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What would you do in this situation with ex therapist?
May 25, 2010 6:54 AM   Subscribe

What would you do, if anything, in this complicated situation with ex therapist?

In the 90's I was seeing a therapist who was part of a larger therapeutic community of which I was a member as well. In sessions with this therapist I worked on sexual assault issues arising from a series of assaults that my mother and her husband perpetrated on me when I was 13.

I was in a new "no commitments" relationship with another member of this community (I'll call her B), which I spoke about with my therapist regularly.

At this point I was finishing my Master's degree. I met another person to whom I was very attracted. Before pursuing a relationship I spoke with B, telling them that I was going to pursue this new realtionship. This was difficult but I was always honest and open about my intentions and B and I had been clear with each other that we were taking it one day at a time.

I was planning to move away form Portland temporarily to complete my Masters, and my therapist also had a lot of personal stuff going on at the time as well, so we decided to have a short break. I imagined it would be a couple of months.
Fast forward two months. I am temporarily working and living overseas. A friend (I'll call her c)who was also a client of the same therapist told me that our therapist was now in a sexual relationship with B. Fair enough, I thought. But I was hurt that neither my therapist or B told me themselves.
I thought I just had to be an adult and live with it.
But then my friend C told me that B had told her that our ex therapist had asked her which of us was a better lover, me or my therapist.
This totally creeped me out, and in hindsight I think I went into a kind of state of shock. I didn't do anything. I didn't call my therapist or B and tell them my feelings were hurt. I didn't seek any other professional help after this.
Fast forward to 2010, now I feel that I didn't handle that well at all, and still feel hurt and weird all these years later.
What can I do to get my confidence back? Should I contact my ex therapist and tell her how I feel? Is it too late?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total)
 
I would do nothing. It's hard to imagine any action you can take here leaving you better off than walking away.
posted by mhoye at 7:05 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't contact your therapist. If this still bothers you, get a referral to a new therapist, and discuss these issues with him or her. Contacting your old therapist is just going to keep you embroiled in all the bizarre BS of these people who are so not worth the time, worry, or brain space inside your head that they occupy.

And tell yourself that old therapist did a pretty fucked-up thing. And honestly C doesn't sound that great either--why would she pass on the "better lover" comment?
posted by sallybrown at 7:06 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know what community you're referring to that this all happened within, so perhaps I'm speaking out of turn, but generally, therapists should not socialize with clients. It's not appropriate because your professional relationship is emphatically not social--and it relies on that. It sounds like your ex-therapist failed to keep her social life separate from her clients' social lives. It was wrong of her to do that. She didn't owe it to you to tell you about her involvement with B, she owed it to her profession not to become involved in a client's social life.

It sounds like maybe you were so vulnerable with your therapist--talked about such deeply painful, personal issues with her--that you can't just brush off what would otherwise be average social slights (like an ex comparing you to a new partner). This might be worth reading.

Don't pursue further social contact with the ex-therapist, even for "closure" on this issue--she's not your friend, and she can't help you. Consider meeting with an ethical, professional, competent therapist who can help you to understand what a dysfunctional situation your ex-therapist set up.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:18 AM on May 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Or, you know, don't seek additional therapy if you're not comfortable with it--just, if you feel you need professional mental health services in order to handle this situation, get that from an ethical provider, not your ex-therapist.)
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:20 AM on May 25, 2010


I'm sorry you went through that. It sounds pretty traumatic. From what you wrote, how do you feel it would help you to talk to your former therapist? I wonder how trust worthy and safe she would be. As others have suggested, you might gain more from finding an objective therapist you can talk to about your own experience and feelings on the matter.
posted by ChicagoTherapyConnection at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2010


If this therapist is having or has had a sexual relationship with a client or a former client, then this therapist is violating trust, laws, and professional ethics. He or she can be criminally prosecuted for having a sexual relationship with a client or, in many states, a former client.

What's written here isn't entirely clear to me, and there are too many holes for anyone to assume anything, but I do not see how it is in your interest to contact this therapist so many years later. If you need to process this, do so with a new therapist. And if you were a lover of your former therapist, process this with a new therapist who adheres to laws, ethics, and common decency. Therapists shouldn't be sleeping with clients, and if yours did sleep with you, then I'm so sorry for that violation.

(But I can't tell from this question if that is what you are saying happened, but if it did, then that's the piece that should be addressed.)
posted by zizzle at 8:04 AM on May 25, 2010


My vote is for new therapist.

A major component of talk therapy is the idea that the therapist is a neutral, disinterested, and above all non-judgmental third party. Once that wall is broken from the professional into the social - which is what happened here, in a big way - then you need to find a new therapist if you want to continue to get anything positive out of the treatment.
posted by Citrus at 8:04 AM on May 25, 2010


A major component of talk therapy is the idea that the therapist is a neutral, disinterested, and above all non-judgmental third party. Once that wall is broken from the professional into the social - which is what happened here, in a big way - then you need to find a new therapist if you want to continue to get anything positive out of the treatment.
I'm agreeing with this.

Beyond that, in these sorts of situations, I think there is a definite trend to sort of...obsess over the situation, when the situation isn't exactly the issue. I mean, it was definitely a catalyst for feeling bad and is a weird situation, but I think the point is that there is something more internal. That is to say, it's nice to think that if you had handled the situation better or something you wouldn't feel a lack of confidence, and it might be true to some extent, but really this is about being able to move on, and find an internal source of confidence. I mean, a lot of what you described is just crappy gossip and all that, complicated by the fact that it was your therapist. Don't just call them up out of the blue, as you're just going to create drama and it won't feel as good as you think it will, because you have things you need to work on, it's not some cosmic external wrong that needs to be fixed.
posted by wooh at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2010


I don't know what community you're referring to that this all happened within, so perhaps I'm speaking out of turn, but generally, therapists should not socialize with clients. It's not appropriate because your professional relationship is emphatically not social--and it relies on that.

And what you're going through is a big part of why that boundary exists. I understand that different communities create different structures and believe they can manage the social with the therapeutic, in which case, what has this community done in the past to deal with this kind of conflict? And why did C find it necessary to tell you this? (Not a rhetorical question--if this were MY community, I'd ask her.) Without knowing more about the culture of your (former?) community, there's not much more to say, except to mention that my experience has been that a lot of well intentioned therapeutic communities develop complex group dynamics which eventually destroy them or turn them into cults. If you can handle the confrontation with your (former?) therapist, why not give it a try? What's the worst that could happen?
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2010


I'm with Obscure Reference, what was C thinking? I'm thinking: new therapist, new friends.
posted by rhizome at 9:21 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would not contact the therapist. If this is a big deal to you now, it would be wise to seek some therapy from a new therapist and hopefully help work through the emotional issues attached to therapist A. I'm sorry you went through this. Also, am I the only one who wonders why in the world your friend C would tell you this? It seems to me that information could've been withheld with no ill repercussions.
posted by gibbsjd77 at 11:23 AM on May 25, 2010


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