What do I do with my therapy issues?
December 12, 2009 1:42 PM   Subscribe

My Therapist Lied To Me. Given My Past, It Was Very Important That She Not Do That. What Next?

I am at a cross-roads in my therapy. I am a male, working through issues of betrayal and trust stemming from extreme psychological abuse by my mother, a narcissist or a borderline personality disorder person. In short, she was verbally abusive to me and everyone around her everytime she felt anxiety. She would explode in anger quite often and we would tiptoe around these things. Although she occasionally was physically abusive, the real crowning glory was that when she was feeling depressed I would go up to her room, starting about age 6, to console her, where she would usually threaten to kill herself. This behavior continued for a long time, and would come out whenever or wherever she needed a distraction from difficult emotions. I consevatively estimate that between the ages of 6 and 22, she threatened to kill herself to me directly or over the telephone about 1,200 times. This number is unfortunately not an exaggeration, but does include multiple times in the same conversation. Needless to say, I have abandonment issues.

I have had a very hard time trusting women since then, both because of what happened and because I tended to select women for dating who were not very good to me. I've had two real relationships in 20 years. Both cheated on me, with the second one far worse than the first.

These periods of relationships come between long periods of me dating absolutely no one, because I cannot bring myself to trust females. I have become much better at spotting these situations and have gotten to the point where people like that are far less attractive to me than they once were because I am learning to respect myself. This is because of the good work I have done with this therapist.

I have been to therapy several times over many years. All have been productive. This last time, I have been going to see therapists at a local university because of funds issues. (I own my own business and things are tight now). I went through three male therapists at this university which were not particularly helpful, so I requested a female therapist. I got a female therapist who is a post-doc. This therapist was gold. She helped me work through my issues and I learned to deal with my anxiety and anger, which turned out to be reactions to the real problem, a deep sense of toxic shame which infected every part of my image of myself. I have been working through that sense of shame for a few months now and things were starting to get better. We have been working together for a year and a half now. I have sessions twice a week.

The type of therapy is psychodynamic, so there is a deep emphasis on the client-therapist relationship as a method for working through these issues.

Approximately 6 or 7 weeks ago, concerned about how long this takes, and very happy with my current therapist, I asked her how long she was going to be staying at the university, given that she was a post-doc. She responded that she was going to be there at least through June and was considering staying on another year.

Approximately 3-4 weeks ago, she informed me that she was 4 months pregnant and that therapy was going to be terminated with her by the third week in February and that she would not return. I felt funny about it, said it was fine, but I ignored a feeling that something was terribly wrong. What should have come up in my mind, but for some reason didn't, was the fact that only 2-3 weeks earlier, she had said that she would be here until June when she knew full well that was not the case.

Frankly, I had been suddenly feeling way better for about a month since then. But Monday, we were discussing this and she said that perhaps I was doing well because I had "checked out" of the therapy and was not working as hard because she had said she was leaving. We said we would think about it.

Suddenly, I was not doing well. Tuesday was a bad day for me. That night as I sat in bed I wrote a long E-mail to myself on my Blackberry. I admitted that I was afraid about her leaving and what the effects would be on me. I felt better about it.

Today we had a session. As we discussed the matter, It suddenly came to me. She had lied. Despite knowing that she was not going to be there until June, she flat-out lied. A trivial omission in a situation between friends, but a gigantic dagger pointed right at the heart of a client-therapist relationship where I had learned to be completely honest and open with her and had gained so much and where trust with women was a huge issue. We discussed the matter. She became uncomfortable when I pointed out that she must have known that she was not telling the truth to me when she said those things. She admitted it was true and stated it was a mistake that she kept from me because she didn't want to jinx the baby and wasn't sure of her plans regarding maternity leave or quitting. The issue of having lied to me had apparently come up in discussions with her supervisor. As the session came to an end, I asked her why she didn't tell me right away, correct herself, or at least when she realized that I was "checking out," that maybe I wasn't consciously aware that I had been lied to. Her answers were evasive, as she tried to keep my focus on my rising sense of anger and betrayal as she thought it was important.

She stated it was very important that we talk it out and think through this next time. I did not answer and left the room.

I called my aunt, a professor of psychology at a major midwestern university and we talked about the matter. Other than her telling me I did need to not run away from these feelings of hurt, anger and betrayal, we did not go into a lot of detail.

Right now I feel like I cannot trust her. She didn't have to lie and could have said she didn't know. She had multiple opportunities, including immediately after telling me she was there at least until June, to let me know that she wasn't sure without giving the reason. She could have immediately said she mispoke, or corrected it at any one of a number of points. And most importantly, once she had told me that she was pregnant, she could have said that she wasn't truthful with me before and that she was sorry for not being honest with me, but that she was afraid of jinxing her baby. What also hurts is that earlier in the session, I had been reading aloud from the E-mail I sent myself about regarding my fears of changing therapists and it was chock full of how wonderful a therapist she was and that she had done such a bang up job up to that point. She asked that I send that E-mail message to her and suddenly gave me her E-mail address to me which normally she's not supposed to do.

I feel angry hurt and betrayed. I'm also quite angry that her supervisor did nothing to step in and correct the situation and let it fester. I have tried and tried and tried to learn to trust the female figures in my life and I feel so set back by this, so drained, so hurt.

And I don't know where to go next. I cannot afford "real" therapy right now. There are others at the facility that could work with me, and I was scheduled to go with someone else in March now anyway. Do I drop this therapist right now? I really want to work with a woman on this issue and what if they don't have one? Can I trust that the supervisor will not screw up again? I am angry hurt and betrayed and I'm not sure how to deal with all of this. It felt wonderful to be able to be open with a female therapist and to share with her feelings I had spent a long time hiding from women because of what I thought were irrational fears.

Thank you in advance for your answers.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When you talked to her the first time she was very early into her pregnancy, about two months by the timeline you've given. It is very possible she had previous miscarriages and figured this would end the same, or was planning on having an abortion at the time but changed her mind. It is also very likely didn't even know she was pregnant yet. At two months, it is quite likely she didn't know yet, particularly if her cycle wasn't regular to begin with.
It seems like she didn't so much lie as it was that she had a very dramatic and major change in her life which forced a reevaluation of her future plans.
posted by Kellydamnit at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2009 [33 favorites]

Never assume malice where stupidity may suffice?
posted by benzenedream at 1:52 PM on December 12, 2009 [6 favorites]

Seconding Kellydamnit. It is very possible that she had no idea she was pregnant at the time and truly believed she'd be staying as she said. With all the help she has given you, she deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one, though I understand from your fears regarding women that this can be difficult to do.
posted by dayintoday at 1:54 PM on December 12, 2009

Women in the early stages of pregnancy are advised not to tell anyone and not to make life plans around the pregancy until the end of the first trimester because of allt he things that can go wrong. At the point in the pregnancy you are talking about, my wife and I still hadn't told most of our immediate family. I think you need to cut your doctor some slack.

She was silently appending "if this pregnancy doesn't work out" when she told you she would be staying on at least until June. You can't ask more of her, regardless of your relationship with her, unless you're the father.

I don't know how to advise you to deal with your feelings about this, but talking to your therapist is probably a good start.
posted by 256 at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]

People are human. View your therapist as not just a woman but a human being. Your therapist is not your mother. She made one mistake as humans will do. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Keep focusing on your healing. You are not a victim, so don't get bogged down with a victim mentality that all women are your mother. We can find something good in the worst childhoods. I had a horrible childhood as well but can find some good that I am very grateful for. The same approach may be used with your therapist. She helped you tremendously but only made one mistake. I wish you all the best.
posted by Fairchild at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2009 [9 favorites]

In the end, therapy is about you. You need to do whatever you need to do to achieve your goals, and if that means finding a new therapist, I think you should do it now. I also think you should cut your current therapist some slack. She did not "lie" to you. Her pregnancy has nothing to do with you. That's her private life, something she should keep out of her professional relationship with you. She let you know as soon as she was certain her private life would affect her professional relationship with you. Going forward, I would suggest you not expect or demand a forever commitment from your therapists because life happens and things can change in ways we don't expect- people have babies, people move, people get sick, people die. Stake your personal therapeutic progress outside of the permanency of your relationships with your providers.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2009 [19 favorites]

Maybe she should have handled this a different way, but whether or not someone is pregnant and how she plans to change her schedule in response to the pregnancy is very personal information, and I can understand how she could drop the ball in her attempt to be reassuring to you while processing a pretty big change in her own life.

Let's say that she did lie to you, at least to the extent of presenting herself as being sure of something that was actually up in the air. Does that make her a bad therapist? A bad person? Someone who can't help you any more? I don't think so. It makes her a person who made a mistake dealing with another human being, and there are about 7 billion members of that particular club right now.

Yes, because of your past it is a mistake that was particularly troublesome, but it's not her fault that it is harder for you to deal with this than most other people. I think that the average person who got these conflicting bits of information from her would just assume that she had changed her mind because of the big news of the pregnancy, and would have shrugged it off without another thought. She's still giving you almost three months to prepare for a change, which is a lot of lead time, in my view.

This could be an opportunity for you to process what happens when someone who is generally trustworthy, has your best interests at heart, and is usually helpful to you nevertheless blows it once. If the only people you can work with are the ones who never hold back private information while they are going through the decision making process (or are holding off on making a decision until the highest probability of miscarriage has passed), you are going to cut yourself off from a lot of people who could be really good for you.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:03 PM on December 12, 2009 [7 favorites]

If you can deal with this in a healthy fashion it may be a really useful part of your therapy.

From my outsider's perspective she seems like a great psychologist who made a couple poor decisions maybe moving her general rating down to that of a good psychologist.

While I can see where you'd feel hurt, it's probably not about you. This (presumably young) woman might have been having trouble reconciling her previous plans with her pregnancy, other posters have offered other possible explanations. While I can understand why you'd be hurt, looking at this as an outsider it doesn't seem like a great betrayal. If you can also come to see it as a poor decision on her part, but not a terrible one, it might be good for you.
posted by pseudonick at 2:04 PM on December 12, 2009

Perhaps getting past this is a meditative exercise in forgiveness.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:06 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

>> She admitted it was true and stated it was a mistake that she kept from me because she didn't want to jinx the baby and wasn't sure of her plans regarding maternity leave or quitting.

That early on in a pregnancy one doesn't really know if the pregnancy will last or what one will do regarding maternity leave and, women have be taught that a pregnancy is never announced outside of immediate family until the end of the first trimester, because natural abortions happen far more often than you think and "jinxing the baby", as she put it, isn't something she might want to share with the whole world.

I think that you should continue with this therapist, because as you point out she's been great with you so far and this issue can only be sorted out by talking to her. I do not think she intended to be mean to you when she left out possible futures due to possible pregnancy.
posted by dabitch at 2:07 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

a client-therapist relationship is not a relationship with two-way trust and honesty. there are plenty of things a therapist can and should keep from a client, most fundamentally personal reactions of disgust, amusement, or pity.

they're also generally not supposed to share much in the way of personal information. if she had told you at 2-3 months, she would have had to say, "i'm pregnant although it's too early to know if it's viable. for X and Y reasons, i haven't yet decided when i'm gong on maternity leave and for how long, and for Z reason I'm not sure if I'm coming back or not." definitely too much personal information and ambiguity that would cloud the professional relationship.
posted by acidic at 2:07 PM on December 12, 2009

Yeah, it sounds as if your history and anxieties are strongly influencing your interpretation of these events, casting your therapist's choices unfairly.

Something to consider: when you have a good relationship with a therapist, that does not mean (indeed should not mean) that you have a familiar personal relationship or friendship with your therapist. Your therapist had no reason to be open with you about anything in her personal life except at the point when she had to tell you about a scheduling issue (i.e., when to expect her departure from the practice). For her to provide the best objective mental health service to you, she needs to know all about you--your life, your past, your fears, your opinions--and that can feel like a friendship, to such an extent that you then feel betrayed when she didn't tell you about her pregnancy sooner or apologize for not having told you. But it is not a friendship.

Your current therapist may be able to help you find someone less likely to leave (i.e., someone middle-aged, established in a practice, etc.) who works on a sliding scale. Perhaps bringing that up would be a way to work through this with her while looking to the future when she'll be moving on.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:08 PM on December 12, 2009

You have two choices.

Look on this woman behaving the way she did as yet another example of how women behave, or pick yourself up and continue to move on with the good work that you've been doing. She's not the only female therapist in your area. Look for another one, and explain the situation to them. I'd continue to see the current one until you find a new one, but be open, honest and clear with both of them with regards to what is going on with you seeing each of them.

This is a setback, like a flat tyre on a car. The car is not suddenly worthless. It just needs a new wheel and then it's as good as new.
posted by Solomon at 2:08 PM on December 12, 2009

This is actually going to be very good for you in the long run, believe it or not. Step one was in getting yourself to the point where you could feel comfortable enough with a woman to open up and share your feelings and allow yourself to trust them, without feeling like you had to sacrifice your self-worth or agency in your own mental health or happiness.

She did drop the ball, but not in a malicious way. This is step two and it will be good for you. Trusting people is not something you do only when you are certain you will not be let down. Trusting someone is a risk. Right now you're experience a breach of trust, and the scale of how that breach impacts you or knocks you off of your game is in your control. She made a mistake that frustrated you and it feels like a betrayal because the feelings you're having are familiar and similar to actual betrayals you've experienced in the past.

Your mother's verbal and emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse was a betrayal.
Your past partner's infidelities and transgressions were betrayals.
Your therapist's action was a human mistake.
You are in therapy now to learn the difference so that you can have healthy relationships in the future.

Think of it this way. You are not in therapy right now to form a lasting bond and relationship with your therapist. You're going through the motions with her so that you can eventually do that in a healthy way in a loving relationship when you are ready (or so it seems from your question). In order to have a healthy relationship with a partner, you need to not only allow yourself to open up and trust that person, but you also need to know how to handle what it feels like to be let down by them sometimes. Nobody is perfect and sometimes, a person can go through a rough time (or an exciting time), not know exactly how to proceed, and behave in a way that might not be in the best interest of those that they care about. Being a grown up, healthy adult does not mean you don't fuck up and let the people who are counting on you down sometimes. It just means that you always do your best not to do that.

Don't let this throw you off track. Work through this with her, and then get ready to work with a new therapist if that's what you need. Then thank your lucky stars that you went through this with a professional, instead of experiencing it for the first time with a girlfriend or wife you're deeply in love with who goes and does something a little stupid or hurtful because she's confused. After handling this with grace (recognizing how something made you feel without painting the person who made the mistake as an evil abuser who has violated your trust and ruined life for you YET AGAIN), you'll be much more able to navigate it healthily if and when it happens in your future.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:40 PM on December 12, 2009 [25 favorites]

Just a little data (if we're willing to call Wikipedia "data"): something like 25% of pregnancies miscarry within the first six weeks. While the rate drops off pretty quickly after that, it is not until after the tenth week that the risk really goes away. As such, many if not most obstetricians do not advise women to make plans around their pregnancy until after then, i.e. towards the end of the first trimester.

Many people here seem to be telling you that while this may have had a disproportionate impact on you due to your own personal history, what your therapist did was a reasonable thing to do under most circumstances. Listen to them.
posted by valkyryn at 3:01 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

As other said, early term miscarriages aren't uncommon, and many people choose to keep their pregnancies quiet until things are a bit more established. It's painful to have announced a pregnancy and then have to explain the loss over and over again when people offer congratulations or ask. If she'd already had that experience or known somebody who had, she'd be especially wary, and possibly fearful, of saying anything.

Early pregnancy is a time full of uncertainty and life upheaval. By your account, she's a damned good therapist, and as stated above, keeping patient-therapist boundaries intact is a part of that. Most likely, she wasn't prepared to answer your question, and her first reaction was an automatic and natural one, and the best one she had at that moment.

After, she made the decision she and her supervisor felt best. There was no right or easy answer for this.

It's possible you're feeling angry, hurt, and betrayed that she is leaving, as well, and that it's reinforcing how you feel about how she responded to your question.

You've made great strides. Moving on is painful, but it doesn't mean starting over. Whether you choose to remain with her or move on immediately, try to understand that this very good therapist helped you make great progress, and that she did not betray you. She is a human living a human life, making human decisions. Life is imperfect. There is no such thing as black and white. 'All or none' is a false dichotomy.

The difference here is in the perspective you choose to take. That's all up to you.
posted by moira at 3:06 PM on December 12, 2009

She admitted it was true and stated it was a mistake that she kept from me because she didn't want to jinx the baby and wasn't sure of her plans regarding maternity leave or quitting.

Ack, sorry, I completely missed this line when I replied before. But I agree with the above posters that this was not a malicious act on her part and I hope this is just a brief setback for you.
posted by dayintoday at 3:08 PM on December 12, 2009

You need to talk to her about this. Given your history, it is easy to see why you assumed that she lied.

However, there are several factors that you need to consider. The first is that you do not know all that much about her pregnancy. Perhaps she learned that she was pregnant later than many women - happens all the time. As others have suggested, perhaps she has a high risk pregnancy and is under doctor's orders to wrap things up at work earlier than she had planned. Maybe she had every intention to keep working but found that her pregnancy was more physically and emotionally taxing than she had anticipated. Maybe she had planned to have an abortion, but changed her mind. Maybe it was a lapse in judgement - many women will tell you that there are brains-become-oatmeal phases in pregnancy. Maybe Maybe Maybe.

Your history with women and the difficulties you have trusting them have, it seems to me, set you up to swan dive right into the "she lied to me" conclusion. Since distrust is your default posture with women, you need to take a few minutes to reflect on that reaction - interrogate it. Reality test it, as they say in the therapy world.

Relationship dynamics in your life carry over into your relationship with your therapist - keep that in mind when deciding how to talk about this with her. If she's a good therapist, she will approach this conversation with warmth, compassion and understanding.
posted by space_cookie at 3:50 PM on December 12, 2009

If you hoped your therapy would teach you that women will never, ever lie to you, then you might as well have put all your money into a nice little pile and set it on fire. Women are people. People are human. Humans lie. All the time.

Let's say she did lie to you. Flat out, maliciously planned to do it, because she wanted to destroy your trust and hurt you. What are you going to do about it? Sounds like she's leaving anyway.

Trust has nothing to do with people not lying to each other, or never making a mistake. It's a mutual assumption that, under most reasonable circumstances, two parties won't deliberately and maliciously act against the other's interests. That's pretty much all you can ask from anybody.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:07 PM on December 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

"a narcissist or a borderline personality disorder person"

Uh... which one? Because these are two completely different disorders. And in practice, BPD people get taken advantage of by narcissists because they have no sense of self. So your mother wasn't BPD, at least.

Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine. It's like someone saying, "My mom drives a car, it is either blue or yellow." Well, which one?
posted by autoclavicle at 4:40 PM on December 12, 2009

Using this thread as meta therapy, however cute, doesn't seem like a great idea... but it sounds like you'll be needing some practice separating honesty from disclosure.

There are a million tiny lies people tell you every day that aren't dishonest, and if you have zero tolerance for this you will be alone forever.

This doesn't mean every person is bad. Many of these tiny lies may be chosen deliberately for your own intended benefit. Your therapist, of all people, should probably be cut some slack on this one, unless you think she was somehow out to deliberately harm and deceive you by this. If a lie doesn't pass the "harms me" test, you might want to reevaluate.

By which I mean: examine her motives, then evaluate how good or bad her behavior really was.
posted by rokusan at 4:45 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Consider how much of what you've said here is purely your reaction to an event that you have no control over.
posted by so_gracefully at 4:45 PM on December 12, 2009

Maybe she should have handled this a different way, but whether or not someone is pregnant and how she plans to change her schedule in response to the pregnancy is very personal information, and I can understand how she could drop the ball in her attempt to be reassuring to you while processing a pretty big change in her own life.

A therapist is (supposed to be) a health professional. The therapist's private life is not the patient's problem, any more than a doctors ought to be.
posted by rodgerd at 4:49 PM on December 12, 2009

Everybody lies. Everybody makes mistakes and nobody is perfect. Lies are about the person telling them, not about you. Try and stop looking for lies or you will find nothing but lies. Try and be a little more forgiving and gentle. Your therapist made a big mistake, but she is young. Talk it out with her and help her learn. She didn't lie to hurt you.
posted by Pennyblack at 5:30 PM on December 12, 2009

When it comes to jobs, pregnant women in general need to "lie" (i.e. not disclose the pregnancy) until they start to show, for various reasons mentioned in this thread. She has to do that in order to cover her own ass with regards to employment, especially if it is not 100% certain (due to miscarriage) that she's going to leave. Don't take this personally at all.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:48 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do I drop this therapist right now?
Absolutely not. You go right back in and work through this. If trusting women is your issue, this is a prime time opportunity to successfully work through a problem and learn that not all women are out to screw you over.

I had the exact same thing happen with my therapist: She said she would be there til June, and when I mentioned scheduling something a couple of weeks later, it was 'well, actually, change in plans, leaving sooner, blah, blah , blah.' She LIED to me!. Well, actually, not so much. She screwed up. She didn't put things in the right order. She didn't realize what a huge reaction a person could have to something like this. I was actually able to move with her to her new practice, and she was a great therapist for me.

Trust has nothing to do with people not lying to each other, or never making a mistake. It's a mutual assumption that, under most reasonable circumstances, two parties won't deliberately and maliciously act against the other's interests.

This is a wonderful thing that obiwanwasabi said. Read it daily, until you believe it in your heart. And I will add that trust can also be a mutual assumption that two people love and care for each other, want the best for each other, and feel bad when they mess up.

Good luck.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:55 PM on December 12, 2009

If she is as thoughtful and talented a therapist as you have described, her decision about how and when to tell clients about her pregnancy was most likely a difficult one for her to make. I feel certain that she thought about her work with you, and was trying to weigh the effects of the disclosure, as well as the timing of that disclosure, on you.

If she had originally said, "I will be here until June--that is, unless I'm pregnant, in which case I'll be leaving earlier. But I'm really not sure about that, or when I would leave if I were...." it would have been problematic, as well.

I'm not really sure when would have been the optimum time to tell you, but I am sure that she gave it a lot of thought. Unlike with many of the previous important women in your life, her disclosure was not meant to manipulate you, but to lessen the effect of the disclosure upon you.
posted by thebrokedown at 6:15 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't have any advice for you, OP, but if you have a throwaway e-mail would you mind e-mailing me what type of therapy this in? (my e-mails in my profile). I went through something similar in my childhood and feel it might be beneficial.
posted by biochemist at 6:24 PM on December 12, 2009

Today we had a session. As we discussed the matter, It suddenly came to me. She had lied. Despite knowing that she was not going to be there until June, she flat-out lied.

Well, her pregnancy wasn't really any of your business. And like everyone said there could be a number of reasons why she didn't mention it.

You need to lighten up.
posted by delmoi at 7:12 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

This happened to me once. As a teenager I had to go to therapy, and my therapists kept quitting on me (they worked for the county and I guess they were finding better jobs or something. ) One therapist told me point blank he wasn't going anywhere-and then wound up leaving before my very next weekly appointment!!!!

I think that this situation for you is a gift in disguise. You have an opportunity to work thru some very real and powerful feelings with a very gifted therapist. I would continue to see her until she leaves-but I do recommend a transitional time where you meet the next therapist with her there.

Blessings on you-I know this is tough work.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:25 PM on December 12, 2009

Self-involved bean-plating. The rate of miscarriage for first pregnancies is something along the line of 20% at minimum. Women who are pregnant for the first time are generally advised not to tell ANYONE that they are pregnant within the first trimester, as the chances are the pregnancy may not last. I'm sorry that you feel betrayed that your therapist had the gall to both get pregnant and not discuss this personal life change with you until the realities of the situation had more bearing on your therapeutic relationship, but your reaction is extreme, and conveys no sense at all that your therapist may exist as an individual outside of your need for her. I'm sure that she did not intend to "manipulate" you or "lie" to you, but was unsure of exactly how her own personal circumstances would affect you until things became more solid. Your therapist is a human being just like you -- she does not exist to serve as your substitute ideal mama, nor does she represent every unconditional love/betrayal fantasy that you have about women in your life. The fact that you are so wrapped up in this life decision of hers as some sort of personal betrayal and "lie" to you indicates that you are transferring your feelings about your mother on to your therapist, as some sort of substitute mother figure (who you view as having "betrayed" you for existing outside your needs & rage against her "lying") and more than anything else, that is what I view as important for the two of you to explore.
posted by tigerbelly at 7:37 PM on December 12, 2009 [5 favorites]

I favorited pazazygeek's comment above because of my own experience with an anxiety disorder. As I recovered, one of the things I had to learn was the difference between unhealthy, unproductive anxiety and all kinds of normal emotions that feel like anxiety, including anticipation, nervousness, excitement.

It's too bad your therapist wasn't able to be 100% honest with you. Accept her apology for that. The kind of "lie" she told is the kind of thing any normal person might have done when faced with an awkward question about her future--when she didn't know the answer herself. And it's the kind of lie people without mental illness can understand and quickly forgive when it comes up.

It sounds like she has been great for you. I'm sorry your therapeutic relationship has to end. But I wouldn't recommend ending it over this--I would recommend using her and this experience as a resource for working on sorting out this issue a bit more for yourself.

Best of luck.
posted by not that girl at 7:44 PM on December 12, 2009

I actually agree with the OP that the therapist lied and should not have lied. She could have answered, truthfully, "I don't know." It was wrong of her to lie. Especially with you.

BUT -- she stated it was a mistake! She acknowledged that she made a mistake! To me that would make a HUGE difference. I don't know your story other than your post but I imagine your mother was not very self-reflective about her mistakes and her impact on other people. Your therapist is not such a person. Which is awesome, yay!
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:57 PM on December 12, 2009

I'm a therapist in training, and have been told to limit the amount of personal information I share with my clients, mostly to prevent things from getting off topic or becoming too personal. That may have been why she was hesitant to inform you about her pregnancy, in addition to her concerns about jinxing things. However, that being said, there is a difference between declining to share information and lying.

At the risk of reading too much into things, are you reacting this strongly because she lied or because the idea of her leaving scares you? I'm not denying the importance of truthfulness in a therapeutic relationship, but I wonder if there is something else underlying it too. She's a person you've shared a ton of very personal stuff with, probably more than you'd share with anybody but a spouse or partner, and losing that relationship is difficult when you're still feeling in need of help.

Either way, if you truly don't trust her anymore, and you feel like this is going to inhibit your future progress, then I'd suggest another therapist. You'll have to transition to another therapist soon anyhow, given her situation. But I would suggest you do go forward and at least have another session or two to talk about your feelings about her lie and her leaving, and about her recommendations about moving forward and whom might be good to work with in the future. Given the progress you've made working with her, she's a valuable resource that would be a shame to waste over one mistake. Sadly, therapists are human too (If only!)
posted by gilsonal at 11:15 PM on December 12, 2009


My arse.

Get back to work.
posted by flabdablet at 3:08 AM on December 13, 2009

If she's 4 months pregnant now, she's due in June. When you asked her she may have been thinking she'd work until her due date. Something may have changed.

When you ask someone, anyone, about their future, you are asking them to speculate. It is, of course, a tricky situation with a counsellor, who has some responsibility to provide security for you. But, as others have mentioned, counsellors are also human, and in terms of the future, they also have to speculate. It's possible for a person to recognize that their future is subject to change (as when they know they are pregnant), but feel fairly certain that they can make some assurances about what their future plans are. If those plans change or become untenable, that does not mean the person lied. Just because they knew about the thing that is causing the change does not mean that they were unsure at the time that they told you their plans.

I think that you need to step away from thinking about this in terms of absolutes like "she lied" and think about the ways in which people's circumstances, personalities, choices, etc. can create situations in which there is a strong disconnect in communication. You should continue to work with her and try to get to a point where you can see this in some context other than "lying" and through a lens other than your mother.
posted by carmen at 5:15 AM on December 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Saying your therapist lied to you is a serious accusation, and from an objective position, it sounds like she didn't lie, but simply did not know her life plans well enough to answer your valid question.

In life, it is realistic to assume we don't always know *exactly* how plans in the future will play out. When we have to turn around and express our 'life map' to others, it may not work the way we expect, and things can change, sometimes in an instant.

Also, put this in perspective. She is answerable to you about *her* life plans?!? Think about how many people she must work with, interact with on a daily basis. While you are important as a patient, in your sessions, that contact has its limits and does not stretch beyond the time alloted for your sessions. You aren't the most important person in her life, period. So why are you placing this huge burden of expectation on her to have pin-point accurate answers about her life outside of your therapy sessions?

I think this is a great opportunity to learn a lesson in granting forgiveness. Start now to think of ways you can forgive yourself for projecting speculative motives (which likely are untrue ... again, she didn't "lie" to you - she misspoke, or simply didn't know the real answer to your question at the moment you asked it - perhaps she had to be discreet because of employment (do you go around at your job announcing that you're looking for a new job, or that you're about to quit? most people never do this!!).

by forgiving her this error of omission, you stay true to the progress you're making in therapy and will bring you that much closer to a resolution of your own issues, and also help you to form friendships and trust in women.

please forgive me if my tone is harsh, when it comes to leveling accusations of "lies" i can be vigorous in my defense of my personal beliefs (i've been accused of lying in situations where i absolutely was not nor intended to lie).
posted by kuppajava at 10:39 AM on December 13, 2009

Your therapist is human. Humans don't always say what we want to hear, do what we want them to do, or give us what we need. You are in therapy to learn to accept this universal truth, in order to be able to respond in ways that are good for you, and other humans. You drawing the line because of this very human misunderstanding is not good for you. Forgive her for not being perfect, she sounds like a pretty decent human, compared to others you have known. Then reflect on that feeling... what does it feel like to be safe enough to be able to forgive another person for perceived transgressions?
posted by Locochona at 11:46 AM on December 13, 2009

I'm a therapist. Yours made a mistake.

She was in a very tough position, caught between the need to be as honest with you as possible and the need to prevent disclosing too much to you. Her mistake was in not considering, prior to your question, how she would reply to it. That likely lead her to answer in a way that she would otherwise have avoided. She may well not have had the benefit of her supervisor's advice at the time, as we can assume that her pregnancy was not yet public knowledge.

All that said, I think you're overreacting. You sound upset that you're going to lose your therapist, and rather than deal with that, and the meaning of this looming termination, you are putting your focus into deriding this woman with whom you have previously worked well. Anger is frequently less problematic than free-floating anxiety and sadness. She's clearly prepared to talk with you about this, and you should take her up on that. You should also consider that her real "crime" here, as far as I can tell from your writing, is leaving you, not lying to you.
posted by OmieWise at 6:59 PM on December 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

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