It’s Not About the Money…

It’s not about the money. Even when it is.

* * *

I imagine that a lot of people, when they consider therapist abuse and exploitation, don’t really give much thought to the money factor. Sex grabs the big headlines and distracts people from the more practical and mundane elements of a therapist’s violations. Yet, we patients and clients are paying this person for their services. And when money is introduced into the equation, any personal issues we have with the green stuff are along for the ride, whether we like it or not.

So when I first walked into Dr. T’s office, let’s just say I already had plenty of issues about money. My relationship with money was (and continues to be) complicated, conflicted, and steeped in a thick, smelly stew of unmet needs and feelings of low self-worth.

Hey, grist for the mill, right? Isn’t that what therapy is for?

When I started seeing Dr. T, I didn’t exactly have money to burn. I was working very part-time and living largely off the inheritance I’d received when my father had passed away. After my dad died, I’d quit my administrative job to go back to school. I hated the work I was doing and was desperate for a change, but I had a hard time focusing on a new path and found myself easily derailed. I presumed that therapy would help me sort myself out and I put my faith in Dr. T to help me. (I guess you could say that was a mistake…)

I figured I could coast financially while we started this “sorting out” process. Still, I knew that the money wouldn’t last forever. And since I didn’t have much of an income, I regarded my resources as not just limited but finite. I only had so much time to get myself unstuck and move onward and upward. The pressure was on; I needed results.

Of course, once the abuses started, any chance of success was gone. Too bad I didn’t realize it. Every week I’d show up and hand over my rapidly diminishing funds for sessions that had become excuses for sex and exploitation. Though I wanted to believe that the “therapy” would, over time, help me work through my issues, I found myself having doubts. My life was at a standstill. No matter what I did, I simply could not move forward. Dr. T didn’t seem overly concerned about my lack of progress, but then, he wasn’t the one dishing out the bucks. Me? I felt confused and worried. Why wasn’t I making progress? Was there just too much wrong with me? Maybe I was unfixable, a lost cause. Or maybe talk therapy didn’t work for me. Maybe…

For those of you in therapy, have you ever hit a plateau? You know, when you’re going every week but nothing seems to be changing and you’re not quite sure what to do about it? Do you ever take a step back, look at your therapy objectively, and see if it’s working for you? I think that can be a real challenge. Especially when you like your therapist and appreciate having someone you can talk to every week. Why mess with it? If you had to think about whether it was “working” and whether you were getting your money’s worth, you might come to the conclusion that something needed to change—and maybe you don’t want to change. You just want it to work. But what if there’s a money issue? What if you can’t afford to be paying for something that’s not working? What are you going to do then?

For some of us, the answer, quite often, is nothing. It’s ever so much easier to stay in denial and cling to the fantasy that says, It will all work out if I just keep doing what I’m doing. Or, Maybe if I just try harder…

That was my answer. So I just kept showing up and handing over the checks.

But here’s the interesting thing: Even though I was inhabiting some alternate reality where being screwed by my therapist was about Love and Spirit and Dr. T was an enlightened servant of God who had my best interests at heart and would never knowingly do anything to harm me, I was upset about the money. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that he was okay taking money from me for sessions that revolved around sex. Given his “superior consciousness,” I just didn’t understand it. It didn’t seem right. I found myself…disturbed.

My experience went something like this: I’d arrive for my appointment with my check to Dr. T already filled out, and when I walked into the room I’d simply place the check on his desk. Doing this at the beginning of session saved time and worry, especially since I never knew what state my brain would be inhabiting by the end of the session.

Then…well…we’d greet each other and there’d usually be some funny business. In my fantasy world, hugs and kisses were okay. The hand down the back of my pants…maybe not. The longer the funny business went on, the more likely I was to get worried.

See, I knew I needed therapy—that’s what I was paying for. That’s what I could afford to pay for. But— It was just so damn hard to say no to Dr. T (and heaven knows he didn’t want me to say no!)—and once he got started I didn’t know how to get him to stop. (Because, of course, that was my responsibility.) Once we were having sex, his were the only needs that mattered. I lost my voice, my sense of self, and my will to do anything other than exactly what he wanted me to do.

Still, he could be going at it, my body right there with him, and my mind would be on my check sitting there on his desk. I’d be in some whacked out, altered state, yet intensely aware that $140 of my inheritance—all that was left of my dad—was there on Dr. T’s desk, waiting to be swept up and deposited into his bank account.

Sometimes I felt anxious, panicked about the money I was “losing.” I knew I couldn’t afford this, but—what could I do? I’d try to put the panic from my mind, stay present, focus on the sex (!), try not to see the check on his desk. But it was like trying to ignore a wound that keeps seeping blood, no matter how hard you try to staunch the flow. All I could feel was loss.

I knew we weren’t really doing therapy (despite his occasional claims to the contrary). Whatever fantasy I’d made up about our sexual “relationship” I still knew that I shouldn’t be paying him for…love, sex, or whatever this was. Besides, if he really cared about me and the sex really was about Love (as he told me repeatedly), how could he take my money? He was well aware of my less than sufficient financial situation. How could he, in good conscience, let me pay him for this? Didn’t that mean I was paying him for…sex? Wasn’t that wrong?

But Dr. T did let me pay him for every session, sex or not. He even took payment for “house calls.” Those were the days when, due to a cancellation, he’d end up with a longer than usual lunch break, and—what the heck, why not just go over to Kristi’s place and have the session there? He’d show up, maybe bring his lunch, and we’d sit and talk for, oh, maybe a half hour—you know, “therapy talk”—and then he’d say, “Why don’t we go lie down?…” And we’d spend the next hour or so in bed until it was time for him to jet back to his office in time for for his next patient.

My dependency on him was so great that I didn’t dare question him. Money was never an easy topic to discuss with Dr. T, a self-made man who was proud of both his nice shiny toys as well as his knack for frugality. Any complaints from me about my financial situation were likely to result in my being teasingly admonished for my lack of gratitude, my inadequate employment status, you name it. Being shamed by one’s therapist—an excellent therapeutic technique!

Instead, whenever I became sufficiently freaked out about my finances, my solution was to try to leave therapy. I wanted to be a peer, not a patient, and I didn’t really want to keep paying him for sessions. We were having a sexual relationship, for heaven’s sake, and it had become nearly impossible for me to regard him as my “therapist.” I wanted out.

Unfortunately, my attempts to leave therapy never worked. Using a devastating combination of charm, false sincerity, and regretful apologies for his limited availability outside of scheduled appointment times, he would inevitably hook me back in whenever I attempted to stray from his clutches. I couldn’t bear the thought of not having him in my life, and I was willing to do whatever it took to hold onto him, no matter the cost.

So it was a HUGE relief when we (and when I say we I mean he) finally decided to terminate therapy. At last I was no longer financially beholden to him—and man was that a good thing.

When my wakeup call came many months later, I had no trouble understanding that he had been wrong to take my money. This made it a whole heck of a lot easier for me to pursue civil litigation. Dr. T had, essentially, stolen money from me and I wanted it back. I knew I deserved to be compensated for my loss.

I thought that being recompensed for the money I paid him would make me feel better. It didn’t.

This was partly due to the fact that Dr. T only had to pay $500 of the settlement. (His insurance company paid the rest.) And mostly due to my own sense of shame about what I’d handed over to him.

I know, I know—it was abuse, he held an enormous amount of power over me, I didn’t really consent—I know all that stuff. But knowing it intellectually still doesn’t wipe away the grief and the shame I feel about what I gave to him.

I gave him that money. I gave him…me. I gave him so much that I simply could not afford to lose.

Despite my efforts at recovery, I continue to have trouble forgiving myself for those losses. I feel ashamed of giving so much of myself away to someone to whom I meant so little. I wish I had valued myself and my money enough that I didn’t need to look outside myself, to Dr. T, for a sense of worth.

The settlement from the lawsuit may have compensated me for my financial losses, but as for the rest of it? It’s going to take a little longer to get that back.

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  1. Great article Kristi !
    This should be in the American Journal of Psychiatry as well as Psych Today !!

    I wish I had a nickle back of every dollar I’ve spent the last 37 years trying to find at least one (1) safe person with an education and a professional license to help me overcome the affects of the first one.
    I don’t have exact figures, but I know insurance reimbursements and co-pays flushed away on these lechers would make a good down payment for a nice home.

    Legislative oversight as well as policing from an unrelated outside agency is long overdue for this unbridled industry riding the coat tails of legitimate health-care.

    Tom S. in Tn.

  2. Dear Kristi, thank you for sharing your experience. You make me feel empowered to continue pursuing my civil suit against the massage therapist who abused me. Please don’t continue to beat yourself up about what you GAVE him, he set you up so he could take it from you, and very likely has done this to numerous patients. Shame on HIM, NOT you! I would encourage you to do a little research on sexual abusers, namely the process called GROOMING(google that term) that they intentionally use to manipulate their desired targets. It is people like you and me and others who go public with their stories who will eventually get the laws changed to truly protect the public.
    I realize we’re adults, but sometimes the unmet needs from our childhood continue to speak to us, and can drive us to unhealthy situations as we try to work them out subconsciously. This is where it gets tricky. You must learn how to separate your “stuff” in this situation from Mr. T’s “stuff. Your stuff is based on the various needs your were trying to get met ( many of which come from unmet childhood needs), and his stuff , which, was FIRST and FOREMOST THE VIOLATION OF HIS PROFESSIONAL ETHICS, along with what ever his personal hang ups are — power over women is very common in men such as this, but it could be any issue he has not come to terms with himself. REFUSE TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS ACTIONS NO MATTER HOW SUBTLE OR OUTRIGHT, but try to be as honest with yourself as you can. I have to say from 2 years of intense work (with a female counselor), that I now allow myself to spend time with these painful feelings, grieving them whenever necessary, otherwise I don’t heal, and am unable to move on from any given point. Even then, moving on is difficult, and sometimes I slip backwards into shame ,myself. It is often two steps forward, one step back, but we do start to make progress.
    The most important lesson in all this is learning to love yourself, that is crucial to not being vulnerable to predators. If you love yourself, you begin to believe that you’re just as worthy of good in your life, as anyone else, so you start making room for you in our own life. Start giving yourself compassion instead of judgement. I know it’s cliche, but we all do truly makes mistakes, give yourself permission to learn from those mistakes, and not judge yourself.
    My last thing I wanted to say was that your blog is very important because a lot needs to be done to inform the public of how to know when they’ve been violated by a healthcare provider, and their code of ethics is often times not public knowledge, nor is it displayed in plain view of the client upon entrance to their place of business. Having a topic of discussion pertaining to how we the public would like to be protected by these professions bylaws would be of interest to me as I am planning on addressing my State Board, Attorney General’s Office, City Council, and Professional Boards, about my grievances with the damages done me by this less than professional massage therapist.
    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your blog. Never give up, especially where your freedom from the past is concerned, allow everything you have learned propel you forward toward personal growth.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate your concern regarding my situation and the perspective I was writing from in this particular post. I think you will find, as you explore the blog, that I’ve written about many different aspects of my experience, including grooming and the subject of consent .

      What actually comes out very clearly in your comment is how much work and healing you’ve done regarding your own situation. Congratulations! You are absolutely correct in your comments about the professional’s responsibility and violation of ethics and how our vulnerabilities so often come from unmet needs in childhood.

      I would love to hear more about any actions you take in speaking out at the city, county, state, and national levels. I think it’s important to get a discussion going on these topics, so feel free to post. I’ve started a new discussion post.

      All the best to you on your own journey!

  3. Dear Kristi

    I want to thank you so much for creating this wonderful blog and sharing your experience.Sorry for any mistakes in english ,I am living in a little european country,Greece, and english is not my native language
    Idiscovered your blog a month ago and felt as coming to an oasis after suffering from my therapists abuse .I feel stronger and less lonely with my unbearable emotional pain wich I have been keeping in silence and shame.I was surprised by recognizing my own feelings and reactions in your story .Especially the feeling of after being the privilegied ,special,patient to be devaluated to just a patient after the end of this illusional love relationship, when his erotic interest in me faded away.Your words “I gave my self to someone I ment so little” went directly to my heart and made me very sad.Still I do believe that they are words said with tremendous inner strength and dignity and Iam glad that you have gone that far in your healing process.It gives me so much hope that I may be can also recover from feeling devastated. I also have been feeling totally stolen from my therapist.I feel stolen of my money,my dignity and my life .I feel humiliated because I was paying for therapy but what Iwas getting was a soapbubble of what he conducted me to believe was a love relationship.I felt that I lost totally my dignity as I could not end this abusive relationship in time but because of my dependency I became a marionett in his hands , or even worse a beggar of his love and mercy.At the ending phase of this so called analytical therapy he became very sadistic and revengfull against me ,it is still terrible to remember,and Ifelt apart into an emotinal breakdown.Isufferad from extreme high levels of stress ,panic attacks and still suffer from PTSD.I am still very confused about how could I let all that happen to me even being a psychologist my self.How my love or my love transference to him became the key of his sexual misconduct and then destructive sadistic behaviour after I denied to have sex with him.How could I be so blind or stupid to believe him ,to fall in love with him and think that I had found my soulmate?Today I can admit that I wasnt loved as I thought then,but exploited from a narcissist.If he loved me he would not accept my money for having a love relationship.Neither would he withdrow all his feelings and switch on to sadism and humiliation when I didnt consent to have sex with him.I dont know why I didnt agree to have sex with him despite the fact that I was so deeply in love with him.I think that he didnt give me a free choice but manipulated me into it.,it was probably my intuition who said No despite my desire.But the desaster was no possible to avoid.When his sexual demands where not met ,he abandonned me totally and started to devaluate me with cruel and insulting comments.Unfortunatelly I didnt have the strenghth to leave but instead of that I became more dependant to him.I thought all was my fault.I was manipulated and brainwashed to that extend that I accused myself for being a coward who didnt dare to make the breakthrew to hapiness and mutual love by surrendering sexually to him in a ‘complete relationship’.He then punished me for my trauma treating me as an immature child imprisonned in an adult womans body and devaluating me to’ just a client’.Also he then let me understand that he invested now his interest to another woman. I felt as everything was lost both the love relationhip and my therapy and tried to suicide.The emotianal pain and sorrow I was feeling was unbearable.What I was experiencing was beyond the limits of pain.Thinkinkg of death was a releif,as the only way to to stop that unbearable pain.Fortunatelly I had an angel and the caring of my friends helped me so Yes I am still alive and want to live despite my pain. Today three years later I think that I wasted my self ,my love, my trust ‘to someone I ment so little’.To someone who was probably delighted of having so much power on me and playing games with my feelings to feed his own narcissism.Its really creepy when I realize that in fact he didnt care about me at all and I was paying for this abuse as therapy.
    Under along period I was accusing myself and wondering what if I had dared to get into a sexual relationhip with him?May be we would be happy together?Your experience and the article “what if he marries you’ helped me to waken up from this illusion of a lost paradise.So I want to thank you once again for your generosity and creativity to work with this fantastic blog.It gives me hope and inspiration to create one day my own blog in my country as still here therapy abuse is a taboo to talk about and the clients rights are far away from the reality in the US.
    This period I am without therapeutical help despite the fact that Ineed it so much. I have tried with several analytical therapists but it didnt worked well.I was met with disbelief and felt intimidated to talk and shamefull for my experience,and that filled me with even more desperation.Anyawy I hope I will somehow find a way out of this impass. You have helped with this blog to feel less lonely with my experience and iI this is a good start

    my best regards


    • So many similarities in feeling! it continues to shock me what we all have in common. I was especially moved by this: “because of my dependency I became a marionett in his hands , or even worse a beggar of his love and mercy.” It is so true and so sad. I am also very sorry to hear you’ve suffered secondary wounding by the therapeutic community. That is truly inexcusable.

      Remember that his actions were all about him and not about you. The mistake we make is in believing that another’s actions are reflections of our own worth and value.

      I hope you are able to find some good, caring people who can support you in your recovery. You are not alone!

  4. Pingback: Resources: Therapist Abuse « Kate1975's Blog

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