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I'm trying to recover, but no one believes it happened in the first place.
January 31, 2011 10:45 PM   Subscribe

I grew up in a difficult home situation involving one of my parents, who recently informed that whenever I reached out to a therapist/counselor about what was going on, they would go to her with what I said and even forward e-mails I sent talking about my situation at home.

She said they ultimately sided with her, and concluded that I was just a person harboring unfounded anger. I believe her because I've had people I went to for help tell me that she seemed really nice and I must be lying or exaggerating... but i never thought they told her everything.

I feel betrayed and violated. The most recent people to forward things I thought I'd said in confidence over to my mother were college counselors that I'd gone to to try to get help with all the problems my childhood has caused in my adult life. I'm over 18 and I thought there was confidentiality, but I guess not.

I feel hurt and angry. The first person I told about what was going on was a school counselor in my early teens, and although she didn't believe me (She suggested it was a "one time thing"), it still felt good to finally tell somebody.

Now it's like that sense of security was false... I never thought people I went to specifically for help would, or even could, go to my Mom with everything I said. I've talked to at least six people since I was 14 or so, and I'm 20 now, so I have no idea which ones said something other than the college counselor she specifically mentioned.

I'm posting now because I've recently decided to seek professional help in once again trying to deal with the problems that stemmed from my childhood. But now I'm terrified they'll go straight to my Mom again, or they'll think I'm just an angry person but never tell me. Has anyone had any similar experiences? I want to regain my trust because I think therapy is an important step for me in getting better.
posted by Pericardium to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Find someone who will give you your confidentiality agreement and release information in writing, and keep a copy of it. If they DO breach it, you then have a nice, hefty lawsuit in the bag, and run the risk of losing their practice. Very few reputable doctors would risk that.

The person I worked with for years was a PhD who was licensed by the state; breaching one of his agreements would have meant losing his entire practice. I'd see if there's something like this that exists where you live.
posted by iarerach at 10:51 PM on January 31, 2011


Under 18 and the protections are limited because you are a minor, and your parents/legal guardian are entitled to find out anything to do with your well being.

Once you are over 18 it's a breach of confidentiality and enough to get any practitioner to lose their license. The main exception to this is if you are an immediate danger to yourself and/or others. If you feel that confidentiality was broken, I would suggest reporting to the appropriate state licensing agency or board.

For your next therapist/counselor/psychologist/whatever, explain to them that you have had confidentiality broken by a previous practitioner and that you want a confidentiality agreement immediately.

IANAL, IANAD
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:59 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel betrayed and violated. The most recent people to forward things I thought I'd said in confidence over to my mother were college counselors that I'd gone to to try to get help with all the problems my childhood has caused in my adult life. I'm over 18 and I thought there was confidentiality, but I guess not.
You're right: you're covered by confidentiality laws. I think it's very likely that your mother is lying. Do you have any reason to think she's not?
posted by craichead at 10:59 PM on January 31, 2011 [34 favorites]


Craichead's got a point; it's possible your mother's playing mind games. Have you confronted the counselor about this?

I suppose you could try going to a therapist and simply not giving them any information that would put them in contact with your mother. Tell them why. If they have a problem with it, find a different therapist. You're an adult. You get to do that.
posted by hattifattener at 11:14 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, another thing. If your mother really has seen your email to your counselor, then it's worth thinking about whether there's any way that your mother has figured out your email password. Is there any chance that you logged on to your email on her computer and it remembered the password? I cannot stress enough how extraordinarily unlikely it is that any college counselor would risk his or her job by violating federal privacy laws. It is much more likely that your mom has figured out how to read your email.
posted by craichead at 11:15 PM on January 31, 2011 [31 favorites]


"I grew up in a difficult home situation involving one of my parents, who recently informed that whenever I reached out to a therapist/counselor about what was going on, they would go to her with what I said and even forward e-mails I sent talking about my situation at home.

She said they ultimately sided with her, and concluded that I was just a person harboring unfounded anger. "

She is lying. But she's done such a number on you that you believe her. I'm not even remotely laughing at you because I too have the Mom Mindfuck Merit Badge. Go to another therapist, do not tell your mom you went.....$$profit! Seriously....SHE IS LYING!!!
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:16 PM on January 31, 2011 [31 favorites]


If you were over 18, it was against the law for the therapist to even say to your parents that she knew you, if you never signed a release of information allowing your therapist to speak to them. If you chose to report that to the therapist's licensing board, the therapist could lose her license. It's unlikely that the therapist actually did violate confidentiality, because the consequences truly are very serious if it's reported to the licensing board. I agree that it's more likely that mom's playing games with you.

You can go to another therapist! Take some time to meet with a few different ones and gauge how you feel. They won't have any logical reason to have any contact with your parent, if you're 20, so even if they were to ask you for a release to talk to them, just know that you don't have to sign it for any reason.

Under 18 and the protections are limited because you are a minor, and your parents/legal guardian are entitled to find out anything to do with your well being.
Not really accurate at all. If it has to do with SAFETY issues specifically, a therapist CAN choose to disclose information to parents, but parents are not legally "entitled" to any information about therapy.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:26 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


First: your college counselors should not be doing that, for sure. (unless you're an immediate threat to yourself, or you gave them permission to)
HIPAA is the US law that covers privacy of health information
When can a health care provider share information with my family? (PDF)

So (assuming that you're not an immediate threat to yourself) either your mom is lying or your counselor is in bigtime trouble.

Tell your mom to send you copies of all the emails she has been sent. If she can't produce them, her story is questionable. (If she says "oh, I lost them" or "I deleted them": baloney.)

If she is able to produce emails, print them out and save copies in your email and in another place too. You can talk to the head of the counseling center about this, or you can talk to the dean of students (or whoever is the right person in your school - call the dean of students, or the student life office, or the ombudsman, to ask who you should talk to about a problem with the counseling center).

Second: if you feel your mom is telling the truth, maybe you can find a therapist or counselor outside the school, who does not have a way of contacting your mom. Don't give them her contact info.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:26 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


On non-preview, the "mom broke into your email somehow" story is plausible. I agree with others that it would be very, very, very strange for a college counselor to do this, since they could get fired and lose their license.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:29 PM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, first of all, your mother is probably lying or exaggerating. I mean, isn't it convenient that all these therapists all sided with her according to her?
posted by atrazine at 11:37 PM on January 31, 2011


Agree with many above, and not to be too paranoid but you may want to ask to have this question annonymized.
posted by zoinks at 11:52 PM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, trust your gut here-- what's more likely, that every therapist you've seen in adulthood would risk their career and licensure to make you miserable and funnel information to your mother, or that your mom really is a right rotter who'll say anything to upset you and cement her control?
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:53 PM on January 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


Just to add that genuine psychiatrists and psychologists are as impeccable as they can be about confidentiality. It's an integral part of therapy to create a safe space, and confidentiality is of utmost importance. If you're unsure, do ask! I'd suggest contacting your counselor and asking them too; I'm sure they'll answer and give any details you need.

She said they ultimately sided with her, and concluded that I was just a person harboring unfounded anger. I believe her because I've had people I went to for help tell me that she seemed really nice and I must be lying or exaggerating... but i never thought they told her everything.

Your mother said. I too have a mother who plays mind games (no longer in contact with her, because all the boundaries in the world didn't stop her). She "seemed really nice" to other people — oh how I can empathize. My mother presented herself as an angel, constantly hounded upon by her whorish, drug-addict, schizophrenic, violent daughter who was sure to fail in life and live destitute on the streets.

That would be me. Prudish, no-drugs (I've never even smoked a cigarette, just don't want to, dealing with my mother was otherworldly enough for me, thankyouverymuch), free of mental illness (other than PTSD and depression caused by, guess what, my childhood), non-violent, straight-A, magna cum laude, successfully built my own life in France, without the help of anyone (and quite a lot of sabotage from an ex, actually), me.

Your mother is futzing with you. Now, I always took a direct approach with my own mother, since it was the only thing that got me feedback (not answers... feedback... my mother is incapable of telling the truth when it comes to her actions, I've come to realize), so this may not work for you, but if you think it could: ask her why she thought reading emails from your counselor was appropriate. I mean seriously, put yourself in her place — if your mother's psychiatrist or whoever wrote you emails with things you know are confidential about her, would you read it and parrot it back to her to convince her she's unstable? (I doubt you would. Most human beings with a modicum of respect would not. But she did. So ask her point blank. Watch while she sputters.)
posted by fraula at 1:34 AM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Forgot to add... It's not that I think your counselor actually sent her emails. But she claims that's what happens, and I've found that ignoring the blatant lie (past age 18, there's practically no way a counselor would actually do that) and addressing the root problem — she violated your confidence — gets results as far as feedback.
posted by fraula at 1:37 AM on February 1, 2011


Several people have said this already, but I feel obligated to join the course. I have had someone in my life with whom I was very close (not my Mom, but...) be so pathologically destructive that I couldn't tell up from down. This person, on one memorable occasion, looked me in the eye and told me a lie that they /knew/ I /knew/ was a lie and did such a good job of it that by the time they were done, I was well over halfway to thinking I must have been mistaken.

Your mom is almost certainly screwing with your head.

This may be hard for you to realize, recognize, internalize and act upon -- but you probably need to make the effort to recognize that this kind of manipulation isn't likely to be a "one time" kind of thing.

Find a new therapist. Get a written confidentiality agreement. Tell this story as a part of your introduction to the new therapist. Explain that you specifically prohibit any and all contact between your mother and this therapist. Do not list her as an emergency contact or otherwise provide her information. Then sit down with the therapist you just hired (and yes, you hire these people) and ask how you can built the kind of trust you need in view of the situation. A good therapist will be able to provide you with the assurances and reassurance you require.

Good luck.
posted by driley at 1:57 AM on February 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Think about it this way: if you are now an adult, what possible reason could a therapist have to talk to your mom? It will not help you as a patient, it will not help their business, it will in fact put their entire business as great risk, with no upside whatsoever ... there is simply no reason for any therapist to talk to your mom, and that's why none of them will. A therapist will not see your mom the way you do. To the therapist, your mom is not an authority figure or the center of the universe, but simply the mother of a client. I am a translator; I have never contacted any client's mother for any reason. A therapist will see things the exact same way. They owe your mother nothing and have no reason to contact her.

Have your mom show you the forwarded emails. If she can't show you the emails, she's not telling the truth.
posted by creasy boy at 2:18 AM on February 1, 2011


If you really believe that your College Counselor violated confidentiality - then go confront them. Take the issue to the Dean. Get there side of the story.

For one thing, if the counselor did do this to you, then they might do it to someone else. Taking action against this violation could help someone else.

But, you also might discover that your mother is lying. This is a pretty serious thing for the counselors - they deserve a chance to defend themselves against this claim.
posted by Flood at 4:11 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you've been on a manipulative emotional rollercoaster for a long time. Rollercoasters are disorienting and fast and when you're on them you don't notice anything except the ten metres in front of you. I don't know anything about your situation, but I do know that when you're on a rollercoaster you miss things and you misinterpret things and, instead of making decisions, you react to things.

So, sit down somewhere you feel comfortable and secure and try to remember what your Mum said. There'll likely have been clues in her behaviour and speech that you reasonably missed first time round. She may have got a fundamental fact about the emails wrong and in the emotion of the moment you let that slide, or her story might have seemed highly rehearsed, or she may only actually have knowledge of a single email and be padding out her comments with general statements. You may have sent the emails from a family address in a lapse of concentration. You may have mentioned some of your issues during an argument. We don't know and we don't know your Mother. Think about these first because you may realise that you're pretty sure she's lying and you'll feel a bit better.

You should know also that it's not out of the realms of possibility that your counsellor unprofessionally contacted your Mother at some point. Perhaps they thought they really had diagnosed you as an angsty teenager overreacting to a single event, perhaps they were incompetent. Yes, they could lose their right to practice, but that doesn't stop people from doing stupid things. Again there's no way for us to know without grilling your Mother or the counsellor, and to tell you otherwise would be unfair on you.

What I will say is this: I actually agree that the most likely scenario is that your Mother lied to you. She knows how to control you and she knows what she can get away with. Telling you that other confidants agreed with her is a classic psychological trick. There's a famous psychological study about how the consensus opinions of others can strongly affect our own judgment and I think something like that is in play here. The odds that one of your counsellors contacted your mother are slim, and the odds that more than one of the people you've been talking to actually have been in contact with your Mother are slim to none. She's also your Mother, so I understand the internal conflict involved in recognising that your Mother is lying to you.

You should not be afraid to seek professional help. You should not be afraid to shop around for the therapist you feel most comfortable with. The concern is your wellbeing - nobody will be offended if you move on to someone more suited to your conversation and situation. It's not inappropriate to ask for a confidentiality (or any other) agreement with your therapist. They are bound by certain professional codes anyway, but don't feel bad if you still need it for peace of mind. I know a few people in the trade and every one of them is hyper-professional and reluctant to even discuss their work day let alone details of their clients. The first thing you need to tell your therapist what you told us re: confidentiality and trust. They need to know and they will help.

If you're up to it, tell your Mother you're in therapy with someone you're not actually in therapy with and see if that "therapist" "emails" your Mother details.

One more thing: Be sure of yourself. You're not imagining things and you're not just misdirecting ; you feel how you feel. Don't be afraid to tell people that when you need to. It's hard when someone's been telling you you're wrong for so long. Good luck.
posted by doublehappy at 5:01 AM on February 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


To add on, colleges take student privacy very seriously. They're not even allowed to give out your class schedule, even to your family, even if your family is paying, even if it is an emergency, etc. It is very unlikely that even one counselor blabbed, and practically nil that a large number of them did.

Your mother is lying, using her knowledge of you and whatever access she's had to your things/paperwork/mail to make a convincing lie.
posted by anaelith at 5:01 AM on February 1, 2011


Agreeing w/ everyone else here that you are being manipulated, and I'm so sorry, that's just horrible to go through. I wanted to ask...are you living independently now, at least? If you're still in regular contact w/ your mom or even live with her, that's something that is going to make getting better harder (though of course there may not be much you can do if it's a financial issue). But whatever way you can put distance between you is bound to help. A lot of manipulative/abusive people use tactics like this (destroying trust in outside people) to keep someone isolated and afraid to trust outsiders, because then there's no one to contradict the horrible things they say to you.
posted by emjaybee at 5:42 AM on February 1, 2011


Nth everything said here---also, a good therapist doesn't take sides-heck, even a mediocre therapist doesn't take sides--that's not what therapy is about.

Counselors do not come to conclusions about people--even if s/he thought, in her head,that you're an angry person, that wouldn't put you in the wrong. That's not a problem, per se...its just a temporary orientation to the world which may be useful or unuseful to you in different situations.

Your mom is clearly concerned about conclusions your therapists may be coming to about her---and worried about your anger toward her.

Her characterization of your therapists is like saying firefighters have to sprinkle paprika on the fire before fighting it--it's just not how firefighting works.

Some therapists have broken confidentiality and trust---so if you find this is what happened, its never too late to take action with a licensing board or simply an outraged letter.

Remember this phrase when talking to your mother: What do you hope to gain by telling me that?
posted by vitabellosi at 6:09 AM on February 1, 2011


Even if they did talk to your mom, she doesn't really sound like the type to think that a counselor was doing anything BUT agreeing with her. I do family counseling, and I've presented serious concerns I've had about parents to those parents many times, only for them to assume I'm on their side because I'm discussing it in a calm, reasonable manner. A statement to a parent such as "Sure, your daughter sounds like she can sometimes get upset for no reason, but here are five things that you're doing to upset her the rest of the time" very often gets filtered down to "Your daughter gets upset for no reason". I've threatened to call CPS on parents if they did not change their behavior immediately, and had the parents tell their kids that "Even the counselor thinks you should be arrested".

It's not just that your mom may being dishonest, it's also that she may be exaggerating, misunderstanding conversations, and genuinely believing that these counselors were talking to her to take her side of things. I really doubt that anyone you spoke to after you were 18 would say a word to her, though.
posted by Benjy at 6:15 AM on February 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


She is so full of shit. My mother is likewise obsessed with all of the imaginary therapists I run to and when we were in contact she regularly accused me of making her look bad to them, coupled with almost verbatim what your mom said (they wouldn't believe me, etc.).

Vast majority of the time, I wasn't even in therapy. Didn't stop her lies and insults.

So it's not just you, and I highly doubt it's all of your therapists. It's your mom, pushing buttons like only Mom can. Disregard it, and check your email security.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:29 AM on February 1, 2011


Wow, everyone in this thread is living in some happy little fantasy land if they don't think therapists routinely violate confidentiality for minor children when it is the parent who is paying the bills. Every therapist I visited when I was a minor reported our conversations—which had nothing to do with "safety issues"—to my parents and none was especially secretive about the fact that he was doing so, either. It was clearly their standard practice.
posted by enn at 6:37 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also find it doubtful that a therapist would say "harboring unfounded anger." That just seems unlikely. I can't really explain it, but that sounds much more like the way your mom might see it. A therapist would be more likely to talk about the source of the anger.
posted by salvia at 6:38 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, everyone in this thread is living in some happy little fantasy land if they don't think therapists routinely violate confidentiality for minor children when it is the parent who is paying the bills.
The operative word there is minor. She's not a minor, and her mother isn't directly paying the bills.
posted by craichead at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you live with your parents? If so, try to get out, if possible, because it's surely a terrible environment for you.
Make sure not to sign anything that gives them permission to discuss your treatment with anyone else. Sometimes there are waivers of this sort in your intro paperwork.

It's very likely that your mom is just messing with your head.
posted by elpea at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2011


Also, as others have said, change your email password.
posted by elpea at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Not that it would matter if her mom were paying the bills. I get a lot of that: "I'm entitled to information about my kid, because I'm paying her tuition!" And you know, you may think you should be entitled to that information, but you're not, because this is a matter of Federal law, and the law says it doesn't matter who's paying the bills. Sorry.)
posted by craichead at 6:54 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll start here, with information immediately available to all of us: based on an extremely short description of her behavior, tens of people are strongly inclined to believe that your mother is being emotionally manipulative.

I believe you. I don't know how your mother made your life difficult, but this incident alone constitutes deep emotional manipulation, and, even without further history, I believe that she has been emotionally manipulative your whole life.

So. It is not true that no one believes you.

I think "no one believes me" became part of your narrative with that high school counselor, and you and your mother have been running with it ever since.

Something very ugly has happened to you: your mother is interfering with your therapy. The simplest and most probable explanation is that she is making shit up, full stop. She's combined a possible illicit line to your emails with some very well developed mind games to convince you that your therapists have been breaking your confidence. But it's also possible that you have had a seriously unethical counselor, now or in the past, and your mother is using that to further invade your therapeutic experience.

It's very unlikely that all your counselors have been feeding information to your mother. It's possible, but it's much, much more likely that your emotionally manipulative mother is manipulating you emotionally. Occam's Razor.

But, even if everything she told you is true, your mother is being cruel, interfering with your therapy, and manipulating you emotionally. If the things she is saying are true, then your therapists are in deep shit.

I think that going to an authority over the current college counselor and saying, "My mother tells me X Y Z, and I don't know what to believe." is a good strategy.
posted by endless_forms at 6:54 AM on February 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


enn - Minor children are one thing, but one case the OP's talking about happened when he or she was over 18.
posted by amtho at 6:57 AM on February 1, 2011


Agree with all of the above. It is more likely your mother is manipulating you somehow than for counsellors to routinely contact parents of adults.

Question: what the college counsellor you spoke to a licensed professional employed by the school? Or some service provided by the "College of Therapy" or something like that? I can see a situation where an enthusiastic but misguided student might try to "solve the problem" that way. Or that a misguided college might have a misguided policy that encourages this. (My biases show here, but I can see where some barely-credentialed "Christian" college might see doing this as a feature rather than a flaw.)

But the best way to solve this is to bring it up with a new therapist, right off the bat.

Therapist: Nice to meet you, how can I help you?
You: I'm here because I want to talk about X, Y and Z, but first I need to tell you that my last experience with a therapist didn't go well. I don't know what's true or not, but my mother claimed that the therapist contacted her and talked about me. I need your assurance that you won't do that.

Then the therapist will likely explore the issue and assure you or his/her policies.

Final advice: manipulative people don't give up their ways quickly or easily. Faced with someone who is showing signs of getting out from under their emotional grasp, they will often try even harder to draw you back in. Your new therapist will surely work with you on how to deflect and cope with these things, but some practical advice is to not engage them in their fantasies, and to sort-of-manipulate them into proving their claims. "You can't manipulate me, prove it," starts a test-of-wills argument. But "oh really? The veterinarian says I gave the cat fleas? Give me the bill, I should pay for it." If no bill is produced and the conversation immediately shifts to some failure or another of yours, you can rest assured it isn't real and that you can ignore the rest.
posted by gjc at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2011


If your college counselor actually did forward an email about your problems to your mother, she is not only violating the ethical rules of her practice, but also the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which drastically limits the information a school employee can divulge about you without your permission. Every college employee I've ever known takes FERPA quite seriously.

I think it's unlikely that any counselor/therapist would jeopardize her career in the way your mother has described, and doubly unlikely that a counselor affiliated with a post-secondary educational institution would do so just to inform your mom that it seems like she's a nice lady whose child is lying/exaggerating in therapy. Your mother is almost certainly lying to you in an effort to make you stop seeking help.
posted by arianell at 9:28 AM on February 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


She said they ultimately sided with her, and concluded that I was just a person harboring unfounded anger. I believe her because I've had people I went to for help tell me that she seemed really nice and I must be lying or exaggerating...

Did they really tell you that you were lying or exaggerating, or are your memories skewed by your mom's side of the story?

I think your mother is lying. However, the fact that you believe her so readily, without any proof, is worth examining. Your mother could make the same claim about a new therapist—or anyone in your life, really—and it seems you're emotionally inclined to trust her, even when it doesn't seem likely or logical.

This sounds like an awful situation. Please don't let your mother sway you from finding a new therapist. It sounds like you need one now more than ever.
posted by lucysparrow at 10:38 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know your mom, or your counselors, but I find it extremely hard to believe that every single one of them violated professional code. I think your mom is manipulating you- that's the first thing that leapt to mind as I was reading your question, and it's clearly what many other people are thinking too.

If you don't want to confront your mom right now, you don't have to. Just make sure there's no way your next counselor can contact her. If she's your emergency person on your school records, change it. Don't tell her you're seeing a counselor. That way you can make sure that there really is no way for anyone to contact her, for your own peace of mind.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:42 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Listen to everyone here.

For the record, I permanently ceased relations with my own version of your mom when she seemed on the cusp of destroying my first major post-college career/job by contacting HR and informing them of my (fictional!) drug addiction and need for rehab.

According to my mother, I was also schizophrenic, drug addicted, and sexually promiscuous throughout my teens and early adult life. None of that was or is true for me, either.

...

Keep in mind that you will never get rational answers or the truth from a person like the one you described. Ditto acceptance or true concern for your well-being. The longer you keep your mother in a position of power in your life, the longer the mindfuckery will continue.

Start making adjustments. In my experience, most therapists will not counsel you to break ties with a parent because it seems to be considered unethical for the profession. Rightly so. But that doesn't mean this option is not available to you, should you choose to protect yourself.

You will be surprised at how much simpler life can be without fear and betrayal dogging your every move. It takes a lot of therapy and self-work to get past this sort of upbringing, yet it is well worth the effort.

I speak from direct experience here. Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


BTW, you don't have to hate your mother to get past this and take control of your life. However, a little (or more) anger at how she's tried to destroy your psyche as you process things would be natural. You'll get past the anger as you process your upbringing if you keep equanimity in mind as a goal to be achieved.

You don't have to hate someone to protect yourself from them. But you do have a responsibility to become congruent with the reality of your family's dynamic and protect yourself. You need to protect yourself from here on out. You do.
posted by jbenben at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2011


Lots of really good advice in this thread. I think everyone who says you need to protect yourself is correct. You can plan a firm set of practical actions for yourself, in two stages. The first stage is about protecting yourself in the present and future, and the second - which is entirely optional - is about working through those feelings of betrayal which stem from what your mother has told you in the past.

Stage one. Get a new therapist and begin in the very first session with what gjc suggests:

I'm here because I want to talk about X, Y and Z, but first I need to tell you that my last experience with a therapist didn't go well. I don't know what's true or not, but my mother claimed that the therapist contacted her and talked about me. I need your assurance that you won't do that.

And what iarerach suggests: ask for your confidentiality agreement and release information in writing, and keep a copy of it. This will not just provide you with a legal basis to expect confidentiality; it is a very important reminder to yourself that you are not powerless in this situation. You have rights. This is your therapist and your mental health and you are in control.

And do a few of the other practical things suggested in the thread to put distance between your therapist and your mother. Remove her as your emergency contact person and don’t give your therapist her contact details or even her name.

Stage two is about your mother. Emotionally manipulative people lie. They may even be absolutely and utterly convinced that their lies are actually true, because they cannot accept that they are not the good, entirely well-meaning person they are inside their own heads. They are also adept at showing only the good, wonderful side to non-family. My mother, while nowhere near as bad as yours, believes her own lies and they're difficult to disprove.

You have the chance to do something to work out whether your mother is lying or not, if you really want to do that. If you find out that she is lying, then it may make you feel better. If she can prove what she says, at least you won’t feel any worse, and you might regain some power by understanding that you don’t solely have to rely on her say-so. You can also approach the appropriate authorities if therapists have breached confidentiality since you became an adult. As craichead says, is it possible your mum has guessed your password or managed to somehow get access to your email via your computer? You can find by asking her to show you the emails from your counsellors. You can always tell her that if she can’t produce them, you’ll know she’s lying, at least about the most recent ones. And then you can change your email password and make sure you always log out before leaving the computer unattended.

Whether or not you want to get some solid proof, take the advice about your relationship with your mother which people have suggested in this thread. Even if she is telling the truth about your past therapists/counsellors contacting her, she is certainly lying about what they said. She has every reason to lie about this, because the more distrust of others she can foment inside your head, the less likely it is that you will see her manipulation, emotional control and sabotaging of your mental health as abnormal and wrong. Which, needless to say, it is.
posted by andraste at 3:21 PM on February 1, 2011


Patient confidentiality is a big, big deal. People lose their liscences for breaking it. If your counselor was really wiling to break his/her professional oaths as well as the law (HIPAA), you should definitely report them. However, most counselors and other mental health professionals do their jobs because they want to do good things and help people. They tend to be the kind of people that care about ethics. (And have caseloads to busy to email someone's mom.) When they break confidentiality, it's because someone is in danger and they are legally required to prevent harm from befalling them. That's why counselors call child protective services or the police.

Your mom is full of shit.
posted by honeydew at 7:36 PM on February 1, 2011


To make an analogy: Let's say you had oral surgery. Let's say they gave you amnesiacs, and your mother drove you home. As you come to yourself and the Lidocaine wears off, you ask your mother about the painkillers you're sure the surgeon prescribed, and she gives you a bottle. You take one and it hardly helps at all. You go on the internet and determine that your Hydrocodone is just vitamin tablets. Your mother tells you that there must be some kind of theft going on at the pharmacy.

Now let's say you know that your mother has a long-standing habit of recreational use of painkillers. Let's say her habit been a major undercurrent in your relationship with her as long as you can remember.

What would you believe? That the bottle came from the pharmacy full of vitamin tablets? Weird shit does happen. But isn't it more likely that your mother stole the painkillers?
posted by endless_forms at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2011


Most often there is no grand conspiracy - it's just one individual being manipulative. It would appear that in this case it's your mother. It's her way of controlling you.
posted by mleigh at 6:16 PM on February 2, 2011


I'm guessing she must have gotten into my e-mail at some point - this has happened a few times when I was younger and at one point she did forward some of my mails to herself.

It's true that the details of her story didn't make sense; she told me I'd called her a "monster," which is a term I'd never use. But when I told her I never said that and she said she'd been forwarded the e-mails, I assumed I must have written it and forgotten. Good to know she was bluffing.

I'm going with a new therapist and a written confidentiality agreement. I'm also going to contact my most recent school counselor to clear up the matter.
posted by Pericardium at 11:54 AM on February 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The counselor said that while she'd called my Mom to express concerns about my personal appearance/hygiene, she never disclosed what we were talking about in the sessions.
posted by Pericardium at 11:42 AM on February 4, 2011


It's good you asked!

If a counselor feels like they want to reach out to your support network (family or friends) about an issue like that, where maybe it would be helpful for someone to check in with you about personal maintenance, can you think of a trusted friend that you could ask to fill that role? "I sometimes get into a rut where I'm not taking good care of myself, would you check in with me a couple of times a week and just check that I am remembering to do the basics?" If you are going to work with a new counselor/therapist, you might want to talk over a strategy like that with them, if day-to-day maintenance is an issue.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2011


A bit off topic but to keep her out of your email in the future - get a new address that doesn't use your name or any easy to guess words (if you love ponies, don't make your email iluvponies@mail.com). Don't tell her it exists or ever email her from that account. Don't check that email on any computer she has access to. If you've got your own computer or laptop, change the security to have a guest account where downloads require a password (so she can't install software), and don't share the passwords. To be extra safe you could change your passwords every 3-4 months.
And remember that she is manipulative, and that everything she says has to be checked against reality; combat the crazy with logic. Therapy helped me get better , but so did moving across the country and limiting contact. Getting out of the world she creates and seeing how healthy people live and have relationships is important. Good luck!
posted by anotherkate at 11:21 PM on February 6, 2011


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