindly, but I still got the same answer, and my doubts were explained in some roundabout way or as denial, so – if I trust the psychologist – I will not reject his hypothesis straight away but think about it. But later when it proves wrong, it’s still my fault I accepted it in the first place. In other words, it’s my fault I trusted in his professionalism.

    I don’t get that logic. I ask a professional for an opinion on a relationship that makes me feel bad. She says it’s not really the other person, but my own issues, and implies it would be the same with any other person, which implies sticking to that one guy, as he seems OK. Then her colleague says something along the lines” if that guy made you feel bad, why didn’t you leave?” and “if that psychologist made you feel bad, why didn’t you quit?” at the same time defending the skills of her colleague. I don’t get it, to me it’s contradictory…

  • margarets

    April 9th, 2011 at 6:03 PM

    Mary S, this is what you wrote that suggested (to me) that you had come across such research:

    “From what I’ve read, researchers who study the effectiveness of therapy estimate that about 10% of clients have negative therapy experiences. So proportionately, that is small. But if you take 10% of all the people trying therapy, the actual numbers are very large. You are seeing a sample of that 10% here, but not much of the other 90%.

    Sylvia, that circular logic, that whole “be open-minded about what the therapist says, don’t be ‘resistant’, but if the therapist is wrong it’s your fault for listening to them” thing, is not at all uncommon in the therapy world.

  • Mary S

    April 10th, 2011 at 7:49 PM


    The next paragraph after the quote you gave said,

    “My reading also indicates that in studies of therapy, not all of the remaining 90% or so do benefit from the therapy being studied – some percentage (it seems to vary depending on what the person goes to therapy for, the particular type of therapy, and the therapist) don’t get worse, but don’t get the improvement they hope for either.”

    In other words, I was grouping into “negative” (perhaps “harmful” would have been clearer), “positive/helpful” and “neither harmful nor helpful.”

    I hope this clarifies what I was trying to say.

  • Sylvia

    April 12th, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    I’d like to share my experience of „real” therapy here (real as opposed to the previous, online thing I described) as I think it contains a lot of red flags, some of which are easy to see (not to me at that time obviously, but still), some of which are quite subtle.

    I went to couple therapy with my then boyfriend of one year for reasons I mentioned in the other posts. We were quite happy with the first meeting – the therapist seemed pleasant, nice and quite understanding of the situation (made a few remarks that fitted). We also specified the goals for the therapy, so it all looked pretty professional. The next 2 or 3 sessions weren’t bad either – I as well as my boyfriend felt quite understood about a couple of issues. But the more it went on, the worse it got. The therapy wasn’t really structured, the lady started by letting us speak what we wanted, even when we didn’t have anything to say, but obviously it didn’t bother us initially as we did have things to speak about, but discussing them didn’t really help us understand the problem we came with, so after a while it was pointless. Sometimes it happened the same thing was mentioned twice, but the therapist wouldn’t remember. From the beginning she had a habit of answering the phone during sessions, usually only to say she wasn’t able to speak at that very moment and asking to call back in an hour etc. Also, she sometimes extended the sessions by 30 minutes or even an hour without notice, charging more – in accordance with the time the session lasted. But we didn’t really see neither of those as a big deal, because we knew she had small children so it might be important to her to have her phone switched on, and also we had to go to her by train a couple of hours every week or two (as we were living in different cities and this met halfway), so longer sessions were welcomed. Although it IS unprofessional, I think it wouldn’t really bother me, had it not been for some more important things that went wrong.

    In this post I’d like to concentrate on the manner in which a T speaks to a client. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint where something is wrong, but you feel that there is something wrong. Perphaps it will be useful to somebody.

    Before we went to therapy, neither of us had had experience like this, so we didn’t necessarily know when something was wrong. It seemed fine on the surface, though when I look at it now, some of the things before it went really wrong were questionable. I’ll give you an example: we were speaking about our needs, wishes in the relationship and I said „I’d like to go out for dinners or coffee, as normal, average couples do” (I added that latter bit not to be accused of some fancy needs), T’s response: „But you’re not an average couple”. Hard to argue with that. But is that really a constructive answer? At that time I didn’t question it, I was just confused. Similar situation: T asks me what would need to happen for me to trust my partner again. My answer: „I’d like to feel understood, I’d like him to say something, show me that he understands so that I can feel it, to capture me”, T’s reply: „Maybe he’s not a captivating man?”. Again, what can I say to that? Is that really relevant to what I said? It took me a few more months and ending meeting with that T to realise there was something wrong with such answers. I guess I was used to my needs/wants/feelings being questioned all the time in the relationship, so it was hard to spot ‘wrongness’ in it. Don’t know whether that fits any point on the list of warning signs, I wouldn’t know how to call it, but I think it’s wrong. I understand the technique of questioning something that the client says in order to make him stop and think, look at things from a different angle, or perhaps make him see he’s making assumptions that are not necessarily true, but I’m really having a hard time seeing the validity and purpose of this technique as my T used it in the examples I gave you. What should I have have learned from it? I don’t get it…

    Another thing which was confusing was silence. Sometimes we discussed some situation, she would offer an explanation, then I’d give reasons why this explanation wouldn’t do for me (normally because throughout my relationship I’d had time to test many explanations and they just wouldn’t do – that’s why this whole relationship thing was so confusing to me in the first place), express my doubts asking some questions, and she would just keep silent and move on to the next topic. This happened just a couple of times, but still it’s strange. I remember once at the beginning of a session there was some small talk, and I said I was very tired and quite confused, that my mind felt like a mess, so I didn’t know if I would be able say something of quality that day. (This was one of the last sessions, in the period when I was feeling less and less grounded.) This was also left with no comment and in a couple of moments we just started the session as normal. At this point, I think, she was pretty ill-disposed towards me and it showed more and more. The reason might be the fact I didn’t accept her explanations just like this but questioned and had doubts. She told me more than once that I tended to say „yes, but…” to many things, and used a metaphor that she was offering many different cakes but I was picky. So at one point I became really scared to express my real thoughts and often bit my tongue for fear of hearing how I had to disagree. Is that the effect you want to have on your client? I was ‘picky’ also with my boyfriend – and I told her I know it might look like I was, but that the reason was I was scared to accept something, take for granted or to give in because it happened many times that I agreed on something, just let it go, but later it turned out my boyfriend picked on some details to use it against me – he often said that I didn’t make myself clear so he misunderstood (even though it had been explained many times before in similar situations) or admitting him right labelled me wrong, and I would not allow this anymore. I also said that I’ve been told by many that I was laid back and even non-assertive, and it is only in this relationship that I learnt to be so confrontational. Her answer was: „I don’t know if you were like this before or just now, but you are like this now” with quite an angry voice, I don’t remember if she added some suggestion I need to stop being like this, I might be wrong…

    I also remember she laughed at me. Maybe I’m overreacting calling it like that but it wasn’t pleasant. I was talking about some hurtful situation, when I felt ignored by my boyfriend. This may not in fact have seemed like a big deal but in view of the general situation it was quite painful to me. I wanted to explain it in detail so that it was clear what I meant and wanted to present it in the most objective way possible. As a result I might have not have been so good in getting it across perfectly clear, maybe it was too detailed and fast for her, as she was staring at me with a rather condescending smile. When I finished she said smiling „I don’t know what you’re talking about” and turned to my ex: „Do you know what she’s talking about?” and they just shook their shoulders and kind of laughed. It was humiliating. She also kind of mocked me when I talked about how my boyfriend needed to be right all the time and always had an opinion on every subject (which he presented as the only right view, showing no interest in mine). She said something like: „ooh, if he has his own opinion, then it’s really a problem”, I said: „but he ALWAYS has an opinion on everything”, her answer: „If always then you should dump him”, to which I didn’t know what to say, I felt really awful but I heard of a technique like this, so I thought I should just take it easy and smile or it would get worse. So I did smile but also I said: „I don’t really feel understood”. To which she continued the ‘fun’ thing and said: „But what do you mean? I do agree with you, don’t I?”. And they both had fun, which was even more painful to me as any attempts at turning something into joke in my relationship always ended in failure because my ex allegedly felt treated lightheartedly, but there with her he laughed. Of course she also stated I had problems with self-esteem if I can’t accept a different opinion. At a different occasion it was suggested I expected everyone to agree with me.

    Because before I went to therapy I read all the modern mumbo jumbo and the e-mails I told you about, I was scared to express my needs for recognition, attention etc. or expect anyone to do something especially for me, which they wouldn’t normally do. Well, I mentioned dinners and coffee anyway, and you know what happened. So yep, I threw it off my mind completely. It was also suggested a couple of times I was trying to change my partner, so I was scared to say anything that would raise suspicions like this either. But still I felt there was something wrong, that our relationship lacked some intimacy, nice talks (scared to mention for fear she’d say maybe he’s not a nice talker), romantic dinners (scared to say), flirt (same), fun (same) – any of these could be considered „my way”. So I said I couldn’t exactly understand that my partner didn’t try to get closer, that he didn’t miss some intimacy, such as some nice talks, romantic evenings, etc. Her answer: „If you want him to be romantic because he’s like that, he won’t be, because he isn’t. Such things you do when you love somebody” in quite an unpleasant voice. I was flabbergasted – yep, she’s right, it always seemed to me it was natural to do something you wouldn’t normally do just to make the other happy, but then again I had learnt not to expect anything my way. Plus, from the beginning of our therapy it was clear that my boyfriend in fact DID NOT do those things – so what, am I not right in feeling like he doesn’t care? And I am being told all the time that he cares a lot, but I’m just not open to see it. I felt awful, I wanted to say: „But exactly, so why isn’t he doing such things when he knows I’d like them?” but I was scared for fear she’d reproach me with being confrontational and picky on my boyfriend again.

    Once the T said to me: „Sure you have the right not to like something” when I was going to describe something that made me feel bad. And since that time I learnt to express my feelings through saying what I „didn’t like”, because I felt blocked and scared to talk about my needs. So I think it also intensified the impression I was picky and hard to please. I remember she once said with a sort of disgust to what I said: „You’re showing some… strange pride. I don’t understand.” Of course she didn’t want me to explain anyway, but I was even more inhibited to show any feelings.

    OK, as the post got really long, I’ll end for the time being, though there was much more stuff like this during that therapy. I’ll leave it for next time maybe, as some of those things are quite significant and maybe someone will find them helpful. I also hope the things I described above will be of use, too.

  • margarets

    April 12th, 2011 at 8:14 PM

    Mary, thanks for that clarification. I got the impression that you had found a specific study with those figures.

    Sylvia, yikes! The couples therapy sounds like a disaster! And it doesn’t sound like there was any rhyme or reason to it – just off-the-cuff nonsensical antagonizing comments from the therapist. It also sounds like she was willing to make excuses for the bf’s crap behaviour, which is in itself a major red flag.

  • Sue

    April 13th, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    I think there are many challenges in conducting any efficacy studies, partly because how do we pinpoint when someone really improves his life?

    I would have called one pitying therapy a positive experience at the time, and the therapist considered me a great success. But in hindsight, this doctor was encouraging me toward a more helpless and child-like self-concept, rather than assisting me to be a happier, more effective adult. Any steps I’ve made toward that were only in dismantling and questioning EVERYTHING that therapists taught me.

    I’ve read that one third to one-half of clients leave therapy early, according to their therapists’ evaluations. I assume this is a lost percentage not included in the efficacy studies.

    To Brit–My opinion, all day therapy this isn’t one red flag, this is a row of them waving. I hope your friend gets away from this ASAP.

  • AJ

    April 13th, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    The therapist calls you back in after you have left the building because there is something on the chair that you were sitting on. She wants you to look at it (it was a 1″ x 1/2″ mark) and accuses you of having something on your pants. Then she starts to freak out and gets angry because now she is going to have her chair cushion cleaned….there was nothing on my pants or on the light gray cloth upholstery of my car. Maybe it was just time to have the 20 year old chair cleaned and covered with plastic!

  • Mary S

    April 15th, 2011 at 7:50 PM

    Yes, there are lots of challenges in efficacy studies.

    By the way, there is a technical distinction between “efficacy” and “effectiveness”. Roughly speaking, “efficacy” refers to a randomized, controlled trial, where therapists are typically intensively trained and monitored in the method being tested, and where there is a lot of effort typically to establish a good therapeutic relationship between therapist and client. “Effectiveness” typically refers to studies in the community, without as much training and monitoring of therapists, and possibly no comparison group.

    The proper analysis for efficacy studies does include the drop-outs – this analysis is called “intent-to-treat.” However, some studies do not use this, instead just analyzing those who finish treatment. There are also lots of other less-than-best-practices that crop up in analyzing efficacy studies.

    There are also, as you say, problems with measurement. As another example, the questionnaire used may not include what is most important to a particular client. And therapists have disagreements on what are the appropriate questions – for example, some say the Beck depression inventory focuses too much on feeling guilty, and not enough on what most people consider symptoms of depression.

    So I wouldn’t be surprised if the estimates of 10% harmful therapy that I mentioned above are actually underestimates.

    Although the details of your couple therapy are in many ways very different from my therapy, it presents the same themes of seeming capricious and arbitrary, heavy in tactlessness, and very inappropriate laughing at the client that I have experienced. I often felt as if I had “kick me” written on my forehead in thearpy; I rarely have had that feeling in “real life.” I sometimes thought of my therapy experience as feeling like a ping-pong ball being batted back and forth. Definitely not my idea of professional behavior.

  • Sue

    April 17th, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    Mary S. If you’re blogging I hope you’ll give us the blog title. I’ve love to learn more about your reading and research. A few of us have blogs now, which we refer to above. Though this thread isn’t an easy topic, it’s a valuable discussion for me.

  • margarets

    April 18th, 2011 at 5:25 PM

    Mary, I second Sue’s comment about your blog (if you are doing one).

  • Mary S

    April 19th, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    Sorry, I don’t have a blog. I just occasionally comment on other people’s.

  • Sylvia

    April 23rd, 2011 at 5:43 PM

    Has anyone actually contacted their therapist when they’ve realised they were mistreated by them? I am so angry at my therapist and I’ve been repressing this anger, especially during the therapy just for fear I’d be to blame again. I feel like she preyed on me being weak and not able to stand up for myself – as any attempt at doing it turned against me anyway. I felt something was wrong all the time, but I could not express it in words, was too inhibited. This may sound really like a stupid idea (and maybe it is) but I sometimes think of writing an e-mail to that former therapist kind of proving that indeed she was lame and unprofessional, and not me, because now I can point down why, then I could not. Do you think it makes any sense? I have a lot of anger and resentment inside (and it’s been almost a year) – towards her but also towards myself for not ending the therapy sooner and generally letting myself be treated that way.

  • Sue

    April 27th, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    The more phony and flimsy they are, the more they need to shut out the reality of their destructiveness. Impostures hold their delusions near. It’s the only way they can keep going.

  • Melissa

    April 28th, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    I went to see a therapist through social services recently. I’m normally depressed and recently lost two loved ones in my life so I wanted to talk about it ofcourse. The therapist was okay but I wanted to cancel my next appointment because I wanted to mainly look into disability. I’ve job hopped numerous times and had been fired as well.. because of my depression and slight learning disability. I was already given numorous phone numbers by the therapist I spoke to if I needed to talk to someone, and I also have loved ones to confide in as well whenever I need. So… anyway I decided to be polite and try to cancel my appointment, and I get this crazy/obnoxious white lady on the phone who was annoyed w/ me canceling my appointment and kept trying to get me to stick with it. I have to admit… I normally hate confrontation (or situations where it FEELS like the person is trying to be confrontational) and am not usually “verbally rude” but I eventually blew up on her. She just seemed rude, or seemed like she thought I was full of it or something. I hope that lady isn’t also a THERAPIST. Speaking to that particular lady didn’t feel positive and experiences like that make me reluctant to return to that particular building for special needs/social services.

  • Hillary

    April 29th, 2011 at 7:16 AM

    I really like my therapist that I have been going to for almost 3 years now. He is really a great therapist. He has helped me through so many things….the first reason I went there was because I was cutting and attempted suicide and a friend told me that she had heard he was a good therapist…throughout my therapy he has helped me with the depression and cutting…I am now almost 6 months cut free…he also helped me a lot last year when I got sexually assualted…if it had not been for him I would probably not be here now. I really appreciate all the help he has given me.

  • GivingUp

    April 30th, 2011 at 1:33 AM

    Therapistratings has gone under: “Due to spam and malicious users, we’ve decided to shut the Therapist Ratings service down at this time.” It was one of only a few sites where you could share your opinions and experiences of what therapy or a therapist has done to you. Yes, some are malicious, but for the most part, I believe people were speaking of true experiences. I know I was, but any sort of criticism offended the therapist who called it malicious. They only want good things posted about them. I was abused by a therapist, severely and so much that I am now on ssdi, have severe ptsd, and excrutiating pain. A list of people and organizations I have asked for help from and explained what happened to me follows:
    the therapist themself
    the state licensing board
    her peer group
    her supervisor, a famous one
    another professional who has been on Oprah
    other therapists
    the police
    the courts
    NASW – Maine
    NASW – California
    responses were either no reply; sympathy, but tough luck; and the most traumatic were threats of arrest and lawsuits.
    Their is a definite need to address the wide range of freedom and lack of overseeing the actions of these therapists. It is so much severe than anyone of authority cares to recognize. My therapist broke everyone of the codes above (the social workers’ codes). Yet nothing is done; the client becomes the problem and the bad one. Something needs to change; just ONE organization needs to step up and begin to make changes. If not, things will only get worse and NO ONE will be helped. As I tell myself everyday, not even God can let me live forever.

  • Stef

    April 30th, 2012 at 7:30 PM

    Giving up

    Don’t give up! I know exactly what happened and who you are referring to. I tried to use them as a adjunct therapist because my T thought having a female adjunct might offer me a kind of nurturer. It was a total disaster. I left a negative review of that therapist , and then was maliciously bullied and berated by her “followers”. I was bombarded with nasty emails and etc. It was very painful. And my T felt horrible for ever suggesting it. I am so sorry you too were victimized. It did greatly affect me. My T had to rebuild the foundation of my therapy because she had torn it down so badly. Then the “followers” started leaving negative bogus ratings for my T. They don’t even know him. Never had seen or even spoken to him. I felt so bad. I had him go read everything. He did and told me not to worry about it. Not to feel,any blame or guilt that I am not responsible for the actions of others. This was a traumatic experience for me.

    Again I am so sorry for what happened.

  • Sage

    May 1st, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Hi Giving Up

    Sorry to hear about therapistratings

    The unethical therapists out there do not care to be exposed….and are whining loudly at this time about any website that allows reviews of their work. I have to admit that some of what I saw on therapistratings was a bit “over the egde” in terms reporting experiences. Some folks did abuse the site,publishing under different names and really slamming the therapist as compared to writing an honest review of their bad experience.
    Fortuanately however you can still get the name of the therapist out there through yelp, and other review sites that the therapist is listed on.If the complaint is legitimate, and truthful, there should be no issue with attaching one’s name when registering in order to post a review …this is usually required, but your name not published.
    You can also start a blog about your experiences…most cost nothing and are easy to set up….”WordPress” and “Blogger” are very simple to get started on!

    It’s important to get info about unethical therapists
    out there before more folks looking for help are harmed instead!

  • Tracy

    May 2nd, 2011 at 5:18 PM

    Did you file a complaint with your State Licensing Board? If so, what was the outcome? You only state above that you explained to them what happened to you.

    The most difficult part of dealing with Licensing Boards is that they want “proof” and “evidence” of a therapist’s unethical abusive behavior. Proof and evidence are difficult to provide as there are(almost always) no witnesses to what happened and what was said behind closed doors….leading to a “therapist said/ client said” situation. Many times as well Licensing Boards will take the “word” of the therapist and their attorney, much more seriously, than that of the client who generally is not professionally represented. More or less, you’re on your own in dealing with Licensing Boards unless you have the financial resources to have an attorney’s assistance. On the other hand, the therapist’s attorney is most often covered by his or her malpractice/liability insurance, and costing him nothing except his annual policy fee.
    The therapist I dealt with had committed insurance fraud (2 ways!) In the end, the therapist did have to pay the insurance company back ( I had filed a fraud complaint w/them for sessions charged for but not provided) and withdraw as a provider, and the insurance company had to reimburse me for payments I made to the therapist for sessions he claimed the insurance company denied payment for, when in fact he had never filed claims for sessions at all! (this is fraud by charging the client more than the copay amount for sessions fully covered under a managed care contract). Finally, as a result of the Licensing Complaint, the therapist was asked (but not mandated) by the State Dept. of Public Health to take classes in “Office&Billing Practices” and in Therapist/Client Boundaries” However….there was no formal “disciplinary action” and therefore, no public record that could warn furture clients of his antics.
    BTW… Too bad about therapist ratings (some of the comments were intelligent & potentially useful!) You can still post a review somehwere like “yelp” (which rates the services almost any sort of professional or professional service. Psychotherapy is a consumer service that I think should continue to be subject to public review.
    Or, you can tell your whole story any way you choose by starting a blog (“wordpress”, for example, is a very simple site to use). I have found blogging to be extremely beneficial to my healing process and have received much support from a kind,compassionate, knowledgeable therapist(esp. regarding the retraumatizing of a client by a therapist)

  • Stef

    April 30th, 2012 at 7:52 PM


    The problem is the therapist got rid of most of the evidence. I know the situation very well as I was a witness to it and a victim as well. It also plays into the main dx she treats. Most victims are far to vulnerable to feel safe enough to file a complaint. And she has a more than usual control of them. I quit the site on my own accord, yet she told everyone she kicked me out. The site is filled with half truths, edited posts, deceit and etc. I saw a post that the site was down for 8 months due to technical issues. I’m not sure if that is true or not.
    Thank God I was not solely dependent on that T. I was only using them as adjunct. My true therapist helped me get through the experience. Honestly, it’s like she acts a cult leader. That’s her power.
    P.s. I didn’t mention the name because it’s probably not allowed here. I can only warn people that online T’s can cause just as much harm as one that you physically see.

  • Sue

    May 2nd, 2011 at 8:19 PM

    I found it difficult to get help from professionals, many of whom seem so steeped in a patriarchal, authoritarian tradition that they were unaware that their so-called treatment actually was the problem.

    To regain my balance I had to see my abuser as a brittle, fragile guy who couldn’t acknowledge criticism and would gladly damage me to protect his own interests.

    I’ve visited what seemed that hopeless bottom of the world, yet I also know survivors who’ve gone through this, turned the experience on its head and emerged with great insight despite what the professionals told them.

    A few of us mention blogs that discuss our experiences and link to more. I also found wonderful peer support through TELL, the Therapy Exploitation Link Line. Advocate Web offers resources as well.

    I’m pessimistic many in the profession are equipped to understand this–they’re too blinded by their own magical thinking–but people who have been through this definitely helped me.

  • margarets

    May 3rd, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    I’ve posted reviews about my ex-t on a few websites in a way that, so far, works (i.e. no legal issues). I use the same paragraph every time, and I speak in generalities about researching any therapist very thoroughly before working with them, being wary of what a therapist says and *doesn’t* say, and remembering that you can quit therapy at any time without your therapist’s permission or input. Then I drop the i-bomb: “iatrogenesis”. I tell people to look up what that means in the psychotherapy context.

    I post just enough to prompt the reader to do their own research and thinking about therapy. And it must have the potential to be effective, because my ex-t actually took down her whole profile on one website within hours of my review being posted. It was probably the only way to get rid of the review because it didn’t violate any of the terms of the site, so the admins wouldn’t be inclined to take it down. (After all, if you’re going to post a profile on a review site, you have to expect to get reviewed.)

    Consider doing a blog if you want to speak out. There is A LOT you can say without getting yourself into legal trouble. heh

  • GivingUp

    May 3rd, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    I did file a complaint, explaining the hypnotic technique used on me and dissociating me for over an hour to the OLR. They did not investigate and the therapist lied and changed her notes. She was allowed. She was the professional. They did discipline a therapist for watching the cat of a client who was hospitalized. Somethings wrong there! But they had so many witnesses who could have verified what happened, plus I had other verification. The therapist now has a protection order against me for emails seeking the truth and had threatened to sue me, tho being on ssdi she ain’t gonna get much. I have done everything in my power and have followed the rules and tried to be polite, but at times you do get angry when no one listens. There is no regul;ation and if you have the power and the getting away with it of changing notes and seesions, you as a client are screwed. So be it. I am just flabbergasted the professionals involved cared not and did nothing. I am just one person in severe pain and no one cares. The therapist even had here daughter who WAS a lawyer, but no longer, send me threatening emails. The state of Indiana said there was nothing wrong with that. So, yes, I give up. Death is closer everyday.

  • GivingUp

    May 3rd, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    oh, and when it was time to appear in court, when I could have defended my self and prove that I was not being threatening, I could not do to my severe ptsd. So I wrote a letter explainging all, but the Judge (a female no less), would not read the letter – she said I had to be there or have a lawyer, who I could not afford. There wasn’t much else I could do. The therapist knoew I would not show up because of the pain I am in. My letter shoudl have been enough for further investigation. All of these rpfessionals and the courts and the police side with the therapist. She has back up. She can change her notes. I cannot change what happened to me, and even with the witnesses and proof, no one is interested in listening. No one cares how ptsd is affecting me.

  • GivingUp

    May 3rd, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    the technique used by this therapist was verified to me by Dr Bill O’Hanlon (website & has been on Oprah). The following explains the putcome of what thei therappist do to me by dissociating me to her delight – it must have been a thrilling moment for her at my expense.:

    Especially for Therapists

    Dissociation is a major stumbling block to progress in therapy because it severely diminishes the client’s ability to be present. It’s a significant barrier for working on trauma and developmental issues in particular because it can mask the client’s true psychophysiological state. Without a clear picture of what’s happening, the therapist can’t monitor, let alone regulate, the client’s level of activation.

    Diane Poole Heller1 likens dissociation to a circuit breaker shutting off when house wiring gets overloaded. She warns that care must be taken in working with dissociation:

    “If this is not done slowly, as we are proposing, often what happens is similar to switching the electrical breakers back on without doing something about the over load that caused the breaker to go off in the first place. If therapists have the client connect too quickly, they can often RE-TRAUMATIZE them.” pg. 32.

  • Sue

    May 3rd, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    I finally understood my therapist lives in a fantasy world, fully supported by his colleagues, and there’s nothing I could do or say to get through to him or them. Psychotherapy is an entrenched culture, constructed on many theories and traditions I consider fallacious.

    I had to unravel MY contradiction, that I still saw my therapist as an authority figure, though I knew he was an impostor. It paralleled other dead-ends in my life.

    Once I could see my therapist for the self-deceiving phony for what he was, I could start to distance from the reality he constructed and find my own truths.

    Pain and the contradictory emotions have been shared by many who’ve gone through this. It’s crazy-making. However there are lifelines and paths into a more peaceful reality, and we can achieve these without “therapy” if it doesn’t work for us.

    We still can go forward and have our own lives, despite failing to “get through” to an entrenched and self-protective profession.

  • Deena

    May 4th, 2011 at 6:36 AM

    I went to a counselor who advertises that he does hypnotherapy. In my first session he told me he was “one of God’s teachers.” In my second session he told me he had a program that worked faster than hypnotherapy and was intended for my spiritual awakening. During an on-again-off-again year of “therapy” he told me my will was too strong to break and asked that “we part ways now” and that he didn’t think we would see each other in this “form” again. During one of the sessions he told me I needed to be prepared for the Holy Spirit to guide me to “grab Ms Minnie [one of my clients] by the throat, slam her up against the wall and say, ‘Did you hear what I said, bitch” because “you’d be surprised what the Holy Spirit will have you do.” I feel I’ve been brainwashed by this man, have obsessive thoughts about our sessions, and a fear of God like never before. He told me “it’s when we don’t listen to God that we get in trouble” and that the reason I showed up in his office to begin with is that I WAS listening to God. I wonder if I should report him to our State licensing office but I am afraid of him.

  • Deena

    May 4th, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    I went to a therapist who advertises himself as a hypnotherapist. My first session with him he told me he was “one of God’s teachers.” My second visit he said he had a program he was going to use that works faster than hypnotherapy and was intended to offer spiritual awakening. During our third session he said I needed to be prepared to listen to what the Holy Spirit wanted me to say and do to people. One example: when I expressed concerns about a foster parent’s behavior toward a child I worked with, he told me “Are you prepared to grab Ms. Minnie by the throat, slam her up against the wall, and say, ‘Did you hear what I said, bitch.” After a year of on-again-off-again sessions where he would verbally abuse me for asking questions or expressing disbelief in his many stories intended to “awaken” me, i sent him a scathing email. He wrote back that he couldn’t help someone who doesn’t want to change and that we would most likely not see each other again in “this form” and that it was time to “part ways, now.” I am left with obsessive thoughts about his “teachings of love” and a fear of God that’s greater than when I started working with him. Should I report this to my State licensing board? He claims he has “helped hundreds of people” and that it’s my own fault that I haven’t been helped.

  • Sue

    May 4th, 2011 at 7:58 AM

    You can always report a therapist. There are quite low odds of getting any judgment against him, because these boards are run by their brethren, and their sympathies seem to lie with protecting careers rather than the public.

    It also takes great strength, because many of us clients have been lied about or depicted as psychotic or hysterical. As has been stated above, when it’s he said/she said, the boards will believe the doctor.

    Mine even admitted to what I claimed, but said essentially that his abusiveness was for my own good. I did find some satisfaction in speaking out even though I lost my case.

    Your guy seems to have a classic god-complex, if I may play amateur diagnostician. Three out of four of my therapists displayed some version of that.

  • Tracy

    May 5th, 2011 at 11:31 AM

    Hi Deena

    Quack, wacko ,psycho, mind-screw all describe to me the therapist wrote about! .
    You mentioned he’s a hypnotherapist….is a hypnotherapist required to be licensed in your location? Does he in fact even have a hold a State License, and if so , as what…LCSW, LMFT, LPC,Ph.D? If he has a State License, I’d report him just to put the Board on notice, in case he does to something other than spew gibberish and psychobabble in his therapy room. While he’s surely lacking evidence based therapeutic skills from what you’ve written, it doesn’t sound like he’s done anything downright unethical. ( or provable)
    Consider yourself fortunate and stay the heck away from him! It may be easier to stop obsessing over this therapist and what he said if you consider the thought that you have no desire to change into whatever form of being that would be required to meet up with him again!
    Anyone who actually would say to you that “your will is too strong to break” most likely has some serious mind manipulation in mind and I would consider him to be extremely dangerous.
    Be Safe! My take is that the “spirit” spoke loudly and got you the heck away from a very hazardous, and potentially harmful situation.

  • Carol Weber

    May 5th, 2011 at 12:03 PM

    Counselor reveals that she has treated a family member or friend or your’s in the past and tells you that she “doesn’t care for [that person]. Wow!!!!!

  • Sue

    May 6th, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    Any interaction that leaves us feeling overpowered and invalidated is NOT healing, NOT “for our own good,” in my opinion. That’s why I question a fundamental model found in therapy, the patient-as-subordinate to the powerful-knowing-savior.

    In my experience, the therapists were unconscious to their acting out in this movie.

  • Tracy

    May 7th, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    @Carol YIKES! Hope you got out of there and never went back!

    @Sue “Quality”, meaning professional,self aware, helpful,and ethical, therapists in the mental health field also question that outdated model, and rather consider themselves to be facilitators to their clients healing process…not their masters

  • Mary S

    May 7th, 2011 at 10:02 PM

    Somewhere (I forget where) I read recently a proposal (I think by a therapist) that therapists should have recording equipment and encourage clients to bring a tape to each session for recording the session — the client gets to keep the tape. Sounds like a great idea to me.

    But in the meanwhile, I recommend that clients bring their own recorder and tape to sessions and record them. If the therapist doesn’t agree, then that’s a good reason not to go back to them.

    Recording the sessions can serve several purposes:

    First, the therapist may be on better behavior if they are being taped.

    Second, it can be useful for the client to go over the tape, to check their memory of what each person said if there is some concern they wish to discuss or work through later. (I have done this with a couple of therapists — and also tried using the tapes as a kind of “exposure therapy,”since I tend to have upsetting flashbacks from sessions.)

    Third, if things go bad, then the client has evidence to present to back up their complaint.

    Deena: I never had a therapist say anything about breaking my will, but two of them sure seemed like they were trying to do so. Whether or not that’s what they were trying to do, it was pretty hellish. I don’t see how trying to break someone’s will could be considered ethical. I also don’t see how the lack of informed consent they practiced could be considered ethical. I did try to file a complaint about one of them, but didn’t get anywhere. She was a psychiatrist. (I tried her hoping she would be more scientific than the two psychologists I had tried, but she was mostly just as authoritarian and arbitrary). I tried filing the complaint with a state agency (I think the Board of Medical Examiners), but they said it needed to go to the county chapter of the American Medical Association. But when I checked, she was not a member. The letters from the state agency were at least polite.

  • ellie

    May 11th, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    I am so glad I found this list.
    I’ve recently began to seek therapy and have had two meetings with my therapist. The first meeting she was saying things like, “I love you!” and, “This is going to be so fun!” and, “I won’t stalk, I just gawk.” This make me uncomfortable, but I’ve struggled with panic attacks for my entire life and I was feeling so much hope that she could help and I didn’t want to make waves.
    Last night, my second session, I went in saying that I’d had a hard week- I had found out I was pregnant from a previous relationship that had ended a month ago. She said, “well let’s skip the survey and work on talk therapy.” When I told her what was going on, she blew up at me, accused me of lying about my panic attacks (the reason I’d been to her in the first place,) and told me I had a personality disorder all in one go. I didn’t feel that I could get a word in edgewise, and I left feeling like a piece of trash. She also talked to my mother and discussed that she feels I have a personality disorder without my consent. My parents are insisting that I continue to see her and will not discuss the possibility of finding a different therapist. I don’t know what to do.

  • RL

    May 11th, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    Hi I need some advice, Im 2 minutes away of filing a complaint with the psychological board in the state of California. Do I call or do I fill out complaint on line, and how long does it take until she receives the notice…Im done with all these professionals who raise there hand and promise no harm…really?

  • Tracy

    May 11th, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    I’d file it!
    Go to the Caliiforina Board of Psychology Webpage for info. It appears you can file online or in writing. Make sure you include details, documents and PROOF of “wrong-doing”!You will get nowhere without hard evidence and your case will be client said/therapist said. Boards tend to take the therapist’s and his/her attorney’s word, far more seriously than that of the “mental health” client. Many mental health providers will also lie liberally and change client’s psych notes to back themselves when they are notified of the complaint! Before filing your complaint you might want to try and get a copy of your psych notes from the therapist, that way you will have proof of anything that has been changed. You are allowed copies of these through HIPAA Law, at miminmum they must be released to a third party, if not directly to you. (They can charge you for the copies)
    Also be prepared for the complaint process to take much longer than you would think it should take. If your thinking 90 days….think 9 months to a year. It will all depend on the severity of your case, and the level of evidence you can provide.
    Do not be suprised if your case is purely dismissed! 80% of cases against mental health providers are,and of the 20% left…..only 2% end up in a hearing.
    A therapist will RARELY lose their license. One therapist in CT. committed 2 MILLION worth of insurance fraud, and while the feds did prosecute him, the CT. Licensing folks only gave him a reprimand!
    However, just having a case filed against them, will leave a mental health provider feeling quite uncomfortable for while.

  • Steven

    May 12th, 2011 at 2:32 AM

    My therapist at times tells his other patients about me but never tells my name and tells me when he does this. He also has a habit that particularly bothers me, he plays with his iphone or looks at it when there is a text message or a phone call. He also changes his definition, he is a MHP or a NCC at one moment but now and without going to school, he calls himself a psychologist, is that possible? He is also raising his rates but to be honest, I don’t know if it is because of this. I would appreciate any help with this one.

  • Sue

    May 12th, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    I have no “qualifications” other than having suffered bad therapy, but these are my reactions:

    @Ellie-you sound like you’re an astute observer with smart perspective. You’re describing a complete therapist-nutcase in my opinion, and I’d run for my life.

    If you’re still under your parents’ roof, might you show them this list, or recruit a third party to help reinforce your assertion. If you or your insurance is paying the bills, and your parents only are hovering nearby (I remember that life stage) you’re at will to ignore their well-meaning advice despite the expected fallout.

    Once you find someone saner, however, the most any therapist can do is perhaps to find some resources for your and give you guidance and support as you work your way through your life’s challenges. All the best.

    @Steve. I understand anyone with a lemonade pitcher can call himself a therapist (though a few states regulate them) but psychologists, social workers etc. have specific educational and licensing requirements. Anyone claiming these titles without the educational and licensing is committing fraud.

  • Tracy

    May 12th, 2011 at 4:35 PM


    Ask him for his State License number!
    If he doesn’t have one….make it your last session with him and find another therapist!
    You can also check to see if he has any sort of record on file with your State Licensing Agency. Most states have some sort of listing on line to check to see if a Medical/Mental Health Professional is Licensed….just with their name, you should be able to look him up.
    Sue is correct, ANYONE can “hang a shingle” and call themself a counselor, mental health professional, therapist, psychotherapist, coach, facilitator,or analyst…there are more, but those are a few titles which require no license, or even a high school diploma!
    BTW….he should not be talking about you at all with other clients, name or no name! Please do tell him to put his iphone away ….it’s rude, distracting and it means he’s not giving you his undivided attention.
    Personally… I’d text him during your session and ask if he’s listening to me!

  • Mary S

    May 14th, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    I agree that the therapist you have seen sounds like one you should not continue with. Blowing up at a client and accusing her of lying about her purposes in the second session are totally inappropriate. She is likely to do more harm than good.
    If you need more to convince your parents, try this: Diagnosis of personality disorders is even more uncertain than diagnosis of medical disorders. If you have a serious, non-obvious medical disorder, it is wise to get a second opinion before consenting to treatment. The same goes for a serious psychological diagnosis such as a personality disorder. Structured interviews are considered the best diagnostic procedures, not just jumping to conclusions based on initial impressions, as your therapist has done. Also, do not consent to what are called “projective methods” (for example, the ink-blot test, or looking at pictures and making up a story about them); they have been discredited as valid means of diagnosis — they depend too strongly on the therapist’s subjective impression, and tend to produce many “false positives” (that is, they lead to diagnoses that are not confirmed by better techniques such as a structured interview.)
    Good luck!

  • Sue

    May 15th, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    One of my many regrets about my so-called treatment is that it magnified my ordinary human failings rather than giving me some support and guidance on simply living life.

    I’ve yet to meet a soul without some pockets of fear and yes, self-delusion. And when a therapist encourages us to ramble on about our fears and failures, naturally we’re going to sound a little nuts.

    See no benefit to sitting around a room categorizing our human weakness unless we are law-breaking, or unable to leave bed or something.

    I see forums on the net in which apparent young people angst about their diagnosis. I’m saddened, wondering if yet another well-meaning therapist has pathologized them.

    I think we have to keep asking, what’s the bottom line in all this. I want to live the best life I can, as a good friend, a respected and effective colleague, a good family member. Then we have to ask if anything happens in therapy to get us there.

  • margarets

    May 15th, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    Well said Sue. You reminded me a of a film I found (but did not rent) at my local video store, called “Angst”. It’s a Dutch film about people struggling with various mental illnesses that was sold out for weeks and evidently led to more people “coming out” with their mental health issues. But how can so many people – particularly in a wealthy high-functioning society like The Netherlands (one really can’t do much better for a decent place to live) – truly have mental illness? Maybe they are just experiencing the normal ups and downs of human existence? Maybe the film triggered a lot of medical student’s disease, the one where you freak out that you have every disease that you happen to be studying that week.

  • Sue

    May 15th, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    My largest dysfunction was in the therapist office, where I rehashed my short-comings, sorrows and persecutors. Worse yet they collaborated play-acting of the therapist-as-shaman, who had wisdom to dispense how to fix myself.

    Reinforced powerlessness+focus on defects=recipe for depression. The mere dynamic of me as the inferior was destructive.

    In truth I was functioning imperfectly, but fine, and the therapist never even approached with what I understood later to be real improvements I could make.

  • Mary S

    May 16th, 2011 at 7:50 PM


    So much in your last two posts rings true.

    Re the self-delusion: Have you read Delusions of Gender, by Cordelia Fine? I haven’t yet, but a review gave a quote to the the effect that “there is one group of people who don’t have the delusions most people have: The clinically depressed.”

    A couple of additions to your comments:
    1. Therapists, in my experience, seemed to give the message, “leave your strengths outside my office door.”
    2. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so helpless as in therapy.

  • Sue

    May 16th, 2011 at 9:32 PM

    Mary, haven’t read that book. Though I’m not sure I agree with the quote. Therapy really started a downhill slide in my mood which I now see as delusional as anything else. Like you, therapy left me feeling weaker and more helpless than when I entered.

    I particularly disagree with tool of recreating a parent-child relationship. After one reaches adulthood this completely is play acting. And leading clients into such a state they suspend judgment and put themselves in the therapists’ hands–that’s just wrong.

  • Michael

    May 20th, 2011 at 7:46 AM

    9.Counselor is judgmental or critical of your behavior, lifestyle, or problems.
    10.Therapist “looks down” at you or treats you as inferior in subtle, or not so subtle, ways
    30.Counselor tells you what to do, makes decisions for you, or gives frequent unsolicited advice.
    40.Therapist tries to push spirituality or religion on to you.

    I’ve had one of these problems with every psychologist I’ve ever worked with. I’ve given up on psychologist’s. If they are good at anything, its screwing with your mind.

  • margarets

    May 24th, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    In my experience, and from my reading, I’ve found that a common notion among therapists is that whatever problem the client initially presents (divorce, say, or bereavement) is assumed by the therapist not to be the “real” problem. Not that the therapist tells the client this upfront. It’s up to the client to figure this out – if they ever do. In the meantime, therapist and client are working on separate and possibly contradictory issues, and very likely achieving nothing but a transfer of wealth from client to therapist.

  • Lee

    May 25th, 2011 at 10:01 AM

    I wanted to respond to the person that said therapists have only a few years of education. I have been training to be a psycho-therapist. I have a 4 year undergrad degree, 4 year graduate, 1 year practicum and 3 years of internship to just be able to walk in the door and say Hi. SO, I do not believe the person stating we do a few years schooling to attain our credentials has their information correct. Clarification is always helpful.

  • margarets

    May 25th, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    Lee, it depends on the requirements of the jurisdiction. In some places literally anyone, with literally any training or no training whatsoever, can call themselves a therapist, see clients and charge fees. Then there is the whole question of whether training makes any difference to a therapist’s skill anyway.

  • AB

    May 27th, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    “In my experience, and from my reading, I’ve found that a common notion among therapists is that whatever problem the client initially presents (divorce, say, or bereavement) is assumed by the therapist not to be the “real” problem.”

    This is an interpretation that is not uncommon in psychodynamic/psychoanalytic practice. I think a more commonsense interpretation is that it’s hard to describe one’s problems in a neat and tidy sentence (especially when talking about them to a total stranger, sometimes for the first time). Language is an amazing tool we use to connect our ideas and memories in a conscious way. Words both reflect and shape our inner world. Talking about one issue naturally leads to talking about others, whether this is intended or not. The fact that some issues arise early in therapy and some later speaks more to how language works than to any motives on the part of the client.

    Just my two cents.

    (Disclosures: I’m a licensed psychologist. I only do short-term work because of the nature of my practice. I do think there are some therapist qualities that can’t be “trained up” and others that are very difficult if not impossible to “train out.” At best, mental health professionals can humble themselves to their limitations, make meaningful efforts to become better, and meanwhile make the best of what they have – much as they would expect of their clients. This is a fascinating, sobering discussion thread.)

  • Sue

    May 27th, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    AB, I appreciate you reading this thread and particularly thank you for your last sentence.

    I understand what you said regarding Margaret’s post, though (as someone bashed in therapy) I received it quite differently:

    True story except the name change. A friend, let’s call her Tillie, was mugged. She shows up at a clinic which claims to specialize in trauma therapy. The therapist pushes the mugging topic aside and insists Tillie excavate her childhood because that would explain her trauma reaction to the mugging. No, Tillie says, dealing with the simple reality of the mugging is enough, thank you. She leaves therapy.

    Forcing everything through an interpretative mold carries a real danger. One can abstract something to such a degree the actual event is pre-empted by the theory and metaphor of it.

  • margarets

    May 30th, 2011 at 2:44 PM

    AB, what if the client *can* describe their problems to a stranger in neat and tidy sentences? Some people already have a very good handle on the source of their difficulties and express themselves very well. The therapist’s choice to either recognize or ignore this can have a profound impact on the value of therapy. What good is it to talk to someone about your problems if they don’t believe a word you say, and are always looking for some other meaning in it?

  • Sue

    May 31st, 2011 at 3:16 PM

    Margaret, I had a similar experience; The therapist reinterpreted my reporting in such an insistently mangled fashion that the relationship devolved into a power struggle. I’d had over a 10-year career writing non-fiction by that time.

    My interpretation: the therapist had no insights, so the best smokescreen was to divert the discussion. In therapy as in life, bluster usually camouflages a lack of real substance.

  • DM

    June 2nd, 2011 at 5:33 PM

    Was good to confirm the Licensed Quack I saw tonight was not representative of this community. I am having a terrible time with stress at work and made an appt with a psychologist who took a call on his cell phone while asking me personal questions and then made a phone call to confirm another appointment He then tried to tell me how I must get a lawyer to sue my employer and would call me soon with a lawyer to contact. He later said “I forgot, what is your first name?” Then, wants me back weekly. I said I could not come next week and he made the appointment anyway, then he charged me $225. I am very tempted to file a complaint to get my money back but will chalk it up to a bad experience. As for the stress, I’ll just go back to my family doctor and get more xanax. Thanks for letting me vent. You just can’t make this stuff up! And, he is licensed in the state of NJ.

  • nolongeraslave

    June 9th, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Is there something wrong with me if I had bad experience with 4 different therapists as a teenager? I finally found good ones in my adulthood, but is it possible that I just ended up with some bad therapists? I didn’t choose to be with these therapists, but my mom had picked them out.

    I was showing red flags of sexual abuse as a child and had a narcissistic mom, yet none of that was detected by these therapists. I had a male therapist ask me how my sexual appetite was at age 13. I had a therapist at 17 try to change me into someone I wasn’t, and impose her conservative values on me. I also had a female therapist tell me that I was asking for trouble by dressing how I did (my seductive clothing was a symptom of sexual abuse). Another therapist accused me of doing drugs when I wasn’t.

    Anyone else with similar experiences. I’m so thankful that I found a good psychologist at age 24 that specialized in trauma, but I wish I met her as a teenager.

  • Sue

    June 9th, 2011 at 3:49 PM

    From our reports on this thread, it’s completely possible. Many of us had poor experiences, and in fact, many of us never found substantial help in therapy. I assume it’s even more difficult as a teen because someone else gave the narrative, made the arrangements and paid the bills.

    I think you’re smart removing yourself from bad situations until you finally find an successful alliance.

  • Sue

    June 10th, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Nolongerslave, I missed the first part of your question. Speaking as a former client, I don’t think it’s “us” at all when we have difficulty finding good therapy. Unfortunately, it’s easy to find therapists with their own agendas or who don’t understand us.

    I have a larger problem with the therapy culture planting this notion “there’s something wrong with me,” when shortcomings–that we all possess– are simply part of being human. As you saw, your therapists themselves certainly had their own shortcomings. Among the scarce literature on this subject is Tana Dineen’s “Manufacturing Victims” or books by David Smail.

  • Mary S

    June 12th, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    No, I don’t think there is anything wrong with you just because you had 4 bad therapy experiences when you were in your teens. I agree with Sue’s comments. I’ve encountered quite a few therapists who did things that just didn’t make sense, or were otherwise unprofessional. Some therapists mean well but are just not very well in touch with the real world in all its variety and complexity; some therapists have agendas of their own. Many therapists can be helpful for some people but not for others who aren’t within the therapist’s range of competence. The system really needs improvement to weed out the poor therapists, help clients find therapists who have the ability to help them, and improve general training in helping a wide variety of clients. There seem to be some efforts in this direction in the past few years — for example, using questionnaires to get feedback from clients, and studying clients who have not been helped in clinical trials to see how their treatment might have been improved. Some of the therapists and researchers involved in such efforts take the attitude that the treatment failed the client, not that the client failed the treatment. This makes sense to me.

  • margarets

    July 3rd, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    nolongeraslave – No, there is nothing wrong with you. If these therapists couldn’t spot the signs of sexual abuse then they were very poor therapists. That’s exactly the sort of thing a therapist should recognize, as well as the narcissistic mother.

    But that’s the tricky bit – these therapists knew who their client *really* was: your mother. No way would they come up with an assessment that would alienate her and stop the payments. My guess is your mother wanted a therapist who would promise to “fix” you (i.e. make you fit more neatly into her preferences and suppress your actual problems). Each therapist promised that but didn’t deliver, so it was on to the next one.

    So be gentle with yourself. The trauma of sexual abuse may have been compounded by incompetent therapists, but in all likelihood you are basically a psychologically healthy person.

  • Jason Berman, PhD

    July 16th, 2011 at 2:06 PM

    Hello All,

    I am a clinical psychologist in Metro Kansas City (and used to work in California and Texas) and I so appreciate the clients on this blog who speak openly about abusive practices with therapists. There are certainly corrupt therapists out there (because there are corrupt HUMANS out there) but many, many, many therapists strive to be the best professionals they can be. I think the spirit of the 50 red flags list is that a therapist who does X red flag “regularly” or often is a huge problem. No one is perfect but the good therapist will seek to repair with the client any mistakes made in the treatment.

    I work regularly with victims of sexual abuse and I hated reading about reported abuses by therapists of those clients.

    Be well,


  • Sue

    July 22nd, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Abuse in therapy can be blatant, or it can be well-intentioned and subtle, such an authoritarian tone, encouraging dependency or magical thinking. What many posters have in common is their therapists’ disrespect and rigidity defending a viewpoint.

    (Paradoxically, I cheered the writer’s fury in post #187 because it so deliciously revealed an attitude rampant throughout the profession.)

    I wish that therapists would open those licensing board complaint files, study and learn from client grievances, as opposed to dismissing us as unreliable and unstable.

  • Chevy

    August 3rd, 2011 at 9:00 PM

    How about a therapist that NSISTS on bringing into your therapy, a person that is the ROOT CAUSE of it. A person that they legally spoke out AGAINSED in court, for your behalf. But NOW for THEIR own reasons, are making you a subject of a test case or thesis paper subject for them. I am VERY upset, that people that I took into confidence, are NOW, demanding that I be forced to attend sessions with an individual that tried to kill me three times, and whom I am no longer married to.

  • margarets

    August 8th, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    Chevy, that is a bizarre case. How are you being forced to attend therapy? What would happen if you just didn’t show up? And stopped answering the calls/emails of the therapist and/or your ex? Because you do have that option.

  • kathy

    August 9th, 2011 at 5:17 PM

    Hi All…Just got a message (e-mail) from the board of psychology. My complaint was dismissed due to lack of evidence. I just e-mail back saying how is this right? how come I was not asked to come in and explain what happened to me with this woman..she said if I bring her more evidence she will look at it…it’s on!!

  • Sue

    August 10th, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    Chevy, I agree with Margaret. Unless there is some legal mandate, it sounds to me like a therapist collaborating in your ex’s harassment. If you don’t want to be there–it’s not going to be the least bit therapeutic for you.

    Kathy, good luck. Producing “evidence” can difficult because it often becomes a she said/she said dilemma. Though I lost my grievance, I’m still glad I underscored my dim view of the therapist’s conduct, and this step was an important part of separating from the therapist’s head games.

  • Sally

    August 31st, 2011 at 6:40 AM

    After reading this article and several of the following comments, I’m suddenly not feeling so alone anymore.

    I had a pretty terrible experience with a counselor when I was young, and it made me scared to ever look for help from one again.

    I’d had some traumatic and abusive experiences at home and got taken out of my mom’s custody into my grandparent’s at age 10, just before starting middle school. My grades started slipping and the home life was still problematic, adult uncles with drug addictions living in the house and fighting with my grandparents for money.

    So by age 13-14, I was not only acting out, I was going through the normal stages of puberty. My grandmother chose the counselor i was to see and made sure to tell her what a ‘problem child’ I was. Such horrible things as me going up to my room by myself after school rather than be in the kitchen socializing with family who were at each others throats most of the time. A lot of times it felt like my actions became the target for my grandma, while she pretended all the fighting, verbal abuse, and drug abuse of my uncles was not happening.

    This counselor made my life even more of a hell for me than having a dysfunctional family and being a (mildly) rebellious teenager already did. She forgot my name at most sessions and a few times called me by the wrong name. She was Catholic and constantly talked to me about her religion in a period when I didn’t want anything to do with religion, told me how everyone needs religion. (again, grandmother was probably pushing this as she was upset that I wouldn’t conform and be Catholic like the rest of the family.)
    She would constantly talk down to me over everything I did. I understand that I was not a legal adult, but treating a teen who’s trying to find their way in life like nothing they say is right just because one can get away with it is pretty sick too.

    When I started the sessions, I didn’t wear any makeup or jewelery, partly because I was never taught how to properly apply it. But I was by no means dirty or crummy. This counselor asked me why I let myself be so “shabby”, asked me if I cared about my appearance at all, told me “I should shower” and “work on my appearance, and to try makeup!”

    I was always very interested in art, a creative personality. So then I decided to take her advice. I began trying different looks with makeup and tried getting a nicer wardrobe (kinda hard when you’re 14 with no money and again, relying on grandparents).
    So when I went to a session with makeup on, she said she felt I “Was trying to hide the real me in a mask of makeup”, made me feel like crap for TAKING HER ADVICE!

    Anything I did, I felt like she’d just make me feel like crap about it. She was extremely confrontational, and there were things that had happened at home that I told her under the assumption that she would keep the confidentiality agreement, which she then told to my grandmother right while I was in the room. It was crushing.

    I once made the mistake of challenging her talks on Catholicism by pointing out that there are thousands of different religions worldwide, and much of it seemed to be a community of people trying to explain the world around them before actual science or technology was available to prove otherwise.

    Big mistake. She claimed I was argumentative and needed medication to “calm me down.” Mind you, I never once raised my voice or got emotional during my thoughts on the matter. Guess it had to do with having an opinion of my own. My grandma agreed and I was then instead put on lexipro, which made me feel numb and zombie like. My grandma was then furious when I “wouldn’t go to bed at the same time as everyone else, must be doing it on purpose to annoy people” when really it was a side effect of a medication I didn’t need, was not comfortable taking, feeling totally helpless like I had no choice in anything, and everything I did was wrong.

    Every week I began to dread the day I had to go see her. I’d always wonder what she was going to criticize me about this time. What’s funny (well, maybe not so much) is that I really began to believe that everything going on at home was my fault because of my “rebellious” behavior, and that the reason the counseling wasn’t working at all for me was just because I was a horrible person.

    Fast forward 10 years, I’ve made lots of good friends, have great partner and loft, am happy, and have a graphic design degree nearly complete. After being able to step away from that situation, I’m blown away by that fact that it WASN’T just me, that the things that were upsetting me about both the counselor and home life were legitimate. It took years to really sort out my life and heal from the damage that I thought for so long was my fault, with no thanks from a counselor that I’m really beginning to realize abused their position of authority.

    I’m posting this in the hopes that it will help someone else know that they’re not alone, there’s always hope for improvement, and counselors are not gods! There are personality conflicts just as there is in the general public, so don’t have fear about needing to switch if one doesn’t feel right for you. There are good counselors (and people in general) out there, you just have to search for them.

    I’m also posting this because often times, the rights of youth are overlooked. A dysfunctional/ abusive situation can be occurring in a youth’s home life, and they could have a high IQ/ be highly talented, but if they are not given the resources or proper guidance toward utilizing that talent, it can be smothered, taking years for the youth or young adult to realize they’re not worthless.

    I also hope there are parents out there who might read this, and in case they are taking or considering taking their children to therapy, to take some of this into account, and to listen to what the child is saying about the sessions. Chances are if a child’s behavior is not improving, getting worse or they dread going to this appointed person, the form of therapy obviously isn’t working so well. I got a counselor I absolutely loved in High school and improved quite a bit after seeing her. If they mention any of the red flags above, their claims should be legitimately looked into as counselors are just people too, not gods.

    And in the saddest cases, they may never realize their worth. There are times where the contradictory criticism I received from family members and that counselor still haunt me. Luckily I have a good support group now.

  • margarets

    September 3rd, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    Sally, that is a brilliant post. I’m so glad you came out of that difficult period with your sanity and self-esteem still in good shape. Good on you for healing yourself and finding your right path. :)

  • Jamie

    September 4th, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    I’m glad to have read some of the comments on this blog, especially by Sue and Sylvia in particular. I had terrible therapy about 4 years ago and am very surprised and kind of ashamed by how long it is taking me to get over it. Like Sylvia mentioned in her above post I felt like I didn’t stick up for myself and I just let the therapist talk to me like she was above me and had no respect for me at all. Even after finding a new therapist that is really good I’m still having a hard time getting all the nasty comments my old therapist made to me out of my mind! After I finally stopped therapy after over a year, I emailed the therapist to tell her my complaints and was ignored, then I complained to the lic. board and was dismissed. In a nutshell the therapist judged,critized me, and focused the therapy on trying to get me to accept her cultural and political values as if just being different from her in any way was my problem. For example I thought my husband and my relationship should be equal and that we didn’t need to follow stereotypical roles, but I don’t force my life choices on others who don’t agree with me. She felt that my problem was that I didn’t follow stereotypical roles and told me I had to not ask my husband for help with the children because it was my responsibility and I have to hire help if I need it. I told her we couldn’t afford it so she said it was his “job” to worry about where the money comes from. The problem was that some of the things she said seemed to be so over the top (for instance, how could someone think that everyone can afford hired help if they just manage their money right) I thought I was just misunderstanding because she seemed so sure of herself and told me I would lose my husband if I didn’t watch out, so that really scared me.It was very disturbing because she talked in psychobable and I didn’t expect her to attack my opinions as a source of my troubles. The message was that there is only one “right” way to live and my focus should be on following her superior life style. I am ashamed that I talked to her as long as I did because I feel like a fool when I think about how she talked to me and I didn’t just stop going.

  • Diane Firestone

    September 4th, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    The therapist tells you to stay in a DV relationship or tells you that your child should tough it out when visiting the person that shows DV in the childs presence. The therapsist expects you to work with some one who has and incurable mental illness but does not give you ideas or directions how. The therapist can not work with the person with the mental illness themself but expects you too. The therapists is willing to let your child live somewhere to show the child he will fail.

  • Sue

    September 11th, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    Sally, I’m warmed by your insightful, articulate post. I also found my way to the arts, dressed my own way and wasn’t into makeup and criticized for my “nonconformity.”

    Jamie, my bad therapy was years ago, and has been a years-long, but worthwhile unraveling, like leaving a guru. It can leave clients between a rock and hard place–feeling either crazy buying the therapist’s reality or a fool for staying–two lousy alternatives.

    Diane–Don’t understand the term DV, but what you describe sounds like a therapist far out of bounds, siding against the client and trying to run someone else’s life.

    Several of us here have blogged. Mine, titled, Bad Therapy? A Disgruntled Ex-Psychotherapy Client Speaks Her Piece has links to several other blogs. Or you can read back to posts above. The Therapy Exploitation Link Line was quite helpful to me for peer support.

  • Pat

    September 15th, 2011 at 6:11 PM

    When you’ve been diagnosed with a problem by four different people (three therapists and a psychiatrist, one of whom is an expert on the illness) yet when you come in during crisis instead of being helped you are forced to prove you really have your illness instead of being believed (a huge thing for survivors of child abuse).

    When your therapist strings you along with chit-chat for two years then tells you that they don’t really have a therapeutic plan and want YOU to formulate one!

    I’ve had some therapists who literally saved my life. I’ve had others (especially that last one) that made me want to take theirs … I’ve gotten my best help from the Holosync solution — I’ll never darken another therapist doorstep again.

  • Mary S

    September 15th, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    Sally and Jamie,
    Thank you so much for your posts. Even though in many ways your therapy experiences were different from mine (e.g., age, reason for therapy), there are striking similarities with mine.

    Sally, a poor therapist can treat a client well beyond their teens “like nothing they say is right” – that was my experience as well, and I was in my forties, a few years older than one therapist, and with educational level equal to the therapist’s. From my reading about therapy I am getting the impression that more and more therapists believe that confrontation can be counterproductive. Unfortunately, the profession seems to attract people who like being confrontational. (I don’t mean to imply that all therapists are confrontational, but that the profession seems to have more than its fair share of people with confrontational personalities.) I’m glad to hear that life is going well for you now. Your four final paragraphs are very good reasons for posting.

    Jamie, I thought that I would get over my serial counterproductive therapy experiences in about six months – was I wrong! It has been over twenty-five years, and I still have very stressful “flashbacks,” although with decreasing frequency. I, too, have felt ashamed that I didn’t get over it so quickly, but I now realize that feeling ashamed is part of what has made it take so long. But learning not to feel ashamed has been very hard. Your comment that your therapist “seemed so sure of herself” also struck a chord with me. One of the things I hoped to get out of therapy was increased self-confidence. But one big lesson I learned in therapy is that over-confidence can be harmful to others – and I became afraid of being overconfident, like the therapists. Slowly, very slowly, I have been able to let myself feel a little more confident that I won’t harm people if I am moderately confident. Please try to learn to say “no” to those feelings of shame that you went back – it was not your fault. You went to therapy for help; instead the therapist found your weak spots and took advantage of them to skewer you. She was acting very unprofessionally.

  • Sharonelle

    September 16th, 2011 at 4:45 AM

    My complaint involves a thera0ist in private practice, married with young children, who regularly trolled adult sex sites online to meet men for sex — er quirk of choice being having sex with a stranger while other strangers watched. She met my husband on one of these sex sites (I knew nothing about this at th time) – they met for sex and began an affair. She broke up my marriage, had sex with my husband in her home when her young daughters were in the home, also had sex with my husbandin her office.At any time any of the “strangers” she met for anonymous sex could hve turned out to be a client/patient. When I forced her to meet with me in person, and asked why, if she was compelled to act out sexualy wth strangers and voyuers, whe would pick a man (my husband) whom she knew to be married and a fsther. She told me that my son and I were nothing more than “cut out characters to her, not real.” So while she was neither my therapist nor my husband’s therapist, feel like her moral behavior precludes her ability to be an effective and ethical therapist. And might I add, according to her wbsite, that she specialized in “sex therapy.” Can anyone give me any insight into the affet of m claim. I’ve sent in the paper work, Will she be slapped on the rist or lose her license?

  • Sue

    September 16th, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Sharonelle, I don’t the standing of your complaint, since you weren’t her client. You might be shocked how difficult for clients to prevail for even the most blatant violations. I sympathize with your outrage.
    Jamie–my year’s ago experience also has triggers, and I’m still learning from it. On the good side, it’s fortified me against many would-be gurus, phonies, manipulations and rage, so paradoxically, it keeps on giving. I’ve become “activist” in my own way, because I think the mental health community has much homework to do around the issue of harmful therapy. I think after an injury, there can be a drive to help make the community safer.

  • margarets

    September 19th, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Sharonelle, some therapist regulatory agencies have a provision for “unethical conduct that disgraces the profession” (the wording may differ), so that even if you were not actually a client of the therapist, you could still file a complaint that the agency would have to take seriously. It just depends, and of course you will need some evidence to back up your claims.

    However, the regulatory agency for my bad therapist is incredibly lenient. E.g. a therapist who did drugs, watched porn, and exchanged nude pics with an underage client was only disciplined, not kicked out of the profession. The discipline was only 2-year suspension from working with underage clients and a course of therapy to work on their issues. This info is posted on the agency’s website as an example of how they deal with complaints. (The therapist’s name is not listed, so future clients of this person have no way to find out this bit of history.)

    So, I recommend preparing yourself for a pretty weak response to your complaint. You could always yelp this person – just drop enough hints to scare prospective clients away.

  • Cara

    October 7th, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    My husband and I recently went to a marriage and family therapist therapist. There was an issue where he had some hobbies that were very expensive. I felt that a lot of money was going down a “black hole.” The therapist asked me if I worked and when I said I didn’t right now he immediately asked me “So, did you marry just to be financiallu dependent on someone?” Then he said I should not be in ANY WAY be upset about the expensive hobbies; said “What, do you think if he spends HIS money on hobbies it’s taking away from YOU?”, all in a very astounded and accusatory way. My husband said that he thought I meant also that the hobbies meant more to him than I did, and I nodded. The therapist looked astounded and yelled at me “GROW UP!.” Is this a controlling bad habit, or reportable abuse?

  • Sue

    October 8th, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    I’m just a client, no expert, but understand for a therapist to be censured, he has to be guilty of one of several specific, provable offenses.

    However, even minus official misconduct, what you describe sounds like a therapist “taking sides.” Assuming you don’t find this helpful, sounds like time bail if you haven’t already. (You can search Google for +therapy or +therapist +”taking sides” and find some professionals’ opinions.

    I understand this behavior–which I’d call clunky and boorish– isn’t uncommon in couples’ therapy. The therapist’s antagonistic demeanor often signals a cover-up for basic incompetence, and maybe misogyny to boot. A Masters or Ph.D., doesn’t confer emotional maturity or special wisdom about life.

  • Cara

    October 12th, 2011 at 8:43 AM

    Sue, thank you so much for your reply. We went to this therapist one time and have never gone back, as I also found her methods antogonistic. She states that she doesn’t deal with “feelings” and she just “tells it like it is.” But how it “is” is her opinion. I have been to therapy before and thought she was horrible, confirmed by friends in the field and by your blog. I am concerned that she is on our health plan and a lot of younger people (military) might go to her and think that this is what therapy is about. Again, thank you very much for your reply.
    Best to you, Cara

  • Sue

    October 12th, 2011 at 1:00 PM

    Cara, Glad you recognized the situation and fled. I wonder if some therapist are taking their training from reality TV personalities. It depresses me also to speculate the damage these people do. At best, I hope they’ll bond in dislike of their couple’s counselor.

  • Glenn Abelson

    October 29th, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Add to your list of bad therapy:

    Any kind of guided therapy of recovered memories, even if the therapist believes they are not guiding the session. They are.

  • Ned

    November 3rd, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    My wife and I just separated a month ago. We had been together 27 years. She told me she has had multiple affairs over the last 4 years. Now it turns out my therapist has know my wife’s new lover for 30 years, but says he hasn’t spoken to him in 6 years. Is this a conflict of interest? Should I look for a new therapist?

  • Hendl

    November 3rd, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    Please add: Therapists that are racist, anti-Semitic or Sexist are bad signs. I am Jewish, and had a therapist who said anti-Semitic things because he was having problems with his wife, who was Jewish. Also, I once had a female therapist who hated men, because she hated her husband. Bad, bad sign. I confronted each of them, and in their own way, each told me that what they were saying was “the truth”.

  • margarets

    November 4th, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Ned, it sounds like the therapist’s relationship to your wife’s new lover is too close for YOUR comfort. You can find a new therapist for ANY reason, so by all means look around. You are under no obligation to stick with this therapist.

  • Amy

    November 6th, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    I was in therapy for seven years and realized just last year that my therapist was using me. He infantilized me, used me for his own sexual gratification and made me feel worse than when I’d started therapy. The ONLY thing that has helped me to feel better is to talk to others who have gone through the same thing with their therapist. For this reason I have started an online group for survivors who were used, abused, or exploited by their therapists. It is a Yahoo Group and you can find it by searching through the groups for “professional exploitation” Thanks.

  • Cara

    November 8th, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    Sue, I recently filed a complaint to my insurance co. grievance dept. (not a licensing board)about a therapist whose methods were appalling to me. (See comment #387.) The insurance company replied that they had talked to the therapist and he stated that he warns patients “what they are in for” when they start. He said that he stated his opinion on the situation and I just didn’t agree with him. There were no other complaints filed with the insurance company so it makes it look like I was the only one who thought he was obnoxious and harmful because no one else filed with them. (Although on websites people are blasting him and warning people to stay away.) So this therapist gets away with being verbally abusive, taking sides, not listening to all of the facts, not addressing anger issues which should ALWAYS be addressed, and forcing his opinion on me. Thank you, Sue, for your words of support, because I feel like I’ve been betrayed and invalidated by this therapist.

  • Sue

    November 12th, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Cara, in reading these posts, I gather most of us who had bad therapy feel overwhelming betrayal. I certainly felt that in my mix of aftermath emotions. I felt everything from guilt for my “disobedience,” to invalidation, and even doubting whether I perceived reality.

    Complaining to your insurance company seems like a good idea to me. Though from what you describe, it sounds like the guy rationalized the complaint away, at least he received some feedback, there was a witness, and combined with web reviews, that might drive a message.

    The can be so painful because we see someone who has promises relief from our distress, and then they add to it.

    On the good side you left, you were able to hold your own belief over his–you were quite strong. In my case I did much the same thing, though it took quite a while before I was able to give myself credit. As the bad stuff receded I felt better about my “escape.”

  • heather

    November 12th, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    I wanted to say that a person is usually alone, in a room when they are in therapy. There are little rights for a person when they feel they have been mistreated by a therapist. I feel like a need a years full of therapy to deal with the “therapy” i’ve received. On that list of fifty I found that I had been through atleast half of the things listed in counseling. It’s really sad. People talk like you can just go out and get help, but the help is so dysfunctional it’s-self. I am at a point where I have decided that therapy has caused me much more harm then it has helped me. Therapist or never wrong, they will never admit there own mistakes. I know there may be some good ones, but I think it’s like finding a needle in a hay stack.

  • margarets

    November 12th, 2011 at 7:33 PM

    Cara, could you also file a complaint against this therapist’s licensing agency, or whatever organization in your area that regulates therapy (if there is one)? I find it surprising that the insurance co was indifferent to your complaint (do they really want to pay bad service providers) but ultimately they most they could do is strike him off their list of approved providers.

    Having said that, most formal complaints about therapists are effectively dismissed. It’s all a racket and they are out to protect each other. But you are right – your ex-therapist’s behaviour was WAY out of bounds. And he sounds like a jerk.

  • Anonymous

    November 15th, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    My therapist of five years offered to see me for free during a time of financial difficulty. He said it wasn’t about the money for him and that in long-term therapy he understood that clients circumstances could change. At the end of that session he also said that I had to stop doing what I was doing (dissociating), that I was doing the same thing my parents had done and that if I wanted a therapist who would hold my hand we could find me one.

    I’m devastated. I haven’t been back to see him. Its been a month.

    In the couple of weeks before that session, he advised me to buy a duplex with my divorce settlement money (said he was only going to say it once). The next week he suggested a town where I should look for one. He owns rental property in that town. I didn’t feel like that suggestion had anything to do with me at all. Also, in a phone conversation, he said it was good that I had called but every time I started to cry during that call he said, “What are you doing?” Or, “You’re doing it again.” I told him I had considered doing an internship for my profession (Haven’t worked in 8 years) and he said, “No, you don’t need more education. You need to go to work.”

    A couple of months ago he said, “You love me and I love you and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.” He compared it to God’s grace. It wasn’t an invitation to an intimate or sexual relationship, but it still messes me up.

  • Anonymous

    November 15th, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    I think I have an unhealthy, dysfunctional attachment to this person. I emailed him and told him to leave me alone about what I should do (with my money, etc.) This relationship has been off for a long time. I’ve never been able to tell which part of it is me and which is him. I know that he’s not a person that I’ll ever be able to work this out with. I struggle every day not to contact him again.

  • Sue

    November 17th, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    Heather–you captured my feelings completely. I left therapy feeling one-down to whatever therapist rather than empowered. From distance and perspective therapy feels like nothing but salesmanship and brainwashing.

    Anonymous–I had completely different issue, but I understand what you describe commonly happens in therapy. I wonder if it’s like unrequited love or a boyfriend breakup multiplied times a hundred because the therapist sold that he’s this magical, loving figure who can rescue us from pain and ruts in life. Your writing sounds clear-eyed and clear-headed to me, though I imagine the situation hurts like hell.

    One of therapy’s disservices is to bludgeon us with all these “unhealthy” “dysfunctional” kinds of labels. I personally think pain and grieving are a natural response to feeling betrayed by someone we thought caring and helpful.

  • Warren Lind, MSW, LCSW, ASW-G

    November 26th, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    I would like to add two more items to the list of ‘Warning Signs’: Unless a therapist has an M.D. or R.N. after their name, they should NEVER be giving you medical advice. However, it is okay to refer you to a support group for the particular medical issue you have, or refer you to a national advocacy organization, like the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, etc. Secondly, unless the therapist has a J.D. after their name, they should NEVER give you legal advice. Therapists need to respect professional boundaries, and acknowledge their limitations.

  • Chance

    November 28th, 2011 at 8:00 PM

    This is an excellent list of warning signs, and the comments add a great deal of value to the page. I have a lot of experience sitting in the client chair and can resonate with many of the grievances expressed here. I’ve had way more unhelpful therapists than helpful ones. I’ve probably seen a dozen in the last 20 years, and only 2 of them really stand out as exceptional. The rest were either nice but ineffective, or downright punitive. I’d like to think my therapist is working WITH me, rather than FOR me. The outcome really does mostly have to do with the quality of the relationship. Therapists need to check in more with their clients and warmly ask them for feedback on what is working and what is not, what they think of the therapy, etc… You can’t just assume it’s going great (or that it’s going bad because they are only in ‘catharsis’ or something), because many clients (myself as example) are just too vulnerable to really exert ourselves in that manner in a relationship where there is a power imbalance. I got so frustrated with all the crappy therapists out there that I decided to become one. I do know some wonderful people in the field and think that there are clinicians out there who really walk the talk and make the investment worth it, but unfortunately, it is mostly a field populated with professionals who just don’t have the passion like the great ones.

  • Sue

    November 30th, 2011 at 12:06 AM

    Feedback itself is a tricky business because therapy easily can be a folie a deux. Therapists gave me pep talks, encouraged me blaming everyone else for my troubles, and convinced me that if I followed their prescription there would be some magic anointment. I would have given some of this enthusiastic feedback.

    Years later, I feel like a huge chump being taken in by any of this. Perhaps the feedback that matters is not what’s happening in the consulting room, but what’s happening outside.

  • Allie

    December 4th, 2011 at 1:39 AM

    After reading all this, not sure I ever want to spend another minute even thinking about ever considering therapy again. I know therapist “Michelle Samuel” would never, ever get my business. In fact, I’m really glad this lady thinks phone calls that require a yes or no are more important than the person paying her $150-200-300 an hour. They aren’t. The list is a really good one.

    Ask this questions of therapists: “Why are you a therapist?” If they say something like, “I want to create harmony in interpersonal relationships..”, RUN!!! It’s a means to end for them—lots of money!

    My pet peeves which caused me to quit:

    1. Phone calls during therapy – this is your job, profession. Perhaps rip your phone out of the wall and survive 50 minutes without it. You are either there to engage the patient or the phone. If it’s a TRUE emergency, a patient will understand. Ask the patient to turn their phone off too. I always did till I had a T that answered calls during therapy. I went the 2nd visit and answered my phone throughout then told her, “This isn’t working out. I’ll find someone else.”

    2. No license, no therapy – Hey, if you want to be a good samaritan, good. I ain’t paying for it though.

    3. The T with one field of study – No idea what they are, don’t care, hope Freud’s diaper was clean.

    4. Patients are science projects – No, I don’t want to be a study for your paper, your grant, your benefit, etc. Nothing against it. Just it should be a free thing if I am. Not telling me about it really, really, really pisses me off.

    5. Expensive or dumpy office – Comfy is good. If it’s not comfy, you don’t want people to stay. If your office is a dump, you need help more than I do.

    6. Therapy at a T’s home – No. It should be called fraud. Was your license revoked? Kicked out of a practice?

    7. Religion as therapy – I’m really glad Jesus, Buddha, your cat, the tooth fairy, your imaginary friend, etc. works for you. Save your witnessing for elsewhere. (I actually told one where she could put Jesus.) Christian Counseling is a joke IMO.

    8. Asking me to do something for you – Ask me outside therapy. NO, I WILL NOT BUY STUDY GUIDES OR BOOKS YOU WROTE FROM YOU! $300 an hour and you want my to buy your book for $10???

    9. Cancelling my appointments because they have something better to do. ‘Nuff Said.

    10. Treating your therapy practice as a hobby – Basically, this racket pays for my vacations to Europe or I wouldn’t be doing it.

    11. Just because I’m pretty and you can see my cleavage does not mean I want to be ogled. Yeah, it was women Ts who offended here. Shove your fashion advice. I’m not dressed like a hooker.

    12. Ask me details about my sex life. Read penthouse letters instead. I’m a contributor. My child rape is the only details you need to know unless I ask a question like..”Do I do because happened when I was raped?”

    13. Talk about how great you are like “I was the therapist to .” So, since you bring it up all the time, you’ve been a total loser since then, right?

    14. Talk about other patients they’ve helped or are helping treating that confidentiality like it’s nothing.

    15. If they gripe about reviews on here, run.

    16. If they ask you to put good reviews on here, run.

    How to fire a therapist: don’t go back. You are under absolutely NO obligation to tell them anything. However, they are if they quit you.

    If you have a T that is abusive, take a recording device they can’t see, record it and see a lawyer. A lawyer will know exactly what to do with the recording and any other evidence you have.

    Therapy is a job. Some excel and many don’t. The best thing anyone can do is not go to the one’s that don’t do it well and hope they quit due to lack of money and find something else to.

    If you go to a group, ask other patients who is a good T. They know. It’s the best advice you’ll get.

  • Sue

    December 8th, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    Allie, I agree with your points. Sometimes I think the missing ingredient is –common sense. Therapy isn’t some supernatural other-worldly art. Above all, the first watchwords need to be respect, courtesy and accountability. On one level the relationship isn’t at all “special.” Human emotions, civility and customs don’t stop at the consulting room door. Nor do the hazards of a fundamentally unequal relationship.

  • Steve

    December 10th, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    I had an experience recently with a licensed social worker – C that was the most upsetting experience of my life. I am considering filing a complaint with the state and may contact a lawyer. Here’s what happened.

    My son (14) had gotten into an altercation with my wife the week before and there was some shoving and he called her a B****. Actually I believe my wife initiated the conflict. So I set up a session with a company that works with my insurance carrier. When we met with the social worker I explained to her the altercation and the fact that my son had put holes in his walls over the past year including his baseball bat and his hatchet (he uses it when we camp). She interviewed us first and asked if we had knives in the house and guns, I said yes and that they are for sporting and are kept hidden way. My son had never threatened any one and was very interested in hunting. She immediately said that we must remove all the guns and knives (including our kitchen knives) and that my wife and daughter were in grave danger. I’m sort of taken back by this and said that I thought she was over reacting. She had my wife in tears. When my son came in he would not respond to her as he was upset for being there. When he would not respond to her questions she got aggressive and said to him I expect you to give me the respect I deserve and answer my questions and make eye contact. She basically wanted a contract with him that all the knives and guns would be removed and if he did not agree to this she would take action. He became very upset at her and yelled at us for taking him there and that he hated us and the he would kill himself rather that have to go through this (he can be immature and say things he doesn’t mean when). I told the social worker that things were getting off tract that that we need another approach. She left the room and returned and wrote a note to me that said “the police were on their way”. I was stunned. When the police arrived she said that she was filling out a ED order that that my son was to go with them to the hospital that happened to be across the street. She said it was too late to do anything and that basically he would go there for an evaluation and then be transported to a mental heath facility whether or not we liked it. The police said to my son that you can walk with us or we’ll put the handcuffs on you. The ambulance showed and he went willingly with them to the hospital. I was at this point floored and livid beyond comprehension. I told here that this was a huge mistake and that we came there for counseling and help and when he did not cave to her bulling tactics she got aggressive. Please keep in mind that he never threatened us or her or anyone other than the comment about killing himself the one time. She left us with the impression that he would not be coming home and that he would end up in a ward. I cannot tell you how upset I was, He was admitted and the doctor order a blood and urine test (drugs). Of course it was clean because he had never done drugs or alcohol. The girl who took his blood warmed right up to him and he started to respond in a friendly manner. After an hour or so the hospital family therapist showed up and interviewed us and my son (alone). He was very friendly with her and very talkative. After she interviewed my son one-on-one she gave me a couple of references for therapists she liked. I informed her that I was very upset at the social worker and that I had a mind to report her to the state and gave her an overview of what happened. She said she would call and speak with her then get us our discharge. The social worker was in a session so she did not speak with her. We were discharged. Keep in mind that we are professionals and are very friendly and outgoing people. The people at the hospital were very friendly to my son and it was a nice experience there. Later that night a cop showed up at my house and mentioned that he received some sort of sketchy call about my son being ED’ed. I explained to him the situation and that we went to the hospital, complied and were discharged. He said something to the effect that I was upset and the situation at the hospital (the social worker probably eventually spoke with the hospital). I said I was but I was calm and that I would take whatever action I need to. He left after a friendly conversation.

    My issues:

    1. She never gave us counseling.
    2. She actually made diagnosis such as he should see a neurologist, he is not ADHD (one concern I had), and that he may have depression. All this diagnosis with 20 minutes with us and 20 with him.
    3. She scared the hell out of us my calling the police and leaving us with the impression that he would be locked up.
    4.Never consulted us on how we wanted to handle things before calling the police.

    Most likely I will never go to a therapist after this horrific experience.


  • jen

    July 3rd, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    Hi, I had a similar situation happen to me. different set of problems, but the fact that we asked for help and it made everything worse in my life! I will never seek help again unless they will sign a contract for me and answer my questions first. By the time i was done i had a child neglect case my whole family was affected by it. And I feel like it was a team effort to try and cover up the therapist intake first mistake. its been 2 years and i’m still mad like it happened yesterday. I avoid going to the doctor for my diabetes because i don’t want to say anything about that might get me in trouble even though i’m not causing any. They told me to take accountability for my part in things so just in effort to be done with it i would do more then asked of me and try and guess what they wanted to hear. I am good about voicing my concerns but was treated like they didn’t know if i told the truth full about situations i feel they should take more seriously. no matter what they were right and i was wrong. its hard to explain with out telling my whole story. I don’t mind sharing but would take up my whole day and get me all worked up. I do know there were many mistakes made by almost everyone that had control of my life. not minor mistakes either and basically made it worse for me. i voiced till the end what i thought. i made mistakes in my life but my background looked spotless compared to the people they ok’d my 4 year old to live with. these are the mistakes i know they made.

    1. the first therapist sent me to the wrong program. and failed to say it was a year long program after u spent 2 months in a rehab.

    2. i had no government agency telling me i had to do anything. except the social worker who informed me after 3 months of not going to group and how am i suppose to know when they say its your choice they mean you get to chose from the choices they gave you.

    3. i feel like they only wanted me to process what my part in situations even though i am full aware and will tell the truth especially if i don’t care if hurts. the lie hurts worse the longer its out there.

    4. in both the rehab and the the after program, they gave no direction toward how to finish. i had no idea i was suppose to have therapy twice a week. or even drop ua’s and because of the situation i had the, groups did more damage then good the biggest thing was the therapist i talked to because my therapist kept pushing questions about my health. just another way to keep me there.

    she advised filing a complaint because a friend of mine that had the same therapist we meet there. we still seen each other more often then we did in class. she was told that she needs to have friend that are doing right. basically saying i’m not cause she hadn’t seen me. we spent too much time together for her to not notice if i was doing stupid things. we did have a meeting about that one.

    funny, i took my friend with me so she couldn’t say that it didn’t happen. and she had to wait in the waiting room until we had a convo and then she would grab her when we were ready. she apologized for how ever my friend interpreted what she said. instead it was me the boss her and my social worker on the phone. they wont even acknowledge the proof u brought with u.

    i gave up at this point. i felt they would find a reason to take custody of my child. even having to prove i had a false positive because of my diabetes. even though it stated it clearly. and i know they disliked that i will let everyone know what is happening over and over until i had to prove it so started documenting all conversations and if i got a call back or not. i also knew my ex was missing his ua’s and confronted her on it. i’m pretty sure she favored him because of who his mom is, but did not expect for her to let her know how the system failed her grand daughter. goes on and on.

    i had to take a break cause it will control my life if i let it. not to mention they made me feel like i had lost my mind or that they thought i was using because of they way i would not let it go. a girl there was told she was getting tested for spice and was told if she told the truth it wouldn’t be as bad if it came back hot. so she admitted but was a fake special test bottle they gave her a diabetic cup cause they can’t actually test in less there is evidence you have smoked it. i’m sure they hated my big mouth and my daughter was gonna be the one who paid if my mother-in-law validated my statements. the list goes on and on.

    i backed off of it cause it was finally over. I fought until the end but did not have the energy to have to invite the courts, social services or therapist in my life. not to mention they all work together, i don’t know that it will be worth anymore pain because they twist it around ignore what they have to and it wont be fair. What do I do?

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC, MEd, MS

    December 10th, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    Hello all,
    I’ve been following this blog for a little while now, though this is the first time I’ve commented. It truly is a great list of warning signs that we all should be aware of, whether we are therapists or clients. I have been in both sets of shoes. As a therapist myself, it is enlightening – and heartbreaking – to see how many people have had negative experiences.

    Steve and Allie, your recent posts have touched me the most. It is clear you both have had some terrible experiences with therapy, but I so hope you won’t allow these experiences to color your view of all therapists. I can tell you firsthand, THERAPISTS DO SO MUCH GOOD! My life was saved by a great therapist many years ago, and that is the reason I am now a therapist myself.

    I think one of the primary keys to good therapy is making a genuine, therapeutic connection with the therapist. Connections really are the key to any relationship, and a relationship with a therapist is no different.

    Connections can be tricky though, as with any relationship. Sometimes clients are so in need of a connection with another person that they appear to – or actually do – connect easily with the therapist. Sometimes they have been so hurt by broken connections with friends or loved ones, they have a difficult time making any connections at all. Regardless of the client’s experiences or needs, it is the therapist’s responsibility to determine what the initial level of connection can or should be with the client … and how that connection should or should not evolve with time.

    When I speak with clients, I try to get a clear understanding of where they are, emotionally speaking, as quickly as possible, so that I can meet them there and have a place to start. For those who seem like they need to talk, to tell me their story, I simply give them the floor on a first visit. I allow them the freedom to tell me what’s important to them, and I use what they say as a foundation for setting goals.

    For those who seem more reluctant to talk and tell me their story, regardless of the reason, I begin by asking a few nonthreatening questions designed to make them feel comfortable, make them feel like it’s safe to talk to me.

    My entire objective is to find some common ground where a connection can potentially be made. Working with clients in this way has helped me to form connections with them and ultimately help them move toward emotional health.

    As for the experiences of many is posted in this blog, I think a genuine, therapeutic connection may have been missing. I know this happens for lots of different reasons – sometimes it takes the client a while to feel comfortable with the therapist; sometimes the therapist isn’t focused on developing a connection; and sometimes the therapist and client just may not be a good fit.

    As someone so appropriately said, therapy is an art and not a science. And therapists are human and not robots. If I can establish a genuine connection quickly, we can move to the more difficult issues more quickly. When I work with clients that need a little more time, I try to stay focused on the tangible and concrete issues and develop a rapport more slowly. Either way is fine and is ultimately beneficial to the client. And that’s the point of therapy.

    When I was in my early 20s, I was dealing with a specific issue and went to a counselor on my college campus. I had never been to a counselor before, and my expectation was that he would be able to give me some advice that would help me with my issue. To make a long story short, he didn’t help me at all. He listened to me, and he basically repeated back to me everything I had said. But he gave me no advice whatsoever. Nothing terrible happened; he just simply wasn’t helpful. I walked away feeling like it had been a complete waste of my time and his.

    While that experience did leave a bad taste in my mouth about therapy, I’m so thankful I didn’t assume all therapists would be just like him. It was probably 10 years later that I sought therapy again for a much more serious issue and found the one who changed –saved– my life. And that’s why I am now so passionate about therapy.

    While I would encourage anyone to stop seeing a therapist who makes them feel uncomfortable – and I certainly know there are therapists out there who act in unprofessional ways – I would also encourage them not to assume that all therapists are bad just because they found one who was. Most of us choose this field so that we can help others, and we work hard every day to that end. :-)

    Best regards,


  • margarets

    December 12th, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Yeah, every so often we get a therapist on here making the “few bad apples” argument. Except that no one knows how many bad apples there are. No research of any kind has EVER been done on that topic.

    I think any honest therapist has to admit that they really haven’t a clue what “most” therapists are like, and that therapy is always a risk because there is no good way to determine in advance whether a given therapist is competent and ethical, or a total whackjob.

    Steve’s case is an excellent example. He went to see a LICENSED social worker and found himself and his family in the middle of a nightmare, in just one session.

  • Golden

    December 12th, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    WOW! I appreciate all your guys.Especially, kelly:) Got lots of useful information form your guys.

  • Matt

    December 13th, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    I hope someone here will read and comment. I’m stuck.

    I’m in tumultuous relationship with ex-spouse, who refuses co-parenting approach and is amazingly bitter 5+ years after a divorce that was planned and executed by that ex-spouse.

    Via a Priority Consultant’s recommendations, my ex-spouse and I receive counseling for “parenting assistance.” Ex-spouse has filed so many motions with court that I’ve lost count, with not one of them being supported by court.

    Therapist, even after many requests on my part, will not address my interest in co-parenting but insists on parallel parenting, because (in my opinion) the therapist won’t address ex-spouses anger, bitterness and general personality disorder. Therapist has admittedly accepted gifts from my ex-spouse. They sit together at school meetings related to my children. Therapist has billed/charged my insurance company using my children’s names as the “patient” for sessions conducted with ex-spouse and children were not present. Ex-spouse is not on my insurance. (insurance fraud?) For several reasons, I feel that the therapist is biased in favor of ex-spouse due to being same gender, among other things. (I’m obviously biased myself tho’). AND, I’ve communicated this to therapist only to receive the response that I will need to petition court.

    I would rather not file complaint with state licensing board, nor file insurance fraud complaint, as I’m weary of conflict. Yet, I feel that I’m being screwed because this therapist has input to the court system on decisions related to my children.

  • Sue

    December 13th, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    Matt, condolences for a bad therapist adding to what was a long difficult ordeal before you met her. I won’t pretend to know the legal ins and outs, but it does seem like time to collect documentation, visit the lawyer etc. If this woman can influence legal judgments, yo might be left to protect yourself, even if you don’t report her to the insurance company etc. Another respondent here had difficulty with insurance fraud.

    Margaret, I agree to your response to the “few bad apples” argument. My unhappiness is with the larger system that seems to create an authoritarian culture in the therapy community. And a therapist operating within ethical guidelines can still be destructive in many ways few professionals seem to realize.

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC, MEd, MS

    December 19th, 2011 at 10:37 PM

    Hi Matt,

    I’m not sure if I can be of much help here, but I’ll sure try . . . I can’t tell from your post if the therapist is your ex-spouse’s, your children’s, yours, or you and your ex-spouse’s together as parents. Additionally, I can’t tell if the therapist was assigned to you by the court – or even employed by the court – or if she was chosen privately by you and/or your ex-spouse. This matters because identifying the actual client is what’s important. For a therapist, focusing on the actual client is critical, and what were ethically bound to do. In fact, due to confidentiality issues, we are generally unable to speak with anyone but the client unless we have a written consent or release signed by the client.

    If the therapist is employed by the court or assigned to you by the court, her position is most likely one of assessing the family situation and making recommendations back to the court. If this is the case, the word “client” doesn’t actually seem to fit. It would be difficult to call any of you a client from a therapeutic standpoint if she knows up front her job is to report back to the court. Though of course I don’t know all of the legal issues you’re facing nor do I know the laws in every part of the country, the confidentiality issues in this situation would be very muddy. If the therapist is an agent of the court, my feeling is that she should do a thorough assessment of you, your ex-spouse, and the children to understand the family dynamics before she can make a recommendation.

    If she has not been assigned specifically by the court and is the therapist for both of you together or for your children, she has an obligation to all of you to help you work through whatever issues may be present in an unbiased way. This would include speaking and working with all of you, being open and candid about her professional assessment of your situation, and maintaining a professional relationship with all of you.

    Based on your description of her behavior, I am wondering if she is technically the therapist for your ex-spouse only?, If this is the case, her obligation is to your ex, and she has no obligation to you. In fact if she is the therapist to your ex, discussing therapy with you could potentially violate confidentiality guidelines.

    While I certainly question some of her therapeutic choices like spending time outside of therapy sessions with your ex, it sounds to me as though your ex may actually be her client. If this is the case, I’m thinking perhaps you need to seek your own counselor or therapist so that your needs can be addressed as well??

    I don’t really know if that’s helpful at all. What I do know from working with so many couples and families is that it can get very tricky at times. The counselor’s role is to always work towards the client’s best interests. The problem occurs when two people in the same family have interests that conflict with one another. The therapist absolutely cannot meet the needs of both.

    I think you would be well served to understand who her client is and then go from there.

    To margarets:
    I really appreciate your feedback, but I’m not sure that I understand your disagreement with the “few bad apples” argument. It seems to me if you’re saying the therapists who engage in unprofessional behavior are NOT “a few bad apples,” then you’re saying we are all “bad apples,” i.e. we all behave that way. And that is just simply untrue. Though some therapists unfortunately do cross the lines of ethical boundaries, we do not all do so.

    Like you, I have not seen a study that tried to quantify how many so-called “bad apples” there may be among us. But this is largely due to the fact that research on the efficacy of therapy is very difficult to conduct for a variety of reasons:

    There are confidentiality guidelines that restrict therapists from speaking about clients – making it difficult to find clients for a research study,

    Many clients would not be willing to speak about therapy or their therapists, and

    The very subjective nature of understanding what is successful, what is professional, etc. to clients. Clients have very different definitions and ideas about what to expect from therapy and thus what makes good therapy.

    While I think I understand what you mean when you say any honest therapist should admit to having no idea what “most” therapists are like, I would pose the question right back to you. How is it that you know what most therapists are like? I can personally say I know or have known hundreds of therapists. Whether in school, in my places of employment, or in the many trainings for professional counselors I’ve both attended and presented, I have worked with so many people that I believe to be really good, competent, professional, ethical counselors.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that it’s always a risk to find a therapist, and sometimes people have to talk with more than one to find one they like. But assuming we’re all bad does far more harm than good. I would really hate to see someone contemplating therapy – someone who may be dealing with some really difficult issues – assume most therapists are unethical or unprofessional and therefore decide not to seek the help good therapists can provide.

  • margarets

    December 22nd, 2011 at 8:53 AM

    “It seems to me if you’re saying the therapists who engage in unprofessional behavior are NOT “a few bad apples,” then you’re saying we are all “bad apples,” i.e. we all behave that way.”

    Hoo boy. There’s a big logical fallacy in your statement. I said “no one knows how many bad apples there are” and you jump to “you’re saying all the apples are bad”.

    And then you agree with me that no one knows how many bad apples there are.

    Uh, I personally would hope for a therapist with a better ability to read/listen to what I am *actually saying* instead of making inferences, who looks at the *evidence at hand* and who is a good logical thinker.

    E.g. You say you know hundreds of therapists and they all seem like competent professionals. Well, so what? Hundreds is a small fraction of the total number, and of course you have never interacted with them as a client. Surely a therapist knows that people can present one persona to certain people and another to others (e.g. the “pillar of the community” type who abuses their family in private). What you see may not be the truth.

    The bad therapists don’t tell clients upfront that they’re bad. The client has to figure it out on their own, often the hard way. At best, they have wasted their time and money (and they may not have more time or money to continue their search for a good therapist, so the opportunity is lost altogether). And since no one has shown that therapy is truly necessary to deal with difficult issues, why take the risk?

  • Sue

    December 22nd, 2011 at 8:25 PM

    The “patient” submits to a relationship of unequal power and disclosure based on artificial role playing. Therapy can reinforce dependency, subordination, regression, idealization, magnification of deficiencies and victimization among other states. Therapy carries large risks far beyond dealing with the most flagrant violations.

  • Sue

    December 23rd, 2011 at 10:25 AM

    I’m amused therapists reading this thread so often have a defensive need to joust and prevail, even if that means by distorting arguments, rather than learning from the negative experiences consumers report here.

    It’s a delicious replication of a typical dynamic. The therapist feels she must maintain authority, and if that’s threatened, she’ll employ the needed weaponry to quash dissent.

    If any professional has the curiosity to learn about iatrogenesis from the articulate writers here, they’ll find much material on this thread as well as in the blogs several of us have started.

  • Bee

    December 25th, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    hello. thank you for reading my comment, and providing a place to leave feedback on this blog.

    my friend of over 12 years has been seeing a therapist for the past year for grief and depression. during a visit to my house several months ago, my friend disclosed with me some surprising situations with regard to her therapist-client relationship.

    i entered into their conversation, as my friend asked her therapist about ‘asperger autism.’ i’m on the autism spectrum and the therapist made the following statements about me to my friend: “stay away from asperger autism people; they’re cold; they’re insensitive; you don’t want a friend like that;” et c. i was floored, and inquired after her expertise into neurodiversity/autism specialty. my friend said that her therapist had not seen anyone on the autism spectrum as a client, but that’s what was ‘in the books.’

    as if the information above wasn’t enough, they go to church together, play on facebook together, my friend said the therapist has invited her to do these things and More! the therapist even told my friend that she was ‘like a child/family to her!’

    now, my friend is backpeddling, and defending her therapists’ position against me saying it was to ‘protect’ her, and that i am ‘exaggerating’ things, she shared with me.

    i found several things listed in this blog that were not professional for my friends’ therapist to be doing, boundary-wise.


  • Sue

    December 25th, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Bee, I’m a consumer, not a professional, but my reaction is the same as yours. I understand the behavior you describe to be way over the bounds of professional ethics, not only the “dual relationship,” but the therapist’s directive attempt to interfere with a friendship. I’m glad the therapist didn’t succeed.

    I find it difficult to witness a friend involved in a relationship I consider ill-advised. I might to tell a friend about my personal reactions, that witnessing it worries and saddens me. It’s difficult to get another person to change her mind, and sometimes the only option is to stay silent unless/until the friend expresses more ambivalence. If your friend ultimately becomes disillusioned, it’s likely to be a painful breakup for her.

    There’s a wisdom in your post that already disproves the therapist’s contention about the Asperger’s population. I have a family member with Asperger’s who is warm and loyal to his friends. Neurodiversity is a great word–there’s no one manifestation or pigeon hole.

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC, MEd, MS

    December 26th, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    Hi Bee,

    I am so sorry you and your friend are going through this . . . I sincerely hope this has not damaged your relationship! Based on your post, and as Sue also stated, it looks as if this particular therapist may be violating “dual relationship” guidelines among others. Making broad, directive statements like “stay away from asperger autism people” —or any person or group of people, for that matter—is a serious concern, as well. A primary role of the therapist is to help GUIDE clients to find their own best solutions/conclusions through personal insight and NOT DIRECT them to any specific ones.

    Hopefully, your friend is able to talk to her therapist and discuss any concerns about these statements and about the additional relationship roles they seem to have. I would encourage her to step back and sincerely assess the relationship with her therapist. If she views the therapist as a central RELATIONSHIP in her life, I believe that’s a significant red flag.

    Healthy personal relationships are typically balanced when it comes to power—meaning neither party has more overall power than the other. In a nutshell, the therapist/client relationship cannot be balanced because the therapist has been sought out by the client for professional, therapeutic help. This unequal power balance is built in to the therapist/client relationship at its inception and generally cannot be changed.

    Much like we seek teachers or professors as experts in their individual fields of study, doctors as experts in medicine, accountants as experts in financial matters, etc., we seek therapists as experts in the field of counseling, relationships, grief, or other areas of our lives. Because of the nature of this professional relationship, therapists are not intended to be “friends” or take on any other primary roles in the lives of their clients.

    Since I don’t know where you live, I should point out that the dual relationship issue is much more complicated in small towns or places where “everybody knows everybody.” In these places, it is often impossible not to run into each other as they both go through their daily lives. But the therapist’s responsibility not to actively engage in dual relationships remains.

    I also want to be clear that I am not talking about the therapist’s or client’s VALUE or WORTH as being unbalanced—all of us are equal as human beings. I am only speaking of the nature of the RELATIONSHIP between a therapist and his/her client.

    Best regards,


  • Margaret

    January 3rd, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    I have a situation not listed here.After 9 months of going to a psychiatrist once a week in what I considered a successful and helpful therapy, One month ago unexpectedly told me that something I said was the “last straw”. Amazed I asked her what the other straws were and her answers seemed like extremely minor remarks that offended her and made her feel I was condescending. Things she had never mentioned before. The next week my Assistant called to ask her for an opt out letter from medicare and she was very angry, saying she would charge me for the “burden” this placed on her and that I should seek other therapy, she suggested I go to a geriatric psychiatrist who took medicare. I decided to cancel my appointment for that week to let things cool down. She then wrote me a letter telling me that she was immediately dismissing me from therapy with no notice and would give me 30 days of medication. This has been shocking behavior and I think there are some rules about just dropping a patient without working it through. told my assistant that I should find another therapist. when he was asking her to send us and opt out letter for medicare, she threatened to charge me for it. But the worst was that when I cancelled one appointment, the only one I had ever

  • margarets

    January 8th, 2012 at 6:12 PM

    One of the things I discussed with my ex-therapist was how I did not trust the man I was seeing at the time. There were many red flags, and I mentioned them to her. Her attitude was (a direct quote):

    “Why not just trust? Some people do. They just trust.”

    So – ha – I just emailed her with that quote and the following message:

    [link to local news article about a woman whose boyfriend is alleged to have murdered her; this guy had red flags out the wazoo – for more info google “Paul Hindle” and “Toronto”]

    Well, here’s an example. And you can add to it all the women who have been beaten, raped, infected with STIs, stolen from and cheated on by men they chose to “just trust”. As a social worker, you should know that such things are not uncommon.

    Some people are not just trustworthy. I would think a good therapist would know that. Only a very bad therapist would encourage a woman to ignore red flags in a relationship.

    Of course, I am 100% right, but she will refuse to acknowledge it. She’s that dangerous.

  • Tasha

    January 9th, 2012 at 1:41 AM

    I recently have been dealing with a therapist, but not as his patient. My children and ex husband have been going because of a protective order. The therapist was retained to work the children back to seeing their dad after 3 months of zero contact. In the beginning he made some very bold statements about my ex and the intent of abuse that happened to my daughter (age 10). THere was no question that coaching had not happened and he brought up diagnosis like anti social, predator, and narcissist. He had so many concerns. Jump ahead 3 months to forcing my ex and myself to sign a parenting agreement. And because I am not willing to follow blindly to everything that is happening with my kids in session. Mind you they share with me, I do not believe in forcing them to share. I have been ridiculed and the therapist has written to the Guardian ad Litem that my axis 11 is becoming out of control if I dont get my way. He states that I have a personality disorder ( i dont) and he is concerned that it is pushing him to do an in home assessment on me. In the beginning of the sessions I was asked to do some assessments to make it fair for my ex to be expected to follow suit. He has already stated that neither of us had any issues from those test results. He has asked my children in therapy, with my ex in the room where they wanted to live. And if they wanted to live with their dad he could tell the judge their wishes and it would happen. My son (14) had come home and said bluntly ” Man he really hates you doesnt he?” referring to the therapist. He has put my ex husband on some sort of mood drug and says that Im the one that needs to be controlled. I am concerned for my children that because of his blatant disregard,more harm will come after the protective order has been dropped. My son says the therapist is always asking “snoopy” questions about me in from of my ex during the session. He does feel that his therapy is the only way. When I questioned him about a particular visitation schedule for the holidays he told me I was double talking because I have said I want my kids to be listened to but then if I dont agree with a decision they have made I lose control and try to manipulate the situation. I could go on and on. Sadly the guardian ad litem has bluntly said she is leaving it strictly up to the professionals in this case.
    This man has seen my 3 times and spoken to me 2 times on the phone. Does it seem odd that he is already throwing out personality disorders? He hasnt said which one, just that I have one. How do I fight this obvious bias? Is it ethical to diagnose someone who they have said from tests are normal but then flip to say that they have serious concerns about how Im running my life. And pushing for in home assessments? What about my kids?
    Just a side note- I do have a great therapist! Have for almost a year. Before any of this mess started. He read what the email said. He has let me know that who I am is nowhere near what this other therapist has said. Any suggestions on how to deal with this very arrogant therapist? Sorry if this looks like rambling. The frustration is difficult to type through.

  • Utty

    January 11th, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    I am currently seeing a therapist. Last summer I was so broke I had no money or food. I complained about this often. One day I came into her office and she had a bag of groceries to give me. I did accept it but it felt odd. Then later she started wanting to make a grocery list so that she could go buy me the food I wanted. I told her that I didn’t want her to do that. After that happened I got very depressed. Since then I just don’t feel very close to her. I keep thinking someone else could help me more than she is.

  • Barb

    January 12th, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    Has anyone noticed this new trend? Therapists and counselors who tweet/blog judgemental and hurtful views (‘fat’ jokes, comments about ‘crazy’ people etc) under their own name for any client to read and react to. I recently pointed out the dangers of this behavior to three young newbie counselors. Two were open to the feedback, but the third one basically told me to butt out, it’s her life. I worry about her clients.

  • Sue

    January 14th, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    Barb, funny you should mention about therapist bloggers. I encountered one of those writing derogatory, condescending things about a tentative new client. It read as dreadfully vindictive and juvenile as she described a client who was unsure she wanted to commit to therapy. I hope that client runs as fast as possible. It was a real dig to the subject and terrible if any client reads it. These therapists must think they’re writing useful cases, when in fact they’re like gossipy teens on Facebook.

    Utty, if the grocery incident happened to me, I’d think a therapist was crossing over into my private life, which isn’t her role.

  • Carrie Berry

    January 14th, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    I had a therapist I really liked, but he moved out of state. I went to another therapist, and initially, she said some of the same things about my sister-in-law (the source of of my problem) as the first therapist, including an opinion that it sounded like my SIL had a personality disorder.

    I had asked the first therapist if it could possibly be me who was blowing things out of proportion or giving him the wrong idea about her, and he assured me that he knew my character well after several years, and felt confident by my descriptions that this is what we were dealing with. I felt better knowing that there was a reason for her horrible behavior, and I actually starting feeling some sympathy for my SIL.

    But after a couple of sessions with the second counselor, she started meeting with the rest of my in-laws as well because of my MIL’s Alzheimer’s Disease–I was almost solely caring for her w/out help (SIL wouldn’t communicate with me) and I was 8 mos pregnant.

    Anyway, the therapist later retracted the comment about my SIL having personality disorder, and said she didn’t think that anymore.

    This totally screwed with my head. Since then, she also asked my husband if he wished his sister would change, and when he said “yes”, she asked him what changes he would make about himself and didn’t allow him to elaborate about his sister.

    Every time I’ve tried to talk about how my SIL’s behavior affects me, she tells me I’m making assumptions about her or gives me a lecture about why I should have empathy for her, as our roles in our alcoholic families were the same.

    Am I wrong, or is the second counselor out of line?

  • Carrie Berry

    January 14th, 2012 at 9:33 PM

    I forgot to mention that I tried a third counselor, who seemed helpful and suggested we try to set up a meeting with my SIL to work things through, but then he said our insurance company wasn’t cooperating with him so he just charged our debit card nearly $500.

    I asked him why he would just do that without giving me a chance to talk to the insurance company to work it out, and he said he’d refund me if I could work it out on my end, but he didn’t seem very sympathetic to the fact that it wiped out my account and I had bills to pay, nor did he offer to resolve it further on his end.

    I told him to refund it immediately or I’d call Mastercard and take it up with them. He refunded it and told me sarcastically “good luck with your therapy” (in other words, f*** off). An hour later, the insurance company told me that he’d submitted the claim incorrectly and just needed to make a simple change in order to receive his full payment.

    I’m now looking for a fourth counselor, but I’m feeling very weary of laying myself bare, explaining everything again, and then wondering if I’m going to have to deal with any nonsense again.

  • Marc A. Procopio

    January 17th, 2012 at 4:50 PM

    As a person in therapy myself, this is going to be very helpful to me as I have not only questioned the ability of my therapists to deal with my problems within the therapist client relationship but the types of therapy that I am receiving! I had no idea that there are what looks to be a Hundred or more types of therapy. I go talk; she listens I leave. That’s it! Is this normal? I’m not being empowered at all and never have been in many years of desperation trying to get help. I have Post Traumatic stress among other things and feel I’m falling through the dam cracks. I told her I wanted to apply for social security and she said that it was reserved for people who need it! Whoa…. Please if your a therapist do all of us a favor get your head out of those college school books and do something for your clients based on what they tell you they need not what you learned in school! The world will be a better place for all of us! I know what your thinking-Projection, NO!!!

  • Fire femme

    January 18th, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    I have been in therapy for 4 years after a traumatic event. Very recently I made a huge breakthrough outside therapy and while she was excited about that, a decision I made regarding continuing to explore the breakthrough, she did not respond as I expected. She said “I would of course never tell you what to do, but no, I don’t think you should.”. It felt very judgmental though maybe that’s her job- to keep me from making decisions that aren’t good. This was a decision I felt great about before our session but now I am nervous and hesitant and wondering if I am strong enough given her negative reaction. Should I be going with her opinion or the one I had before telling her?

  • Courtney

    January 20th, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    My issue is with the “clerical staff” at my psychiatrist’s office where I receive counseling and meds management. The clerical staff is negligent in getting my medications to me. My doctor never intercedes on my behalf. She even left me a voice mail that she is no longer my “primary”. I don’t think I can go back to see her. She doesn’t care enough to get involved when I ask for her help in getting my bi-polar meds thru the pharmaceutical company’s patient assistance program. I legitimently asked for her help and she did nothing.

  • Sue

    January 22nd, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Fire femme, it would be unwise to venture an opinion about your decision.

    But in general, unless a client proposes something that would harm others or himself, a therapist should make no judgment or direction about life decisions.

    I found it damaging that therapists created an impression they had any kind of Life Knowledge I lacked. They didn’t have a clue.

  • Jess

    January 23rd, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    My therapist constantely tells me that she feels hopeless because she can’t help me. She tells me to buy all these books but we never look over them. One day I had a argument with my bf and she told me I’m addicted to abuse and that is why I stayed. Tells me I’m a masocist and I enjoy the pain I feel. Then tells me I’m better off leaving him.

    When I tried to leave her she tells me that she is unsure as to why and feels that I have so many overwhelming addictions that I need to continue seeing her and she reduced my rate in good faith.

    When I worked things out with my bf she told me I was making a great mistake and that I was going to regret it. Worse off is when I thought I was pregnant and she said “I told you so” and because of my “Sex Addiction” that this was bound to happen. I have been with my bf for six years. Never cheated and I’m a sex addict because I enjoy sex with him? Doesn’t make sense to me.

    I would leave her office in tears because of her judgments and critical outlook on my life. She still contacts me to make appointments and I have been forwarding her calls. She makes me feel like I have such bad problems in my life, she makes me feel worse.

  • Sue

    January 23rd, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    When I think about the therapy in real-life terms, it’s distorted and unhealthy from the outset. One person talks exclusively about her failings, self-doubts and irrational meanderings. The other person play-acts the “expert” in relationships and solving problems. No wonder therapy can make us feel worse.

    Jess, from reading your description, it seems like the addiction here belongs to the THERAPIST. Her judgments, the name calling, labels sound like HER pathology. Therapists will distort life’s ordinary travails into so-called afflictions. This might service THEIR emotional fulfillment and financial advantage.

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC, MEd, MS

    January 24th, 2012 at 8:15 PM

    Hi Jess,
    I’m not certain why your therapist says she can’t help you . . . but then continues to work with you. As a therapist myself, sometimes we do have clients that we don’t have the necessary skills, knowledge, or experience to help. When that happens, we are ethically bound to inform the client and take the next appropriate steps–which often means we refer to another therapist who has the necessary credentials.

    Sometimes a therapist and client will continue to work together despite a lack of credentials in a specific area, but this is typically an exception and usually due to an already-established positive therapeutic relationship. And the client has to be informed up front and should feel TOTALLY FREE to make the decision to stay with the counselor or go to another one.

    It doesn’t seem like there is a strong therapeutic relationship here . . . And the whole point of therapy is for you to feel better. If you are not progressing, maybe a different counselor that is more skilled/experienced in working with the issues you are dealing with would be more helpful??

    I wish you well and the best of luck in whatever you choose to do! :-)


  • Darren Haber, MFT

    January 24th, 2012 at 8:56 PM

    To Carrie Berry: sometimes I tremble in fear when I read these descriptions of my colleagues’ behavior. Holy unethical therapist, Batman. I am very sorry you have had to experience such shoddy, unprofessional treatment by folks who are allegedly sworn to “do no harm”. Sounds like these therapists have been pretty harmful indeed.

    Hard to know where to start. First I’d ask if the second counselor had your express written consent to contact your other family members and make them part of the therapy. If the answer is “no” then he or she broke the law. If yes, was it clear that they would, in effect, also become clients? It should be set upfront of treatment who the “Unit of Treatment” (in our jargon) actually is. Is it you? Your family? All of the above? I always recommend seeing someone on an individual basis, who is going to be your therapist only: your ally, your supporter, no matter what – then, you can get a referral to a family therapist who will treat the entire family as “the client”. Families are complex and dynamic and I personally find it almost impossible to build trust with an individual and then bring in family members and attempt to be neutral. How could I? Such a move almost always backfires. Someone ends up feeling betrayed or sided against, etc.

    Secondly, re. your making “assumptions”: your feelings, experience and subjective perspective is what matters most – not the opinion of the darn therapist! On the “top 10 list” of things therapists should never do is make their opinion more important than yours (with exceptions for truly dangerous situations, like a plan to harm oneself). It doesn’t matter what the “facts” are. We’re talking about what is unconscious and separate from “logic”, the language of the psyche; your feelings, hopes and emotional experiences are the most important “facts” of the therapy. It sounds like this therapist or counselor had extremely poor boundaries and lost focus on your well-being. From what I read here, you didn’t do anything wrong and he/she lost control of the case. I’m not sure if this is a reportable incident (aside from a potential breach of confidentiality) but it’s close. (For the record, any time any counselor is lecturing you about empathy, it’s time to head for the door.)

    As for the third counselor, again we’re talking about appalling behavior and I would call the licensing board and get a consultation regarding what happened. In some states what he did borders on illegality; if you have the inclination, you might look into the guidelines for financial abuse and fraud. Unless it was explicitly agreed that you were going to pay him should the insurance company “not cooperate”, he had no business charging you without permission, and was out of line to deride you when you (rightfully) asked for a refund. Worst of all, he callously abandoned you over a financial matter (due to his own mistake), another huge red flag in our field.

    If you live in an area covered by this site, perhaps you could find someone via If not, ask a doctor you trust, or a local university with a psychology program. Often those who teach there are therapists or know good ones in the community. I suggest you meet with two or three different therapists, tell them your story, and make sure they understand why this was so awful to go through. Have them explain how they work, what their “strategy” would be in working with you, and who the “client” is. I would also give yourself the right to stop going to them after 4-6 sessions if you’re not feeling completely safe. You owe it to yourself to be a little wary. Life is hard enough. I really do hope that all this will not prevent you from finding the help you are so bravely seeking.

  • Sue

    January 25th, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    After unethical therapy, the healing is to see the stagecraft and foolish little man behind the wizard’s curtain.

    Returning to yet another therapist–continuing the role playing– is a poor answer for some of us. The power differential and the external authority might move us further backwards.

  • Robert S.

    January 25th, 2012 at 10:52 PM

    Emily wrote:
    A therapist who sees a remarried couple when one of the partners was in counseling with the same therapist with their former spouse.

    I don’t think this is either a red flag or rule out. Yes, it is potentially a conflict, one which the therapist and (former couples) client need to discuss thoroughly, and need to involve the new partner in the decision about whether to work with this therapist. But there are certainly situation where this could work and actually be very beneficial for everyone involved.

  • EF

    January 29th, 2012 at 2:34 PM


    I know a rape victim at Denison University.





  • EF

    January 29th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    sorry that i won’t/can’t leave my real details. i’m sure you can sympathize/understand why that might be so.

    i hope you publish the comment anyway

  • Melinda

    January 30th, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    I can relate because the last therapist I visited (back in 2010) did some of these things.

    After six sessions with her, I vowed that I would never return. Why?

    She was rude, condescending, and judgmental. She was a very poor listener. She was insensitive. She was confrontational and aggressive at times. She belittled me.

    She actually told me: “I don’t care about you or your problems. Stop playing the victim”. I suffer from depression and her whole attitude was just hurtful. She seemed to delight in my misery and discomfort. I’ve experienced abuse most of my life, so her behavior was definitely a red flag.

    The only reason I haven’t reported her is because it isn’t worth it. I figure that sooner or later, she will do the same to another client and they will complain.

    Ron Morgan…I agree with you! My former therapist specialized in CBT, which does have its benefits, but wasn’t helpful in my situation.

    She told me only after the third session that she only did cognitive therapy. I also noticed that she disparaged other types of therapy while praising CBT as the solution to every problem.

    And don’t even get me started on her notion that deep breathing techniques would improve my depression.

    How do some of these people get jobs in the mental health field, anyway?

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 1st, 2012 at 5:17 PM

    To Courtney, above (#431): I’m sorry to hear that, sounds like really shoddy behavior, especially with something as delicate as bipolar, where medication MUST be delivered timely and correctly. Tough enough to have to deal with bipolar itself without adding the stress of inefficient and (it sounds like) downright rude providers! My suggestion would be to call the patient assistance administrator and report this situation, and don’t pull punches; I would bet that you are not the first to complain about this office. Frankly, if the doctor is not going to help his patients, he shouldn’t be on the panel to begin with. I think sometimes doctors – who, in all fairness, are under a lot of pressure and have to work with some difficult constrictions with insurance companies – sign up for these panels and then are not willing or able (or do not properly train their staff) to treat their patients properly. But this isn’t an excuse; shoddy providers should not be on these panels. I suggest that you call the plan administrator to lodge your complaints and ask that you receive a referral to a doctor who is willing to do the job properly, since your health is at stake. Put everything in writing if you can; I really hope you get referred to a more responsive psychiatrist. You might even consider going to the medical board because you cannot be denied medications for such a serious issue if they have taken you on as a patient (and are getting paid via the pharmaceutical company). Sorry to hear about it; I hope you find someone more willing to do the job right.

    And to Melinda (#441), I am so glad you’re not seeing that therapist anymore. What a jerk (that’s a clinical term). CBT is one way of describing what she does; “abuse” is another. I remember a very wise psych. professor telling me, as I was graduating, “Remember, there are two kinds of people in this field – those who truly want to help others and deal with their own stuff and grow as a person, and those who want to AVOID their own stuff and PRETEND they’re helping others”. Not really a mystery which category your (ex) therapist is in. You sound very intuitive and insightful; I hope you are able to find someone more flexible, personable and, well, human. Perhaps you could look via Congratulations on having the strength to “kick her to the curb” and move on. Good luck to you and please don’t give up.

  • Sue

    February 3rd, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    I think therapists can be so wrapped in theory they start to believe that our conditioning as social beings somehow is magically different in the consulting room.

    Didacticism, condescension, zingers and playground taunting are no different in a professional context. Even in this thread, therapists have gotten defensive (or in one case, furious) at the smallest threat to the hierarchy. Subtext is more telling than the pretense.

  • Sue

    February 4th, 2012 at 4:20 AM

    “I remember a very wise psych. professor telling me, as I was graduating, “Remember, there are two kinds of people in this field”…

    Darren, frankly I don’t find this advice wise. By dichotomizing, the good and the bad professionals, an “us” vs. “them” mentality, it could imply a comfort or smugness that a practitioner can be safely on dry land in the former camp.

    In truth, professionals have the same “stuff” as consumers, and every moment of consultation they might be helping, or might be pressing their own agenda. There’s never a grand dividing line between “us” and “them.” It’s a lifetime endeavor.

    To my knowledge, this thread might be the richest (albeit random) resource on the internet covering iatrogenesis. Save few mostly out-of-print books, I’ve found little talkback to profession from consumers.

    Yet professionals seem to enter this thread with incuriosity. Instead they assume their professorial/counseling postures and tones. It’s almost as if…a hierarchy is being reinforced. It’s ashamed the professionals don’t seem to use this opportunity to learn from us.

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC

    February 5th, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    I have learned a great deal from reading this blog–both for myself and for my professional development as a therapist. I have actually utilized what I’ve learned here while working with clients so that I can better understand their needs and perspectives. I agree with Sue that there is tremendous richness in this forum with the many stories people have shared about their negative experiences with unprofessional therapists.

    I am frequently appalled and saddened at the lack of professionalism, empathy, and even the “moral compass” of some of the therapists described in the heartwrenching stories here. As a therapist, I think we can all learn from these posts–and I hope that we do.

    But I truly see no hierarchy of reinforcement or “conspiracy” as Sue does. Along with the negative examples from the individuals’ perspectives here, I see the therapists who post trying to offer help or guidance and trying to explain what a professional therapist might do instead in the context of the posts. I have tried to do that myself. And I’m not sure how doing either of these is exhibiting a lack of curiosity or assuming a “professorial/counseling posture [or] tone.”

    As Sue posted, it is absolutely true that “professionals have the same ‘stuff’ as consumers.” That is of course because we are all human–and no amount of education in any field changes that.

    What this means is that there are (sadly) good, ethical, professional therapists and bad, unethical, unprofessional therapists. The same can be said of doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, police officers, students, and the millions of other professions/roles that exist. And the distinctions are certainly not black and white in any of them. There is a always continuum, where individuals may fall at any point along the line.

    Just as this blog is a great place for people to recount their very difficult experiences with therapy and learn from/support each other, I hope it is also a place where therapists are able to read, learn, and/or post something that might be helpful for all of us–individuals and therapists alike. This, to me anyway, seems to be one of the primary points of the blog. That’s why I keep coming back. :-)

  • Matt

    February 5th, 2012 at 8:27 AM

    I grew up with both ADHD and Bipolar Disorder and I have had excellent psychologists in the past but none live in the area. Note: I am a psychology undergrad with the goal of going on to get a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and to become a drug and alcohol counselor and I have always had excellent experiences with psychologist. If they have made judgements that were off base, they were polite and apologetic about it.

    However, as an adult, I have been referred to therapists that were Licensed Clinical Social Workers and I personally think while their training may suffice to be a “therapist”, most of them don’t believe anything I say, once I sign a release, they will smile in my face and later call my psychiatrist claiming I need more medication or group therapies and I have never made it longer than 2-3 sessions with any of them. They seem forceful and inflexible. I am going to be a substance abuse counselor and while I am also going for a Master’s, I will have two different types of ethical codes to follow. Is it possible that the old days of Eugenics is still somehow influencing todays social work profession?? Being called a danger to yourself based on a Social Worker’s call and placed on a 72 hour observation is embarrassing when everyone from the police ride there to the intake is embarrassing.

  • Sue

    February 5th, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    While I appreciated most of Kelly’s post, I confess,I deliberately was trying to provoke her and in one moment she seems to have taken the bait. One sentence is an interesting window into a therapist/consumer dynamic:

    “But I truly see no hierarchy of reinforcement or “conspiracy” as Sue does.”

    This is quite a diagnostic leap to characterize me as one who sees…conspiracies. It’s not a flattering label, implying perhaps, one not tethered to reality.

    Her leap and labeling –she-sees-conspiracies–is an illustrative tactic. It appears diminishing, perhaps to invalidate me in this discussion. It communicates an authoritarian tone– a privilege to apply derogatory labels to the others.

    We’re all on a thread, swimming around the internet. No one is anyone else’s therapist. The professionals enter this discussion with an authoritative, sometimes directive stance, presuming it their role. When in fact, they have as much to learn from us as we…maybe or maybe not…have to learn from them.

    The enforcement of social hierarchy is powerful and unconscious. Therapists are trained to play an “authority” role. I was intentionally provocative to illustrate the subtle ways therapists might enforce their role as the expert, the reality-teller.

    If the client questions the therapist, a threatened therapist will invalidate the client. This is how the damage begins.

    There is no conspiracy involved. We create rank with one another in subtle ways, in word choices and tones. This is our human “stuff.” This is what happens on the playground, at the dinner table and in the workplace. And it happens between clients and therapists.

  • margarets

    February 6th, 2012 at 8:12 AM

    Kelly wrote:

    “As Sue posted, it is absolutely true that “professionals have the same ‘stuff’ as consumers.” That is of course because we are all human–and no amount of education in any field changes that.”

    That’s fine, but that’s not how the therapy industry presents itself. Therapy marketing makes some bold claims about its ability to heal trauma and resolve emotional difficulties. Therapists present themselves as having specialized training and knowledge and experience, not just the run-of-the-mill coping skills that most human beings have. That is supposed to be the whole point of seeing a therapist – to access the special skills and knowledge.

    So to now find, buried in the comments on a blog post, an admission that therapists are just-human-like-everyone-else just confirms my belief that the whole thing is a scam.

    If therapists are just-human-like-everyone-else, let them say THAT in their marketing. At least then clients won’t be bait-and-switched. Client expectations will be more realistic.

    Of course that probably also mean fewer clients coming through the door and therefore lower revenues, so I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

  • Sue

    February 6th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Some therapy websites look like veritable infomercials promising or implying a richer life. There are harp sound tracks, paths through meadows and outstretched arms on the beach.

    The mere set-up of therapy feeds the delusion of an audience with the seer. Access is controlled and limited. The supplicant is directed to spill her darkest moments, while the therapist often sits in silence or visibly scribbling observations. The therapist never breaks from an authoritative demeanor when, in reality. he’s glimpsed only the tiniest sliver of the client’s life. This theatricality contributes to a misleading aura.

    We can return to real life as another reference point about “stuff.” Take two friends. One always talks about her problems; the other friend encourages this, never talks about her problems and enjoys playing adviser. The issues with this set-up, I think, are obvious.

  • Mary S

    February 6th, 2012 at 6:21 PM

    Some thoughts on the “bad apples” discussion between Kelly, Margarets, and Sue:

    First, I find it helpful to compare and contrast therapists and teachers.

    Comparing: Most of us have experienced enough teachers to know that some are very good, some are very poor, and most are somewhere in between. What’s more, the ones in between may be good for some students and poor for others, or good with some classes and poor with others. Similarly, it makes sense that therapists will range from the very good to the very poor, and the ones in between may be good for some clients and poor with others, or good with some problems and poor with others.

    Contrasting: When I was in elementary school, I had one very poor – indeed, unfit – teacher. For example, she would tell a student to do something, then a couple of minutes later scold the student for doing what the teacher had asked. But some of the students told their parents, and some of those parents told the principal. The teacher was replaced very quickly. In other words, there was a safety net. One part of the safety net was that there were witnesses to the teacher’s behavior. Another part was that there were easily accessible, easily used lines of authority (child to parent and parent to principal). A third was that there were common community standards for what was acceptable and unacceptable teacher behavior. This safety net helps weed out the “bad apples” in the teaching profession.
    Therapy has none of those three elements. There are usually no witnesses to the therapist’s behavior. Although there are agencies to which one can file a complaint against a therapist, they are hard to find, and the procedure is far from user-friendly for the client. And, with so many therapy “theoretical orientations,” there are few commonly held standards even within the therapy professions. In other words, the “safety net” to weed out the bad apples in therapy is nowhere near adequate. So most of the bad apples remain.

    The “bad apple” adage I remember goes something like, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.” I think this is too extreme to apply to the therapy context, but a weaker version does seem to fit: “A few bad apples spoil some more apples, and may tarnish the reputation of the whole profession.” One way in which the bad apples can influence others in the profession came up in a discussion last September on the website “Bad Therapy? A Disgruntled Ex-Psychotherapy Client Speaks Her Piece.” Three of us came up with four examples of therapists who had engaged in very questionable practices but served on ethics committees, grievance committees, or taught courses in professional ethics. Another way that bad apples may spoil more apples is that therapists who engage in questionable practices may be teachers or trainers of therapists. (Indeed, one therapist I had who didn’t practice informed consent at all was a trainer at the time I was seeing her.)

    So, what can be done to improve the situation? Here are some possibilities that come to mind based on the incident of my unfit teacher. First, to provide some sort of “witness”, therapists could record all sessions, with the recording belonging to the client. Second, to provide more accessible lines of recourse, ombuds services could be provided for therapy clients – and therapists could be required to use and to make new clients aware of the service. Third, “Signs of questionable therapy” such as at the beginning of this website could be distributed to new clients, to help create common community standards for what is and is not acceptable in therapy. But these efforts would need to be profession-wide, not just limited to a few therapists. Still, if some therapists implement them, that would be a start. And I’d love to see insurance companies requiring these practices for therapists on their lists of providers.

    But efforts also need to be made to clean up the ethics committees.

  • margarets

    February 7th, 2012 at 7:54 AM

    Excellent post Mary S!

    I’d add this to the list of improvements: ALL complaints (and the following decisions) to ethics committees be posted on the committee’s website. (Names etc, can be removed to protect privacy.) That will give the public and therapists a clearer picture of the nature and number of issues arising in therapy and the *real* standards that ethics committees actually enforce.

  • Sue

    February 7th, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Great posts, Mary and Margaret. I love the idea of both recording and posting redacted grievances publicly.

    From comparing notes with others who’ve filed grievances, the process is broken for most of us unless we can serve up a clear-cut documented violation.

    I’m struck how little literature I see about harmful therapy and even less from the consumer standpoint about how to process what just happened.

    For curious researchers, there is a trove of cases files with licensing boards nationwide how about therapeutic rifts. I can’t find any studies. Consumers rarely seem to be given credence. Therapists win these cases using their professional authority to label and discredit complaining clients.

  • Bomb

    February 8th, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    As a teenager I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed anti-psychotics by a therapist I’d never even met. After I refused to take them and eventually met with him he back tracked and said I only had a schizophreneform disorder. He provided no reasons as to how he came to that conclusion, saying I denied having any hallucinations, delusions or paranoia. Then he recommended I be put in a psychiatric hospital. It was terrifying especially as a teenager with no way to refute him or hire anyone else to defend me.

    But that’s the POWER TRIP all of these fake-doctors are on. All therapy is about the therapists needs. To feel important, to feel successful, to feel like a doctor, and to PUNISH people they feel threatened by intellectually or morally.

  • Mary S

    February 8th, 2012 at 9:32 PM

    I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. I hope that you have at least somewhat recovered from it. Refusing to take anti-psychotics (or antidepressants, or other psychiatric medications) can be a very rational choice — have you read Robert Whitaker’s book Anatomy of an Epidemic? He documents problems with psychiatric medications — in fact, many only have positive effects short term, but negative effects longer term.

  • Sue

    February 9th, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Bomb, sounds like a nightmare, and I hope you find peace.

    I think of the 1973 “Rosenhan experiment” in which researchers deliberately got themselves admitted to psychiatric hospitals with the task to convince doctors of their wellness. The results were a harsh indictment of psychiatric diagnosis, published in Science magazine.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 11th, 2012 at 2:09 PM

    To Matt, #446: You bring up an interesting point in the different ways that folks in our profession approach the concepts of “helping” and “first, do no harm”. It sounds like you feel you were harmed in encountering a “forceful, inflexible” approach and, even worse, being put on a 72 hour hold. You didn’t say why the LCSW thought this was necessary but I’m sure “embarrassing” is a mild way of describing your experience.

    There is a tendency for those of us mental health providers to (not always, but often) be more directive, especially among LCSW’s, more so than Marriage and Family Therapists – especially since LCSW’s tend (again, not always) to lean more towards a systemic, cognitive-behavioral and/or “case management” school of thought. My own empirical experience tells me this is very much the case, that (again, in very broad terms) those with a social work background tend to view a person’s life in a holistic way viz. the way they are managing and organizing their life externally – i.e. behaviors, activities, work, social life, etc. They will look at how the person is functioning within his or her overall social milieu. (Hence the term social worker.) This overall perspective does often include relationships, but not exclusively.

    MFTs tend, in their training, to look more exclusively at the person’s relationships and the feelings about those relationships, and the degree to which they are creating happiness or difficulties in the person’s life. Relationships – family, romantic, work, friends –are examined for how they are (or are not) influenced by the person’s emotional state, and how those emotions in turn affect relationships. Thus the “marriage/family” part of our title. Also, and this is a critical point, some therapists – and those who do this tend to be MFTs – include the therapeutic relationship itself as part of the process. In other words, some relational-based theories will include the relationship with the therapist as grist for the therapeutic mill, so that reactions, counterreactions and overall patterns can be empathically explored and, if desired, changed by addressing the here-and-now, immediate relational experience between therapist and client.

    There are an invariable number of viewpoints on this, and I’m not arguing for or against either one. It is almost like saying do you prefer jazz or pop music, golf or tennis? We tend to find the style and approach that “fits” us. And I would keep that idea of “fitting” very much in mind when you search for a therapist. Do you feel safe with their viewpoint, their approach, their way of working? Does the therapist understand, or “get” you? Can he or she restate and reflect your feelings in a way that makes you think, “Yes, that’s it exactly!” (If you consistently feel judged or misunderstood, on the other hand, it’s time to keep looking.)

    Theoretically speaking, you might look for someone who works psychodynamically or from an existential/humanistic point of view. The former school looks closely at how current and past relationships has formed one’s personality and perspective, and how the person’s unconscious conflicts might be problematic or creating stress or obstacles to happiness. The existential humanist therapist – and often there are a combination of theories at work – might focus on the philosophical underpinnings of a person’s beliefs, what those organizing belief systems are, how one’s values affect the way one lives, what are the personal, specific meanings of one’s life experiences, and so forth.

    It doesn’t have to be either/or. You might work with a psychiatrist who is more directive in conjunction with a more feeling/relational psychotherapist, for example. I’ll go out on a limb and say I have a hunch you’re looking for a therapist who will explore your issues viz. what they specifically mean to you, what it means to take medication (or not), to struggle with bipolar/ADHD, how this affects your view of yourself and others and how you relate to the world. Of course, if you truly meant to harm yourself or others, I’m glad you were brought to safety, but it sounds like you yourself see events very differently, that they caused you duress and bruises to self-esteem. You might want to seek a therapist who comes from the schools I just mentioned.

    Again, I’m not for or against any particular approach. I know social workers who do superb work, who have philosophies quite different from mine. (We have spirited debates about this all the time.) I do believe that the principle of “do no harm” is the bedrock of our profession, and without that we fall into egotism, lack of empathy and injury to those we purport to help.

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC

    February 12th, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    Hi Matt,
    It sounds like you have had some truly harrowing experiences! I am so sorry your more recent contacts with the mental health profession have been so terrible.

    Following this blog has been so helpful for me, but also diffuclt because of the unprofessionalism of some of my colleagues in posts like yours and others. (I think Mary S’s above post –#450–does a great job of providng some guidance and insight for all of us on this point).

    As for the training of social workers, I have little to no experience or foundation to be able to respond with anything helpful. I was trained as a counselor in a counselor education program. What I do know about the many paths that lead to therapist licensure or certification is that they are indeed quite diverse.

    While I think there must be some crossover, each specific field (counseling, marriage and family therapy, social work, psychology, etc.) comes with a unique perspective–thus paving the way for the variance in philosophy. Rather than a negative, though, this is one of the great strengths of the profession because it allows for the varying needs of the clients we serve. When one therapist and/or mode of therapy is not working, clients have many options or choices to find something different. And it is incumbent upon therapists to help clients understand this and to refer them to other prefessionals who might better meet their needs.

    For you, Matt, I am humbled (and honored) that despite your negative experiences, you are pursuing a career in this field. Like so many of us who go into the “helping profession” as it’s often called, we do so because of past experiences–both positive and negative. And usually because we want to help, make things better, or make a difference.

    I applaud your interest and pursuit of working with people dealing with substance issues! This is a population in such great need. I have seen so many people whose lives have been devastated due to these issues. I wish you all the best on your journey. :-)

  • Dulcinea

    February 12th, 2012 at 6:43 PM

    This list appears fairly complete. I encountered about 12 of these with the only therapist I have seen. I saw this person for a little over a year. If I had not been so vulnerable at the time, I would have stopped seeing this person a lot sooner. One BIG ONE you are missing on the list is a therapist that shows a lot more concern with payment than with your therapy. The first time I saw this person he spent a lot of time telling how he was supposed to get paid by the insurance company and what my responsibilities were if at some point there was no insurance. I assured this person that I had good coverage and even if the insurance company terminated payments I was financially stable enough to continue payments on my own for while. Even after this thorough conversation, he brought up the issue of payment again during the next few sessions. Eventually when my insurance ran out, we agreed on a healthy/competitive amount of money per session. At the time, I had no problem paying as I was working. However, later on I lost my job. I made this person aware that I had lost my job and he never made any comments about modifying my payments, even though initially he had passingly mentioned that sometimes he had a sliding scale depending on the person’s financial status.

    I went to “therapy” for a few more sessions and then quit. No matter how confused I may have been at time, it was very evident that I was only there to provide a paycheck.

    Oh, by the way, of the list of at least 12 items that I could pinpoint, the ones that bothered the most were that 1) he never empathized even when it would have been appropriate and 2) He would not talk and provide feedback even when I told him that this is what I preferred.

  • Bill

    February 14th, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    What does it mean when the therapist says “you bring me too many problems?” (to a person with avoidant personality disorder/general anxiety disorder/ major depression or atypical depression, who has been in therapy for over 16 years with no response to meds except klonopin)


    February 14th, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    I recently had a Psych Eval for the purpose of adoption and the T F questionere was not done during the apointment so she let me take it home and fill it out and told me to send iy in with the payment as it was not covered by my insurance. I am glad that she did let me do this but I wonder it this is common practice for these tests for adoption?

  • Mary S

    February 15th, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    I’d appreciate it if you could give some clarification on a couple of points in your post #456 (replying to Matt). They are both in the fourth paragraph.

    1. You said, “We tend to find the style and approach that “fits” us.”
    Does the “us” refer to therapists or clients?

    2. You continued, “And I would keep that idea of “fitting” very much in mind when you search for a therapist. Do you feel safe with their viewpoint, their approach, their way of working? Does the therapist understand, or “get” you? Can he or she restate and reflect your feelings in a way that makes you think, “Yes, that’s it exactly!” (If you consistently feel judged or misunderstood, on the other hand, it’s time to keep looking.)”
    Does the “you” here refer just to Matt, or to clients in general?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 16th, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    Hi Mary. Actually I meant “you” specifically, Mary S. (I kid.) I was writing from the point of view of the client, so “we” meaning the global we, humankind, at least those who are seeking a therapist. And yes, “you” would mean Matt. Good things to keep one’s pronouns in order! Thanks for posting. Darren.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 16th, 2012 at 11:14 PM

    To Bill, #459. Boy that’s a humdinger of a statement to hear, isn’t it. I’m not sure if you’re referring to yourself as the client or someone you know; also I’m curious as to the context in which that comment was made. On the face of it, it sounds appalling and terribly insensitive and, in fact, something that should never be said to a client. No one “brings” any therapist any “problems” so I’m not really sure what that is supposed to mean. Finally, it is quite common that a person will have traits of various disorders — in fact, we all sometimes have depression, anxiety, hypomania, etc. Such traits can become disorder-ly when they perseverate (i.e. persist) and begin to disrupt one’s functioning (eating, working, sleeping, socializing); I think we therapists have to be careful with labels. I’ve actually met very few clients who are “purely” depressive or bipolar or have 100% “pure” personality disorders. Very often you will see clients with traits of various disorders, and anyway the diagnoses for these personality disorders are usually not helpful and can even be used disparagingly by practitioners who — in my perhaps un-humble opinion — don’t really know what they’re doing and probably should have gone into another profession. Sometimes a psychiatrist or therapist makes an educated guess as to a disorder and, in the long run, those symptoms change or “morph” into something else. Bottom line is, I really can’t think of any good reason why a therapist would say such a thing. Even if it was supposed to be funny, it’s a pretty callous joke. What it means is that it’s time to seek out a different therapist. Thank you for writing. Darren.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 16th, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    Finally — I’m on a roll today, folks — to Mary on Feb 6, I appreciate what you said. I personally see therapists as very different from doctors in that they are guides to one’s internal truth but are not ultimate “authorities” as to what a person should or MUST do (except in extreme cases like self-harm or legal obligations). In fact the therapist is a catalyst to self-discovery and the slow, subtle shaping of one’s own true perceptions and feelings — the more authoritative a therapist starts to sound, the more my skepticism rises. Who could presume to know better than the client’s own underlying truths? Usually when me or a client stumbles upon a truth in session, we BOTH feel it simultaneously, or s/he tells me what is being perceived and it resonates. In other words, it’s a collaboration, not a matter of following a prescription (again, except in crises). In fact, it’s usually a person’s having to follow an unloving emotional “authority” that created the neurosis in the first place!

  • Sue

    February 17th, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Bill, in my experience, when a professional disparages someone who seeks his help, he’s actually saying that HE is not up to the task. But rather than admitting this, he flips it as a put-down. I would find it hurtful.

    I think one of the most unfortunate contributions of the psychology industry is how persons are so often “labeled.” It’s like human beings, with all our complexities can somehow be stamped by someone else as flawed, when we’re all flawed, often fearful, have great moments of sadness, miscommunication, failures, deficiencies, isolation and self-doubts.

    The therapists sitting before you has exactly these same traits, and yet this isn’t revealed because of the role play and unequal disclosure between the two of you. Therapists often present themselves with great authority, but this is merely the stagecraft of the profession.

    I helped myself most in unraveling the “labeling” of myself as a therapy “patient.” When I looked at my life, my quirks, faults and struggles outside the artificial therapy-speak continuum, it brought me more freedom than all the so-called treatment I received at the hands of therapists.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 17th, 2012 at 11:02 PM

    Hi Sue, I enjoyed your comments above. I would only add — since no one asked — that anytime you are talking about therapy and “great authority” and “stagecraft”, you are talking about a therapist who is too distant relationally from the client. I think it’s a terrible mistake for a therapist to try and hide his/her flaws; the client is going to see them anyway. In fact, discussing those flaws humbly, and how they may help (or sometimes get in the way) of the process can be extremely productive between the ther. and clt. A client who can see her therapist is human, willing to talk about it and even “own” the impact her flaws or mistakes have on the process can be quite healing, if handled sensitively.

  • Mary S

    February 18th, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    Re #642 — Thanks for the clarification.
    Re #466 — Sounds like you mean Sue, not me

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC

    February 20th, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    Darren makes some great points! I know my own personal therapy experiences as well as the sessions I have had with many clients over the years have been made much better by simply acknowledging that we are all human–with the requisite “good points” and “flaws” that all humans have.

    I know therapists as well as other professions are often held to a higher standard–which I think is actually okay–because of the inherent nature of what we do. But this higher standard cannot nor should not mean we must be perfect in everything we do professionally. Acknowledging areas of weakness, limited experience or training, or even limited understanding with a client allows us to be authentic and genuine while helping the client to make informed decisions about their care.

    I would hope all therapists feel the same way, though it is clear from reading this blog that sadly this is not the case. This is one of the primary areas where I think those of us following this blog can learn from one another. :-)

  • Sue

    February 20th, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    I don’t see a higher standard for therapists as much as stagecraft that encourages the client’s passivity, regression and over-idealization.

    I also think the removed, pseudo-scientific nature of psychotherapy training might encourage a condescension that is transmitted in the interaction. The client always remains one-down in the relationship.

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC

    February 21st, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    For Sue (and many others) . . . I am so sorry that your experiences with therapy have been so terrible. But I am also glad to know that many others have found/find it to be helpful and very positive.

    I so appreciate learning from everyone’s stories here . . . thank you for being so open and honest!

  • Sue

    February 22nd, 2012 at 10:46 AM

    I wonder if practitioners can ever stop talking to everyone else as if they’re their patients?

  • margarets

    February 23rd, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    “But this higher standard cannot nor should not mean we must be perfect in everything we do professionally. Acknowledging areas of weakness, limited experience or training, or even limited understanding with a client allows us to be authentic and genuine while helping the client to make informed decisions about their care.”

    Kelly, could you post here the website of ONE therapist who acknowledges their weaknesses or limitations in any of their marketing materials?

  • Su Su Maung

    February 24th, 2012 at 1:09 AM

    I just wanted to respond to a few things I’ve read. I’m a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern (which means I’m not licensed yet though I’m pretty close to it…just need to take my licensing exams).

    To the question about LCSW vs Psychologist, it seems like people are not aware about MFTs. Given that MFTs are not as universal as LCSW and Psychologist across the country, I can see how it might have gotten missed. But in any case, MFTs (which is usually an MA or MS in psychology) is quite equivalent to LCSW in my opinion. Of course, there are distinctions but in California, MFTs require 3000 hours of supervised experience, and most of it has to be clinical (i.e. counseling/therapy hours). I believe there is less requirement by LCSW to have the clinical part compared to MFT. Which means technically, MFT has more training in therapy. That makes sense, since the focus of the degree and profession is on doing therapy, while social work profession also include doing..well, social work. We need to take 2 exams,like LCSW, before we can be licensed.

    About the releasing of clinical records and notes to clients, yes, clients do have right to see their notes, but the records are actually the property of the therapist (I’m studying for my licensing exams so this legal issue is still fresh in my mind), so the therapist can have the right to say what they can do with the charts, to let client see or not. If the therapist feels that it would be detrimental to client to see their chart, then therapist can choose not to disclose it to client. Since the chart might include notes that are diagnostic, and clinical, and if client isn’t ready to deal with some of the reality of this information, it might not be helpful, and in fact, harmful for client to read it without the professional/clinical understanding of what it all means.

    About the mistrust of therapists and their intentions in general, I want to say that, yes, even though there are some therapists out there that are clearly not professional and ethical, I think most therapists do have good intentions and are in the field to help. Even though it might seem like a huge sum to pay, if you think about it, doctors and psychiatrists and any other profession (accountants, lawyers, etc.) all ask for a lot of money for their services. Why should therapist be expected to pay any less for professional service, just because we are being helpers. As with doing any business, there are overhead costs and the years of training and education that’s required to get into the field demands that the fee be this much. Otherwise, it’s not feasible for us to provide this service.

    Another issue with the trust of therapist is that even if therapist is just human with own stuff to deal with. Many therapist actually go for their own therapy to work through their own stuff, knowing that it’s important to be able to do it. And if they don’t, most if not all, actually do have consultation from peers or supervisors to help them deal with stuff as it comes up for them. So it’s not like the therapist is unchecked in their field.

    The usefulness of therapy is that you have another person who is objective that can provide a reflection and a wider perspective of what’s going on, versus when you are in the difficulties, you get stuck in that experience and can’t take a step back at times to cope or figure out what’s going on. The therapist is also trained to do this observation and to listen for what’s being said. Also to provide validation and empathy, which is hard to do on your own. Therapists are trained to make assessments and have learned about various mental disorders, and the patterns of human behaviors and relationships, etc. These are the things that a person without training might not be knowledgeable about. Because of the fact that the therapist has more knowledge of this, i.e of human psychology, and of being in a position to observe from a second person point of view, of course, it makes sense that there would be a one-up position. But that doesn’t mean it’s an abusive one-up stance. It can still be respectful and empathetic even though the relationship is not completely equal in that sense of position, though I think and do believe it should be equal in sense of respect and honoring of the client. Look at teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. they all have one-up stance when it comes to their profession because they are skilled and trained and knowledgeable about those areas. Why should a therapist who is trained in human and social psychology be any different? I’m just responding to some posts that ask why even go for therapy or ones that claim therapists act as if they are one-up.

    I know my clients have felt helped by me (because they tell me so and I always check in with them about it, and if I notice they are ambivalent about how helpful therapy is, I always bring it up even if they don’t bring it up). I see the changes clients have made. I know that the clients that best benefited from therapy are ones that are willing to do the work. Therapy is a lot of work. Both by the therapist and the client. You can’t expect to just go in and have a miracle happen where all your difficulties are resolved without doing the work. Therapists are not magicians. Even medications (which act faster) have side effects. The client has to be willing to go through the effort and pain of working through problems, just as much as the therapist has to be willing to take on the task of being caring, diligent, and responsible for another person’s well being.

  • margarets

    February 24th, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Su Su Maung, please be aware that this blog (and this thread in particular) is read by people all over the world, not just Americans, so therefore some or all of your remarks about licensing and legalities are likely to be incorrect for other jurisdictions.

    As for therapists going to their supervisors for their own “stuff”, it would be easy for a therapist to withhold unpalatable “stuff” from the supervisor if they so chose. It’s not even in the ballpark of a foolproof system. We know that some therapists have sex with their clients. It seems extremely unlikely that they volunteer that info to their supervisors.

    As for therapists being “more knowledgeable” about human psychology etc, sorry, but the evidence doesn’t support that. In fact, studies have shown that many therapists pretty much chuck their training out the window when they start in private practice, many make no effort whatsoever to keep up with research, and instead rely on their own “eclectic” and “spontaneous” methods. I.e. they make it up as they go along. (The blog “Therapy is a con” has some links to this research.) Also, very little is truly known about the human mind in general. Some post-grad training hardly makes one an expert on how someone else should figure out their life’s troubles.

    Your last paragraph does that thing we’ve seen so often on this comment thread – put the onus on the client to make therapy work. Client’s “can’t expect miracles”. What client ever said they expected a miracle? Only therapists trot out that old canard.

  • Sue

    February 24th, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    There’s a dismissal I’ve seen repeatedly when therapists counter consumer criticism. It’s the apparent implication that therapy has failed because the clients just haven’t “done the work.” Let’s not forget the other common armament: …”clients don’t want to change.”

    Yes, I’ve heard this accusation. Many times.

    I don’t buy that authority in the therapy relationship parallels that of a legal consultation. A visit to a lawyer concerns a concrete issue. I understand the legal profession offers much more uniform training than that of psychotherapy. In therapy, the consultation concerns this murky thing called life. The practitioner gets his information from the client’s reporting and observations via an artificial relationship an hour a week.

    Social dominance is complex and subtle, requiring exploration far beyond a thread like this.

    Several consumers here have raised what we hope to be thoughtful questions about therapy around issues of power, expectations and outcomes of dependency and victimization. I’ve seen these issues raised by a handful of thoughtful authors like Tana Dineen and David Smail.

    Yet practitioner responses seem to be incurious defenses, and of course the boilerplate, well-they-have-to-do-the-work.

    Clients do often expect miracles –but half of the equation is because that’s what practitioners and the profession in general has implied or promised.

  • Maggie

    February 24th, 2012 at 11:19 PM

    or when a counselor cuts your 50 minute session to 37 minutes and then gets rude when I confront her about it. She also jokingly called me a wimp. I do like to joke, but that went too far.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    February 26th, 2012 at 11:01 PM

    Hi all, Maggie (#476) I agree, that is inexcusable. Hope you’re not seeing her anymore.

    Also wanted to address “Anonymous” comments #400 and 401 above. I found those blog posts heartbreaking. This is the sort of stuff that gives us therapists a real black eye, and “Anonymous” I applaud you on the strength it takes to stay away from him, even though it’s a struggle. I hope you report this person because he has gone so far over the line. “Power trip” is putting it mildly; a therapist should NEVER have done so many of the things this quack has done. His financial and emotional mistreatment of you when you were in such a vulnerable position must have been terrible. The only silver lining I can think of is that you are away from this person and have the chance to find someone better. It just astonishes me that therapists do this sort of thing. No excuse. “Do no harm” MUST be our first principle, or whatever follows is worthless.

    Also to Marc P, #429, I think it’s time you at least consulted with another person because your therapist should not be saying things like that (i.e. “it’s for people who need it”). You can look for someone with a specialty in trauma, have a “tryout” session, and compare your experiences. If you feel you are not getting helped presently, please address it with your current therapist as soon as possible. If she gets defensive or puts any of it on you, it’s time to quit and find someone else. Any therapist worth her salt will welcome and praise any feedback, good bad or ugly. As for PTSD: EMDR, somatic experiencing, “exposure” therapy (a form of cognitive behavioral therapy) are some of the methods commonly used to treat trauma. PTSD is not something to take lightly, as I’m sure you are aware. Ultimately you are the expert on your treatment’s effectiveness, and you are the customer. If you have put some time into therapy and feel like it’s not going anywhere, I recommend at least talking with another person to see if it feels like a better fit. I hope you find relief from your symptoms, which I’m sure are painful. Best of luck to you in the days ahead.

  • Sue

    February 27th, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    Darren, I know practitioners advise addressing therapists if they feel therapy is unhelpful or destructive. However, some of us encountered anything but the “ideal”…therapists ill-equipped to handle criticism.

    If the consumer’s attempt fails, she can further escalate her therapist’s control and rage. Some therapists even manipulate their clients as captives to destructive treatment.

    Therapists anger/control response might be more common than you think. Look at this thread, including that classic “unstable” rant #187 and the more subtle comments since.

    I’m still grinning at “I see no…conspiracy as Sue does.” However, in the consulting room, that inaccurate label could have been damaging to an idealizing client. Think of a therapist then attempting to treat this client who sees “conspiracy” when that assessment emerged (apparently) from the therapist’s needs to discredit client feedback.

    Though we hope the majority of therapists aren’t like the maniacal bullies reported here, consumers can have quite a process mentally “resizing” these fiends. Some of us found that coupling ourselves to yet another authority figure –if we indeed saw therapist that way–marched us further backwards.

    Can anyone point to any literature that attempts to understand the harmful therapy and recovery? I’m both asking the question both for the information and to probe–is this a subject that sends the profession into retreat?

  • Sue

    February 27th, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    Whoops…I meant I know practitioners advise CLIENTS to address therapists if CLIENTS feel therapy is unhelpful or destructive.

  • margarets

    February 28th, 2012 at 8:26 AM

    Darren, Su Su, et al: Could you respond to my posts? I think I’ve raised some good points worthy of discussion, but they are mostly ignored by the therapists on this thread. Why is that? A little healthy debate never hurts.

  • Su Su Maung

    October 4th, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    Hi margarets, I stumbled upon this blog when I posted my previous post and so I never came back to it. And here I am months later stumbling back. Anyway, so it’s not that I ignored these comments, but just I didn’t know at all that there was any response to my previous post.

    That said, I don’t know what kind of therapists the commentors here have seen, and from the posts, it seem like not very good ones. There is usually a consumer organization in every state and a licensing regulatory board, as well as professional organization that oversee any misconduct and unethical treatment by therapists. I highly recommend any complaints be reported to them.

    I am sorry to hear such displeasure in the therapy received. When I posted my previous comment, it was to clarify certain aspects of therapy that are often misunderstood, and not to dismiss anybody’s experiences. I cannot say about all therapists out here but I can speak for myself that when I decided to go into this profession, and committed to it, I did it out of desire to help. I take my clients’ well being very seriously and surround myself with consultants, peer support, trainings, etc. to make sure I am doing my best for my clients.I am sure I am not that special or extraordinary of a person, so I will say there are probably many other therapists like me. I know my colleagues I work closely with are caring as well. However I am also aware that there are many therapists out there with dubious trainings and qualifications. Any therapist that is not willing to hear your complaints and criticism, and is not willing to work through with you these problems is most likely not a very competent therapist.

    I hope you and those who read this comment can be open to the idea that not all therapists are bad and incompetent. Please don’t let a handful of bad eggs get in the way of getting help and support you need. I find that reaching out and trusting someone is such a hard thing to do, and being treated badly when you actually took that courage to seek help can feel like a betrayal. But I also believe that therapy can be very helpful when provided by the right person and done in correct manner, and that every person’s emotional, mental, personal well being is so valuable that any problems around them should get the care that is needed. Nobody deserves any less.

    One tip I can suggest is to get referral for a therapist through a trusted source, such as friends, your primary care doctor, or any other person you know you can trust them to care about your well being. Sometimes getting it from a random directory or internet search isn’t the best route because though directories screen out unqualified therapists, i.e. those that legally can’t perform the work, they can’t attest to the competency, i.e. how helpful the therapist is.

    I hope that clarifies some things. Again, I’m not a regular at this blog so I might not be able to respond if anybody reply to this comment, but maybe when I happen to stumble upon again, I’ll check to see.

  • Louise

    March 4th, 2012 at 4:54 AM

    Can you please add;

    Therapist encourages lying to their wife
    Therapist encourages the use of prostitutes or anyone to have sex with

    Jeez, i’ve heard it all now!

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 4th, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    I was looking at post #324 above and felt very sympathetic to the writer. I think it’s very important for clients to speak to their therapist about uncomfortable feelings sooner r/t later. In fact it is my belief that not only should therapists worth their salt be able to “handle” any type of feedback but should encourage this, and that in fact looking honestly at the totality of experience in the therapy — positive or negative and all that’s in between — is in many ways the “heart” of the therapy.

    This is esp. true when it comes to admitting mistakes. It’s foolish to think that we therapists, being human, are never going to make a mistake; the point is not IF a mistake is made by the ther. but rather how it is handled. Should one’s therapist say something that is hurtful or awkward or anxious-making, etc., it should be mentioned. Of course, clients naturally may see their therapist as an “authority” (and may have parental type projections, naturally enough), so speaking up is much easier said than done — as Sylvia in this post makes clear.

    If one has a negative experience and does not process it, then one is left “holding” all of these very difficult and painful feelings. I would encourage the writer in this case to definitely email the therapist and “let it rip”. I myself have received some feedback that wasn’t always easy to hear, but was invaluable in helping me grow as a clinician, and most important helped me better help the client. Easier said than done, as I say, but I always encourage emotional honesty from clients, and fully support them in saying what they feel needs to be said for them to feel more comfortable and at ease working with me.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 4th, 2012 at 10:49 PM

    To Margarets, I had a question for you; what would you say are the essential “ingredients” for good therapy — assuming you think such a thing is possible. (I hope so!) Another way of putting it is, what would you ideally want to get from therapy (without getting too specific, of course)?

  • Kelly P. Crossing, LPC

    March 5th, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    To Louise: As much as it certainly sounds like encouraging a client to lie to a spouse and/or to go to a prostitute or other person to have sex is inappropriate . . . understanding the context is critically important.

    Suppose the spouse is physically abusive and making viable threats if the client tries to leave? It may very well be okay (or even necessary) to help the client create an escape plan that includes lying. And even though the situation may not be so dire, therapists can rarely make broad, blanket statements as “can’t encourage lying” to a spouse or anyone else. So much has to be taken into consideration. That being said, I certainly don’t think lying about our needs is the healthiest response in most situations, nor would I encourage a client to lie unless there were a strong therapeutic need to do so.

    As for encouraging a client to find a prostitute or another person to have sex with, again what is the context here? Is the client married? Why is the client in therapy in the first place–is it a sexual or an intimacy issue? What is the client’s belief system? Does the client have any medical or emotional issues that would make sex difficult? What is the client’s emotional state? What about his/her support system?

    I think all of these questions (and many more) would need to be answered, and a strong therapeutic relationship between the client and the therapist would need to be present before any such direct recommendation could be made. But again, a blanket statement about such a complex issue is rarely effective.

    As therapists, we are obligated to focus on what will best meets our clients’ needs–both in the short term and the long term. This is done through getting to know them, building a good therapeutic connection, and developing a plan for care that can evolve with them. While some abolutes are important–such as preventing harm to self or others if at all possible–other absolutes are rarely appropriate.

    Discussing all of these issues with the client as the therapy progresses so that nothing comes out of left field and both the client and the therapist can explore the pros and cons of any action is also important.

  • Sue

    March 5th, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    While both clients and therapists certainly can have parental projections, I think practitioners often don’t understand their own roles in how they assert authority over clients.

    This thread itself contains examples of outright scolding, labeling, veiled rebukes and dismissing topics. The subtexts would be a worthy study.

  • margarets

    March 5th, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Darren, I asked you (and the other therapists) to reply to the points I have made on this thread. And your response is to ask me what I want out of therapy? That doesn’t make any sense – it’s not related to any of the points I’ve made. What’s up with that?

  • margarets

    March 5th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    Kelly, I notice you didn’t respond to request for a response to my points.

    Also, I notice that your recent post is wholly about coming up with excuses for the therapist’s behaviour.

    You take two fairly common-sense guidelines (don’t lie to spouse, don’t have sex with prostitutes) and devote your mental energies to coming up with an extreme scenario where the guideline might not apply or dismiss the guideline on the grounds that not enough info has been provided. What info would you need to hear to make it a good idea to have sex with a prostitute?

    Why aren’t you saying “Outside of some extreme cases, no therapist should advise lying or buying sex”?

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 6th, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Hi Margarets: I did not mean to ignore you. I’m not quite sure what kind of feedback you’re looking for. I think it’s too broad or generalized to “have a debate” about therapy or whether it works or not, etc. Also I’m in agreement with your stance, in that I think you do a good job of articulating the pitfalls and harms done by bad therapists, which needs to be taken seriously. Clients are in a very vulnerable position and therapists need to follow the “do no harm” rule no matter what. I can’t even imagine the pain or suffering of those who have been on the receiving end of self-serving, tone-deaf and insensitive therapists. It saddens me to read about it and really bothers those of us who take this seriously and devote our lives to helping others. I’ve had one or two abusive therapists myself and one in particular was very hurtful; took me a while to get over it, and really taught me what NOT do so when I’m in the therapist’s chair. Anyway I appreciate your passion in speaking out against these wrongdoers, and am happy to answer any kind of specific question you may have about therapy or one of your posts you’re seeking feedback on. I guess I would say I’m more interested in having a dialogue rather than a debate; I save the latter for my political websurfing. :)

    Take care, Darren.

  • margarets

    March 6th, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    Darren, you could address this comment from post #451:

    I’d add this to the list of improvements: ALL complaints (and the following decisions) to ethics committees be posted on the committee’s website. (Names etc, can be removed to protect privacy.) That will give the public and therapists a clearer picture of the nature and number of issues arising in therapy and the *real* standards that ethics committees actually enforce.

  • patricia

    March 7th, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    Counselor insists you’ve been ritually abused although you’ve disclosed no specific information that would clearly indicate this but when you ask for a desription of what indicators lead her to believe that, she cannot give you a specific or detailed answer. Says I see this all the time. When you ask how long therapy will take, she says she doesn’t know.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 7th, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Hi Margarets, thx for your post. I like your idea in terms of making the complaint process more transparent. It sure seems bureaucratic and murky right now, esp with understaffed, underpaid licensing committees.

    When you say “real standards”, however, I’d like clarification on what you mean by “real”– it sounds like you’re saying there is a double standard or that reasonable standards are significantly ignored with no accountability….? (Also, pls remember I am new to this conversation and haven’t read all 489 posts so sorry if you have to repeat yourself)

    I know that in some states you can look up a therapist by name or license # and see if any complaints (or “actions”) have ever been brought against them. Also the Therapist magazine in California publishes names of therapists who have been disciplined (license suspended or revoked) by the state board, and why. But perhaps this isn’t enough to alert the public to harmful therapists since the process can be very bureaucratic and drawn out, and almost “underground”. It’s a very real dilemma for those seeking protection from harmful professionals. Clients are so darn vulnerable when they are looking for help, and there are too many who take advantage for their own ends. Makes me quite sad to say that.

    The only reservation I have about “all complaints” being listed is that there are those — and I am not including those who have posted here — who could abuse the process to bully or manipulate therapists for inappropriate reasons. For instance, I have a colleague who does very conscientious work, who saw an attorney to help him with his drug problem. He stopped seeing her and soon relapsed. When she went to collect the thousands he owed her in unpaid fees, he threatened to sue her and “smear her publicly” if she didn’t back off. (He was a high powered corporate attorney, it seems.) Mind you, he was sober while working with her, so the therapy was effective. To avoid trouble she dropped the case. This is someone who volunteers at battered womens’ shelters and AIDS clinics, and is a really caring therapist. She got treated terribly by a high powered lawyer who knew how to abuse his power.

    So I wonder if there’s a way to filter that type of thing. Perhaps there could be some “filter” or vetting process, but I can understand the frustration expressed here, that too many people in authority abuse their power without consequences. There are too many in the health field — including doctors, I think — who get away with unconscionable behavior.

    It is a very traumatic experience to have one’s “reality” or perspective invalidated because he or she “doesn’t get it” (i.e. doesn’t agree with the therapist, who hurtfully imposes his or her “truth”). Pia Mellody calls this “reality abuse” when one’s perspective is not validated; and young children can literally lose their minds. Heartbreaking that these things go on, and people who are seeking help are hurt so badly. Esp. b/c they probably got hurt enough in the past already. As I say, I’ve had some pretty awful experiences with this myself.

    Finally, perhaps there could also be a website of positive testimonials, so that people who need a good therapist can find the right one; that way you’re not just avoiding something negative but moving towards a healing and restorative experience.

    Thx for the question!

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 7th, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    To Patricia, it doesn’t make sense that someone would say you’ve been “ritually abused” without explanation. I would consult with another therapist who specializes in whatever problem you are struggling with, just to have another experience to compare.

  • Bill

    March 8th, 2012 at 5:03 AM

    I would like to add:

    Counselor denies client right to end therapy.
    I know someone who said to therapist that they werent getting anything from the sessions and didn’t want any more. Therapist said I will book you in next week and we will discuss why you think that way.

  • Sue

    March 8th, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    @Bill, I went through exactly that. Therapists can be so indoctrinated to “interpret” everything, they lose the ability for normal comprehension.

    Let me add a couple of more red flags:
    . Counselor has overwhelming compulsion to prevail in a discussion. (Gleaming examples even are evident here on this thread.)
    . Counselor exploits his clients by using case studies as fodder for self-promotional blogs.

  • margarets

    March 8th, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Darren, thanks for your reply.

    Re: “real” standards, I mean how well a licensing/regulating agency actually enforces its own standards of practice. Agencies often have some discretionary power to just dismiss a complaint, and this will never be made public. Is that power always used appropriately? Because the public doesn’t see ALL the complaints that are filed and how an agency dealt with them, the public doesn’t know what behaviours are just allowed to slide. It’s possible that agencies cherry-pick complaints to show on website in order to present an image of being strong enforcers, when that is really only part of the story. The public needs ALL of the information.

    Please be aware that not only Americans look at this blog and thread, so it is not only American standards that are at issue here. And I expect there is a lot of variety among American states with regard to therapy regulation anyway.

    I recommend you work through all of the comments on this thread because some very insightful remarks have been made here.

    Re: your therapist friend who was threatened with a lawsuit and smear campaign. No complaint or lawsuit was actually filed though, was it? If a complaint had been filed and made public (with identifying details of the client and therapist removed) at least then the public could form its own opinion of the legitmacy of the complaint. No doubt there is a risk of unfair complaints being filed against therapists, but no one knows how many there are. It’s the secrecy I object to.

    Why would you bring up the option of positive testimonials in responding to my comment, which had nothing to do with that? Why mention all this validation/Pia Mellody stuff, which is also irrelevant to my comment?

    This is what I see in your response: a lot of deflection. A quick affirmation that more transparency would be nice and then excuse-making (under-resourced agencies, poor things), a request for more clarification when my original comment already made it clear that agencies withhold info about complaints, then a bad story about a therapist who never actually had a complaint filed against her (but she sure is a nice person!) as if unfounded complaints were the greater danger (to which I say: so what? If they are unfounded, surely the public will see that) and then the irrelevant remarks.

    I get the sense you want to bury my idea of full transparency under a lot of words so that it gets lost in the discussion.

  • Sue

    March 9th, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Darren, I’m unclear how your besieged colleague could be harmed by a published grievance with both practitioner and client names redacted. Licensing boards only find an infinitesimal fraction of complaints in favor of the consumer. Former clients have credibly discussed outrageous, provable practitioner behavior, yet have lost their cases.

    SuSu rebuked clients for expecting miracles. Isn’t it an important step toward de-mystifying the therapy process if clients could be well aware of dangers of therapy? Don’t you want realistic, educated clients? Additionally the public could finally see the extremely thin layer of protections states and professions provide against unethical therapy.

  • Sissy

    March 9th, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    What about therapist intentionally provoking transference
    Within client? Without the clients knowledge

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 9th, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Hi Sue and Margarets, I think I owe you an apology for my misunderstanding. When you said names redacted (in Margarets’ post 489) for some reason, I thought you meant only clients’ names withheld. I think my confusion is that in California, therapists’ unethical/illegal actions are published in a magazine with their names INCLUDED but with clients’ names withheld. I think I assumed you wanted the same format here, which meant that any complaint would include the therapist’s name and would automatically public. Sorry about that. I think it’s a really fine idea to have some forum where people can share openly about their abusive experiences and have that available so people can read, uncensored, an account of the pitfalls and abuses clients have suffered. Perhaps this very thread allows the opportunity for some of that education to take place.

    I do take issue, however, with some of the comments above that “the whole thing is a scam” and the strong implication that every single therapist in the profession is some kind of con artist out to dupe his clients and make a fast buck. I can understand this perception being created, if one was mis-treated and not allowed to truly bear witness (or felt that one’s experience was not taken seriously, dismissed, etc). However I really don’t see myself that way and I know many colleagues who work very hard to be helpful to those who are suffering. (I also know a few quacks I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.)

    But to say the entire profession is a con and that everyone in that profession is a quack is just too black and white. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that, in some ways, my life has been saved by some good therapists. It’s also not a stretch to say that one or two should be doing something else, like selling Amway.

    I think saying “all therapists are quacks” is a little like saying all doctors are terrible. Why bother going to the ER if you break a bone. If you cut yourself, might as well bleed to death. Those docs are just going to screw it up anyway.

    And a fractured soul is at least as (if not more) painful than a broken bone.

    Glad I was able to understand your idea more clearly.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 9th, 2012 at 3:00 PM

    Sue, what you describe sounds very hurtful but would need to know a little more. How was transference provoked, and how did it come to the client’s awareness that this was happening? There are so many different kinds of transference that a little more detail, if possible, might help me understand and give better feedback. Thanks.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 9th, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    I meant Sissy in my last post, not Sue, sorry. (I’m zero for 2 today.)

  • Sue

    March 9th, 2012 at 6:28 PM

    Darren, answering only for myself here, though you have conjoined me with Margaret.

    But your wholesale defense of the therapy field feels like deflecting discussion, putting words in my mouth and setting up straw men. If you search, I’ve never used the word quack and employed “scammed” once in connection with a specific instance. (Margaret has made many astute points that have been skipped over. I understood her use of the word scam in a specific context, but she’ll speak for herself here.)

    I’m less concerned with the “bad apples” than pitfalls in mainstream therapy. I’ve tried to offer opinions I’ve also seen covered by such authors as Masson, Zelbergeld, Smail, Dineen and others.

    Just on this thread, I’ve seen examples of therapists needing to prevail, deflecting, twisting words, labeling, subtle recrimination, seeming incuriosity about issues and inability to accept criticism.

    I see large problems with the underlying paradigms of “ethical” therapy. I’m not talking about the kooks or quacks.

    But the seeming defensive reflexes of practitioners are apt illustrations of some points I tried to make. Clinicians are behaving just as I expect. I find this deliciously ironic on this thread topic.

  • margarets

    March 10th, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    ” I think it’s a really fine idea to have some forum where people can share openly about their abusive experiences and have that available so people can read, uncensored, an account of the pitfalls and abuses clients have suffered.”

    That’s not what I’m suggesting. “Some forum” is not going to cut it in terms of showing how strictly licensing or regulating agencies enforce their own standards. That is why ALL the complaints AND the following agency decisions or actions need to be made available to the public. It’s so the public knows how much trust to place in these institutions and what licensing really signifies.

    As for saying therapy is a con, a scam or similar – I hope you know that many writers – trained in psychology, psychotherapy, etc – have said the same thing. Dawes’ book is called “House of Cards”. It doesn’t get much plainer than that.

  • Sue

    March 11th, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    Compelling critiques of therapy were written by practitioners. In addition to authors above, Robert Baker, was former chairman of the University Kentucky psychology department when he wrote the debunking “Mind Games.” I particularly enjoyed Dr. Dorothy Tennov’s 1975 book.

    I don’t see how anyone could pretend to be privy to the lives and emotional workings of all of human kind. Consider therapy will be useless-to-harmful to some people, a scam, no matter who is in the practitioner’s chair.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 11th, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    To Bill, #493. The client is the “customer” and can stop coming any time he/she wants. Sounds like the counselor in this case is the one who needs counseling, as s/he was clearly in denial!

  • James

    March 12th, 2012 at 9:17 AM

    no.51 – Counsellor uses manipulative questioning techniques (learned as part of their training)on an unsuspecting member of their own family (who is not a paying client and has not sought counselling) to elicit personal information which they would not otherwise have divulged. Counsellor then disseminates this informationt to other memebers of the family. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO ME!

  • Sylvia

    March 14th, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Hi all,

    I’ve been watching this thread and because Darren wrote something about my post, I’ve decided to respond.

    Darren, emotional honesty from the client is important, no doubt, and the therapist should encourage is, otherwise what’s the point of therapy if you deal with some “vested” or processed emotions?

    The thing is some therapists, although they may consider themselves open to feedback and criticism, simply deny or reject some of the client’s feelings, just completely dismiss it as – in my impression – impossible to happen with them (maybe them deem themselves so extremely open-minded and empathetic that it’s beyond their comprehension that they could be wrong). My ex-therapist, whom I described in the post you mentioned, did sometimes admit she made a mistake – she admitted it when I told her about what had been bothering me about what she’d said, some couple of sessions or more after she said it. So it looked like she was in a way cornered, and those couple of times she said something like “yeah, I probably said something stupid, sorry for that”, always with a smile, kind of downplaying the importance of it, now when I look at it, but OK, she did admit it and it was better than nothing. But when I expressed I was uncomfortable or just simply didn’t agree with what she was saying, as we went along, she did not take a second to think about it, did not think whether she was not actually making a mistake there and then, no, she just went on, either ignoring me completely (just silence when I expressed those feelings either verbally or not) or she criticised it or downplayed it, saying I’m being “yes but” again or hard to satisfy me with whatever she says, or usually she just “counterargued” what I said, and once when I was explaining myself I’d never been so confrontational and became like this in that relationship for reasons I mentioned in the post, she told me “I don’t care whether you were like that before or not, you must stop doing that”. Well, a therapist who doesn’t care and is not afraid to show it – unwittingly setting a benchmark for therapist-client relationships and human relationships in general, that it’s OK not to care, and my reasons, feelings behind it etc. were indeed not worth examining, I was just wrong for doing so, whatever the reason. (If I didn’t do it, it would also be bad, as then I’d be “assuming” the partner thinks like me, I would just take him for granted, not digging deeper into his understanding of things.)

    Expressing your real emotions in therapy is also tricky for other reasons. People go to therapy, because have problems recognising their emotions or dealing with them, they have some internal conflict on a subconscious level. And I think the therapist’s task is to help them name those emotions, discover what the conflict is about, bring them to the conscious level – it is only then that they can name it. I believe this is very common, but can speak for myself only. I was in that lousy relationship, where my ex did not listen when I expressed my emotions, and turned it around by blaming me or just said something, gave some excuse almost automatically, as if it was obvious and my feelings just didn’t become. I learnt to suppress my emotions because expressing them led to making things worse, and I had to constantly explain myself and apparently did everything wrong. If I didn’t do it, though, it was also wrong, because “how was he supposed to know?”. Then I seeked outside help and suppresed how I felt even more, learning that my feelings were wrong and I was needy, wanted to use him to boost my self-esteem, and was narrow-minded expecting him to know how I feel, and probably many more, whereas he was OK, can stand up for himself, knows what he wants etc. Because of my limited experience in human relationships, I did consider that a possibility, so I made sure I was acting “OK” and not FEEL bad whenever I felt hurt, because obviously it was my problem. I was so stifled and in the dark, that I even questioned the idea that when you love somebody, you think about them and are considerate, meaning you do care about whether they like how spend time with them today, or it pops into your head they might expect to hear from you when they see you online for 2 days and you know that they’re depressed. And many other ideas like this, such as doing something for someone just to make them happy, especially when you know what makes them happy because they told you.

    My point is when you have background like this, are confused about your emotions, and what is OK to feel and what is not OK, then how can you be so sure of yourself with the therapist and speak up with confidence? It is the therapist who should help you make out these emotions. All you can say to them is that you feel something is wrong, off, or feel uncomfortable. It is their job to go into that and find out why exactly. But some therapist will just dismiss those feelings as probably not fitting into their line of interpretation (meaning even if they are somewhat interested to work on your case, they might simply find themselves not good enough and fail to admit it) and therefore tell you to shut up because obviously you’re interrupting their work, or come up with “denial” etc. In my case, though, I did voice my objections straight, too. Because I also learned in my relationship that if I didn’t, then I have no right to expect others to care how they act towards me. And you know how it ended. In our final meeting the therapist suggested we don’t meet anymore. And before that she had admitted that she was possibly not enough experienced or wise or intelligent to sort out our case – pity she said that after our couples therapy had ended and only when I confronted her about issues that I still didn’t understand (and obviously, so didn’t she: “from what you’re saying, it really does look like he didn’t care; I don’t know”) having said all the time in our couples therapy he cared a lot, but I wasn’t open to see it and I should open up).

    You mentioned the idea of writing an email to her. Believe me, I was thinking of it a long time after I’d last seen her. I was so full of resentment and other feelings that I really wanted to vent it, and I hoped that maybe she would understand me and admit she was wrong, and show some sympathy. I was scared, though, all the time, of doing it, because I didn’t want to be hurt again, and after such “therapy” I was really confused if I could express my emotions the right way (or it will be too subtle or too aggressive). I didn’t know what was normal in human relationships anymore. Later, when I became a bit calmer, I realised that it was very unlikely she would consider my email seriously. If she didn’t accept what I was saying in therapy, both couples and individual, and she had loads of time and examples to do that, then she is most probably not willing to do it at all. She has her own story, for the sake of saving her self-esteem and image of a good therapist she wants to be seen as, and because she can explain my behaviour in any other way than how I feel, she will – because it’s an interpretation that does not threaten her self-image. So I gave up on the idea of writing.

    2 years after the therapy, the matter is still bothering me, though to a much lesser extent. As I said, I don’t think there’s point in writing to her, but there’s another thing. I am still in touch with that ex of mine, who had gone to therapy with me. He claims to care about me and he started his own therapy to deal with the issues he thinks were the cause of why our relationship didn’t work. I also found a new therapist, who is far more supportive and is helping me, indeed, though it’s a therapist in my college, and I can only meet here once or twice a month, so it’s not fully-fledged therapy, so to speak, but still helps, I hope. And she helped me realise some stuff that made me feel more confident. Therefore, I started expecting my ex to stand up for me and go to our ex-therapist to clear up the issue. During couples therapy, I found him often being on her side, for a lack of better wording, and a couple of times I “enjoyed” their laughing at me together, so I don’t think that’s too much to ask of him. So far he’s been unwilling to do that, claiming he is on my side and believes in everything I say, but he doesn’t understand why I want it so badly, and later claimed he doesn’t know how to go about it, and that maybe his own therapy will help him with it.

    So that’s my story.

  • margarets

    March 14th, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    (sigh) So far, no therapist on this thread has responded to this one idea of mine:

    I’d add this to the list of improvements: ALL complaints (and the following decisions) to ethics committees be posted on the committee’s website. (Names etc, can be removed to protect privacy.) That will give the public and therapists a clearer picture of the nature and number of issues arising in therapy and the *real* standards that ethics committees actually enforce.


  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 14th, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    Hi Sylvia, thank you for your very thoughtful and honest post. I am quite impressed with not only how open you were about how you felt and what transpired, but I also your eloquence in describing the therapeutic process, with more clarity than I’ve heard from some colleagues.

    I like this quote especially: “Expressing your real emotions in therapy is also tricky for other reasons. People go to therapy, because have problems recognising their emotions or dealing with them, they have some internal conflict on a subconscious level. And I think the therapist’s task is to help them name those emotions, discover what the conflict is about, bring them to the conscious level – it is only then that they can name it.” What a brilliant description of the therapy process! And how sad that the self-serving, tin-eared therapist you saw was unable or (more likely) unwilling to help you with this, when you so earnestly were seeking clarity and understanding.

    I’m sure I’ll say this again but I recall a very wise therapist telling me, back when I was an intern, that some people enter the field to continue to grow and confront their own demons (in helping others face theirs), while others seek to AVOID dealing with their demons and ongoing “baggage”. I don’t think it’s an open question as to which category your clunker of an ex-counselor falls into. I’m just very happy you were courageous enough to not give up and find someone who is (by the sound of it) much more attuned and empathic. Well done on your part.

    I also like when you said “My point is when you have background like this, are confused about your emotions, and what is OK to feel and what is not OK, then how can you be so sure of yourself with the therapist and speak up with confidence? It is the therapist who should help you make out these emotions. All you can say to them is that you feel something is wrong, off, or feel uncomfortable. It is their job to go into that and find out why exactly.”

    That really nails it. The truth is, we often feel conflicting or opposing feelings simultaneously (as you alluded to in your first quote). This is why they are confusing, among other reasons — including the fact that we often lack language to express them. The very first priority of a therapist is to create safety. The client is not “supposed” to know what he/she is feeling; if it were clear, there’d likely be no need for therapy in the first place. So of course it’s going to come out jumbled and only partially articulated. A truly caring therapist needs to tolerate being “contradicted” or “corrected” — in fact, therapy is not a debate about what is right. We need to be wrong, in fact, in order to discover where we’re “right” (or helpful). Nobody is 100% right on the first try (thinking this is possible is called grandiosity). Therapy is an exploration of what feels right to the CLIENT, not a validation of the therapist’s advice or point of view. That, in fact, is the least important aspect. An effective therapist welcomes feedback, good, bad or indifferent. One size does not fit all and without feedback we cannot know what is or is not resonating with our clients. Like everyone we make mistakes and step on toes by mistake; hearing a client say “ouch” tells us when to make an adjustment and what not to do, and leads to a deeper understanding of why that particular comment was hurtful or unhelpful.

    It sounds like your previous person got defensive and attempted to shame you into seeing things differently, when you bravely voiced your feelings — which tells me she should probably be working at Walmart or Starbucks. You were wise to move on and I’m very glad you found someone who truly feels like an ally.

    I’m not sure if you were seeking feedback about your ex, but I’ll say this; it sounds to me like what happened in the couples sessions feels like a betrayal. I’m not entirely clear what you mean when you say you “enjoyed” being laughed at. It sounds like a miserable experience. Perhaps you’re seeking validation and some kind of corrective experience with your ex, in that you felt “triangulated” in the therapy with him and the therapist opposing you. Couples therapy requires balance and equal understanding, not two against one. I’m sorry this happened. Perhaps you could explore these feelings with your therapist and then decide what to do, and be prepared to take care of yourself and find appropriate support regardless of what your ex agrees to do (or not do). It would be nice, at the very least, if he understood how hurtful the experience was. Feeling heard is a very healing experience; whether or not he wants to truly hear may be out of your control. Fortunately you do at least feel heard by your current therapist

    Finally, I agree that yes if we are used to not being supported in our vulnerability, in expressing difficult feelings, it is very hard to share feelings which we feel might be disagreeable to the other person. A good therapist will encourage, not hinder or discourage this process, regardless of whatever feelings are being shared. Which makes what you’ve done, in continuing to seek help for yourself, all the more admirable.

    Thanks again for writing.

  • margarets

    March 15th, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    Darren, we’ve come this far. Please comment on my suggestion re: publishing complaints and ethics committees decisions. Or is there a reason why you won’t?

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 16th, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Hi Margarets. I’m a bit confused by your comment (509). I thought I had already commented several times above. It seemed like in your responses (495 and 502) you disagree with everything I suggested. Even when I agree with you for the most part, you say that my idea “isn’t going to cut it” or that I’m deflecting or only proving your point that, in general, therapists suck. I’m therefore left with the impression that you feel that somehow I just don’t get it, and that my remarks are not helpful. Since my goal here is to be helpful, I wouldn’t want to perpetuate further irritation or disagreement. My impression is you’re already convinced therapists don’t get it, or are con artists, so why add fuel to the fire?

    If you’re willing, however, I would be interested to hear how you’ve come to find therapy such a “racket” — have you believed this always? Did something happen which soured you on the entire enterprise (or to a friend or family member)? I’d be interested in hearing how you’ve come to this point where we therapists are pretty much a bunch of slick used-car salesmen out for a buck. (Some of us are, unfortunately)

    My aim here is to provide helpful feedback and help others reach their own conclusions about therapists or therapy.

    I’m not totally disagreeing with you by the way, I just don’t think (in my experience) that it’s quite as black and white as you’re presenting it. I find there are some really crappy therapists out there who should not be practicing, and some very hard working, dedicated people who really want to help others and relieve suffering. My general belief is that people’s views are affected by their experiences so I’d be up for hearing about yours if you care to share…..

  • Sue

    March 16th, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Darren, I don’t believe you read carefully. Margarets used “racket” to describe the licensing review process, and with good reason. Only a small fraction of client complaints are heard by boards and only an infinitesimal fraction of those complaints are decided in favor of clients. Based on personal experience, combined with comparing notes with others, it’s easy to conclude that the grievance process is a “racket,” only creating an outward appearance of protecting the public.

    Beyond that, your description of Margarets’ posts impresses me as setting up straw men and misrepresenting her comments. “Slick used-car salesmen” as “she should probably be working at Walmart” are your metaphors, not Margarets’.

    It’s an old academic trick to misrepresent content, then argue against it. Though I realize, as you state, you don’t like to argue.

    No one on this thread is anyone’s counselor or client. The counselors’ tone on this thread, as if they’re the authorities, and sometimes as if they’re trying to get the unruly children back into line, is an interesting reminder in why psychotherapy was a sham in my life. The more the counselors try to flex their expertise biceps, the less respect I have.

  • Mary S

    March 16th, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    People following this website might be interested in Bruce Levine’s February 26 blog, “Why Antiauthoritarians are Diagnosed as Mentally Ill, on the Mad in America website. It has received a lot of comments and has some relevance to some of the discussions here.

  • Sue

    March 17th, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    Darren, taking you at your word that you’re immensely grateful for feedback, announcing that someone’s presentation is “black and white” says to me that perhaps you’re hoping to invalidate or diminish her contribution.

    I read Margarets’ topic as the complex issue of the client grievance process–which has been highly unsatisfactory to many consumers. If anything impresses me as black and white, it’s the counselors’ repeated skipping over difficult questions, only to return to insistently advertising the institution of psychotherapy.

    It feels like counselors are most comfortable assuming the role of expert serving up glib sympathy. One practitioner above even announced counselors were relationship experts, which impressed me as a preposterously immodest self-assessment.

    Once counselors are presented with critique, an order seems threatened. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the body of counseling literature contains almost no conversation with consumers.

    The metacommunication on this thread tells a rich story.

  • margarets

    March 17th, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    Darren, I asked you to comment on this idea of mine (post #489):

    I’d add this to the list of improvements: ALL complaints (and the following decisions) to ethics committees be posted on the committee’s website. (Names etc, can be removed to protect privacy.) That will give the public and therapists a clearer picture of the nature and number of issues arising in therapy and the *real* standards that ethics committees actually enforce.

    You replied (post #498):

    ” I think it’s a really fine idea to have some forum where people can share openly about their abusive experiences and have that available so people can read, uncensored, an account of the pitfalls and abuses clients have suffered.”

    My reply to that (post #502):

    That’s not what I’m suggesting. “Some forum” is not going to cut it in terms of showing how strictly licensing or regulating agencies enforce their own standards. That is why ALL the complaints AND the following agency decisions or actions need to be made available to the public. It’s so the public knows how much trust to place in these institutions and what licensing really signifies.


    So, you haven’t actually addressed my idea of ethics (or discipline or complaint) committees of licensing/regulating agencies posting all the complaints they receive. They don’t, by the way. They pick and choose which complaints to address, which to dismiss, and which to publish. It is impossible for a member of the public to find out about the suppressed complaints.

    Do you think this is acceptable or that the public deserves to know the extent and nature of the complaints to such committees, and how the committees respond to them?

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 18th, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    No, not acceptable. The public deserves to know more.

    Now what about my question?

  • Sue

    March 18th, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    “Now what about my question?”
    Do you think therapists often need to “control” the conversation?

  • Mary S

    March 18th, 2012 at 9:15 PM

    In #510, you say, “My aim here is to provide helpful feedback and help others reach their own conclusions about therapists and therapy.”

    My understanding has been that the purpose of this website is for therapy clients (and former therapy clients) to give feedback about their therapy experience to therapists, in the hope that the therapists will listen to, think about, and take that feedback seriously, then act on it as needed to improve their own practices and the practices of their profession in general (such as ethical guidelines, complaint mechanisms, training practices, etc.)

    If others agree with me, then the frustration that you (and some people who respond to your comments) seem to be experiencing probably stems from the difference in purposes.

    What do others think?

    Also in #510, Darren, you say, “I find there are some really crappy therapists out there who should not be practicing, and some very hard working, dedicated people who really want to help others and relieve suffering.” This coincides with my own impressions, but leaves out an important point: Some of the very hard working, dedicated people who really want to help others and relieve suffering are also doing harm, at least some of the time. A big part of the problem seems to be that many therapists fail to face the sad but true reality that being hard working, dedicated, and wanting to help and relieve suffering do not guarantee competence at helping. Indeed, sometimes when someone wants to help, they rush in, acting impulsively on their want in a misguided way, and end up harming more than helping – I’ve been on the receiving end of this bull-in-the-china-shop phenomenon in therapy as well as in other situations (and have sometimes been the bull-in-the-china-shop). Another pitfall is that therapists may believe that their trainers are “experts” and not question what they have been taught. Still another is that therapists may believe that what helped them will also be helpful to others – not taking into account that others may be very different from them and need very different kinds of help. Another, of course, is the natural tendency to get defensive and/or rationalize and/or blame someone else when one is not having success at what one is trying to do. And I’m sure there are other pitfalls I have left out.

    Darren, if you would be willing to consider some intended-as-constructive feedback on how you might improve your interaction with others on this website (and possibly your therapy practice as well), and promise to try not to be nasty to the messenger, I’d be willing to try to give you some feedback.

  • Sue

    March 18th, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    Mary, I find your comments very astute, and think you’ve summarized the recent conversation beautifully.

    I hope this thread continues, as it has been, a place where consumers can talk back to the profession.

    The counselors who’ve swept in “expert” cloaks, even telling us they’re experts and authorities, have through their actions, completely contradicted their declarations.

    This thread has become a living case study how therapy can turn damaging, and I truly hope counselors will learn from its subtexts.

    Darren, I hope you will receive Mary’s feedback with respect and regard. Likewise, I hope other counselors here will relinquish their pride and defenses to consider feedback.

  • margarets

    March 19th, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    Darren, which question?

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 19th, 2012 at 5:18 PM

    I’m curious about your experiences with therapists which have led you to your current perspective — generally speaking, in as much detail as you’re comfortable sharing. I’m imagining it was pretty negative, and I believe in an earlier post you said that you did lodge a complaint with the board and nothing was done (unfortunate). Please note I’m not here to agree or disagree with anything you say, or to defend bad therapy, just genuinely curious about your experience. Thanks.

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 19th, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Hi Mary, I like what you have to say about “well intentioned” therapists. As the old expression goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. I especially like this quote of yours: “A big part of the problem seems to be that many therapists fail to face the sad but true reality that being hard working, dedicated, and wanting to help and relieve suffering do not guarantee competence at helping. Indeed, sometimes when someone wants to help, they rush in, acting impulsively on their want in a misguided way, and end up harming more than helping – I’ve been on the receiving end of this bull-in-the-china-shop phenomenon in therapy as well as in other situations (and have sometimes been the bull-in-the-china-shop). Another pitfall is that therapists may believe that their trainers are “experts” and not question what they have been taught. Still another is that therapists may believe that what helped them will also be helpful to others – not taking into account that others may be very different from them and need very different kinds of help.”

    It is true that too often, therapists have a cookie-cutter mentality that one size fits all, and if the patient is not “getting it”, then the theory or particular approach is not questioned but rather the client is seen as “resisting” or “avoiding” or whatever. I find this approach very hurtful to the client and unproductive.

    Also on the “being an expert” idea, in the late 1950s Carl Rogers began a movement of “client centered” therapy, which simply put, said that each person is the “authority” of his or her experience, that no therapist can be “inside” the client’s skin and know exactly what the person is feeling and what should be done. I do try to practice this type of client centered therapy and I’m sorry if it came across as otherwise in earlier posts.

    Finally, you make the interesting comment that: “My understanding has been that the purpose of this website is for therapy clients (and former therapy clients) to give feedback about their therapy experience to therapists, in the hope that the therapists will listen to, think about, and take that feedback seriously, then act on it as needed to improve their own practices and the practices of their profession in general (such as ethical guidelines, complaint mechanisms, training practices, etc.)”

    In other words, perhaps you felt I was saying I’m here to give feedback to the non-therapist postings and you’re suggesting that really it’s the other way around, it’s our job as therapists to take in feedback and learn how to work with others more productively and less defensively. Does that sound accurate?

    I’m wondering if it could go both ways, that we could give and take, send and receive? Remember I’m not 100% writing as a “therapist” in the strict sense. This is not a clinical situation and I’m not offering “therapeutic interactions”. I’m here partly as a citizen and as a writer about therapy and the therapeutic process, not ONLY as a therapist dispensing ‘wisdom to the masses’. (That last bit is not meant seriously)

    Anyway thanks for pointing out the cross-purposes point, that’s something I hadn’t thought of….

  • margarets

    March 20th, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    “I’m wondering if it could go both ways, that we could give and take, send and receive?”

    Darren, I don’t think any of the ex-clients on this thread have requested input from therapists on their situation. I expect that many think they’ve already heard more than enough from therapists.

    As for knowing more about my story, my first post on this thread is #82. I recommend (again) that you read this whole thread because there is an entire conversation going on here amongst ex-clients with many details of many stories. You entered the conversation rather late.

    Also, some posters mention blogs and other sites where they have told their story. Those are also worthwhile to read.

  • margarets

    March 20th, 2012 at 7:22 AM

    Darren, could you also respond to Sue’s question in post #515?

    I think you are doing exactly what Sue suggests with your proposal to make this thread about therapists giving feedback to ex-clients, when the purpose of this thread was established long before you got here.

    Not to mention the question you put to me following your terse reply to the question I asked you many posts ago. Is that really all you have to say on the matter of transparency, “the public deserves to know more”? Which is not quite the same as agreeing with my idea of posting all complaints, by the way. What else, in your opinion, could be done to improve transparency in the therapy industry?

  • Sue

    March 20th, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    . Please respond to my question in post #515 about controlling the conversation.

    I have additional questions:

    . Do you talk to others on this thread as peers, or patients? If the latter, why have you assumed we’d welcome this dynamic in absence of any professional contract with you?

    . Do you often tell clients their presentation is “black and white” as you labeled Margarets’, #498? How do you consider this name-calling the “client-centered therapy” you said you practice?

    . You used the word “quack” four times and then reported erroneously that Margarets and I used this term. Do you often put words in clients’ mouths? If so, how is this “client centered” therapy?

    . What’s your assessment of Kelly’s “seeing conspiracy” remark in #445? Please elaborate how this is an effective professional presentation.

    . Likewise, please offer a detailed assessment of Diana’s post #187, specifically her “unstable individuals” remark?

    . How has your behavior here demonstrated the gracious acceptance of feedback by a therapist?

    . Do you feel you’ve created goodwill for the therapeutic field on this thread or have your attempts backfired? If the latter, how did they backfire?

    . Last question. How do you understand any points I’m trying to make, Socratically?

    I hope other counselors use this joyful opportunity for growth and will freely join in to explore these questions as well. Though no one is anyone’s counselor or “patient” here, I suspect this thread reveals what typically occurs when clients attempt feedback with counselors.

    Thank you, Darren.

  • Rainy

    March 20th, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    Dang, I feel bad for Darren, this man is just giving his honest feedback ladies. I totally agree with margeret they have yelp that will reuin a business in 2 minutes..why not have a place to put our horrible experiences we had in therapy. I know my awful therapist was mad she read some of my posts, she was afraid of what she said to me and they were removed from this site…Therapist has to be accountable for there actions and the harm some of them have done to hurting people that did not deserve it.

  • Rainy

    March 20th, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    Just another thought…Darren might be the Bridge we have needed to help stop the abuse of power from some really bad therapy. We all are hurt by what happened to us, maybe now we can be heard!

  • jasmine

    March 20th, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    i agree rainy and glad you said it. i should have spoken up sooner. I feel like darren has been nothing but respectful, curious, and open-minded. yet, sue and margarets want to pick a fight. could be me reading into it but i feel margarets and sue are putting their anger for the therapists that once hurt them onto darren. and no, i’m not a therapist. please have some respect ladies and take a look at your own attitude.

  • Rainy

    March 20th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Thanks Jasmine! Darren if your still out there please come back…I really enjoyed your professionl feedback and I found it very helpful and refreshing!! YOU Darren gave me hope that there are GREAT thearpist out there, I too was abused by a Therapist and find it so hard to go back to work on it..But you gave me some positive feedback and I’m not so scared. Also Kelly come back too, you are also a welcome read! Thank you!!

  • Darren Haber, MFT

    March 20th, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    Thanks Jasmine and Rainy…was starting to feel like a lone voice in the woods. Appreciate your support. I never meant to dominate or intimidate or act in an offensive manner. I have just been curious to hear about personal experiences and what has led to such strong negative feelings towards therapy. (In a more open atmosphere, I’d even be willing to share some of my experiences with a therapist I regret seeing.)

    My hope for this thread is that we practice mutual respect and tolerance for each other’s feelings and points of view, even if they don’t match ours. Remember therapists are people too.

    It makes me angry to hear of therapeutic abuse, which is one reason I hope to set forward a better example. But yes there is Yelp and other forums developing to let consumers have a much needed voice. Maybe Margarets and others could start a website devoted to giving people a voice. Though I also think — I believe this comment caused controversy earlier — but helping people find a way to GOOD therapists could be helpful (like, in addition of warning the public of who not to see.

    Rainy I’m curious as to what I said that felt helpful or hopeful to you. Do you mind sharing a bit of your therapy experience (in a general way)? You may feel it’s too public a forum, but if you feel it would help to vent, pls share, perhaps someone will read it and realize they’re not “crazy” for feeling their therapist is a well-mannered (and harmful) nutcase.