Problems with my therapist. Is the answer still "therapy"?
January 5, 2016 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm completely confused and upset about recent developments in my therapy, and I don't know if I should continue it or not. I'm sorry but this is loooong, and there's really no good TL;DR I can come up with. Please be gentle; I realize I'm possibly wrong about everything, but I'm feeling fragile right now.

My diagnosis is the usual litany of depression, anxiety, ADHD, some trauma related issues. I was raised in a family with subclinical mental health problems. A big challenge for me is that I gew up hypervigilant and a huge people pleaser, even at the cost of my own well being. (My previous attempt at therapy years ago got nowhere because I was anxiously trying to be some kind of perfect patient, a succesful project for the therapist; I modified my responses and censured my thoughts to not disappoint, annoy or confuse them.)

I've now been going to my current therapist (CBT and systems therapy) for 2,5 years. It's probably not a match made in therapy heaven - she easily misunderstands me, or has difficulty following my thought process, and there's a generational and cultural gap that occasionally manifests itself, but despite that we've managed to communicate and make progress. She's experienced and a nice person. (And my insurance covers her, so there's that.)

The first 1,5 years I was really struggling to have the courage to be myself and to talk openly about my thoughts, experiences and emotions, even when I felt I was awful, or wrong, or letting her down, or not progressing fast enough. Slowly I learned to trust that my therapist could deal with her own feelings and reactions. That it was safe to work on my own goals, and that I didn't have to worry about disappointing her, or anxiously try to read her mind.

We had a month's break in therapy due to her travel in Oct/Nov. Meanwhile, I saw my psychiatrist, got my meds adjusted, and by the time my therapist returned, I was feeling calm, balanced and actually pretty happy.

Starting point of the current clusterfuck::
I'm considering a major work related change XYZ, feeling ambivalent and worried, and we decided to start tackling that in therapy.

Session 1:
We talk about certain painful (maybe even traumatic) work related past experiences ABC, and how to overcome ensuing fears. There's maybe some "it's not your fault" tone a la Good Will Hunting to this session, which maybe feels a tiny bit patronizing but I'm fine with that.

Session 2:
I start talking about my nervousness with regard to all the factual decisions, existing options, necessary logistical adjustments and life changes if I go through with XYZ. My therapist seems to tune out half way, starts shaking her head, then interrupts and says: "Can't you see how that irritates me?" I freeze, and she goes on telling me how she thought we had already dealt with that in the previous session.

I say well umm, no, we talked about ABC last time, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I try to explain again about the decisions I will need to make about XYZ, and she says in what I perceive to be an annoyed tone: "Isn't that just your ADHD talking?" And I'm like, uh, err, what, no...? I think these are really realistic, legitimate concerns...?

I'm feeling pretty shaken by now. I try to switch topics and tell her I realize her job isn't to give specific career advice but I think I could use some, so I have looked for and found Organization O which provides that, and they'd like to have a reference from her. My therapist doesn't really respond and steers the talk elsewhere. Later I repeat the suggestion, and she says she doesn't want to refer me there. I'm confused and try to explain why I think Organization O could be useful with XYZ. She stares at me and says: "You really are rock hard in your avoidance."

I'm struck numb. (I had felt proud of myself for actively searching for information and finding Organization O.) By now the session is over and I leave flooded with self doubt, shame and anxiety, and grapple with them for the rest of the week.

Session 3:
We talk about session 2. I explain really politely to my therapist all the ways in which I think she misunderstood me. I tell her kindly but very clearly what reactions of her had hurt my feelings and why. I tell her I am upset about how it all went, and that I actually thought she had made professional mistakes, especially with the ADHD remark. (Saying all this is fucking hard for me.)

My therapist tries to deflect some of my criticism.
She tells me I had come to her with too many topics and she had felt powerless.
She demands to know whether Session 1 (talking about traumatic experiences ABC) had "been for nothing". I tell her she's engaging in all or nothing thinking (ok I'm getting a bit peeved by now), and that Session 1 about ABC had been useful but no miracle cure, and that it isn't a reasonable expectation that it should have been. However, the problem was that I hadn't been talking about ABC anymore in Session 2, which she would've known had she actually listened to me.
I also tell her that even IF I had returned to the topic of ABC (which I didn't!), proving that that problem hadn't been solved in Session 1, I still don't think she should've saddled me with her irritation about that.
Finally I tell her it had been such an internal struggle to get to a point where I had started to trust her ability to deal with her own disappointment, irritation or frustration with me, and that I now feel confused and anxious and hypervigilant again.

The session is over when we run out of time. I feel like shit. Pretty sure she does, too.

Session 4:
Now we analyze previous Session 3. We conclude that I was succesful at standing up for myself, and that I should see that as a major success. My therapist admits she had made mistakes and tells me she isn't perfect. I'm relieved to see she doesn't seem crushed by how unpleasant things have become between us (yes I'm back to worrying about her feelings). My therapist seems satisfied, but I start dreading the next session.

I ruminate the whole following week. Every time I try to imagine talking about XYZ (or any other problem) with her, I start fearing she'll dismiss my thoughts as just ADHD (leading me to doubt when to trust my thoughts and when to tell them to shut up). Or that she will be irritated - that I will have to go through facing her annoyance again and doing that "standing up for myself" thing even at the cost of hurting her feelings, which sucked and I still feel guilty about. But that if I don't, that'll just be an unhealthy avoidant reaction of mine. I feel like there's no way I won't go back to struggling with the impulse to please her and avoid her annoyance. But then that would mean undoing all the progress I've made, so I can't, can I? I'll just have to be me, whatever follows. But that'll mean risking annoying her, and feeling awful about that, and about not trying to avoid that, and and and...

Cue massive anxiety. I feel like a freak. I feel unsafe. I feel exhausted. I feel mindfucked.

Session 5:
I tell her I'm thinking about quitting therapy. We talk about Session 2, and how I'm still feeling rotten about that. I tell her it seems weird to come to therapy to talk about therapy. She wants me to start analyzing why I froze when she told me in Session 2 that she was irritated. And that there was some kind of faulty fight-or-flight response in me that I could work on. I agree, yet feel uncomfortable about that - analyzing together confrontational interactions I've had with her seems just, ugh. The idea keeps triggering my spirals of shame, anger and anxiety.

Now WTF do I do?
We haven't seen each other for 4 weeks due to Christmas. After a week I started feeling better, after two I was back to my happier self. Now the next session is approaching, and I really, really dread going back. I'm racing through anguished thought loops: Was it all my fault? How messed up must I be to end up in this kind of shit with my own therapist? Then countering that with all I've learned in therapy - how I should trust my own judgement and respect my feelings - then back to self doubt, am I just being avoidant? How could I do this to my therapist? I really DON'T WANT TO GO ANYMORE, but is that just because I'm some kind of fucked up avoidant person?

I'm hesitant to confess the following, because it makes me sound like a crazy person, but... sometimes I lie awake and have these paranoid thoughts - what if she was actually being purposefully provocative during Session 2? She should've known that stuff was triggering to me. Was she coaxing me, in order to get me to stand up for myself in Session 3 (since she considered that such a milestone)? Surely not. But wasn't it incompetent of her then? Or am I just giving her the blame when it's me who should have felt and acted differently?

I don't want to go back. I really don't. My gut is very clear about that, and I'm always giving others the advice to trust theirs. But is that just the illness in me talking?
And if I go back, how the hell do I start regaining my trust?


Sorry, I realize this is probably not what AskMe is optimal for, but at this point I'll appreciate any sane advice. Normally, I'd talk about something like this in therapy, but ahhahahaha oh god what do I do now?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
shaking her head, then interrupts and says: "Can't you see how that irritates me?" I freeze, and she goes on telling me how she thought we had already dealt with that in the previous session.

What? No. No. I read your whole question but I didn't really need to after this. Even if it was the same topic, as a therapist she should know that often times people need to talk about things more than once. Jeez. And if she was annoyed, well that's something for her to share with her partner or another therapist friend - not her patient.

It doesn't sound like this relationship is therapeutic anymore. That's ok. Maybe you've grown as much as you could with her.
posted by lunasol at 4:33 AM on January 5, 2016 [31 favorites]

Obviously all this is my opinion, based on what you've said, not getting the other side etc., but your expectations for each session sound completely reasonable to me, and her responses were very weird. I think you're right that your therapist behaved poorly in session 2. Tuned out, had a bad day, felt irritable (maybe for reasons that have nothing to do with you). The refusal to refer you sounds like naked self-interest, to me, followed by some, honestly, creepy manipulation, whether conscious or not. (It might not have been, giving her the benefit of the doubt. But it was manipulative.) Sounds like sessions 3-5 were your therapist continuing to act defensively - not in your interests - and doubling down.

(Apart from all that, I agree with you that spending more than one or max two sessions on metatherapy is a bad use of your time. And money. It's not your fault that happened - something went really wrong here.)

she easily misunderstands me, or has difficulty following my thought process, and there's a generational and cultural gap that occasionally manifests itself,

I think this was never really overcome, despite your best efforts. I don't think one can expect the kind of instant communication one might have with a good friend, and I think therapists sometimes make a point of "not understanding" as a kind of technique to get people to clarify things, but I don't think it should take that much work to get across.

It's not your illness. You did things right. Trust your gut.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:36 AM on January 5, 2016 [13 favorites]

Jesus tapdancing Christ on a stick. I am speechless. Fire your therapist immediately and go find somebody competent, who doesn't think you have 'too many topics', who doesn't feel 'powerless' with you, who doesn't get 'irritated' and make your struggle about her! Why should her emotions and her irritation have anything to do with your recovery? Why should it be your job not to irritate her?! Good God. Good for you for recognizing the negative patterns and for thinking about quitting. I think you should listen to yourself and celebrate the huge achievement that this represents: pushing pack against an abusive situation in a highly charged unequal power dynamic.

By the way. Your gut is right. The illness in you is what create the doubt to not listen to your gut.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:36 AM on January 5, 2016 [31 favorites]

Dude, don't go to another session with her.

You're feeling happier now that you aren't around this negative person, and you don't owe her anything. This is a person who either you or your health insurance is paying to provide you a service -- and when you were going most recently, you were spending a whole lot of time in these (super uncomfortable sounding) sessions talking about an issue that she caused, rather than your actual concerns. This doesn't seem to be helping you find solutions, it seems to be making more problems.
posted by aaanastasia at 4:44 AM on January 5, 2016 [7 favorites]

You don't have to suffer through another session with this person. Therapists are human and make mistakes. Good therapists acknowledge when they screw up and help renew your trust in the process, not make it even worse. Run far away from this person and go find someone who is a better fit. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 5:04 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

First of all, you should be proud of yourself for standing up to your therapist. That's huge—and I don't think you're "wrong about everything." Your therapist should know better than to imply that you're responsible for her feelings and you should fire her immediately and find someone competent.

As an example of how a therapist might respond to something similar: the therapist I have been seeing for a year initially frustrated me because she would give advice that I felt missed the heart of my issue, but she's gained my trust by helping me advocate for being understood. A few months in, I felt completely misunderstood and annoyed and I snapped at her about something very sensitive to me. She immediately validated how I felt and explicitly told me that she wanted to understand. It was a big deal for me because I have never had good results from standing up to an adult, ever, and she made it safe for me to do so. She wasn't freaked out that I was angry, she was professional but caring. That's what your therapist should do for you. Mine certainly isn't afraid of letting me know if she can see a pattern that isn't serving me well, but she's willing to talk about the same issue over and over.

One thing that came up in my initial sessions is how common your experience of wanting to be a perfect patient is so we tackled that issue right away. It was safe to be open with her because ultimately everything I do is my decision, not hers, and therapists shouldn't try to control their patients. The therapist that I see made it clear that she is obliged to tell me if she can't help me and also kept the dialogue open for if I ever feel that she isn't working for me. I'm shocked at how fucked up your therapist is for trying to make you make her feel better about her mistakes and frankly think she shouldn't be practicing.

Please be proud that you have been awesome at standing up for yourself. Don't be afraid to find a new therapist, though I can be hard to start over because you've invested time in working on issues, you will see results so quickly with someone who is the right fit. There are some truly incredible mental health professionals out there. It's like dating: getting to know the people who are assholes under the surface prepares you to recognize red flags in other people. It sucks that you wasted your time, yet you did learn something valuable.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 5:19 AM on January 5, 2016 [16 favorites]

I am a therapist, I'm not your therapist.

"Can't you see how that irritates me?"

I can't imagine a situation or interaction that would prompt me to say that to a client in that context.

Trust your gut feeling.. It really isn't a matter of right or wrong on this, if, after this long a period, you're having difficulty trusting her effectiveness, it is doubtful that the relationship will move forward in a positive manner. Given your other concerns about misunderstanding you, cultural differences, her inability or unwillingness to follow your thought process, I would suggest that it is time to seek out another therapist....
posted by HuronBob at 5:43 AM on January 5, 2016 [27 favorites]

This is a little bit tangential to your question - and I agree that your therapist was in the wrong here and shouldn't be telling you she's irritated with you or that you made her feel powerless about something so seemingly inane, but also...

I got the sense reading your question that your anxiety might be flaring up and contributing to this situation as well. The mention of constant ruminating, lying awake in bed at night questioning yourself and everything you did or said.... I'm not saying that this situation was your 'fault' in any way, but it seems possible that if the anxiety levels weren't so high you might have felt more able to brush this off and go back into "the therapist's emotions are her own problem" mode. If you think finding a new therapist will resolve all this, then just go ahead and do that, but if you think you're going to be continuing to ruminate/second guess yourself/lie awake at night questioning this sequence of events, it might be worth going back to the psychiatrist to discuss.

Final question, is it really standard for people's therapists to recommend or refer them for career stuff? I'm just wondering if that might be why she deflected, rather than because she was trying to undermine you or thinking that you should not go there.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:01 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Final question, is it really standard for people's therapists to recommend or refer them for career stuff? I'm just wondering if that might be why she deflected, rather than because she was trying to undermine you or thinking that you should not go there.

Maybe it's a condition of a subsidy or funding. Regardless, a normal response to confusion about that would be "I haven't heard of that kind of process before, can I have more information?" and not "You are really rock hard in your avoidance".
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:36 AM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's probably not a match made in therapy heaven - she easily misunderstands me, or has difficulty following my thought process, and there's a generational and cultural gap that occasionally manifests itself...

Honestly, this alone would be reason enough to find a new therapist. Therapy is really hard work! If you don't click with your therapist, that will only make it unnecessarily harder.

But in addition to being an imperfect fit for you, this therapist is clearly incompetent and unable to separate her own personal issues from her work. So I agree with everyone who has said that you should dump her, pronto, and find someone who is a better fit.

And honestly, I would try to find someone who won't need to bridge any major generational and cultural gaps to understand you. My therapist is a little older than me, but not dramatically so - I'm 25, he's probably in his early- to mid-30s - and there isn't a big cultural divide, so he "gets" all of my issues. Which means I don't have to spend time explaining and re-explaining myself, and can just jump right into the substance of the appointment.

Also, at the end of every session I complete a quiz regarding my satisfaction with my therapist and the session. So far I haven't had any complaints, but it's awesome to know that he cares about the quality of care he is providing.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:38 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

You've had your last session with this person. It's not a good fit anymore. Find another therapist.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:42 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree with others that this therapist was artless and weird and borderline inappropriate in the sessions in which you had problems with her. However, I wanted to point out that "coming to therapy to talk about therapy" can actually be immensely useful, and with my own clients, tends to be a sign of serious growth and intimacy/ability-to-be-intimate, because processing a relationship with the person with whom you're in a relationship is scary and hard and it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to be able to say, "Hey, what just happened there?" or "I think I'm doing that people-pleasing thing again" or "That thing that happened last week really upset me," and then continue to talk about it, rather than just letting it drop. Especially with someone who can seem like an authority figure. So your comment that "analyzing together confrontational interactions I've had with her seems just, ugh. The idea keeps triggering my spirals of shame, anger and anxiety," might indicate that doing exactly that type of work could be helpful for you.

That said, the extended way in which that's happening with this particular therapist may not be ideal, and "Can't you see how that irritates me?" is a serious misstep. I think part of what you may be struggling with is trying to separate out her missteps (which, if more serious for you, means you might want to think about not seeing her) from your own tendency to get anxious about displeasing others (which, if more serious for you, means you might benefit enormously from going through the process of analyzing interactions that didn't go well, directly with the person you interacted with, to see that it's not the end of the world, and to get more realistic insight into the other person's thought process in order to combat your own shame/anxiety). I can't tell you which is more important or realistic in this particular scenario, or whether the therapist is skilled enough that you will benefit from participating in such analysis. But maybe thinking through those two strands of thought can help you clarify your own goals and thoughts and feelings a bit more.
posted by jaguar at 7:04 AM on January 5, 2016 [14 favorites]

What your therapist said to you is highly, highly unprofessional. She is no longer capable of helping you (if she ever really was) and you're better off looking for someone who is a better fit. Therapy can help you, but she's not the right person for this important job.

BTW, her job is to help you feel better. She's terrible at her job if she's laying any of her own emotional issues at your feet. It doesn't matter if she's frustrated with you, that's not your problem to solve. She can see her own therapist to deal with that instead of damaging the therapeutic process with her guilt-tripping, responsibility-deflecting emotional outbursts. If she doesn't feel like she's making progress with you, the humane, proper, correct, professional thing to do is refer you to a colleague she thinks might be better equipped to help you. That she hasn't done this already is a huge red flag. Don't go back.
posted by i feel possessed at 7:06 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

(By the way, my response would have been much different had your therapist not said that she had made mistakes in previous sessions. That, to me, indicates at least the possibility that y'all could work through processing unsuccessful interactions without her being defensive or gaslighting you. But, again, I think either walking away or staying could be completely valid choices.)
posted by jaguar at 7:07 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really DON'T WANT TO GO ANYMORE, but is that just because I'm some kind of fucked up avoidant person?

No! You've gotten a lot of good feeback from people here that your feelings of "This isn't right" seem complately good and valid and while AskMe isn't a substitute for therapy it's sometimes a good way of corroborating "This doesn't feel normal" feelings. I think your therapist made a few mistakes that snowballed

1. responding in an irritated way (not cool but yes we all make mistakes)
2. not handling it and working to rebuild your trust which was shaken by their poor response
3. having you deal with their mistake as if it represented something wrong with YOU

I mean look, it's probably not a terrible idea to, in general, work on flight responses to negative stimulus, in the abstract. (I am an anxious person, I see myself in your question) That said, this was the wrong way for your therapist to go about it and I am sorry it got drawn out over so much time. That was their issue to handle and they did not.

If I were you I would call/email and say that you are done with therapy with them and that you would prefer not to be contacted by them or their office except to send you a final bill (if that's appropriate) and then just put it out of your mind. Tell yourself the therapist was useful for what you got accomplished and now has reached the end of their usefulness. The end, moving on. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on January 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Psychotherapy has really low barriers of entry and there's really no policing among its members, so I think you're taking your therapist-as-professional a little too seriously. There are a lot of bad therapists out there ... probably more bad ones than good ones. And the good ones are often bad ones who didn't do the bad stuff to that particular client.

Finding a good therapist is as rare as finding a good friend as an adult, and more frought with danger since you're giving power over to a flawed human being who worked to put themselves in a position of power over other people (hmmm). If you don't think it's working, it probably isn't.

I think it's time we stop putting therapists and therapy in general on a pedestal, because it does clients more harm than good.
posted by gehenna_lion at 8:22 AM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

I came in to this expecting to tell you to tough it out, because I wanted to quit therapy SO many times over my 5 years, and the toughest times were often the "metatherapy" sessions. And yet they also proved really useful and in the end I was really glad I stayed through my wanting to never go back.

But reading your descriptions, I agree with everyone who says that this doesn't seem like a helpful therapist for you now. Find another therapist, hopefully another who will take your insurance, but mostly one with whom you can see building a good rapport. Even when I disagreed with my therapist I trusted that she had my best interests at heart - find that person for you.
posted by ldthomps at 8:38 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Argh! I'm a broken record of anxieties and insecurities with my therapist of 6+ years. We've been talking about the same stuff the whole time, but she has never expressed any feelings of irritation. If she had, I would have run and never looked back. The whole purpose of therapy is to provide a safe space to discuss you and whatever is running through your brain and holding you back from life. If that happens to be something that you've already discussed, then so be it. Please ditch this person.
posted by cecic at 8:44 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

I want to echo what others have said. "Can't you see how that irritates me?" was such a bad, bad thing for her to say. I'm quite a bit like you because I have to stop myself from worrying whether I'm annoying my therapist with my broken-record issues. But you said it earlier in your question -- the therapist has to be responsible for their own feelings and reactions, and we can't (or shouldn't, rather) make their feelings our responsibility.

That's exactly what she did with that comment. She not only let you know -- in an unkind, uncaring, and unproductive way -- that she got irritated, but she put the responsibility back on you to read her mind and protect her from her own reactions. That's all kinds of messed up, and I think you're right not only to be upset about it, but to remove your trust from her and not see her anymore.

It's got to be very difficult to leave after 2-1/2 years, but don't let your anxiety and your desire to be the perfect patient trap you in the sunk cost fallacy. It's possible that she's done all she can do for you, and it's fine for you not to trust her anymore, and both of those things add up to moving on. You're not a failure for doing so, and you're not failing her.

(Jaguar also makes good points about the potential utility in having this out with her. Maybe consider maybe scheduling one or two sessions to do that and only that, with the both of you being aware of the fact that you're wrapping up and doing sort of a debrief? Make it an openly finite thing, I mean, because that could make it more concrete and less anxiety-provoking.)
posted by mudpuppie at 9:08 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe consider maybe scheduling one or two sessions to do that and only that, with the both of you being aware of the fact that you're wrapping up and doing sort of a debrief?

That was sessions 3 through 5, and it ended with:

She wants me to start analyzing why I froze when she told me in Session 2 that she was irritated. And that there was some kind of faulty fight-or-flight response in me that I could work on.

which is... masterful deflection, if it's not outrageously poor judgement. Just DTMFA. I don't think you need to leave a goodbye note.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:22 AM on January 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

I sound like a broken record in therapy a lot. If my therapist said something like "Can't you see how that irritates me?" during a session, I'd probably walk out immediately.

Don't go back. Please. Find someone else. This is not a normal experience in therapy.
posted by argylesockpet at 9:49 AM on January 5, 2016

*interrupts and says: "Can't you see how that irritates me?" *
Holy Mackerel! Incredibly inappropriate and unacceptable.
There are way too many sketchy therapists, stop seeing this one and interview new ones. I'm so sorry this has happened to you. It's a poorly regulated industry, and should be much better.
posted by theora55 at 9:52 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a fucked up avoidant person* with many of the same other issues you have, it sounds like your meds are working and you are done with this therapist. Don't go back. Find another one with whom you can communicate and who holds a decent level of professionalism. Think of it this way, learning when it is time to leave a relationship is an important step in your therapy. Because it is your therapy, not you and her therapy. Therapy is where you find it. I've taken up crochet.

*I have been diagnosed with avoidant personality disorder, but I don't like to think about it.

(Yes, this is a joke and probably a symptom of the disease. Seriously.)
posted by monopas at 10:54 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Having a lot of topics or too many topics -- that's ridiculous. I have general anxiety that affects many areas of my life. I could make a mile-long list of the areas I have difficulties with. But I don't have too many topics... just a lot of anxiety that's affecting how I react to just about everything.

"Can't you see how that irritates me?" Everybody's saying how wrong that is, and I'll give you a my reasons why. 1. You're never should be expected to consider how the therapist is feeling. 2. Everything a therapist does in a session is supposed to be an effort to build trust and to help you. These two points were explained to my by a good therapist when I told him my former therapist used to show me pictures of her grandchild, mentioned personal about her own marriage, and had hurt feelings when I wanted to stop our sessions. When all that was going on, I thought there was something wrong with me for feeling uneasy.
posted by wryly at 11:02 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

My job irritates me some days - that's why they pay me to do it. Providing care to you is her job. You aren't friends looking to have a balanced relationship. She is a paid, care provider to you.

You should not go back to her. You don't need to waste therapy sessions and months of your time rebuilding trust with this person. Your time is too precious for that.
posted by 26.2 at 11:36 AM on January 5, 2016

Wow, I could have written this, or most of it. I just quit a therapist who couldn't follow my train of thought, made me feel like I needed to take care of her, and I absolutely dreaded our appointments. She'd ascribe my thoughts to my various mental disorders (though I had to, uh, explain what ADD/ADHD-inattentive was because she'd never heard of it), and the whole thing just made me feel pathologized. From your description of trying to quit therapy with this person, you sound very brave and very direct (I wasn't).

So, the comment "Isn't that just your ADHD talking?" in your post really stood out to me. To me, this edges towards gaslighting. There are therapists out there who are less hung up on diagnosing you, or understanding you as a collection of diagnoses, and more interested in helping you as a person. But good lord are they hard to find.
posted by knuspermanatee at 12:18 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sounds like your therapist picked the wrong career. I have some of the same issues as you, particularly wanting to please people. I would have ended this after the session where she said "Can't you see how much you're irritating me?"
posted by Melsky at 3:33 PM on January 5, 2016

I stopped reading at "Can't you see how that irritates me?". I'm a therapist, too, and that's all kinds of wrong. Seriously, if accurately reported, that's a deal-breaker of incompetent and unprofessional clinical skills. I'm sorry you experienced this.

Even if you need to stay within your insurance, shop around for a better fit, please. You deserve it.

This resource might be helpful: Finding a therapist and seven tips for therapy. Excerpt from "What's Right With You" by Barry Duncan

And tell your next therapist about your difficulties around advocating for yourself. Try to get a sense whether they have their own unresolved codependency issues.
posted by dancing leaves at 3:50 AM on January 6, 2016

You seem very level-headed and reasonable on this matter. Thanks for all the detail. Firstly, I agree that you would best be served by firing this one. Secondly, I don't know where you're located, but could you perhaps contact the therapists' licensing board in your area and find out if her approach was fully ethical? She seems to have crossed a few personal if not professional lines.
posted by phreckles at 5:07 AM on January 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Therapists are people, and as such occasionally run off the rails. Yours just did. Don't go back. File a complaint with her employer if you feel up to it. What she did is not just annoying or stupid, but also unethical.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 1:06 PM on January 6, 2016

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