Should stop going to my new therapist?
June 18, 2012 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Should stop going to my new therapist? Longish details inside.

I'm a man in my thirties and I suffer from lifelong, untreated depression and anxiety. It is very difficult for me to talk about myself and my problems with others, but a month ago I decided I needed to get over that and make a serious attempt at getting therapy. At the end of my second meeting, my therapist accused me of acting inappropriately towards another therapist in her office.

When I arrived at my first session, there were two women standing and talking behind the enclosed reception area. I sat at a couch facing them and waited until they noticed me. One of them handed me a new client questionnaire to fill out, then sat at the reception desk. I remember that I asked her a question after a few minutes about the form. I then handed it to her and she told me to wait for my therapist. After the session, my therapist walked me back to the reception area and with the help of a now different woman at the reception desk, got an appointment date with me for my second session. I left. I only spoke with the two different women at the desk, and my therapist the entire time I was there.

So two weeks later, at the end of the second session my therapist tells me that she needed to ask me a question. She said that a female therapist coworker of hers had asked her to ask me about what had occurred the day of my previous visit. This therapist said that some man was talking to her very flirtatiously and was "hitting on her." The therapist apparently didn't know the name of the man she was talking to, but thought that it was me after looking at the appointment book.

I was mortified. I told my therapist that it wasn't me. She said something like, "you're sure? Oh, ok, see you next time." Since I was emotional from the therapy session and just really shocked, so I just kind of fled. But I wish I would have asked more questions to figure out what happened, because I absolutely didn't talk to anyone in that way.

As I drove home I thought there is no way that I would feel comfortable going back to the office. I feel like there's a suspicion and creepiness that has attached to me that would make it even more difficult for me to be open with my therapist.

The problem though, is that there are really limited choices for therapists or mental health counseling in my area, and I am paying out of pocket so far for my treatment and I'm reluctant to "start over" both financially and emotionally with a new office. I say emotionally, because I did feel comfortable there.

So my question is, can I do something to repair this? I feel as if I want to prove my innocence. I've considered writing a letter to my therapist and her supervisor just to "clear the air." But I also think that maybe I'm just over thinking the whole thing, that it is silly and that I should move on, but it has really been bothering me. Is there anything I can do beyond just finding a new therapist?Thank you in advance.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If, as you say, there is a limited selection of therapists available, discuss how you felt about being "accused" at your next session. At best you'll resolve it. If not, you might have to look elsewhere.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:40 PM on June 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your therapist should help you through this issue. It's a good opportunity to develop your communication skills & add a few strategies to deal with your anxiety.

Basically: write down all the questions you wish you would have asked, and bring them to your next appointment. Bring up that you want to prove your innocence/that you feel unfairly accused and uncomfortable. Ask her to be explicit about exactly what they think of your behavior right now, that sort of thing.

Don't write a letter - or rather, write whatever you want to, but if you can stand it at all, just bring the letter with you.

(I totally, totally get that this is distressing. I'd freak out too. But I don't read this as an irreparably damaged relationship just yet. And 9/10ths of all therapists will see this as a skill-building opportunity. They value honesty and open communication and stuff. It's tiring but ultimately good for you.)
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 5:41 PM on June 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

Well that sure sucks. I think a decent way to think of this before your next session is that it's a case of mistaken identity, but I would ask how they got it so wrong and why you shouldn't draw any conclusions about their ability to provide a safe environment for vulnerable people.
posted by rhizome at 6:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I would bring this up at the beginning of my next session. (The suggestion of writing down your questions ahead of time is a good one.) And if I weren't 100% satisfied with the therapist's handling of it and how I felt afterward, I would look for someone else.
posted by Specklet at 6:04 PM on June 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think you should dismiss the possibility that it was someone else, and you're therapist isn't secretly convinced that it was you, and judging you on that basis. Bring it up, by all means, but I wouldn't write them off yet.
posted by smoke at 6:26 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know, man. I think the way they handled this was shockingly bad. First of all, the fact that Therapist 2 was hit on by a man, and rather than handling it herself at the time, 2 weeks later asks her colleague to bring it up with him, just seems like a really odd, unprofessional and almost childlike way of behaving.

And then... it is a potentially really offensive thing to suggest about a person, to suggest that they behaved in a sexually inappropriate way. It's common sense that you need to handle something like that with a lot of carefulness and sensitivity. A professional who is encouraging emotionally vulnerable people to form a relationship of trust with him or her should probably be even more careful and sensitive in a situation like that. So the fact that they would just straight up suggest that you did that, without even making sure to verify that you're the guy who did it, based on nothing more than "Oh based on the appointment book I think it's probably him," comes off really badly to me. It really makes me question their judgment, professionalism, and competence.

If I were you I would not go back. At least I would try another therapist in the area first, even though I know you said you don't have a huge variety to choose from.
posted by cairdeas at 6:52 PM on June 18, 2012 [28 favorites]

"you're sure? Oh, ok, see you next time."

i like that--they asked you again just in case you changed your mind about actually hitting on her. unfortunately i think they have already made up their minds. i'm guessing that the next few therapy sessions will always go back to this incident and try to bring it out of you.

the thing about it is you can't prove your innocence--you're trying to prove a negative. and it's also possible that your actions were misinterpreted and/or embellished by the coworker, so in their eyes, you are guilty, even though you did no wrong.

what a fucking mess. i'd go somewhere else--but i would also let the therapist know why you're not seeing them anymore. if they can't deal with someone hitting on them in the office right then and there they probably need some therapy themselves.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:44 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just talk to your therapist about it. That's what they're THERE for - to unload your emotional baggage on, and fix any problems you have interacting clearly with society. This bothers you, and clearly there was an interaction problem, so feel free to talk to your therapist (in a non-accusatory way) and make it her problem.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:44 PM on June 18, 2012

I'd suggest going back at least once more and laying it out openly. "I'd like to talk about what happened at the end of my last session. I feel uncomfortable about our interaction and would like to discuss what happened and how it might affect our ongoing work."

How they respond will help you know whether this is somebody you'll be able to work with when other difficult and sensitive issues come up (which they will — therapy can be immensely useful, but if it's fun or easy you're not going deep enough to be doing much good, IMO).
posted by Lexica at 8:00 PM on June 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think you should do your best to ignore this incident and concentrate on your work in therapy unless it comes up again. The way this was handled wasn't great (though I will point out that there seems to be a big difference between how you frame what happened - my therapist accused me of acting inappropriately towards another therapist in her office - and what seems to have happened, which is that your therapist asked you whether an incident occurred).

But it is not really of any particular consequence unless your word is not taken as sufficient going forward. Right now you have no reason to believe this will be the case. I think it is really easy to latch onto reasons why you can't continue therapy early in.
posted by nanojath at 8:25 PM on June 18, 2012

"you're sure? Oh, ok, see you next time."
That is utterly unacceptable for a therapist to say to a client, full stop.

Don't bother letting someone so unprofessional get another appointment's worth of money out of you. I suggest either a phone call or a letter stating that you will not be returning, this is why you will not be returning, and that the therapist's response was horribly inappropriate for a professional. If the therapist won't even believe you over someone who was not even certain it was you in the first place, how can there be any level of trust necessary for effective therapy?

If for some reason you wish to work this out with your therapist, it is unreasonable to expect to do such a thing on your dime. At the very least if they wish to retain you as a patient, they owe it to you to hear this grievance outside of a session.
posted by Saydur at 9:09 PM on June 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Wow, what an awful situation, but I'm with Lexica; have at least one more appointment to hash this out and go from there. Even if you decide this is not the therapeutic situation for you (which, incidentally, I think it's probably not), my guess is it will probably haunt you a little bit unless you get a chance to have your say and perhaps gleam a bit more information as to why the mistaken identity occurred. I say this because when something unjust happens to me, & it's left unresolved, it bugs me at inopportune times and can manifest itself in unexpected ways. For example, you mentioned it was a big step to enter therapy and it is not so easy to talk about yourself and your issues. It's possible this could be a future barrier with other therapeutic situations if it isn't addressed to your satisfaction. Having your say can sort of neutralize the incident and allow you to leave it in the past.

This really was handled horribly, and while I understand any feelings of mortification, please know that this is all on your therapist and her crappy handling of the situation. Even though you are paying out of pocket, I think it would be well worth it to make another appointment, bring this up as soon as the session begins and let her know that this has made you very uncomfortable and feeling like you need to seek alternatives. Your therapist's office should be a safe space where you feel like you are given the benefit of the doubt and that what you have to say actually matters. Seriously, the people who should be mortified are these therapists. Most therapists/counselors are far more professional and adept than this. Any other experiences experience with a different therapist will most likely be far better than this.

Whatever you do, please don't let this stop you from seeking the help you need. As a fellow depression & anxiety sufferer, I know how tedious and exhausting all this can be and how much easier it may seem to just avoid the whole thing altogether. I can also assure you that, conversely, once you find the right fit, it can make a tremendous difference. Whether it's therapy or therapy & meds, getting the help you need will make things so much better. When it comes to these things, I could say a lot more, but I don't want to babble at you. If you ever feel like talking or have more questions, please feel free to email me (address is in my profile). Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 10:01 PM on June 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would use your next session to discuss it and how it made you feel. See what her response is and go from there.
posted by mleigh at 10:40 PM on June 18, 2012

Gawd, I would feel a huge yuck factor too. There's nothing wrong with saying, "why did you do that?" to anyone. Especially the therapist. Maybe the answer will shed some light on what to do next. Hopefully the answer will allow your compassion to understand why it was asked. However, if the answer is not acceptable, then thank your lucky stars that you found out sooner rather than later. Good therapists are worth the trouble to find.
posted by icanbreathe at 10:53 PM on June 18, 2012

I agree with Saydur and cairdeas: this therapist acted so outrageously inappropriately that you absolutely should not see her again.

It is pointless to go to another session and explain your discomfort. Someone who acted as your therapist acted is also way too obtuse to get anything out of such an explanation.

It is time to look for another therapist. Don't throw good money after bad.
posted by parrot_person at 7:09 AM on June 19, 2012

Here's what I'd be saying to myself, "Self, do I feel comfortable enough with these people to return, bare my soul, and expose all of my vulnerability?" Clearly for you, the answer is no. No matter how thin your resources, there is at lease one other therapist out there who might be a better fit.

I would write a short letter to the practice, explaining that you were made uncomfortable by the incident you described, mostly so that your therapist and her partner understand that there are consequences for acting inappropriately with patients. (And I believe that what happened was inappropriate.)

Don't let these idiots rent space in your brain. YOU know you didn't do anything wrong, and at the end of the day, who cares what these people think? They aren't better than you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:15 AM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you DO go back, I would ask your therapist to bring the other therapist in to confirm that you are not the one that was inappropriate.
posted by dozo at 11:49 AM on June 19, 2012

Do go back and tell her how you felt. "I didn't like being accused" isn't as useful as: "I felt embarrassed, confused. I can't see any connection between what I said and did, and the woman's saying she thought someone was flirting or hitting on her. I wondered if you believed her, or thought I actually did that."

Imagine yourself in the place of the therapist. She has a new client whom she doesn't know. She hears from a woman at reception that a client was flirty and possibly hitting on her. Maybe the woman said it was you. You need to find out about this.

I think the therapist should have handled this better, but to be honest, I don't know how she should have broached it, because I'd have found it awkward and delicate. Maybe would have been better if she'd neutrally asked you about your checking in the first time... how it went, if anything seemed off or uncomfortable.

I feel like you can tell a lot about a therapist by how they react when you challenge them about something...when you say you disagree, or when you say you felt uncomfortable about something they did or said. It can be very hard for the client, especially when there hasn't been time to build trust. But do try -- just put a toe in the water. Start by saying, "When you told me what the other therapist said, I felt uncomfortable." Then stop. She will then ask questions. You can let your thoughts out as gradually as you want to, one at a time. You're just talking about yourself: what you perceived, how you felt, how the interaction played out from your own point of view.

If the therapist is defensive, I think it's a bad sign. If she doesn't acknowledge and validate your feelings, also not good. It would be very good if she thanked you for bringing it up. What you want to see is respect for how bad you felt and how hard it is to talk about it.

You don't know what she's thinking. She might think the other therapist is a flake and wants you to tell her the facts of what went on so she'll know for sure. She might think, "Shit, I know this is a misunderstanding, but I had to raise the subject with this new client who's already nervous about being here." You just don't know, so please don't let your imagination lead you to think that she has a bad opinion of you.
posted by wryly at 1:29 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think the therapist should have handled this better, but to be honest, I don't know how she should have broached it

She shouldn't have broached it at all! It was totally 100% inappropriate for her to even bring this up. If her coworker positively identifies the person who "hit on her" then she can deal with it herself. A GOOD therapist takes an attitude of unconditional positive regard towards their client. Relaying heresay about what a client supposedly did to someone else is an outrageous violation of the therapist-client relationship.
posted by parrot_person at 5:10 PM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

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