Treatment Abuse Checklist

Is There Something Wrong or Questionable in Your Treatment?

Estelle Disch, Ph.D.
BASTA! Boston Associates to Stop Treatment Abuse
528 Franklin Street, Cambridge, MA 02139
Copyright © 1990, 1992

The purpose of this list is to alert you to boundary issues that frequently occur in poor or abusive treatment and health care. If you are currently in a treatment that doesn’t feel right, and/or if several of the items below describe your treatment, I suggest that you find a consultant who does not know your current practitioner in order to assess whether or not the treatment is viable. If you have been in a treatment relationship that didn’t feel good to you, this list might help you identify what went wrong. The list below is not exhaustive. It is intended to offer examples of the kinds of behaviors that very often accompany poor treatment. Although most items apply to psychotherapy, some can apply to other kinds of health care, pastoral counseling, or clergy relationships. There is a section on touch-based health care (including bodywork) at the end of this checklist.

Certain items below might not always reflect poor treatment. For example, it might make sense to break ties with abusive people in your life, and a practitioner might support this with your best interests in mind. If, however, the practitioner is encouraging you to break ties with all your close relationships with the sole purpose of making you extremely dependent on him or her, that is very likely to be poor treatment. A practitioner who encourages you to see him or her as often as you can afford might genuinely have your best interests in mind. The issue to examine is whether he/she is encouraging extra sessions as part of his or her own need to have you become excessively dependent. A practitioner might occasionally share something about him/herself in order to help you (e.g. let you know you’re not the only one who has experienced that difficulty; offer some advice about what helped him/her in a similar situation). If, however, the practitioner talks about him or herself as a way of asking for help from you, as a way of having you serve as an audience, or as a way of derailing you from the issue you raised, there’s probably serious trouble in your treatment.

Good, boundaried psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, addiction counseling, bodywork, medical practice, etc. should always be oriented to your emotional and medical needs and not to the emotional needs of the practitioner. Practitioners who are lonely, need attention, have deep unresolved problems, and/or who lack good training in boundary issues are apt to do marginal or poor treatment. There are good practitioners, and you have a right to be treated by them.

Many of the items listed below might fit into more than one category.

For a PDF version of this list, click this link: Treatment Abuse Checklist

Business Practices

  • Practitioner has offered to see me for free or for a very low fee as a favor to me.
  • Since my fee is so low, the practitioner expects me to bring food for him/her to the sessions or to do other tasks in exchange for treatment.
  • Practitioner bills insurance for sessions that don’t occur.
  • Sessions frequently run over by half an hour or more.
  • I am usually the last appointment of the day.
  • There is usually no one else around when I have my appointments.
  • The practitioner often keeps me waiting for long periods of time.
  • I owe the practitioner over $1,000.
  • I often don’t know how long a session is going to last. Sometimes it’s 20 minutes, other times it’s an hour and a half.
  • The practitioner frequently answers the phone during my sessions.
  • If the practitioner is hungry, we go to a restaurant during my session.

Dependency, Isolation and Goal Derailment

  • The practitioner has told me that I should break ties with most of my important relationships (such as those listed below) and I don’t understand why:

Mother      Father      Sister(s)      Brother(s)      Partner or Spouse
Social groups      Religious activities      Treatment group
Close friend(s)      Political groups      12-Step programs      Other

  • The practitioner encourages me to see him/her as often as I can afford to do so, even if I don’t feel a need to come so often.
  • The practitioner encourages me to telephone him/her often, even if I feel I don’t need to.
  • The practitioner tells me what she/he is doing in terms of personal growth and suggests that I do the same thing.
  • The practitioner goes out of his or her way to accommodate the frequent schedule changes that I request, even though it is very inconvenient for him/her.
  • The practitioner suggested that I drop out of school.
  • The practitioner seemed to think that my plans to go to/complete school were a bad idea.
  • The practitioner thought that my ideas to change my career for the better were not a good idea.
  • The practitioner offered to see me free if I were to run out of money, even if I needed long-term free treatment.
  • The practitioner has given me his or her own used clothing.
  • The practitioner tells me what clothing to wear and/or how to wear my hair.
  • The practitioner demands that I talk to no one about my treatment.
  • I have said several times that I’d like to see another practitioner for a consultation about my treatment, but my practitioner is adamant that I shouldn’t do it.
  • The practitioner regularly offers concrete support to me such as visits to my home, accompanying me in difficult situations, frequent calling to see how I am. When I am in a crisis, he/she is even more available.
  • I feel with this practitioner as though I’ve found the kind of help and understanding I’ve wanted all my life.
  • The practitioner regularly reminds me that she/he is the only person in my life who really cares about me. The practitioner regularly reminds me that he/she is the only person who really understands me and knows what’s good for me.

Social Contact

  • I have been to parties where the practitioner was and the practitioner didn’t discuss the implications of traveling in the same social circles.
  • The practitioner has invited me to parties.
  • I have invited the practitioner to parties to which he/she came.
  • I have invited the practitioner to parties to which he/she did not come but said it was because of a prior engagement.
  • I have attended professional meetings with this practitioner at his/her invitation.
  • This practitioner and I usually attend the same AA or Al-Anon (or equivalent) meeting.
  • This practitioner often gives me a ride to the bus at the end of the session.
  • This practitioner often gives me a ride home.
  • I have stayed at this practitioner’s house overnight.
  • I have spent social time with members of this practitioner’s family.
  • I have been/am intimately involved with one or more members of this practitioner’s family.
  • This practitioner and I have close friends in common.
  • Practitioner said or implied that we could be friends when treatment was over.
  • The practitioner sometimes takes drugs or drinks alcohol with me.
  • The practitioner has given me illegal drugs.
  • I have seen my practitioner nude at the health spa, gym, etc.
  • I have seen my practitioner at the gym or health club (dressed).
  • My practitioner and I are on the same sports team.
  • My practitioner and I are on competing sports teams and predictably see each other in that context.
  • I have access to a lot of personal information about the practitioner from mutual friends or colleagues.
  • We have never discussed how social contact outside the professional relationship might affect the professional relationship.
  • Other kinds of social contact. Please describe:

Feeling Special 

  • The practitioner told me that I was his/her favorite client.
  • The practitioner talked about other clients in my presence.
  • The practitioner took calls from other clients in my presence and let me know who they were.
  • The practitioner said that she/he had never known anyone like me before.
  • The practitioner gives me lots of presents and says they’re a reflection of how important I am to him/her.
  • The practitioner tells me about other clients in a way that makes me feel important, trusted and special.
  • The practitioner told me I was special.
  • Other ways the practitioner helped you feel special. Please describe:

Cult Themes

  • There are many clients who seem close to this practitioner. I have met them or heard about them.
  • The practitioner likes to foster a sense of family and community among his/her clients, which I have been part of.
  • There are often parties or social meetings at the practitioner’s home, which I have attended.
  • The practitioner often takes former clients on as trainees at his/her training institute.
  • The practitioner plays the role of “guru” for his/her clients. He/she has a vision about how the world should be and is trying to develop a community of clients as followers/participants in this community.
  • I myself have been part of the planning group for the community the practitioner hopes to develop.
  • The practitioner talks about other clients I know with no respect for their right to confidentiality.
  • Ritualized group activities such as ceremonies were part of my relationship with the practitioner and his/her community.
  • The practitioner is the “guru” of the group in which she/he is involved.
  • Ritualized, sadistic activity in the presence of others.
  • Other ways the practitioner established a community or family-type atmosphere. Please describe:

Mind Control 

  • The practitioner uses hypnosis as part of the treatment and I often don’t know what’s going on. When I ask, he/she refuses to answer.
  • I feel as though I’ve been hypnotized or somehow in a trance-like state in the practitioner’s presence, though he/she doesn’t seem to obviously use hypnosis.
  • I remember the practitioner making hypnotic suggestions that I don’t feel comfortable with.
  • After treatment was over, I began to remember some of the things the practitioner said or did while I was in a trance-like state, which in retrospect feel very uncomfortable or abusive.
  • The practitioner suggested that I kill myself.
  • The practitioner failed to take my suicidal feelings seriously. The practitioner suggested or implied that I might be better off dead.
  • The practitioner fostered a lot of dependency and then started trying to get me to do things I didn’t want to do.
  • The practitioner insulted what I believed were the good parts of my life.
  • A short time after I started treatment, my life began to fall apart. The practitioner didn’t seem concerned about my life. Rather, he/she seemed concerned that I stay dependent on him/her. Sometimes I feel/felt drugged after sessions.
  • Other ways the practitioner affected your thinking or undermined your strength. Please describe:

Sexual Activity

  • The practitioner engaged (with or without physical force) in overt sexual contact such as: kissing of mouth, breasts, genitals; sexual hugs (prolonged full body hugs, pelvic thrusts, obvious erections); partial or total disrobing for the purpose of sexual contact; fondling of breasts or genitals (with or without clothing); masturbation; oral sex; vaginal or anal intercourse; use of sex toys; sexual activity while I was drugged.
  • Practitioner engaged in sexual activity with me against my will.
  • Practitioner initiated sexual activity with me on the condition that I keep quiet about it, by saying things like: If this gets out it will ruin me and/or my family.
  • After the sexual part of my relationship with the practitioner ended, he/she told me that if I told anyone she/he’d be ruined.
  • After the sexual part of my relationship with the practitioner ended, he/she threatened to expose embarrassing parts of my psychological history if I ever told anyone in authority or filed a complaint.
  • Practitioner threatens that if I don’t work on my repressed sexuality by being sexual with him/her, I’ll never get better.
  • After treatment ended, the practitioner called to ask me for a date.
  • A short time after treatment ended, I started a sexual relationship with the practitioner.

Seductive Language and Nonverbal Interaction:

  • Practitioner says, “If only I’d known you back then, we’d have made a good couple…”
  • Practitioner compliments my body.
  • Practitioner discusses his/ her sexual attraction to me.
  • Practitioner says, “If only we both weren’t married…”
  • Practitioner says he/she would like to have an affair with me when treatment is over.
  • Practitioner seems to have a voyeuristic interest in my sex life.
  • Practitioner sends me love letters.
  • Practitioner gives me sex toys to use at home, tells me how to use them and asks for details about how I’m doing with them.
  • Practitioner makes frequent comments on my appearance with the goal of having me appear as “sexually attractive” as possible.
  • Practitioner often suggested or implied that we could have an affair when treatment was over.
  • Practitioner looks at me in a voyeuristic way.

Treatment Process

  • Practitioner tells me his/her problems so that I can offer help or advice.
  • Practitioner talks a lot about him/herself and I don’t understand the relevance of what she/he is sharing for my treatment.
  • Practitioner seems to free associate to what I say and spin off into his/her own thinking. I feel like my issues aren’t being addressed.
  • Practitioner always acts like he/she knows what’s best for me without asking me.
  • Practitioner is cold, distant, rigid.
  • Practitioner gets very angry, sometimes yells at me.
  • Practitioner interprets everything that happens between us as transference, even when I’m sure he/she has had a clear effect on how I feel.
  • Since starting treatment, I’ve felt worse rather than better, and the practitioner doesn’t seem concerned that this is happening or explain why it might be happening.
  • After starting treatment, my life began to fall apart. Rather than being concerned about the quality of my life or my state of mind, the practitioner seems more interested that I stay dependent upon him/her.
  • Since starting treatment, I’ve felt suicidal for the first time in my life; the practitioner doesn’t seem concerned.
  • Practitioner is hostile, sadistic.
  • Practitioner seems to enjoy my pain.
  • Practitioner fails to take my suicidal feelings seriously.
  • Practitioner suggested, either directly or indirectly, that I kill myself (e.g. that I would be better off dead; that s/he dreamt that I was dead; that suicide might be a reasonable alternative for me, etc.).
  • Practitioner insults parts of myself over which I have little or no control such as my physical characteristics and abilities, weight, race, gender, age, sexual orientation, hospitalization history, etc.
  • Practitioner insults other aspects of my life. She/he seems more interested in tearing me down than in building me up.
  • Practitioner threatens that if I don’t do what he/she says, I’ll never get better. Sometimes that feels right, sometimes it doesn’t.
  • The practitioner diminished the importance of a prior abusive treatment.
  • The practitioner refuses to address my current needs, always insisting that my current problems must be addressed by working with my earlier experiences.
  • The practitioner repeatedly yells at me in a loud voice.
  • I often say that I don’t think treatment is going very well and the practitioner brushes me off.
  • When I raise questions about what is happening in my treatment, the practitioner refuses to discuss the treatment process, how he/she works, what I can expect from the treatment, etc.
  • The practitioner would not tell me what his/her credentials are.
  • The practitioner misrepresented his/her credentials.
  • The practitioner advertised services that he/she was not qualified to deliver.
  • The practitioner uses drugs or alcohol with me.
  • The practitioner encouraged me to use drugs or alcohol, even though he/she knows that I have a history of troubles with drugs or alcohol.
  • The practitioner seemed drugged or drunk in sessions.
  • The practitioner and I used drugs or alcohol together during treatment sessions or office visits.
  • The practitioner insults me for having the problems I have.
  • The treatment ended without a termination process.
  • The treatment ended with me feeling very upset, and the practitioner didn’t suggest a referral to another practitioner.
  • The practitioner talked about me with other people without my permission.
  • The practitioner failed to carefully explain the limits of confidentiality.
  • Other aspects of the therapy process that didn’t feel right. Please describe:

Dual Roles

  • The practitioner is my clinical supervisor (or vice versa).
  • I work for the practitioner.
  • I work for the practitioner in exchange for treatment sessions.
  • The practitioner is/was my teacher, dissertation advisor, etc.
  • The practitioner and I are friends apart from the treatment.
  • The practitioner is a relative of mine.
  • The practitioner is a close friend of my family.
  • The practitioner and I are colleagues or peers in a work setting.
  • The practitioner and I are engaged in a joint business venture.
  • The practitioner has borrowed money from me.
  • Other dual roles. Please describe:

In Bodywork, Health Care, etc. Involving Physical Contact

  • This practitioner touches parts of my body that seem unrelated to the issues I’ve presented, and I don’t understand why. When I ask, I don’t get an adequate explanation.
  • This practitioner’s touches seem more like sexual caresses than the kind of touch that feels appropriate in a medical treatment or examination.
  • This practitioner’s hands seem to linger too long on my body during a physical examination or treatment.
  • This practitioner touches me in ways that hurt without preparing me for what will happen and without negotiating what my treatment or diagnostic alternatives might be.
  • This practitioner seems to enjoy the fact that some of the physical contact he/she initiates is painful to me.
  • This practitioner blames me for the health problems I have and acts as though I deserve them.
  • This practitioner seems hostile towards my body.
  • This practitioner makes comments of a sexualized nature about my body.
  • This practitioner has not asked me whether there are parts of my body that I would prefer not to have touched.
  • This practitioner does not explain what she/he is doing or what I should expect in an exam or treatment.
  • This practitioner leaves parts of my body uncovered after she/he has finished examining or treating those parts, even though I have requested that my body be covered except for those parts being treated or examined.
  • If I take a friend or advocate along when I see this practitioner, he/she addresses communication to that person rather than to me.

Copyright © 1998 BASTA! All rights reserved.

This information has been reproduced on with permission of the author.

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  1. Hi,

    an afterthought about karma.

    Science is starting to show that we can inherit stress and trauma from our parents and grandparents through sperm & egg. Also from conception to about three years old we are ‘open’ to imprinting traumatic experiences. These become ingrained and affect our entire subsequent development. This science is called: ‘Epigenetics’.

    The problem with repression is that it suppresses memory and therefore conscience. This is why people can continue to act against nature and even against their own ‘conscience’ (if they were conscious of the consequences that is). So, unfortunately I personally don’t believe in karma any more. Sadly people DO get away with crimes.

    Though it is natural to wish people who are offensive would WAKE UP and see the harm they cause and STOP, perhaps showing some remorse. But it’s possible to get eaten up with feelings of revenge, the desire to lash out is natural and in a way shouldn’t be stopped. . . But to actually lash out at another person usually results in more chaos & confusion. I feel it’s good to try to form the words to describe how the other person has actually been violent of abusive, or manipulative. It can be very difficult because often there are third or fourth parties involved, often children who must remain ‘innocent’. Manipulation happens all the time and it’s good to develop a sense of HOW and even why.

    Karma, like ‘original sin’ can be used to justify the suffering that already exists and so in a kind of self fulfilling way to believe in karma is also to believe perhaps YOU personally deserved the pain inflicted on you. I have heard the old mantras so many times before: “you made bad choices”, “You need to change your behaviour / attitude / appearance”. . . Perhaps you even need to “Forgive & forget”. . .

    I also don’t believe in forgiveness. I can see why it can help. . . but again isn’t it just a way to let the abuser off and take on the pain as if it were YOUR karma?

    Our parents and carers when we were little are often the culprits and perhaps never find out what they did to us. My son is ill with problems inflicted on him by his drug addicted mother many years ago. I know my part in his downfall and I would not want his ‘forgiveness’. Nor would I want to believe in karma as a way to justify his or my suffering because it doesn’t actually alleviate the pain. It makes it worse.
    Be careful what you believe in.

    Paul G.

    • I’m really appreciating this dialogue that is going on and the great comments and information. I’ve been reading about epigenetics myself (along with somatic psychology) and am finding out all sorts of information about how we “inherit” emotions, patterns, and all that.

      I want to chime in on the topic of forgiveness, which means something different to each of us. I think a lot of people see forgiveness as letting someone off the hook for what they did or absolving them of responsibility for their behavior. I have a different take on it. For me, it’s more about letting go of my own attachment to what they did or to wanting things to have been different. For me, forgiveness is about accepting what happened as ‘what happened’ and choosing to move on rather than to keep myself emotionally attached to that person through continuing to suffer (because I want them to see my pain or to make amends or because I want to continue to hold what they did against them, etc.). Forgiveness is a way of releasing my own energetic attachment to the person/situation and letting myself move forward. In doing that, yes, it releases the other person, too, but it does not absolve them of responsibility for their behavior and it does not free them from the consequences of their behavior.

      Anyway, that’s my two cents on it.

      Thanks for the great contributions!

        • I do agree with Kristi, and so does my experience. And I did suffer abuse, sexually as a young child, physically (violence, torture), emotionally, and psychologically. The mind is the only thing that divides us and everything. “Evil” in the world cannot be overcome, only resisted within ourselves.

    • Thank you.You are very insightful.I was abused by psychopaths (yes many) in my family.My therapist and and M.D. both told me I should feel sorry for them. Apparently they don’t understand you give these people empathy they are going to FIND some way to use it against YOU. But I really and truly thank you for your insight.I think it helped more than the article.

  2. Someone wrote about forgiveness. Life and therapists have destroyed me. I have nothing left after social workers, therapists, and social service agencies made up lies about me in order to justify cutting my mental health services. I have nobody left to help me with my bipolar disorder. I am told to go to another agency. I will never again trust social workers, therapists, and social service agencies. They all lie and make up things in order to destroy someone. I made a complaint against a caseworker and the agency made me out to be the villain and said I was cussing at them and using the F word. It never happened. I have no trust in humanity anymore. I am done with trusting people. I have no friends and am done with people too. I now see therapists and social workers as scumbags that milk the state and don’t give any real help to people with mental illness. Someone made comments about forgiveness and I am hoping the people that betrayed me and made me out to be a villain will burn in hell.

    • Hi CArl,

      I have been feeling like you seem to be, I think these people who get jobs in so called ‘care professions’ are often well meaning but end up in a long rank of corporate straight jackets, this allows the worst kind of leadership to emerge. Where I live, it’s still like the “Sweeny” from back in the 70’s. They are the ones who like revenge because they are there to ‘protect the victim’ and so they can indulge in a little ‘reverse think’. The system doesn’t really stop it because the ‘professionals’ involved don’t understand the manipulations that go on. These ‘upper handers’ can’t resist the opportunity to get one over you. They have access to info and law on you and the legal / moral upper hand at their disposal. It’s imperative NOT to give them the pleasure of seeing you try to GET one back on them. Even if you decide to try to protect yourself from false accusation they will misinterpret your actions as ‘resistant’ or ‘counter dependent’.

      Try for your own sanity to write down exactly what happened. It’s all to easy to keep stalling over the details because you forgot what exactly they were, because they are so often VERY painful. That’s what repression does; Yet you still feel completely aggrieved, unwitnessed and unheard. One of the problems with trauma is that the events gets locked into inaccessible memory. But the consequences of the trauma continue to ‘act out’ in a different realm.
      Most of the existing authorities are still locked into a ‘behavioural framework’. They are behaviourists deciding on what IS or ISN’t law. . . They are not interested in justice yet they are paid to serve the community and to protect people, perhaps even from themselves.

      I think it’s important to realise most of the mainstream therapeutic practice is well behind the science research. The way I see it the authorities still make a moral judgement on people with mental & emotional health problems. Some try not to in some countries, but stigmatising these problems seems to be part of the human condition widely every where. Power corrupts and uses disadvantage people as scapegoats.

      Paul G.

    • i believe i am where your at i was filing for disability and my therapist lied and said i was fine and blah blah blah that was the report that came back from the judge and the report also said that I abuse substances! I was stunned! I have never done drug and my Rx are low milligrams by my… request for fear of substance abuse! I don’t know what to do I have a feeling this therapist knows my ex’s family but how do I prove this! I was stunned to get a letter from the ssi judge that was in his report i got today! the lied and said I didn’t show up for appointments! if i was going to miss I always called they still putting me down as a no show? I am terrified!

  3. Hi Kristy,

    Well, epigenetics kind of shows we are all in the same boat and that’s crucial to what I imagine you mean by forgiveness. I’m not sure. . .
    Relationships (particularly ‘one to one’) are a ‘give and take’ affair. So, to my mind and feelings it takes patience for some one who has become disadvantaged at the hands of another to see whether or not their ‘other’ is ‘worthy’ of forgiveness. So often it is all about that ‘precious’ relationship. Forgive me if I make out the victim has the right to judge, and surely the ‘victim’ / target does have the right to judge? So often with mental health situations it is the perpetrator convincing (judging) his/her target that s he is to blame etc etc etc. That’s what bullying is. . . That’s why the therapist must never deny their own fallibility. That’s what this blog is about I hope.

    The fact that people fail to be perfect and that fallibility is inevitable is not the point. In the end it is the child and the patient who’s needs must come first. That’s even a point of law, though I wouldn’t advise any one to take matters that far unless they have a very good case to present and a very deep pocket.

    Paul G.

    • Paul,
      I don’t disagree with you. And I believe very much in accountability and that people who violate fiduciary trust should be held responsible for their actions. Absolutely! (I did have a good case and a very small pocket, but most lawyers take a percentage of the settlement rather than get paid up front.) I’m not in any way suggesting that forgiveness is a substitute for accountability, responsibility or legal action. In fact, I think forgiveness can only come as a result of healing and going through one’s process — it’s not something you can do before you’ve taken action and felt all the feelings associated with the trauma. Some people never forgive and they’re perfectly fine for it. But others hold onto their anger for years and years, and their own anger and suffering negatively impacts their own lives. Because they hang onto their suffering and never let go, they never heal. That’s when forgiveness can have potential for healing. But then, some people are fine being angry, too… I’m not saying anyone needs to forgive or should forgive. I would never put that on someone. Forgiveness is a choice. And for some, it’s the right one.


      • Hi Kristy,

        the thing about accountability (for the target) is that it becomes the target’s responsibility to pull the arrow out.
        That IS an act of free will by the target. Who helps the target pull the arrow out and dress the wounds MUST follow their patient’s leads and not ‘twist’ the arrow shaft about any more than absolutely necessary. . .

        Paul G.

        • Hi,

          just to be clear, I’m personally not interested in judicial accountability because that offers only an official vindication and punitive gesture. All that stuff is allopathic and merely fuels resistance to healing by making a fight out of it in a public forum. I mean “after the event”, it merely treats the perpetrator as ‘bad’. . . It is not even treatment. . . It is merely a symbol of revenge handed back over to the state. A public hanging. . .

          If that makes victims feel better it can only be in the sense of social witnessing. What would be better is a preventative philosophy that develops the power and skill in individuals to OWN their own traumas and not need to act them out OR punish or be punished for so doing.

          That would even be a Christian Imperative.

          Paul G.

          • Paul, I respectfully disagree. Some people will never have a conscience and if putting them in jail is the only thing that keeps other safe, so be it.

            Also, not all criminals are acting out of their own trauma. Some of them are just narcissists who feel no empathy and see other people as things that were put here for their use. If they can do it, they reason, why shouldn’t they? It’s a kind of casual amorality.

          • I maybe wrong but I think Paul was speaking in terms of ones healing motivation as it directly relates to their healing. I dont think he was abdicating we do away with the criminal justice system.

  4. I found this resource yesterday. It has a database where you can search for lawsuits, state sanctions, disciplinary actions, etc., taken against any psychiatrist in any state except Mississippi, which apparently does not make those records public. It doesn’t include psychologists or counselors, but it is a start. Know before you go!

    • Hi, this is a response to Everets recent comment:

      -“I maybe wrong but I think Paul was speaking in terms of ones healing motivation as it directly relates to their healing. I dont think he was abdicating we do away with the criminal justice system”-.

      That’s exactly what I meant, sure if some people have no conscience then they need to be confronted by the full weight of the law.

  5. Hi Thinking Freely,

    being English I use language slightly differently and possibly open myself up to misunderstanding, I am sorry for that and will explain what I really mean in a bit.

    Yes you are right, of course such people should be pursued and locked up. Unfortunately there are so many people like who you describe working inside institutions throwing the dice for ordinary folk in life. They are wrecking lives because of their ‘poor performance’. It’s so often too difficult to get them; they are often the ones judging us and covering their tracks. Their narcissism exploits the loopholes in bureaucracy. . . Dare I use the words ‘ legal corruption’?

    What I really meant was that too much resources goes into Law and litigation after people (particularly very young children) have become traumatised and not enough goes into preventing bad practice that leads to mental & emotional abuse in the first place. Thus I am alluding to PREVENTION. I’m probably opening myself up to criticism for saying that but the relatively new science of epigenetics shows so many of us get ill later in life due to impacts in the womb and early infancy plus compounding in childhood.

    This results in repression and gene suppression which in turn messes up development. Not many are exempt from these ‘impacts’. Birth trauma is a very real problem. All these things shape what we call ‘personality’. It’s hard to ‘prove’ what I am saying because it comes right down to gene ‘methylation’ at the micro biological level but there is a mass of research which overwhelmingly points to womb and birth trauma as a major factor in later disease.
    If societies at large could more openly admit these new FACTS about NURTURE then perhaps we would find a new language and philosophy of understanding each other. It would level the playing field somewhat; it would take the stigma out of disease.
    Currently mental & emotional problems are still treated largely as some kind of moral issue, as if getting ill is a bad ‘lifestyle choice’. Behaviourism should be buried but it is getting a revival because it is too easy to point a finger at strange behaviour, at ‘symptoms’ and condemn without understanding or even acknowledging original causes.

    Aaaand frankly this new research also encompasses those personalities who ‘observe’ in psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy. Nobody is really exempt, and I suspect one reason why the ‘industry’ is so slow to acknowledge this new compelling evidence (epigenetics) is because it challenges the assumptions that we can ‘talk our way out of problems’. That the people with the white coats and authoritative voices sat behind ‘desks’ are themselves infallible gods / goddesses. . . They get paid a lot of money to tell us how it is. . . They are not telling us about gene methylation and birth trauma but they are handing out antidepressants like candy, aren’t they?

    Paul G.

  6. Hi, this is for june,

    I’m sorry I’ve made some words into something I didn’t quite mean.

    I’ve had a lot of unhelpful s**t from certain ‘helping types’. I’ve written it all down. . . I get some state benefits as a consequence of the PTSD symptoms that have developed out of all that (though I would prefer to be well enough to work full time). I went on for years and my children suffered as well; MOST of all they suffered despite my best efforts and intentions. All very complicated and messy, their mother died of serious drug / alcohol abuse, I was a single parent for a while. It all nearly destroyed me & my business / social / emotional life etc etc. I am now at last rehoused by local authority after 5 years ONFA / homeless living out back of my ancient Landrover whilst also caring part time for my seriously ill son.

    The worst of it all were the sanctimonious ‘new age’ friends (I thought I had) who basically put it all down to my karma (!)

    Anyway, as I tried to take my writings into the legal realm I found the (so called) ‘helpers’ closed ranks and the legal profession wanted too much money to pursue it all; with no guarantee of successful litigation. I can’t get legal aid; so I have concluded that for most people who are vulnerable (& I’m one of them) all you are likely to get in court is LAW not justice. I speak as a UK citizen where allegedly we have the ‘fairest’ system in the world (!)

    I’m not trying to be cynical and I don’t believe in forgiveness either. I want to move on and I wish all the very best to all people who have been f****d over by some narcissist or idiot posing as a ‘helper’.

    I truly know what that feels like and I truly wish for all sufferers of abuse (past /present) that they can somehow find sanctuary and some pleasure in life.
    yours most sincerely Paul.

    • Therapists and psychiatrists often duplicate the abuse, neglect, denial and deception that led you to seek treatment. Sad but true. By now I have given up after repeatedly running into people who appear less stable or rational than myself. Run as soon as something feels or seems off. These guys often have unresolved issues of their own and close ranks when you start to question bad conduct.

  7. Thank you for sharing that with me. It means a lot. It makes me feel not so alone in what I am dealing with. I hope things get better. I have been through that too where people tell you it is karma and all that crap. I don’t buy that. I do believe though that often times we create our own hell on earth ourselves. I just get so mad that things don’t turn out like I expect them too. I guess we are all still a work in progress. I hope you get some relief. I just know for myself I no longer trust therapists, psychologists, social workers, or psychiatrists. They have done so much damage to me. And often times the professionals are more messed up than us “mentally ill” clients. Again thank you for letting me know I am not alone in my struggles. I wish you the best.

  8. Sometimes, you have to fight back and hit them in the wallet to teach them how to treat people. And yes, it is for all people that are suffering after therapist abuse. I do believe in compensation for your emotional injuries. I know I was personally traumatized by what several therapists did to me at my local mental health center. They teamed up as soon as I made a complaint and through me out of a program that I was in for 3 years straight at 25 hours a week of therapy. My whole life was therapy and it was abruptly cut off and I was kicked out. So yes, I do believe I should be compensated for my emotional injuries. I can’t afford to sue but if I could I would. Why should they get off the hook after playing with someone’s head? It just isn’t right. It is like saying that someone that is sexually abused should not be compensated and they should just go work on themselves. What utter nonsense.

    • Hi Carl,
      -“Why should they get off the hook after playing with someone’s head? It just isn’t right”-.

      I agree.

      I have been checking out ‘Remorse’ on wikepedia; its interesting. I tell you what I think and feel about the human condition in this respect:
      It has been said that groups of approximately 60 individuals represent the ‘normal’ family/social/clam groupings for humans. Any more than this and it becomes impossible for any individual to remember all the different members and maintain a cohesive relationship with them all. In these old (atavistic) groupings the elders were entrusted with the responsibility to counsel members and solve issues. Pretty much, everyone knew every one else and there was mutual respect. Obviously the way I have said this makes it sound very idealistic, but today we live in such massive groupings the essence of these old ways is totally lost.

      Consequently, anyone can invent a kind of ‘authority’ or ‘knowing’ which frankly is FALSE but a vulnerable/naive person/child wouldn’t know that. Also, in our naivety, some of us can climb up the greasy pole of ‘success’ and make life changing decisions about others which don’t help. Because our human groupings have become so complex, they PERSONALLY can remain totally oblivious to the HARM being caused. INSTITUTIONAL racism / abuse / marginalisation / prejudice / environmental degradation etc etc; it’s RIFE.

      So, it has become easy for charlatans to take control and propagate totally FALSE concepts of the human condition and that is the main reason why when so many people get ill very few get better. Thanks to certain SURVIVAL conditions improving, we may get older (than our ancestors) but we don’t often get well or sane as we age. Look at the vast number of people in dementia care homes just for one example.

      Private & National Health systems become alopathic and treat SYMPTOMS with little if any comprehension of their true and original causes. The drug companies make a killing (!) Those individuals IN the system who begin to realise the chilling facts at first try to change the system but get beaten down and leave. As time goes by the giant organisations we have ‘created’ (!) end up ‘staffed’ by a moral majority of pen pushers who (by default) close ranks and make these institutions into BASTIONS of self preservation for themselves.

      They then become the DRIVING force for politics & economics and the MEDIA present the biased views (using fear & scapegoating) needed to maintain the STATUS QUO.

      I do believe it’s possible to change this system (reflecting OUR collective human condition) AND to get compensation as a consequence of abuse. BUT first one MUST be clear about original causes and the way they influence all the players in the game. You’ve got to become your own scientist/doctor and write it all down. You have to become your own lawyer and grasp what has been achieved regarding basic HUMAN RIGHTS.

      Even if the abuse is from just ONE individual/therapist without some context surrounding the abusive events it is possible to re traumatise yourself from getting bogged down in the way our complex life SEEMS to justify the outcomes.

      Our human consciousness has evolved a way to repress painful events from the past and these can (& do) trip us up and make us vulnerable to exploitation by others who are LESS disadvantaged.

      Any attempt you make to correctly account your own experience & testimony will drag up old feelings and present old traumas. . . BUT it is possible to be courageous and ‘see through’ this nasty ‘resonance down’ and become stronger and wiser for having made the effort to really attend to what’s important and essential. DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU YOU’RE STUCK IN THE PAST. We ARE our past, we are the sum total of everything that’s happened to us and the sooner we ALL accept that the better.
      Very Best Regards

      Paul G.

  9. You need a lawyer. They will often take out 1/3 of your backpay as payment. And the therapist had no right to speak with social security about you if you didn’t sign a release of information. I know it is difficult. I had to get a lawyer but I did get my ssi after fighting for 2 and a half years. So, don’t give up. If you feel like you can’t work than you should pursue it. I know personally I could not handle a job because I don’t get along with others and have a difficult time because I have bipolar disorder and suicidal ideation. Mental illness is hell to live with. I know of a lot of people that get ssi just from having depression though. I wish I only had depression, it would be so much easier. Only you know your limitations. If you can’t work, you can’t work. Mental illness is harder to prove because you can’t see our disabilities. That is why it is best to get a lawyer when Social Security gives you a hard time.

  10. It doesn’t matter what a therapist says. It only matters what a psychiatrist says. If you are not on psych treatments it will be very difficult to prove that you can’t cope with life. I was on so many psych treatments that it was easier for my lawyer to prove I needed to be on ssi to survive. Therapists are a dime a dozen. They are all full of it. I would go to a psychiatrist for help with your mental state and have them get the ssi if they feel you need it. I have bipolar disorder and suicidal ideation so it wasn’t hard to prove I needed to be on ssi. I have been on it 18 years now. I wouldn’t survive without it. If I didn’t get approved I probably would have ended up committing suicide. I tried to work so many times and lost so many jobs. I think you need a lawyer so that you have somebody on your side. They won’t charge you up front. They take a percentage of your back pay when you get on ssi. I wish you the best.

  11. While I was in treatment with my therapist, she counseled someone I was dating without telling me. Then a few weeks later the person I was dating broke up with me and would give me no reason. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Jordan,

      You will probably never find out what your ‘therapist’ has or hasn’t said or done to either you or your ex and the terrifying thing about this is that you may not ‘feel’ comfortable about this episode for a while to come. What I say below might help:

      It’s dodgy for this therapist NOT to have addressed the conflict of interest. I have studied and applied group dynamic theory and I can tell you for sure there are essential problems in the ONE to ONE relationship. It’s so easy to compromise confidentiality and to behave tyrannically BECAUSE you (in this case the therapist) has only ONE to ONE relations with a group who know each other. . . (in this case you & your ex).

      Even when the patients in treatment DON’T know each other BUT through a third party are in some way connected, there still remains great potential for DIVIDED LOYALTIES.

      In order to get around this problem it is widely accepted that where therapy starts on a ONE to ONE basis it should develop into group therapy in order to allow those with connections to address these complex loyalties and relationships; the facilitator should allow hir power to be devolved into the group. But this is hard to achieve and too many ‘therapists’ continue with all the POWER of the ONE to ONE relationship REGARDLESS of the potential divided loyalties ‘OUT THERE’. . .

      I have been in difficult situations like the one you are in and my honesty and desire to ‘integrate’ has got me into more trouble and exasperated my existing problems.

      I can’t advise you but I can tell you that you are right to question this.

      Take Care and don’t let people deceive you with glib words or ‘silence’. There is much deceit in the world and most of it is ‘unconscious’. . .


    • Angel, my automatic reaction is no way! Therapy should be about therapy. Going out to a movie together is not therapy and it fosters a different kind of relationship — one that may feel more like friendship. The content of the movie is irrelevant. Going out together is simply not appropriate. To me, ANY social or public contact may violate the boundary. The therapists that I know will keep the therapeutic relationship completely private and out of the public eye. Otherwise, it’s like publicly disclosing that someone’s your client. They won’t even talk to a client publicly unless the client initiates the contact. This guy is out of bounds.

      • Hi Angel,

        I completely agree with Kristi.

        It’s amazing that any one could enter into the counseling / psycho therapeutic professions without training in basic group dynamics. To be more explicit about these ‘boundaries’ it aught to be obvious that a patient is ill, (I don’t like the word client because you can legitimately invite a ‘client’ to dinner, or to a film relating to the ‘product’). Let’s not beat around the bush here. We patients are not well. We have problems and these belong in the therapeutic vessel just as a wound needs to be dressed to prevent it from ‘infection’.
        The ‘One to One’ relationship is a very narrow tightrope. When we consider what might have gone wrong with us patients relationships with our primary carers (in the first place) when we were little, it beggars the question what really can be achieved by dredging up old traumas in that therapeutic vessel.

        Well a lot CAN be achieved IF that vessel is ‘hermetically sealed’, IF it is SAFE, IF it is a clear expression of the therapists INTENT to genuinely help, to listen, to support, to contain and to absorb some of the trauma and shock the patient has experienced.

        This cannot be done at a dinner party or at the movies.

        Paul G.

        • It’s funny what training in basic group dynamics actually consists of. In a recent edition of “The Paris Review,” J.D. Daniels wrote a nonfiction piece called “A Letter From the Primal Horde” in which he recounted his experiences with group dynamics training and everything that went horribly wrong with it. This is a preview. You have to buy the issue to read the rest, and it’s $25.00 USD, but the piece is so good I recommend it.

          If these people can be completely crazy and dysfunctional at the A.K. Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, there’s no reason to think they couldn’t be crazy and dysfunctional in clinical practice.

  12. Hi thinking freely,

    before I buy the issue (and I will because I think I have a hunch to prove to myself) I must point out that there are many ‘theories’ of group dynamics and even more so called ‘teaching packages’ and group dynamic gurus ‘leading the way’. . . The one I like most of all is very simply based on the four basic different relations between a leader and the group members:
    1. Where the ‘leader’ relates only to the members in a ‘one to one’ way. Then (typically) only with instructions down. . . no feedback asked for. . . If you give feedback to a leader like this s he will use it purely for “Reconnaissance”. . . This is known as ‘authoritarian style’. I feel it is important to realise that many ‘therapists’ operate like this. . . yes really. Gurus also. . . Priests. . . Teachers. . . Mmmmmm.
    2. Where the leader invites feedback from members for more than reconnaissance. . . because s he (allegedly) needs feedback? Yet this still remains ‘One to One’ with no relations going on between members. This is known as ‘consultative style’. I know for sure as a professional tradesman that you can get ripped off by a friendly ‘Agent’ this way because they can play you off against a colleague (think ‘zero hours contracts’) and by default sack you and employ hir. . .
    3. Where the leader asks the members to participate in a two way feedback between the group and themselves as leader. This still leaves the group as a whole in a ‘One to One’ relationship with the leader though. This is like how trades union deals with employers / government are like by the way. . .
    4. Then last but not least the leader abandons their absolute power base and privacy and invites each member to contribute in the light of ALL the members. In this dynamic there are no ‘secret ballots’. no cliques, and every one is a leader. This is known as ‘group of all leaders’ or “Consensus”.

    It doesn’t take much to see that our relations with each other are both enhanced by and constrained by various combinations of these four and our therapists really aught to be highly considerate of their incredible privilege and power in OUR group with their UNIQUE ‘One to One’ relations with us, their patient.

    I hope that’s useful. . . I will now try to buy the issue.

    Paul G.

  13. My therapist just ended out 8 year therapy relationship. No termination session., however, I told her I was not able to go to her office for one. I requested copies of my chart, which she obliged, and I’m finding myself shocked at the notes written in the charts. I’m a trauma survivor, with attachment issues, and the last 3 years of our tr were basically spent trying to repair an impasse due to a personal disclosure she made (about starting a relationship) and it happened at the se time as her changing many boundaries in our relationship. Such as, my no longer being able to contact her outside the office, or email her: when prior to this she would email me nightly and I was able to call her in crisis. She also forced me to attend classes j found retaimatizing, telling me that she would no longer see me if I did not. Rather than validates, post personal disclosure, she would hang up on me if I called her in a suicial crisis, telling me to deal with it, and began telling me that “life isn’t fair- and I of all people know that.” I feel so foolish for staying in the therapy relationship for so long, but the traumatized child parts kept waiting for the therapist of the first two years to come back. She basically told me that was when she had time, lived alone, and said “you want me to be happy, don’t you?” I just don’t understand how after 8 years I have to endure ore trauma and abandonment form a trained professional. It feels like abuse to me. I’m devestated now, trying to get by on my own, trying to piece everything together. I feel like a ship without a rudder. Like I was some sort of project to her “when she had time”. But I’m a person – who paid for her help.

    • Hi Grace,

      I read your post as soon as it came into my inbox. Rather than jump straight in with my ‘gut feeling’ reply I gave myself time to consider carefully what you said. Reason being is that I am somewhat disillusioned with ‘conventional’ therapy myself. I know it’s good to talk and it’s good to have ‘some-one’ who can be there for you. My issue with conventional therapy is that it tends to rely on the ‘transference / counter-transference’ relationship. That’s jargon, sorry. But basically it relies on a type of ‘identification’ on part of the patient with the therapist, as if the therapist is a substitute for previous role models (or the lack of them). Now a hundred therapists would say I’m not correctly defining this. And out of those hundred therapists you could easily extract a dozen different descriptions of the “Transference”. . .

      Which is part of my point, it proves my point even. . . are you following me?

      I have abandonment / separation / loss / grief issues, I know what it’s like to long for a friend, a lover, a partner, a buddy, an EQUAL. . . Some one to ‘pair bond’ with. A spouse even.

      Allegedly, well trained therapists have already ‘worked through’ their ‘attachment issues’ and are therefore able to (somehow) help you resolve YOUR issues through their relationship with you. Or is it your relationship with them?

      There’s the rub. IF they have indeed worked through their ‘stuff’ and actually ARE capable of engaging with you in a ‘therapeutic relationship’, we have to ask ourselves HOW do our own issues become resolved? I mean, as patients HOW PASSIVE in the relationship are we? How dependent in the relationship are we? How does “IT” work?

      I think there are too many un answered questions and your experience is one of thousands that DON’T get a public airing at all. Most people who’ve been ‘through’ therapy rarely report to any one else what their experiences are. For sure IF they have achieved little or nothing or worse, gone backwards, well then, they are keeping quiet about it because it’s shameful for them isn’t it? Even if it’s NOT their fault.

      They failed. . . So they say nothing and struggle on through the ‘shame’. Or worse and end up as statistics in a worse scenario. . .

      So, I think your experience is MORE common than you think. I personally have little faith in conventional therapy because in the 50 minute hour what can really be achieved, given the depth of feelings repressed, the depth of un-met need repressed we have locked away. . ?

      I don’t think your therapist should have given you so much engagement; she should not have encouraged you to form so much of a dependency on her. I think she was naive and then when she found out how naive she was being with you, she then threw the burden of shame back onto you.

      There is no doubt that this is WRONG. You are NOT to blame and YES, you paid her to find out about her own naivety. . . She perhaps should be paying YOU ! But I don’t think you should go down there. . . .

      Sadly and reluctantly I have come to believe this is the major hazard of going into conventional therapy. Because conventional therapy relies on the ‘transference / counter-transference relationship.
      I have really, really benefited from reading Alice Millers books and Arthur Janovs Books. Both these writers have arrived at the point where conventional therapy ‘leaves off’.

      Last thing Grace, I hope you don’t mind but who chose your name ‘Grace’ and why? It’s a great name.

      Take care and write some more, writing can be very ‘releasing’.

      Paul G.

      • Therapy that makes a person very dependant on his/her therapist, is not healthy. I think therapy that makes a person independant is the best approach. I don’t believe in traditional therapy. I have been to many therapists in my life, and never handed over ‘my life’ to any of them. I agree that many of our illnesses (mental and emotional) stem from our genes. Science is accelerating in this area; the ‘psych’ business is falling way behind. I always used therapy as a way to talk about my problems and used the therapist as a sounding board and listened to their advice. I always knew therapists were just people with flaws, addictions, and unresolved emotional issues. Individual therapy is just ONE of many places to go to get help with navigating through life. It was my decision what choices I made. That being said, my life changed when I was manipulated by a highly controlling sex addicted narcissist. As soon as I could see ‘the game’ that was being played, I left immediately. I have been physically disabled for several years. He took advantage of my illness every step of the way. He has no moral compass. I am so glad I no longer have contact with him. What you put out comes back at you. That is how I view Karma.

  14. Abuse is common among psyciatrists in particular. If you knew some of these therapists personally you would not enter the office. The screen of privacy they hide behind lets you reveal alot without ever knowing much about them in return. Too much power is invested in this imbalanced relationship for true intimacy to develop. Some keep you in eternal analysis without helping you develop coping skills or set goals for personal growth. As for attachment issues: how can recreating a parent/child dynamic help a client to relate well as an adult? Dodgy credentials and dubious treatment techniques create dud results. Too many horror stories abound about naive and trusting patients being made worse by poorly prescribed meds and further abuse on psych wards.

  15. my neighbor was a therapist..I’m still having trouble getting over it… He offered me both friendship and therapy and told me to not talk about our relationship…. I would do things for his taxes and his signs for his protests.. He offered to help me because I told him I was depressed over a breakup..I told him about my abusive relationships in the past.. He turned out to be a cross dresser..He ask me to tell stories about my past sexual experiences and then he’d masturbate into nylons.. It was awful but I kept going back..and I don’t understand..I just accepted it as normal. THen he asked me to go have sex with other men and take pictures. I did one day.. He spent hours dressing me up..When I came back he seemed upset because I didn’t take the pictures. I Lied and said I had the experience with other man to please him..but I didn’t.. THen he asked me to sign a letter saying we were always friends.. just friends. It was awful. A horrible experience. Plus he took pictures of me and he lined up all of these other pictures in the room when he was ending the relationship of other women..pornographic pictures he took. I am suffering from PTSD.. which I just found out. I was having trouble figuring out why I collapsed and got so paranoid and scared to leave the house. He lives right across from me

    • Lynn, I am so sorry to hear about this horrible experience you’ve been through. I’m not surprised you’re suffering post-traumatic stress. If he acted as your therapist it’s possible you can file a complaint with his licensing board, which is through the state. (The board may be different depending on whether he’s an MFT, LCSW, PhD or PsyD; you can find out that information online.) You could also check into filing a civil or criminal complaint. You may want to contact one of the lawyers listed on the Legal Resources page for a free consultation to see what your options are.

      I very much encourage you to get some counseling with someone who specializes in dealing with trauma so that you can recover from this and deal with your current situation. And it’s very important you have no further contact with this person, to the degree that’s possible.



    • Lynn I’m sorry this supposed therapist betrayed your trust. The only consolation is that you learned to ignore his perverted self-serving requests and this should lead you into developing better boundaries based on protecting your safety and heeding that voice in your head that warns you to say no to an unreasonable request or demand. This man exploited you and needs a firm push to stop using other people or feeling entitled to control their lives for his personal gain. If you are comfortable feel free to drop him a terse note stating that his behaviour was both offensive and unprofessional and you will report his unethical conduct. You owe him nothing but a wide berth for being predatory and manipulative. Unfortunately many therapists have failed to address or recognise their own issues and are incapable of helping other people as they are too flawed and immature to behave in a responsible and competent manner. You struck a major lemon masquerading as a peach.

    • Lynn,
      This is horrible and I feel badly for you. I hope you have support for this. I hope you have reported him because YOU did nothing wrong. He is at fault for all of the abuse he did to you and I will keep you in my prayers.

  16. I really need some advice, I feel pretty lost lately and feel I have nobody to talk about this with. I recently discovered this website and have extracted a list with what I believe happens in my therapy. I feel like I have developed a strong dependency on my therapist, and even though I wrote the list myself, I seem to have issues believing it is ”that” bad, just because, at the moment, ending therapy seems like the most heartbreaking thing I could do. If anyone could read the list and just tell me what they believe I should do next, it would be amazing, and I would be full-heartedly grateful. Thank you in advance.

    • Sessions frequently run over by half an hour or more. (Almost every time, at least half an hour.)
    • I am usually the last appointment of the day. (8pm appointment)
    • The practitioner encourages me to telephone him/her often, even if I feel I don’t need to. (And she also calls/texts when I have problems to check up on me; she also called/texted me with unrelated issues to therapy, not often, on occasion.)
    • The practitioner tells me what she/he is doing in terms of personal growth and suggests that I do the same thing. (I already attended some of the courses she has.)
    • I feel with this practitioner as though I’ve found the kind of help and understanding I’ve wanted all my life. (I felt that I found the ”mother” I never had, and a best friend, as well as a mentor.)
    • I have attended professional meetings with this practitioner at his/her invitation. (Volunteering with hospitalized kids.)
    • This practitioner and I have close friends in common. (Which are also former patients of the practitioner.)
    • Practitioner said or implied that we could be friends when treatment was over. (She has remained friends with a lot of her former clients and keeps bringing it up during our sessions.)
    • We have never discussed how social contact outside the professional relationship might affect the professional relationship.
    • The practitioner talked about other clients in my presence. (Rarely providing names, usually just stories with little to no relevancy for my treatment.)
    • The practitioner told me I was special. (That I am a ”crystal child” with superior qualities.)
    • There are many clients who seem close to this practitioner. I have met them or heard about them. (Most of them also joined group courses provided by the therapist, some of them are her students.)
    • The practitioner often takes former clients on as trainees at his/her training institute.
    • I feel as though I’ve been hypnotized or somehow in a trance-like state in the practitioner’s presence, though he/she doesn’t seem to obviously use hypnosis.
    • The practitioner fostered a lot of dependency and then started trying to get me to do things I didn’t want to do. ( I felt she was approving of me at the beginning of therapy and then, gradually, started imposing concepts/behaviors on me that were opposite to my needs/choices, also using blaming/shaming for my way of dealing with situations. )
    • The practitioner insulted what I believed were the good parts of my life.
    • A short time after I started treatment, my life began to fall apart. The practitioner didn’t seem concerned about my life. Rather, he/she seemed concerned that I stay dependent on him/her. Sometimes I feel/felt drugged after sessions. (For the first time in my life I used sleeping pills/antidepressants. I feel like I was in an easy-mild depression when I started, a year later I have severe depression.)
    • Practitioner talks a lot about him/herself and I don’t understand the relevance of what she/he is sharing for my treatment. (Not ”a lot”, but surely private details with no rellevancy to my treatment whatsoever.)
    • Practitioner seems to free associate to what I say and spin off into his/her own thinking. I feel like my issues aren’t being addressed. ( I try to bring up my issues and most of the time I feel like my therapist is marking them as being irrelevant, intrerrupts me, belittles the issue or changes the subject.)
    • Practitioner always acts like he/she knows what’s best for me without asking me. ( I reveived a lot of advice that really just lowered my self-esteem, and the trust I had in my own choices. )
    • When I raise questions about what is happening in my treatment, the practitioner refuses to discuss the treatment process, how he/she works, what I can expect from the treatment, etc. ( I recently read about transferential interpretations. My therapist never used direct interpretations, just extratransferential ones, so I brought it up and asked why, also stating that for me it’s important to talk about the transference since I feel like I have a strong affection towards her that causes dependancy on her presence/opinion. My therapist changed the subject. I also asked about a plan or a list of goals for our therapy and she said that I am rigid. I still have no answer. )
    • The practitioner would not tell me what his/her credentials are.
    • The practitioner will be my teacher.

  17. Hi Rose,

    You are quite right to question all these things. You are smart enough to write it all down. You have clarity and a sense of self preservation. You are well equipped to deal with this person.

    First of all if this person is really behaving as you say (I don’t doubt it) then they are NOT a therapist.

    Charlatans find ways to manipulate others; frequently it’s not the money that motivates them but the sense of personal satisfaction through their ‘projections’. You seem to have resisted the worst of this persons projections.

    I M H O all you need to do now is let go of the false hope that this person can really benefit you. They have deceived you. You possibly need to mourn the loss of what you had hoped would happen. Offering false hope is what so many of our parents and carers did when we were defenseless babies and children. It is betrayal and thus to avoid the excruciating sensations and feelings of betrayal we hang on in there out of false hope. We try to avoid the original pains and the transference should be used to gently break the bad news to you about those original betrayals and unbearable feelings. What seems to me to have happened is that your original un met needs have been exploited to make you dependent on this charlatan. But you can break free and you seem to have taken the first step. Now that you are a pretty smart adult I believe you will need to ‘cut your losses’ as soon as possible.

    You will be able to cope. Don’t let this charlatan ruin things and ‘fleece you’ for the privilege either.

    Read the books by Alice Miller, particularly “Breaking Down The Wall of Silence”. . .

    Find a helpful friend or relative or another counselor. Because you are doing all this in a community of friends you may become isolated for a while. You may need to ‘lock yourself into your castle’ for a while. You may need to reach out and find new friends.

    Some ‘therapists’ just cannot help themselves from becoming the center of attention, they want to be like rock stars. They want to be like gurus. . . They perhaps are narcissists. . .

    Take care and keep us informed as to your progress. . .

    Paul G

    • Dear Paul,
      Thank you so much for your prompt and considerate reply!
      It helped immensely to receive you feedback.
      Betrayel. Yes. I felt it in small doses ever since I started gathering information about how therapy should be like, I ran from it every time because it’s a strong, painful feeling. But, intuitively, my inner compass shyly points towards self-empowerment with every new feedback, with every new piece of information. That being said, I feel concomitantly guilty, ambivalent and confused. Beyond my rational clarity, I have a deep sadness, the type of sadness you experience when someone close dies, that comes from the irrational role I invested her with, because it feels like I’m making the choice to mentally and physically “abandon” one of the most important people in my life, that has gradually become my inner voice and my main support structure. As you stated, someone that fullfills my unmet needs for affection, attention, availability, guidance – in a way that, as I can clearly experience given my current state, is definitely not beneficial. I keep telling myself that if she were to actually embody this role in an authentic way, I would not have to pay money in exchange, that I am paying for therapy, for empowerment, not for a mother, a friend or a teacher – and I guess this is the only thing than anchors me to reality.
      My therapist also talked to me about clients that left her treatment, that had a “low energy vibration” and that “probably needed to suffer some more subconsciously, that they were not prepared for healing”. This is also impregnated in my mind, and a part of me knows it’s not real, but another still sees her as being a guiding light and me leaving therapy as maybe me not being prepared to let her heal me.
      It’s difficult for me to detach, given a history of emotional/physical abuse, a needy, attention-seeking, validation-seeking, victim-like structure. Especially when accepting the situation represents the self-fulfilling prophecy of my life-long scenario. I will read Alice Miller’s book. Being a first year student in psychology, I think my motivation for self-healing given my professional goal is bigger than anything right now, and this is my main motivation – regardless of the emotional pain I experience, I just needed and need to know this is the right direction and that I’m not crazy.
      I want to bring myself to terminate therapy, the only thing I know is that I need support. And yes, Paul, I will need mourning. I don’t even know how to do that, terminating therapy. Just saying it’s over? Bringing up an excuse? I already feel guilty just imagining the situation. I fear her reaction, I fear I’d be making a mistake, at the same time, in my lucid moments, it’s what my gut feeling screams I should do.

      • Hi Rose,

        Sometimes situations like this arouse in us a kind of entire defensive reaction like psychic flu. Whereby you have to keep pinching yourself to be sure you’re awake and not dreaming that it’s an infection, when it really is.

        Some people latch into our unmet needs and milk them. Now, most descriptions of narcissists rarely engage in the origins of those types, they just say ‘leave’ the sphere of the narcissist. At best these descriptions mention they have deep wounds from really early back in their own development of which they are ‘unaware’, thus they act out.

        Apart from the minority of lucky individuals to have grown up with ‘no problems’, the rest of us carry ‘blind spots’ (well, those of us that see that is true) and so say the narcissists see these in us and exploit them. The most common form of this appears to be that of the ‘guru / teacher’ mentality. . .

        Alice Miller talks of ‘poisonous pedagogy’. . . If you are articulate enough to describe in so clear a way how your therapist seems to you to be ‘misappropriating’ the ‘therapeutic alliance’, I suggest you read Alice Millers books, start with ‘Breaking Down The Wall of Silence’. Once read, then ask your therapist if she has read anything by Alice miller. . .

        I leave your insights to you. Remember, healing comes first, then insights, yours, not your therapists. . .

        Good Luck.

        Paul G.

        • Dear Paul,
          What a journey it has been! And it all started with the comment I wrote in a moment of complete confusion and despair, trying to make a clear sense of what was happening. So, almost 5 months later, after going through severe PTSD, I stand tall and strong. Not by the help of antidepressants. It all started with your wonderful reply, for which I will forever be grateful, it literally changed my life, my direction in life. Breaking down the walls of silence – that was when I first began to understand what was happening, but even after reading the book, I still had trouble coming to sense with everything, I was in complete denial. I went to see a psychiatrist who believed in me, he believed in what I wanted for myself, that I could do it without pills. It was one hell of a ride, I’ll tell you that. At first I was completely frozen, slept only 2-3 hours a night, could barely get from the bed to the kitchen, had a constant sense of terror, it was as if a grizzly bear would attack me at any moment. I knew that I needed to change the situation dramatically if I wanted results and so I started moving, literally, got out of the house, went to the gym every day while home, then went for one month in the Austrian mountains, did a yoga teacher’s training course, went to a 2 week long photography workshop and to the Bandler NLP prac in London. I kept myself busy, always using my mind to do something productive, to think of something else, to learn and focus on the here and now. And throughout it, whenever I felt like giving up, it turned out I had this voice that kept saying – just a little bit more, you got through today, time is healing, tomorrow is going to be better, just one more step. Somewhere I knew that I was going to do it, I was going to crawl and scream if I had to, but I was going to do it either way, I knew that nothing can overpower me and there is no chance in hell that I am going to lie broken like a victim. I felt amazement when I first started to relax – it was almost as if I had forgotten what relaxation meant – and I began to discover a place of safety within. That’s when I first started crying – in the few spare moments, without any activity, that I allowed myself to have – uncontrollably, hysterically, at first, with sobbing and shaking, then, as time went by, less and less. My whole past kept flashing in front of my eyes, but then I learned how to make the pictures smaller and smaller, I learned that I am living in a present moment now, an entirely different moment. I learned that I am an adult now and I can love and protect my inner child, that I have a wonderful voice which is my own, and that I will protect that voice, trust it, make it powerful and never ever again let someone else’s voice take over. I decided that I am going to define myself. I look back onto it and it all seems like a dream. At the same time, it was simply a gradual change of perspective, of way of thinking – because I’ve come to realise that what I did was actually take the belief I had, that I needed someone, that I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, capable enough, and switch it step by step. The moment I felt freedom was when I assumed responsibility for my inner ecology. Absolute freedom was the first time I laughed about the whole thing – it seemed surreal and funny, and I have the NLP course to thank for that. But most of all, Paul Garland, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my change catalyst, for giving me validation, for taking the time to write a reply that has simply changed my life. I am forever grateful and inspired to do the same for other people that might be in the same situation.

          • Hi Rose,
            You did it yourself and it seems the trigger was Alice Millers book.

            I was just the messenger.

            If I have any advice it is nearly all inspired by Alice miller and Dr Arthur Janov who is still alive and kicking. If I had the money and the time I would book into the Primal Center in Santa Monica. I sure have cried a river of tears since I broke down nearly 7 years ago. My symptoms have changed.

            Although you have dragged yourself back from the brink it is possible that the original problems you went into therapy to address have become sidelined not only by totally naff therapy but also by the magnificent efforts you have had to make to escape this appalling charlatan. It’s none of my business what your original issues were, but it is important to remember our original traumas and perhaps to really root them out.

            That should be the goal of effective therapy.

            Can I suggest you read some of Dr Janovs Books? Try ‘Primal Healing and Life Before Birth’. Primal Therapy is not essential for everyone – and let’s face it, it’s hard to get, the demand far outstrips the supply. But my point is that deep underlying traumatic imprints escape most of the very best conventional therapists. That is a very hot potato and particularly so on this forum. There are very low limits of ‘success’ to conventional therapy and this forum demonstrates that in spades. I believe this is no coincidence.

            That is why I cautiously recommend Dr Janovs books. I feel the facts of our Human Condition are being kept from us, that is why so many charlatans can do what they do. It is also why the Big Pharma can continue to prescribe medications to keep deep trauma chemically suppressed.

            Good luck and take care,

            Paul G.

          • Rose,
            I loved reading your comment! You are sounding so wonderfully strong with such a healthy perspective!
            I am really happy for you! And also grateful to Paul for giving you what you needed.

  18. It’s much easier than that. Simply leave voice mail at a time when the office is closed OR just sent a text. Just state that you are not returning to counseling. If you have a smart phone block your therapists phone numbers. If she has your email address, block her emails.

    Then take a deep breath, feel empowered, and go about your life!

    I did it that way, and so can you!!

  19. I love this list. Will [ post to my blog. Haed an experience several years ago where I spent three years of college with an unlicensed and emotionally unethical therapist. She would have her son 12 years old at the time, in therapy groups as well as an apprenticeship program she was running for a therapy she claims she pioneered but she basically combined parts of other therapies and that was it. She basically had clients as her apprentices. Talked about her issues constantly and like I said her son was a part of everything. Really in it for the money and totally emotionally unstable by the end. I’ve since gotten over things emotionally but really wish there was a way to report her but she has no license.

  20. Hi,

    I’ve been in therapy with a psychologist for over 2 years now. I had bad vibes from the onset, but blamed it on my own issues of trust with men. And I felt that I should stick it out because I believed it would help me to trust men.

    In the beginning, I explained in great detail about all the times I had been sexually harassed by men and especially by my bosses at many places I’d worked. I also told him that I’d been stalked by men and raped twice, and that I often received unwanted attention from men all my life despite the fact that I’d always dressed conservatively.

    After seeing him regularly for a few months, he started telling me jokes, or things that he thought were humorous, about men ogling women. Here’s one example: “In the old days, men used to polish their shoes extra shiny so that they could stand next to women and see up their dresses/skirts.” He made that statement out of the blue. It didn’t fit with the context of the current conversation. He had a male intern with him during this session. The intern looked as surprised and disgusted as me. I think I said that I thought that was vulgar. But at the same time, I was wondering if he was testing my tolerance of men in general. I feel that he shouldn’t have said that based on my past traumas with men?!???

    He introduced a so called “therapy dog” around 4 months ago. Later, he told me that the dog couldn’t be left home alone all day. At this time, he told me that he was seeing me during his lunch hour so that, in case I needed to cancel, he wouldn’t have to charge me. That made me feel very guilty. Back to the dog……My psychologist began talking to the dog at the beginning or ending of our session, saying: “Don’t worry, I will find a time to take you outside so you can go to the bathroom.” I immediately offered to walk the dog that day after my session, and I have been ever since after every one of my sessions. He knows I am an avid animal lover.

    About 2 months ago, he began encouraging me to book phone sessions with him over the weekend, in addition to my regular twice a week sessions. I kept not booking phone sessions, and he continued to urge me. I finally caved and now I also have regular phone sessions with him.

    The worst part is that my life is now much, much worse than before I began seeing him. He often nods off during sessions and also can’t seem to follow whatever I’m divulging. I spend a lot of time repeating myself and finding ways to explain myself differently, hoping that will help him follow what I’m saying. He never remembers what I talked about in my last session which is usually just 2 days prior.

    He tried to get me to make an outline of my entire life, highlighting the traumas. I tried but I couldn’t do it. All of my memories are like Swiss cheese, full of holes and forgotten info. My diagnosis is severe PTSD with depression, anxiety, and OCD. I am on disability for mental illness. He tells me time and time again that I have that I have an extremely high amount of past traumas, and that they all need to be addressed and processed, and that EMDR is the best method. I did EMDR once before with a wonderful female therapist, and I have done some with this man. I can’t anymore though because I’ve lost my trust with him.

    The telephone sessions are awful. He always sounds half awake and I feel like he’s either watching tv simultaneously or doing something really weird, like looking at porn. During our last phone session, he would begin coughing every time I’d start talking. I asked him twice if he wanted to take a quick break to get the cough out and get something to drink. He said, no, that he was fine. Then he’d stop coughing. When I began to talk again, he would begin coughing again. He coughed over almost half the phone session.

    He has disclosed info about other patients to me. He didn’t tell me their names, but visually referred to one of the persons as they were leaving his office. The lady had a regular appt before one of my regular appts. What he told me about these patients had no relevance to my problems. He was venting. He vents a lot about things in his life that don’t relate to my life. He seems to be a bit self righteous, in the stories he tells me about his life.

    He always tells me that my particular Medicate plan pays him well. I guess that’s why he wants to schedule me frequently.

    But again, the worst thing is that my life is so much worse, the worst it’s ever been. He encouraged me to end relationships with many people, family and friends. Now, I’m literally stuck with no one to talk to about my problems except him. I keep trying to end it altogether by cancelling all my appts with his receptionist. But then he texts me and acts extra caring, and I end up going back.

    Sorry that this is so long, and thanks for any help.

    • Hi Christina,

      It seems like this so called therapist is a charlatan and has encouraged you to become dependent on him.

      Do you have any friends who might offer you support through just listening to you and maybe sharing a bit of quality time with you?

      I know what it feels like to be completely alone surrounded by unfeeling people who simply won’t or can’t offer this at all. I always find it shocking that some people have the audacity to offer ‘therapy’ when really (as you hint) they’re only in it for the money. . . I mean I do carpentry for money, but I try where possible to be human with my colleagues and customers. For someone to take money for counseling / therapy and be so ‘useless’ is unforgivable.

      Sunshine’s comments above are useful. . .

      Don’t blame yourself for this, just try to get out and find some support elsewhere. I know it’s not easy, I have been betrayed and it’s hard to ‘let go’; but that I feel is what you must do to be true to yourself.

      Keep writing, that can be useful too, to set down your experiences and perceptions on paper, in a diary maybe. That way you can be sure what happened yesterday or last week really did happen and ‘oh look, there we go again, it happened again’ . . .

      Take Care,

      Paul G.

      • To Paul:

        Thanks a lot for replying. I do have one decent person in my life who I can talk to and she is a good listener. But she has a lot of issues too. That’s pretty much typical of everyone I’m close to; they’re either also quite damaged, or they are narcissists or alcoholics. That’s the kind of people I’ve always ended up involved with.

        I’m doing OK though. I did call and cancel all future sessions, and I’m doing a lot of reading about this topic now.

        I have another question or concern. Today, this man….my X-psychologist sent me 4 texts. Each one contained a link to a moving image on Pin-It, and all 4 were of little bunnies doing cute things. What is this supposed to mean? Why bunnies?? I mean, these bunny GIFS are cute and appear harmless. It just seems strange.

        I’ve read all the comments and replies on this thread, and it’s all very helpful. I wasn’t aware of the transference thing and I’m going to read about that soon….to see if any of that was going on.

        Thanks again!

        • Hi Christina,
          It’s good that you cancelled all your sessions. The most important thing when involved with an abusive therapist or any abusive narcissist is to do NO CONTACT. Do not engage with him in any way. Don’t talk, don’t text, don’t email. It’s very easy to get re-hooked by a narcissist — they want to re-engage you so that they can get their needs met, but it’s never for your benefit, only for theirs. I wouldn’t even bother trying to figure out what the texts were about. It’s not worth your time or energy. Keep in mind that this person WANTS your attention. If you give him your attention, he’s getting what he needs. The best thing to do is not to give him anything!

          Instead, focus on your own life and your healing. You may want to visit the TELL website (, as they have email responders who can be helpful. You could also look for a new therapist who works via Skype. (That’s a legitimate practice now.)

          Take care,

  21. Hi,
    This is Christina again. My post is just above this post. I’m posting again because I didn’t check off on the little boxes below, saying that I’d like to receive notifications of follow-up comments to my post and notifications of new posts on this thread.

    Thank you,

    • Hi,
      This is Christina again. My post is just above this post. I’m posting again because I didn’t check off on the little boxes below, saying that I’d like to receive notifications of follow-up comments to my post and notifications of new posts on this thread.

      Thank you,

  22. I need help for a 12 yr old girl. A friend of mine got out of a long marriage to an alcoholic woman about 3 yrs ago. when he left, his then 15 yr old daughter went with him, but the 9 yr old stayed with mom, for fear if something happened she’d never forgive herself for not being there. Approx 2 yrs ago the younger daughter found mom laying face down in the back yard. Mom ended up fine, but the then DYFS (now DCPP here in Jersey) was called, and a case was opened. Mom was ordered to a 10 day rehab, and claims to have since been in AA and sober. Dad filed for custody for the sole purpose to protect his daughter from being taken if there was another incident. DYFS remained in their lives, and even though during the last school year the child had been late or absent 18 days before Thanksgiving, and mom dodged every urine test they wanted to do, they did nothing. Before closing the case around last Christmas, the worker suggested to Dad that they could provide a counselor to the children for dealing with mom’s alcoholism, went to mom’s and presented the idea, both parties agreed, and both children started seeing a counselor. Within the 1st 2 visits, the now almost 18yr old said she was done with the counselor. That her mother confronted her with something she only spoke to her counselor about. It was nothing detrimental to her health or others, it had to do with some feelings she had about her mom drinking. And she never did go back. Mom and Dad had a court date in Feb, and for whatever reason (I could state plenty, but trying to remain neutral for the sake of this not turning one-sided) the judge ordered an insanely high support increase & for dad to go that day to get a hair follicle test which cost around $175. Financially he could not do it until payday, which was a day or 2 later, so under the advise of his lawyer he called and made the 1st avail appt the following week, which was Tues morning (mon was a holiday) and called judges chambers having them note it in the file. Long story short, mom called and harassed the court so much that the judge found dad in contempt and ordered supervised visits. Now fast forward to early June at a visit with his now 12 yr old. (Who has been complaining that the counselor & mom gang up on her for reasons like missing the bus)She states that the counselor told her “if your dad wanted to see you so bad, he would’ve gone for the test the 1st time they told him to.” We have found out that this woman has been seeing her mother regularly too, but has never requested a meeting with dad, she consistently has called dad an addict, (he does not do drugs OR drink)and has tried convincing this little girl (who thinks the world of her dad)of that. Their divorce has recently been finalized, and orders rewritten. One thing in it states how if the older kid goes to college & lives home w/dad he can refile to amend the support so mom has to pay him something. A few days ago I took both girls shopping, and the 12 yr old told me that her counselor (she saw her the day before this, against her will) was telling her how its wrong of her dad if he asks for support from mom. men should never get money from women, they should be the ones giving. Men should always support women, and women should be able to depend on that. And how she (the counselor) has a boyfriend who has money & owns some large business, and that she (the 12yr old ) should find a guy with money so she doesnt have to worry about things like this happening.
    ~These are just a few of the things we know of happening & being said. there way are more but these were the biggies. (and who knows how much we DONT know.) Its also a proveable fact they text each other (mom & counselor) and calls have been made back and forth-enough that it wouldnt be scheduling appts. My question is, how do I get this woman in big trouble? I mean, she should NOT be a counselor, especially to kids at this vulnerable age. I wonder how many others she does this to, but maybe the other parent ISNT as involved or concerned, and the poor kid is all alone with this? Not to mention, my friend’s daughter is extremely hurt and confused & angry that a “professional” “adult” tho is supposed to be there for her seems more concerned with bashing her dad after only hearing moms side. She feels attacked most of the time! I just dont want to call the board of consumer affairs here & get some dimwit who doesnt care & this counselor gets a slap on the wrist, but the kid feels big repercussions, both from counselor and mom! I want this woman’s license lifted, or at least suspended, pending an investigation. (at the very least…) Please help me help this kid-shes a beautiful creature, and i see her light dimming…help before its too late…
    I also have to add the now 18yr old said she’d write a statement, or whatever she has to do to help.
    (the other thing I forgot is that it turns out this counselor was NOT a DYFS appointed therapist. Mom went her own route for therapy, which is why DCPP couldnt just stop it.)

    • Hi,
      Thanks for sharing. I appreciate how concerned you are about this situation. You can contact the woman’s licensing board and see if they have any suggestions for you. It’s possible that a complaint could be filed, which would then be investigated. You may want to seek advice from TELL ( or AdvocateWeb ( and see if they have any suggestions. You would need to complain with her licensing board or her manager or whatever professional organization that she belongs to. I wish I could give you an easy answer for this, but you may have to do some digging to see what’s possible. Another route could be investigative journalism, if you can find a journalist who takes an interest in your situation and is willing to write about it.

      The main thing is to figure out a way to get the girl away from the abusive counselor. I’m not sure what that would take, but that’s really the most important thing — to get her out from under this bad influence and to help her understand that what’s going on is not okay.

      I’m hoping some of our readers have some suggestions for you!

      All the best,

    • Hi RintheFool,

      I don’t think you can do more than listen, offer support where possible and carefully record and clarify the ongoing saga. That makes you a ‘helpful witness’, which seems to me what you are actually being. . . Witnessing is absolutely crucial for victims, particularly where there seem to be so many potential victims in a group and when who exactly is the perpetrator is not clear. . .

      Meanwhile, there are streams of knowledge and information you can research by reading a few books and articles, all available online, it doesn’t take long to get the gist of their content either:

      imho, what you describe is also institutionalised prejudice. That is an unconscious projection by an organised group onto a third party. It is an abuse of professional relations by those professionals but who polices this? I have experienced similar prejudice. Rather than moan about that and possibly end up in another ‘gender conflict’ I would like to draw attention to the work of Dr. Linda Nielsen who has done a lot of work in this area. Anyone interested in better parenting could benefit from reading her books and essays, she is very well respected.

      The reason why similar themes keep on cropping up with similar complaints is because they really do keep happening. The problem for those who collude in institutional prejudice is that they more often than not, are powerless to prevent their own unconscious defenses and projections from finding a vulnerable and therefore convenient target. That is how prejudice works, it’s hard to challenge, particularly when it’s inside government institutions.

      Original causes of neurosis / trauma should be the concern of professional counselors / therapists because these origins once understood are the antithesis to prejudice as well as the seed of healing for the patient. Unfortunately it is convenient for professionals to consider their own ‘past causes’ & origins irrelevant. Even when trained properly the emphasis is on resisting the transference by the patient onto the therapist. As with the Victorian assumption that children ARE the problem, the assumption by many therapists and their entire training is that it is the patient who is sick AND ONLY the patient. . . Or that the position of power invested in the therapist somehow ‘solves’ or abnegates the problem of their own stuff. . . A grand assumption.

      So basically there’s two things going on here: 1 Gender prejudice for which Linda Nielsen has many answers and 2: Projection and Splitting in the therapeutic relationship.

      In my experience as an ex counseling / psychotherapy patient and part time co counselor in UK, the books and ideas of Alice Miller & Arthur Janov offer solutions to No. 2. It’s worth while studying a bit if you wish to strengthen your ability to support / help others; it also makes it much easier discussing this with other supporters and SOME professionals. By the way, when you start speaking the same language as they do, don’t be surprised that most ‘professionals’ reveal their own prejudice in startling ways! Which offers great insight into how real knowledge and genuine care actually grows whilst charlatans with ‘letters after their name’ exploit sick people.

      Take Care,

      Paul G.

    • A quick update: the issue at hand has obviously been stated from dad to mom; that the 12 yr old doesn’t want to go due to issues with the counselor. Nothing was done. That she ISNT going to the counselor. Nothing changed. She has still been going. I reread his divorce/custody papers and it basically says that they both must come to an agreement with anything medical for her. I told him to text her immediately once again (they text so it’s all on record if needed at a later date) and state that “insert name of 12 year old here” will not be returning to counseling. You never did agree to it, and as time went by, from what you’ve heard she’s said to your daughter, plus he fact you’ve never met her, you are adamantly saying she is not returning to see that counselor. It is doing anything but helping any situation. He did just that. Not nasty, just matter of factly stated how he was firmly against it, and she was not to be back again. No response. She was due to go back to her on monday eve. We never heard one way or another but figured no news=good news. By wed early Eve, the 12yr old had a soccer scrimmage. Dad got home from work & was getting ready to head back out for it when dyfs pulled up. Now they’d gotten an anonymous tip about crack smoking, and “snorting things”. I can assure you, noone in the house would go near or even know how to obtain crack. And what “things” would they be snorting…it sounded too hokey, almost as if an overeducated book smart yet illiterate and blind and deaf with any common sense /street smarts put that all together…in time we’ll be able to somehow prove Mom & counselor had their hands all over the call to dyfs. I’m sure of that. Well, at the scrimmage he asked his daughter if she was made to go mon, she said no because they had something to do, but was going back next Monday. (Another pretty long story, sorry but trying to be accurate!)
      So now I guess my questions are… if anyone knows anything about how custody orders go, if they can tell me what is he supposed to do to put an immediate stop to her seeing this counselor before Monday afternoon? If she does in fact still go, what can he do to make that a recognized thing how she want against a court order. He does have a lawyer, again I don’t know how that all works but can he get him to do a cease and desist? Or does a judge have to grant that? And finally if it is proven that her counselor in fact was the one to make the unfounded allegations to dyfs, what can be done to her as far as punishment and how do we push for the most appropriate maximum penalty to her? Again any insight into any of this is greatly appreciated. Thanks to those of you who have already commented on my original post. Going to hear back on this one from someone before Monday the 28 of August!

  23. To Christina,

    -as Kristi said, people like your ‘therapist’ try to use devices to ‘hook’ you back into their web.

    But in particular they often demonstrate a really ineffectual way of doing it. I don’t much like emojis or giffs at the best of time as they are a supplement to words to try to add something emotional, so, messages comprising of them alone are more often a tad ‘pathetic’.

    It seems some people are like fishermen, they cast out a line with a hook, vaguely hoping to ‘reel in’ a catch, but like a fisherman their bait is purely a ruse and with one purpose only. . . Don’t take the bait.

    Take Care.

    Paul G.

  24. It’s wonderful to read about therapy abuse. There is too little written about this subject. Google “psychiatric abuse” and there’s almost nothing, except stuff put out by the Scientologists. And yet, the pain I went through in bad (aka “ineffective”) therapy surpassed that which I went through in my family. That’s saying a lot. As a child, I hoped that my life would improve, and I clung to the kindness shown to me by friends and neighbours. In toxic therapy, I felt alone. Thanks to everyone who has commented on this article–you validate the experiences of many. Good luck to you all.

  25. I think I rang Basta years and years ago, when I was desperate. I have spent the last forty years suffering from the affects of emotional abuse in therapy at the hands of a therapist with fake qualifications. Two years ago I was diagnosed with complex PTSD. Thats after years of not getting appropriate treatment. I still dont take in new memories and I often dream of the characters who abused me, and in my dreams I am still in love with them. Need to stop doing this. How do I get the whole transference thing out of my head.

    • Dear Estelle,
      I’ve had a similar experience. The dreams get better once you start focusing your attention on entirely different things. My approach was – everything is my own projection and fear, the past is behing me now, the only thing that’s frightening are ideas in my mind – and the mind is something that we have control over. Memory imparements usually occur when we spend the greatest part of the day unconsciously ruminating and getting caught in thought loops. But I want you to believe that you can transcend this, because you are the one in control. Focus your mind on anything you love doing, and dedicate yourself fully to the process. Think on purpose, challenge your beliefs that are still running in the background, consciously decide that you’re not going to allow that asshole of a therapist to rob any more seconds of your precious life, let go of what no longer serves you. The best thing about the past is that it’s over and that leaves a lot of opportunity for an amazing future to emerge. Allow yourself to imagine a big bright future ahead of you. When you change the way you think-consciously-and say out loud in your mind-enough of this bullshit, I’m in charge now-it will change the way you feel, therefore it will change what you do. I strongly recommend NLP, EFT, conscious breathing and relaxation, positive visualisations and meditation. I wish you all the best, and keep in mind, you can do this.

  26. I am concerned about the way my therapist has been treating me. I have tried to talk about it with him but he says it is not about his behavior. I really dont want to lose him but I looked at this list and recognize many things.

    What recourse do I have? Can he just hurt me with no consequences? I really need him so this is a big loss for me.

    • Hi J,

      I understand how difficult a situation this is, when you are attached to someone who is not treating you the way you should be treated. It is troubling that you have tried to talk to him about it and he says it’s not about his behavior. A good therapist would be open to having a discussion about it and would take responsibility for their actions.

      Depending on what he has done, you may be able to file a complaint with his licensing board and/or pursue a civil or even criminal complaint. It is advisable to consult (for free) with an attorney before taking one of those actions.

      It is not easy to leave someone whom you’re attached to and whom you may really depend on. However, it is vital that you take your own concerns and your own well-being seriously. You are worth being treated well. Keep in mind that his actions are about him — not about you. If it not in his interests to treat you better, then he will not treat you better. You can’t fix him or change that. Instead, you must take care of yourself.

      If your current therapist is very narcissistic, then what you will need to do is break contact altogether. I know that seems hard, but consider that if he is violating boundaries, then that is a danger to your well-being and you must protect yourself. If he is a narcissist, he may not want to let you go and he may try to keep you attached and control you. That is why NO CONTACT is important. If he has a hold on you, then it’s important not to see him, speak to him, call him, email him, text him. Set a boundary and hold to it.

      Whatever he is like and whatever he does, you may want to start looking for a new therapist ASAP. Get referrals and check people out. If you can find someone you like who is trustworthy, then that person may be able to help you get through this.

      If there are people in your life you can reach out to for help, I strongly encourage you to enlist their support. This is a time when you need people around you you can trust and rely on.

      I hope this is helpful!


    • Dear J,
      Your therapist should be open, encouraging and non-judgemental towards any discussion. Further more, a good therapist is one that makes sure to empower you to empower yourself, in other words arrive to a place where you no longer need them or anyone else to be fulfilled.
      Having those feelings is yet normal during the course of therapy, because the therapist takes the authoritary role of an important figure in our past (mother, father etc.) and you manifest a tendancy towards regressing in a child-like role when with them – which usually takes the form of deep attachment and needs to be fulfilled. So, obviously, you have a strong imbalance of power inbetween the two roles. This is called transference, a normal occurance in psychotherapy, and a topic you should feel more than free to approach during your sessions.
      Now, there is a certain category of therapists who abuse the imbalance of power in therapy, they can be narcissists and are extremely dangerous. These are the ones who abuse the imbalance of power, encourage dependancy, attachment and neediness, and take advantage of your vulnerability.
      Now, if this is the case for you and you recognize in your gut that there is something wrong and disturbing about your therapy, I strongly encourage you to stop seeing this person, no explanations needed. Maybe at the beginning it sounds strongly harsh, hard and heartbraking, but trust me, in the long run it is the best thing that you can do for yourself and for your mental health.
      You are strong and wonderful. You don’t need someone else to be strong and wonderful. Therapy should be a safe space in which you get in touch with your strenghts and beauty. If it becomes a threatening space, by all means, leave as soon as you can without looking back. And know that sticking with an abusive, narcissistic therapist is tremendously dangerous and toxic for your present recovery and future evolution.

  27. Hi J. It wasn’t that long ago I was struggling with those similar thoughts and feelings. It’s almost been two years ago that I threw the gauntlet down and said “no more”.

    The way I was able to do that and not have him contact me was by reporting. The board and law enforcement told him he cannot contact me. He doesn’t want to lose his license so he has not nor does he want to end up in jail. Some of these narcissistic therapists do get that and won’t contact you after reporting. However, it is a very personal decision to do that but I did want to share that it can also afford some protection to do so.

    Kristi has good advice. They convince us we need them. My life wasn’t a bed of roses when I first went to him for treatment but I was living just fine without him in my life. I remember vividly all the thoughts and images that flooded my mind when I realized I was being exploited and that he was actually enjoying hurting me! It’s a very painful realization and very confusing. But remember you have survived before this therapist was in your life. You are a strong person and now you have found this place. You aren’t alone anymore. 🙂

  28. Hi J. It wasn’t that long ago I was struggling with those similar thoughts and feelings. It’s almost been two years ago that I threw the gauntlet down and said “no more”.

    The way I was able to do that and not have him contact me was by reporting. The board and law enforcement told him he cannot contact me. He doesn’t want to lose his license so he has not nor does he want to end up in jail. Some of these narcissistic therapists do get that and won’t contact you after reporting. However, it is a very personal decision to do that but I did want to share that it can also afford some protection to do so.

    Kristi has good advice. They convince us we need them. My life wasn’t a bed of roses when I first went to him for treatment but I was living just fine without him in my life. I remember vividly all the thoughts and images that flooded my mind when I realized I was being exploited and that he was actually enjoying hurting me! It’s a very painful realization and very confusing. But remember you have survived before this therapist was in your life. You are a strong person and now you have others who have been there. Thanks for reaching out.

  29. Dear Paul,
    I’m checking back on you for a piece of advice.
    It’s been one year since I wrote my first message about my abusive therapy from which I have recovered. Remeber, I mentioned that this person will be my teacher in the third year of college.
    I’m feeling nervous about the moment in which I’ll see her again, this time in the role of a teacher and I need to figure out how to handle the situation. I also feel fear that some of the old emotions might be triggered in this circumstance. Can you please offer me some guidance on this future perspective and on a possible behavioral approach/reframing of the situation?
    Thank you so much and I am looking forward to your reply!

    • Hi Rose,

      I’ve re read most of our dialogue from back then.

      It seems betrayal was a feature.

      If you go to seminars and lectures with this person you have one key difference: you are in a group and that may offer some differences which could help protect you from ‘flashbacks’ or further abuse.

      But on the other hand, there is nowhere MORE lonely than in a group. Your former therapist will know this. Furthermore most of the rest of your sisters and brothers in learning don’t know what you went through and probably don’t want to either. Thus there is already a conflict of loyalties, potentially. I hope the lecturer is not a gaslighter because s he may be able to use the situation to control you.

      The situation is potentially fraught. IF I were in your situation, I would make sure there were some people in that group who were essentially guardians of your truth, when in that situation. That means you will have to go out of your way to find them, befriend them, then take the risk of revealing some, if not all of your dubious experiences. These people could then become proper ‘helpful witnesses’; by that I mean psychologically rather than legally.

      Maybe, if you are feeling strong and articulate, you can attend as an individual knowing full well what your ‘opponent’ is like and armed with the mandate of a true student to question and examine fully the learning relationship. That means, in short, being ready to open your big mouth and pin the tail on the elephant in the room. . . If that’s what transpires. . .
      Alternatively again you may simply NOT attend at all. Can you speak to a counselor at College about this?

      I’m sorry I can’t be more positive but you rightly bring up a very hazardous situation which must get some forward thinking and planning.

      Keep writing when you get insight. Oh, and make sure it’s YOUR insight, not mine or some other ‘wiseacre’s ‘.

      There are so many wiseacres out there.

      Paul G.

      • Dear Paul,
        Thank you for the reply! My current inner truth is that I am strong and lucid and that I have complete responsibility on my reaction, whatever the stimulus may be. My conscious mind drew a strong lesson from my experience: that I utterly and completely refuse to be the victim of my circumstances, I choose from the bottom of my heart to have power over the person I am and the person I want to become. And, from this point of view, I think that whatever her attitude/actions may be, I should be able to handle them with dignity, without sharing the information with my colleagues. Thinking anout the situation, I think my biggest challenge is to prevent any form of psychological regression, any form of neediness, or emotional angst. Since I strongly associated her with the image of a mother, the closest definition I’ve had of acceptance and love, and shared with her my deepest vulnerabilities at the time of therapy, I think this is my biggest challege – to reconfigurate the role I perceive her from and simply see her as a college professor – while simultaneously working on self acceptance and acceptance of the fact that even though I had, for a short time, an abusive mother figure and then lacked it completely, I can, indeed, be beautiful, powerful and strong and parent myself into becoming the best version of myself. I will attend 1 month of mindfulness training in August in Plum Village – and I am hopeful that it will help me heighten my awareness of every perceived danger and handle my fears, stress hormones and triggers for fear in a mature way. I imagined 3 possible situations:
        1. She will be gaslighting – then I can simply be silent and have in mind my goal of becoming a therapist and helping other people and be aware of the fact that one’s actions and words tell stories about themselves, not about me.
        2. She will be neutral and professional – the optimal situation, and a “fresh” moment.
        3. She will want to talk privately about my reasons for leaving therapy and will play the loving, rewarding role again – in which case I have no strategy yet – and this is what I fear the most.
        I hope to hear your feedback on my approach, since your feedback has been so important and enlightening for me in the past!

      • A quick update for your question: I choose not to speak to a school counselor about this. I’m from Eastern Europe, a post-communist country – peer support among professionals is more important than the more than vaguely described ethic principles of the therapist profession. Confidentiality and authentic support are relative. The issue would probably lead to the counselor protecting his colleague. The last time I talked to a professional from my city, he gave me the diagnosis of PTSD – which was, again, the least label I needed to hear. The only real help I received was foreign – this website, the yoga teacher’s training course in Austria and the NLP seminars – these were the only circumstances where I felt safe to openly discuss the issue.

  30. Hi Rose,

    I am glad you revealed your nationality. I sense you are at a disadvantage in several ways.

    I think I am not the right person to counsel you, and not on this forum either.

    However we can talk around the issues, for that you are as always pretty articulate, so am I.

    I work, well, I worked part time as a production manager for a sole trader, also as a sole trader and ended up getting marginaslised and bullied. It’s common. As an older person, as we grow older there are always those who want our experience without really ‘paying for it’.

    Then there’s the double bind and the second guessing of who knows more about shit than who.

    It seems like your situation is archetypal. I’m not into Jung that much but he did offer some insights about how we act out in relationships. For example: The ‘Professor & the Prostitute’. That’s just one variety, and in that case the professor ends up the fool. But in your case you have to find where the power lies in a teaching context. Who is learning what from who. Don’t end up looking the fool.

    As a teacher of woodwork I learn more from my students than they learn from me, but as apprentices they earn more than I do !

    Be careful to carry your power as a receiver as well as a transmitter; even if your ‘therapist’ does corner you and try to address those former impasses, at your expense. You still need to be open to be responsive.

    The last time this sort of thing happened to me I lost a lot of energy trying to ‘appease’ the situation.

    You can’t appease former abuse, so, stay out of trouble’s way and stick to the timetable, the subject and the white board. Keep your college activities strictly IN a group and not one to one with this lecturer.

    Paul G.

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