Do I have a really bad therapist?
July 9, 2021 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I've had the slowly dawning realization over the past couple months that I think I fucked myself over based on certain advice from my therapist that made a bad situation much worse. But I'm really having a hard time figuring out if that is the case or not, and even how to figure that out. After all, he is the mental health professional, and I definitely need help with psychiatric issues AND I know that people in denial are often resistant to their therapists.

I don't even know how to explain it all. I don't entirely trust myself in the conclusion that keeps popping into my head, that by trusting my therapist and taking his advice that my life has gotten dramatically worse, especially in the context of definitely needing professional help with my mental health. How do I figure this out?

I have adhd, ptsd, anxiety, and depression. And it's been the anxiety, depression and probably PTSD that have been the worst offenders this past year, as they've complicated coping with the strain of isolation and covid lifestyle changes generally. But as I seem to be coming out of the black cloud of whatever that was, I'm looking back and really questioning the mental health care I received. I feel I'm getting to a better headspace where I'm trusting myself and subsequently really pushing back hard on what my therapist is saying because it's often just the wrong thing to do or not really a good assessment of the problem.

And that is the difficulty, I was really depressed and anxious, and even when there were things he said I felt were wrong for me, it's like I didn't have the internal strength to make the case. Even if I objected, it felt as though he plowed over those objections until I was convinced or capitulated and just assumed he knew what was best. Perhaps that in and of itself is a sign I couldn't trust myself, and therefore he was right.

I started to write a lot of specifics in this post, but I'm not sure detailing it all here will really help with clarity, especially as I might be an unreliable narrator. But I've had the growing sense as some of the depression and anxiety has lifted that I listened to my therapist when I should not have, and that he's steered me wrong. I'm someone that is trusting of therapists and the therapeutic process, so it's been unsettling to feel this way.

One issue, he makes very specific recommendations in my life of what I should and shouldn't do, and really pushes for me to do said thing if he thinks it's the right thing for me. At first this maybe made sense as it revolved around coping and applying for disability, so it made sense to listen when he was saying that I should apply for disability because of physical and psychiatric concerns. Except it has extended to all sorts of specific parts of my life that seem, gosh, controlling, and he has gotten visibly upset when I push back and say that isn't right for me.

The longer I've been in therapy with this therapist, the more I discover either following his advice ends poorly, or I push back enough, don't follow it, feel like I must be wrong because he's my therapist, often doubting myself the entire time until time plays out where I was right to not follow his advice and think "holy hell, bullet dodged, I'm glad I trusted myself."

It's not just advice though, it's not given as a take it or leave it suggestion, there have been times we've had a disagreement over what is right for me over the course of an entire session, sometimes multiple sessions. I often ended up feeling like I was incompetent to make my own decisions to have my therapist be that insistent on a course of action. But now that there has been some fallout from those actions that I did listen to, it's pretty clear he had, at best, no idea what the right thing for me was.

I am trusting in therapy and of medical professionals, and I spent a lot of time this past year doubting myself, feeling almost gaslit by my therapist. Which has me doubting myself even more. But I have had a good therapist in the past, this feels nothing like that. Not only that, I have had the issue where he seems pretty darn focused on ADHD where the depression, anxiety and PTSD have gone unmanaged and untreated.

Above all else, it does feel a lot like lines have been crossed for what is and isn't appropriate for a therapist to suggest. I am not sure exactly how to articulate this point, other than it feels like boundaries and lines have been crossed unless I'm incompetent to make decisions for myself, and if I am, why hasn't that been communicated to me and why am I not in a more intensive care setting?

I am pretty sure my next step is a new therapist, but I'm genuinely concerned because 1) I feel a bit crazy questioning a mental health professional like this 2) I have a strong feeling that the outcome of being in the care of this therapist has made my situation (already pretty bad) much worse and I don't know what, if anything, can be done about that 3) I don't know if there is room in therapy to approach a new therapist and say " I think my old therapist handled my mental health poorly, how do I figure this out?" and have them not assume I'm just looking to NOT listen to therapy/a therapist as mentally ill patients often doubt what they're being told 4) Am I crazy?
posted by [insert clever name here] to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This all sounds very difficult and I'm sorry that you're going through this. Especially when it's extra things to figure out on top of the original reasons you started therapy.

I'm genuinely concerned because 1) I feel a bit crazy questioning a mental health professional like this 2) I have a strong feeling that the outcome of being in the care of this therapist has made my situation (already pretty bad) much worse

A simple answer: It's 100% ok to decide that given therapy approach isn't leading to the results you need, and to therefore change treatment. You can decide this on your own and don't need a therapist's approval.

I've been able to find providers fairly easily with the Psychology Today website, by putting in my ZIP code and checking the boxes for the treatment / issues I'm looking for help with. I hope that one way or another you can find someone who you feel comfortable with and get concrete results from.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 11:42 AM on July 9, 2021 [9 favorites]

Yes, you have a bad therapist. A therapist should be working with you to figure out what changes to make, not unilaterally telling you what to do. But it sounds like you already know that.

Almost everyone I know who's found a therapist they're happy with has had to try a bunch of different therapists before finding one that fits. That is, unfortunately, a pretty normal part of therapy (although it does sound like the extent to which your current therapist is bad is not normal.). It doesn't mean you're crazy, it means that you know what you want.

I'd suggest setting up an appointment with a new therapist, and emailing your old therapist to tell him that you won't be seeing him anymore.

You can definitely tell your new therapist that you're switching therapists because you were unhappy that your old therapist was unilaterally telling you what to do. You're seeing a therapist, after all, so it's not like you don't want to listen to anything a therapist is saying.
posted by wesleyac at 11:46 AM on July 9, 2021 [7 favorites]

Mental health professionals are like any other professionals. There are good ones and bad ones. Or to put a finer point on it, there are good ones and bad ones for you. You get to chose.
posted by Splunge at 11:47 AM on July 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

I am so, so sorry to hear what you've been through with your therapist. I have had awful, ok, good, and AMAZING therapists so I want to say that you are not alone. It sucks that they violated your trust with bad advice: fwiw, very few of my therapists have given me advice. The amazing therapist's advice was along the lines of "you go, girl!" and "hold others to high standards bc you deserve it" and also having hard talks about the trauma without sugarcoating, being honest but also giving me time. Conversely, I was encouraged by one mediocre and one bad therapist to stay in bad relationships to help myself grow, eww. (The mediocre one later regretted it once she realized my partner was abusive and love bombing me, that my gut was telling me to leave for a good reason.) It's hard to realize how amazing therapists can be until you've had a truly good one. It's different but similar to dating for those of us with difficult pasts: we don't realize how a good relationship looks and feels until we've had one. The good news is we can learn to look for something good even if we haven't had that great match yet. I'd also had two wonderful psychiatrists. Great mental health care professionals are out there and want to help: finding them is hard! Ultimately, the best recommendations were from therapy-savvy friends.

Also, as someone with PTSD and mild OCD, I felt so misunderstood until I found my most recent therapist who specializes in trauma and does EMDR. She is a LCSW with a background in CPS, fwiw. My mediocre therapists wanted to help but had limited understanding and so, like yours focusing on ADHD, missed the bigger picture of what I needed help on. I did have to learn how to advocate for myself and trust took a year to build. But a good therapist will do all of that with you. I'm sharing this to valid your feelings and support you in wanting to switch; I'm also sharing so you know there's hope on the horizon!
posted by smorgasbord at 11:53 AM on July 9, 2021 [4 favorites]

It's pretty common for people to think that they need to stick by a therapist, no matter how the outcome of that therapy goes, and it can be very distressing and lead to bad results because of that. So I say that you've done a great job at noticing that the therapist's advice/action plan isn't working for you, and now seems like a good time to make a switch to someone who works better for you.

Therapists and patients are a tricky mixture, because they need to work together well, and when they don't, it's not immediately obvious, as it might be in some other types of health situations. If my dentist puts in a crown that shatters the first time I eat potato chips, that's pretty easy to spot, but it can often take a long time to notice that a therapist's approach or advice isn't resonating or helping in the way that you want it to.

Definitely seek out someone who will work with you in a way that is helpful and feels comfortable, because that's of primary importance when it comes to therapy. And don't feel bad about doing so...that's often how patients can best advocate for themselves.
posted by xingcat at 12:19 PM on July 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

Short answer: I am a Licensed therapist (but not yours, and I don't currently practice individual therapy), you can have a bad therapist.

Even if this person is an objectively good person, they can still be an awful therapist for you. Its absolutely normal to need someone who enables you to make your own choices, even if they aren't what the therapist would want. It is your life and you get to do it your way.

3 , yes.
Any good therapist should be able to sit with you and sort out what happened, it actually is a pretty insightful for the new therapist because it gives a bunch of don't do this stuff, you don't want that guide. And 4, you are not crazy. You are a human having strong emotional reactions when you were trying to seek help from someone you thought you should trust and it didn't go well. Of course you are upset.

You can find someone who can meet your needs.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:22 PM on July 9, 2021 [11 favorites]

I will say that in my limited experience with therapists, it is unusual for a therapist to make a direct suggestions of what actions you should take in any given situation. It's more that they could present alternate ways of thinking about a scenario, or talk you through the probable outcomes of each decision option as a way of helping you, an autonomous adult, make your own calls.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 12:42 PM on July 9, 2021 [6 favorites]

Yes, sack your therapist. It doesn't even matter if they're a good or a bad therapist or whatever - evidently they're not a good fit for you. You can decide that all on your own. In fact, you're the only one who could possibly tell whether your therapist is a good fit for you. Noone else is qualified.

A couple of years back when I was in the middle of my own mental health situation - I found that I got as much (even more?) value from successfully advocating for myself than I got from the therapy itself. I went through a couple of different GPs before I even managed to get a referral for mental health services, then I skipped on a couple of therapists before I found anyone who felt like a fit. I felt obliged to do that because the previous candidates just FELT SO WRONG to me that I reacted almost viscerally to them. Only afterwards could I explain it to myself in the terms that I deserved better care than I was getting - because I am a person who deserves the best care.

So are you! You're not getting it right now! So sack that guy & take a step towards something better.
posted by rd45 at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2021

From your description, it sounds like you would be better off finding a new therapist because this one just doesn't fit. They don't need to be objectively 'bad' to be wrong for you. Much like a breakup, you don't need consent from your therapist to end the relationship, either.

My experience as someone who has provided peer support and as someone on SSDI for disability: when one has been diagnosed with PTSD, they absolutely need a trauma therapist. Not just trauma informed (really a bare minimum), but specifically trained on how to deal with and treat trauma with a therapeutic style that is for trauma. Cognitive behavioral therapy made my PTSD worse.

By the way I had a similar laundry list of diagnoses, it turned out I have Complex PTSD (and autism). Basically every other mental health diagnosis I had was due to poorly trained and badly educated medical 'professionals' who didn't understand the scope of how trauma can affect someone and how neurodivergence presents in women.
posted by saveyoursanity at 12:49 PM on July 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

I'm actually not sure there's a lot of value in deeply analysing and assigning fault here. You're allowed to just... change therapists. You are not happy and you get to make a different choice. It doesn't need to be vastly more complex.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:00 PM on July 9, 2021 [8 favorites]

I opened this question intending to say that therapy is kind of supposed to make you uncomfortable, that of course your therapist is suggesting things that you'll push back against, because that's how therapy works. But this sentence really stood out to me:

"he makes very specific recommendations in my life of what I should and shouldn't do, and really pushes for me to do said thing"

That's probably not OK. Winding train of thought alert: My wife is a therapist, and since we're both working from home, I will occasionally wander into a room not realizing she's already there, and accidentally overhear her talking to a client. Once I overheard a very young-sounding girl telling my wife about her plans to start an OnlyFans account to pay for college so she could be a teacher, which to me seems like an obvious eyebrow-raiser. Later I was talking to my wife and asked why she didn't counsel her client not to do that. My wife replied that it's not her job to tell her clients what to do. She makes suggestions and the clients have to decide whether to go along with those suggestions. She's their therapist, not their mom.

The whole point of therapy, as I understand it (both as the husband of a therapist and as someone in therapy myself) is that the patient has to be the one to choose something; otherwise, the change won't really work. If your therapist isn't allowing you to choose, I don't think you're getting all you can out of therapy.

So even if your therapist's recommendations were appropriate and correct, I'd still advise you to find a new one.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:42 PM on July 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

My experience is that when you do an intake with a new therapist, many will ask what didn't work before/what your previous experiences were in part to help determine if there's a good fit to start. I have never had a therapist take that to mean I was resistant to therapy or to change, although I have had therapists attempt to change my mind.

Mental health professionals are people, too, and people (and their methodologies/insights) can be flawed or skewed in ways that hurt the people they are meant to help. Trusting in therapy and medical professionals does not mean you have to wholeheartedly take in and believe in everything that person says. Advocating for yourself is not the same thing as resisting help.
posted by sm1tten at 1:47 PM on July 9, 2021

Response by poster: DarlingBri, you are absolutely right. I struggled through much of this morning trying to write and rewrite this in a more neutral way, and couldn't so wrote what I was feeling because I'm having strong feelings. I think the issue is in why I'm trying to find fault, right or wrong is: I am dealing with the fallout of a major decision my therapist pushed me to do/make, even thought at I thought at the time was wrong, argued against over multiple sessions, and is proving to be wrong, has left me more economically vulnerable that I was before, and may take years to undo.

I ultimately made the choice, but it was an argument over multiple sessions and it was at a point where I think responsible therapist would have recognized they were unduly influencing my decision making over repeated objections, especially someone that was deeply depressed/anxious, and not well able to advocate for myself because of the same mental health issues I was being treated for.

At least I think that is what happened, but again, I'm trying to work through it. I was definite in crisis, but the flip side is that I believe my therapist has a very paternalistic view of how therapy should work, and his goals are not aligned with my own. As a few people pointed out, I think the issue I keep coming back to is there is a sense when I am in therapy that he knows what's best and pushes those actions. I keep feeling like its crossing a line, and I think back to a prior therapist who only once gave me a piece of advice on what he thought I should do in a particular circumstance, and it involved a lot of him giving a long disclaimer that amounted to he doesn't think its his place to tell clients what to do, but what he would like for me and what he would do if he were in my shoes is [advice].
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:07 PM on July 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have seen a kind of pattern with some therapists in which the dude (it's usually a man) is damaged and weak-minded and narcissistic and fearful, and he constructs his sense of safety and self-confidence by creating and inhabiting the persona of one who dispense advise and wisdom to those who are even more fucked up than him. I actually think there is something in the way that therapists are educated that kind of intensifies this, a kind of hierarchical relationship in which they sit above the patient, a sense that their role is to tell the patient what to do rather than help the patient discover their own power. This type of therapist needs their patient to be damaged, moreso than they are. They will actually undercut and undermine their patients, destroying their sense of agency, make them feel powerless and helpless, and place themselves as the central power in their patient's lives. Witness the power struggle you're describing here.

My father is a psychologist and he is a tyrannical narcissistic bully and completely delusional, and I shudder to think of the wreckage he's caused to his patients over the decades. He was finally kicked out of the profession after a patient filed a formal complaint. I had a personal experience in which I saw a therapist for 3 years and he seemed like such a nice gentle teddy bear but he had this way of infantilizing me and disempowering me and I later realized he was just as much of a tyrant as my father, manipulative and dead inside, completely full of shit, and had absolutely no regard for what was best of me and instead completely infatuated with his idea that we had a "special" relationship and he was saving my life. Blech.

Fuck your therapist, from where I sit. I've heard enough. You have my validation. This guy has severely messed with you. If I could go back and do it again with my last therapist, I would start collecting evidence and then try to get his license revoked. Like I would challenge him and tell him I know he's been abusing me and secretly record his response, for example. Your dude sounds easily that bad to me. By the way it was a massive, massive, massive headfuck to have to reconceptualize this person who spoke with such authority about my mental health and seemed to be so much on my side and understand that he was actually one of my life's greatest enemies and one of my abusers. But well that's the truth. And you know it in this case and I can feel that bursting out of you so congratulations for seeing through the web of lies, go set yourself free, you don't need to be fixed because you already know when people are fucking with you and that sense is what will guide you better than any so-called professional.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:11 PM on July 9, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: P.S. I am taking this way more seriously than a lot of people I think because of my own personal history. To me this reads like one of those descriptions of an ambiguous sexual encounter and the person saying "what just happened", and then people in the comments say "yes, that was assault, I'm so sorry". I absolutely do not see this as "this therapist is just bad for you". I see this as "this person has assaulted you and grievously harmed you". And he should be help accountable, and should face professional, civil, maybe even criminal sanctions. Like, a lawsuit for malpractice and try to recover from the economic harm you've suffered because he took advantage of your vulnerability and deliberately steered you into a harmful situation. I'm not saying you need to do any of these things, that's a personal choice. But I am agreeing with your gut sense and telling you yes, this sounds like gaslighting and abuse, 100%, I believe you and I think your gut sense is correct.
posted by PercussivePaul at 3:27 PM on July 9, 2021 [10 favorites]

I’m pretty old so I’ve had a number of therapists… Maybe five? None of them has given much direct advice at all. When they did, it was usually after I had talked about my options and decided what I wanted to do. And then they would say the advantages they saw in the thing that I had decided to do. Or someone might say, “have you tried exercise?” which is verging on advice, but they wouldn’t push it.

I would not want a therapist be insistent about advice.
posted by wryly at 3:53 PM on July 9, 2021 [3 favorites]

100% agree with PercussivePaul. This is not a matter of being a bad fit. Your therapist sounds abusive to me with serious control issues. He shouldn't be arguing with you. Honestly I think he should be blacklisted. Someone like that should not be in a position of power. Be glad you recognise that he is problematic. Please find someone new.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 4:30 PM on July 9, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yeah this all sounds terribly unethical to me. Telling you how to live your life & what choices to make is simply not the therapists's job and therefore he acted inappropriately. Insisting on those choices is even worse.

If he has a supervisor I would definitely make a formal complaint. If he's a solo practitioner and you have to find out who to complain to it might be more trouble than it's worth & that's up to you to decide.

One positive thing you could take from this is that any time someone has tried to talk me out of what I knew to be true, it's given me more armor to resist with the next time that happened. I remembered that certain feeling in my gut & looked for it again. When I think I'm right about something, & someone else disagrees, I sit quietly for a moment & check in with my gut - how strongly do I feel about this? What are my specific reasons for feeling that way? You have to be quiet for a second and listen. Sometimes it comes back with nothing - I don't really know why I feel this way & im not getting any backup from my gut. In those cases I'll think ok, I don't know, maybe someone else does. Other times I get those cringle tingles in my gut & a feeling of assurance that I'm sure I'm right & I can say why. In those cases the memories of the other times I was right & got talked out of doing what was right give me confidence to speak up for myself & stick to my guns. Now what this therapist has given you is a mega memory that you can use the next time someone thinks they know better than you.
posted by bleep at 5:50 PM on July 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

I've read that the number ONE factor in therapeutic "success" is the rapport between therapist and client; given the importance of this it's crucial to find the right fit, and at the very least, this isn't one, here. It's a relationship, and the strength of that relationship is key to the therapy.

I'm a therapist myself and I can tell you that therapists are just fallible humans like everyone else, and some do a bad job. Most of us do an okay job but we can't be the right therapist for everyone.

Giving direct advice and telling people what to do is not at all encouraged by any therapeutic technique but some therapists are more directive than others. Sometimes if there's an excellent rapport, a therapist may be more likely to be direct about their opinions. However, clearly that's not the case here.

Yes, find a new therapist! Like any relationship, finding the right fit can take time. Also, please do talk to your new therapist about this experience.
posted by bearette at 6:35 PM on July 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a therapist but not yours. I was reading this as just a bad fit at first, but then I read this:

"Except it has extended to all sorts of specific parts of my life ... and he has gotten visibly upset when I push back and say that isn't right for me."

That's not good therapy. That can be acceptable case management, but if you're not seeing them for case management, this level of direction-giving is not the norm in the field. Our job is to help clients find their own answers.

So, this can be a complicated dynamic related to many different things, and what I'm about to offer is wild speculation based on not nearly enough detail or context, so take it with a giant grain of salt. I'm not saying any of the following is definitely at play, only that things like this can be part of the situation sometimes.

It can be paternalism for sure. It can be professional ego all tied up in being the authority, where that person can even sabotage growth because they have secondary gain from being "the strong/together one."

It can also be this thing that happens when a client seems stuck. If we aren't functioning very well then we can be very stuck, and not every therapist is skilled at managing that type of dynamic. It may not be clear why the client is stuck, what is missing, where to take the conversation to help them find what they need internally to get unstuck. Sometimes people go to therapy and they want things to be different but can't articulate how, or want changes but don't want to actually change their behavior, or they come and seem to want the other person to make them be different without any real work on their own part (which isn't possible).

Some people come to therapy very disempowered with a great deal of learned helplessness. It takes a special type of therapist to be truly skilled with that dynamic. Learned helplessness can invoke rescuing in the people close to the helpless person. Rescuing can look like someone telling you how to live your life. I'd say that rescuing is even more of a hazard in any sort of executive functioning deficit situation. (As an aside, if there's trauma and also ADHD/autism type of issues you really need a provider that understands both well. ND approaches and NT approaches can diverge, as it were, considerably.) And this can also feed all sorts of control dramas on both sides, as well.

I admit that I'm absolutely terrible as a clinician in that type of situation due to my own personal stuff. I don't become authoritarian, but I'm not great with learned helplessness, because I'm not great at dealing with my own helplessness as a person.

Whether any of that was a factor in your situation or not, bottom line here is you have connection to your own instincts and those instincts were telling you at the time that his suggestions weren't a good fit, and now you feel like that's more true, so maybe the big take home for you in this is that you can safely trust yourself. Trust your own judgment about whether something is right for you or not.

(As another aside, if you're concerned about executive functioning messing up financials, having a proxy or something along those lines, you definitely want to find a good legal source to discuss that with. People with ADHD sometimes do need lots of scaffolding for financial management, and can have poor judgment due to not seeing cause and effects easily, but that doesn't mean they lack capacity in the legal sense or should have their rights altered because of it. I don't know why I'm reading that into your situation but if you feel like you've given legal authority to someone to manage your affairs and wish you hadn't, there's things you can do to address that.)

And if you work with a therapist who actually argues with you for not taking their advice, please fire them because that's not their job. Their job is to help you help yourself, not do any of it for you. You are absolutely right to question what happened with this person, regardless of the context around it.

Lastly, please do explain some version of this when you seek a new therapist. This would be such a helpful background for an ethical therapist to understand the ways that you have been wounded by the very thing that was meant to help you heal. It's very helpful to avoid accidentally hitting those same wounds again, to share that info. And, if you're trialing a therapist who gets their kicks from being the Decider for the client then you'll learn early on because they likely won't respond in a therapeutic way to hearing you say how much that sucks for you.

So in that sense it's like dating. The more we can put what we need and what turns us off out there, the faster the wrong people can reveal themselves as such and the closer we get to what's right.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:37 PM on July 9, 2021 [12 favorites]

There are a lot of barely adequate therapists and some that are really not very good. Then there are therapists whose outlook is a poor fit for you. It sounds like you are experiencing bad outcomes, and that suggests that a different therapist would be a good idea.

There are scenarios in which a therapist who gives a lot of advice and direction is okay, but your situation has a bad feel. You deserve a terrific, skilled therapist who will help you find your own way to healing and whatever skills you need.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 PM on July 9, 2021

I too, want to join in and say, this person may not be a good fit for you. I've had various therapists who were not a good fit for me, and others who gave me some good insight.

I did have a good fit for me, when joining a therapy place that was targeted toward women. It was more of, "I get you, and this is what you can do to get out of this," sort of therapy, which I liked a lot.

For me, it was: I validate you, and I will give you things to do to get you out of the things that are stopping you. And yes, I agree that your (ex/family of origin) things are stopping you, and I will explain it in a matter of fact manner, however, you need to walk X number of hours a day and commit to X number hours per day to your hobby (writing, for me). And then let's meet next week. So there was an acknowledgement, and a task. That was a total fit for me, and it really worked.

You have to find a therapist that works for you. I also have friends who I can count on, but I balance that with I might vent a while, but i also have to listen to them vent.

For me, at various times, I've felt that a good friend is better than a therapist, if that friend has listened to me, validated me, and I can then contemplate myself and my motives, and been like yeah, I was a jerk, or felt misundestood and can realize the other person, etc.

So many times in my life, I may or may not have been the jerk, but I just wanted someone to hear me, to understand me, to validate me. Maybe you can pay someone to do that, and get a good fit like I did, but I personally think therapy is a crap shoot, and recommending it here is also a detriment to many people who could just benefit from talking to a friend. Not every problem should be referred to therapy, what? Are we all mentally ill? Should we not talk to our friends and work out our issues without the benefit of some horrible mental health system that deems all of our problems a thing? I guess that's so, for people with lots of money and health insurance. For the rest of us, we talk to our peers, and often get better advice.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

The most damning thing, for me, is that he gets upset when you don't follow his advice. He sound like an unusually bad therapist.

You can do 100% better.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:19 AM on July 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Gosh, PercussivePaul's answers made my stomach drop with recognition.

If it's possible, I think the reality lies somewhere in between what PercussivePaul describes and the learned helplessness/rescuing that crunchy potato describes. In fact, when I first resumed therapy in spring of 2020, I was in such a low place that I did need my therapist to just step me through actions in the day to day, including how to smooth things over with my then boss, because I hadn't shown up (virtually) or responded to calls and texts for about a week.

But. Its kinda fucked up. Because I can look through this lens provided to me by PercussivePaul and there is a whole lot of discouraging me from activities to help myself, encouraging me to accept how disabled I am, a whole lot of ablest commentary, a whole lot of turning me away from the topics in therapy I want to discuss regarding managing many of the symptoms of ptsd, anxiety and depression (in one session, he said working on those topics were "a luxury you don't have right now").

So much of what he's been telling me doesn't match my internal or lived experience. I've tried to argue that case but constantly am having those experiences denied.

But it's not just that, the extent of being disabled and/or impaired he suggests or implies does not match that of outside disability organizations I've been engaging with. It's not that I am not disabled, I clearly do need help and support in some areas. But the answer I have gotten with those is that sure, with the right support, you can do work/school/life.

I actually did secretly record my last therapy session - I don't know why other than a gut feeling. I wanted to talk to him about how I felt therapy wasn't going the way I wanted with the question of how do I get help for the issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, as those are much bigger problems more than anything ADHD has thrown at me. I'll be honest, the session was weird. I've been trying to write out why but I am having trouble putting my finger on it; it just was off. To the point I'm afraid to listen to the recording.

I suspect this is going to take some real work with a new therapist to untangle. (sigh) thank you mefites.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 12:07 PM on July 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is making my skin crawl. I'm so sorry, OP. That's a terrible violation. Don't go back. Don't let this guy argue you into going back (don't discuss it with him at all). I'm glad you're going to find a new therapist.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:32 PM on July 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

"Short answer: I am a Licensed therapist (but not yours, and I don't currently practice individual therapy), you can have a bad therapist.

Even if this person is an objectively good person, they can still be an awful therapist for you. Its absolutely normal to need someone who enables you to make your own choices, even if they aren't what the therapist would want. It is your life and you get to do it your way.

Seconding Alexiasky. You'd like someone who suits your* needs, and can really "see," you, can push your vision forward, without hurting themselves, you, or others. A professional therapist should be able to help patients express themselves or actualize themselves, while never placing a person below.

Seconding recording, to more adequately understand the nature of the relationship.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:16 PM on July 10, 2021

Addendum: "So much of what he's been telling me doesn't match my internal or lived experience. I've tried to argue that case but constantly am having those experiences denied." This shouldn't happen.

I've had this experience with a therapist and took a break, and slightly repaired the concerns- but this is a sign the person may not understand your position or sense of direction, in which case, someone else may be a more direct match. They may also be misinterpreting your stance, perception, or actual experience, in which case at the very least you need a break, or to switch it up. You could even switch up the type of therapy you're seeking.

Very sorry about this experience, yikes.
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:23 PM on July 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

One issue, he makes very specific recommendations in my life of what I should and shouldn't do, and really pushes for me to do said thing if he thinks it's the right thing for me.

Don’t walk away from this therapist. Run. Run as fast as you can and find a new one.

I’ve had good therapists and I’ve had terrible ones, but all the worst therapists had one thing in common : they all liked to give advice.
posted by panama joe at 6:53 PM on July 15, 2021

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