Excessive self disclosure: bad therapy red flag #8

Your therapy is supposed to be about you! I know relatively little about my current therapist personally. Enough to know that the therapist is sane and enough to know that there have been times the therapist has had stuff to work through…but I have never been burdened with whatever issues they are. I know the therapist graduated from Columbia University. I know the therapist is divorced and has an adult child who is now married. I know this therapist attends a monthly peer group consultation, and in the past has attended individual therapy. Quite refreshing really! Outside of that there are a few details that I know….but again those details keep the therapist a authentic human being, not an icy, self proclaimed “expert” that places themself upon a pedestal, and then claims the client is idealizing them. I feel safe in sessions. Sessions are about me. The boundaries are crystal clear, yet not obtrusive!

My former therapist however flooded our sessions with information about his life that I really did not need to know.I didn’t need to know the following that appeared throughout multiple therapy sessions with him for 2+ years
…that he didn’t have the money to fix his pool
… that his mother underwent ECT when he was 6
… that his brother allegedly abused him
… that he was considered a good tennis player, but also was considered “uncoachable”
… that he was “thrown out” of a internship with a therapist he wanted to work with
… that his son had back pain, was very depressed, and suicidal
….and that he himself experienced suicidal thoughts and severe depression throughout his life
…that he used LSD to experience altered states of consciousness

Perhaps the one thing I didn’t need to know about that took up way too much space was the therapists new career pursuit in becoming a “public speaker”. This subject appeared in just about every session I had with him. This subject sometimes took up half of the session and other times continued beyond the “therapeutic hour” and included monologues about who he hired as a mentor, and how much money (he claimed $12000) he spent on this mentor, training’s he went to and the speeches he gave while there, subjects he wanted to talk about, and often enough, the therapist presenting his “talks” and written speeches to me in session. He’d spend time explaining how this was a “dream” of his and that he was “destined to fulfill it”. Not only did this subject infiltrate my sessions, it ended up invading my life.

Being an adult that was raised in a in a narcissistic family structure I developed tendencies to be a “caretaker and people pleaser” I felt like I had to help him… I did what people pleasers and caretakers do! I experienced him as someone who was “trying so hard and getting nowhere.” As a client I felt that maybe I was standing in his way, that sessions were taking up time that he could be working on “his dream”. I wanted him to be happy. My “people pleasing and caretaker tendencies” took over and I assisted him by finding him a few places to give public talks, he even came to our house (mine and my ex’s when we were married) to get help with a talk he was going to present at a high school. ( not just infiltrating my life, but my then husbands as well, he was also his client) He was very willing to accept the assistance, in fact, he seemed to think he was entitled to it. He had offered to buy my ex and I dinner in exchange for our help with his speech and then totally blew that off. There was no reciprocity.
This therapist also let me know that he had “fired 5 or 6 other clients” so he could have more time to work on his public speaking career. This essentially backfired on him when
( no suprise to me) he wasn’t just accepted as a wonderful and dynamic speaker. Apparently others didn’t think public speaking was his natural talent either…I’m trying to be gentle.
So …of course I felt responsible to help him find new clients and would point others in his direction, when appropriate.

The above is the short version. The point is that through the therapists excessive self disclosure the therapeutic frame was irreparably damaged. The therapist had a professional responsibility to keep his “stuff” out of sessions. Of course he is a (very wounded) human being, but he should have been doing his own therapy and not exposing clients to his life’s desires and difficulties. This excessive self disclosure also created a “dual relationship” and it was one of the items in the licensing board complaint I filed. I didn’t “win” this part my case as the therapist denied that all of this occurred, and there really was no “hard evidence” to prove it…one of the problems with licensing board cases is the lack of hard evidence a client can provide. “Promotional” emails I wrote for him, to get speaking “gigs” and clients were “used against me” by his attorney in the “licensing board” complaint, as a claim that I had a great therapeutic relationship with him…B.S.! Again, I did what people pleasers and caretakers do. Therapeutically speaking, I transferred my childhood desire “to please and take care of” my parents onto him, in order to be accepted, and loved. Transferrence is a “normal” part of therapy, and a therapist must be capable of handling it appropriately…this therapist should have known, and in my opinion did know!

However, what he and I both know, is that along the “insurance fraud”, he commited, his excessive self disclosure and the dual relationship that was created, are the reasons therapy failed.

This therapist had a professional responsibility to reasonably “care for” me as a client and handle the transerence, and instead put himself and his needs first. In my opinion this therapist exploited my “weak points” and issues to serve himself.
Today, with the ongoing assistance of my current therapist, I am so happy to have realized that it wasn’t my responsibility to take care of and serve him.(and many others previously in my life).

A therapist has a professional responsibility to leave his stuff outside the therapy session!

Fun things to do at a therapists office

wish I had thought of these…


Red flags of bad therapy#7 :Therapist takes on your spouse as a client and it’s not couples counseling!

Red flag #7: Your therapist takes on your spouse as a client and it’s not couples counseling

This is perhaps the biggest mistake I made in therapy! It arose out of caring, but ended up disastrous.

My now ex-husband had a substance abuse issue. After one of many nights of extreme “self indulgence”( as the therapist called it, I called it drinking to the point of extreme intoxication) and one of many nights of nasty fighting that he couldn’t recall, my ex-h once again laid claims to “wanting to get help”. At the time I had been going to al-anon for 6 months and seeing this therapist for about 3 months, but had never said anything about it to my ex-h. I had threatened divorce several times, but hadn’t committed to it, and was attending therapy with the hope of increasing my self-esteem, self worth and courage make a clear decision about divorce.

I explained to my ex-h that I had been seeing this therapist and thought perhaps the therapist could help him. I cared, and thought that perhaps if my ex-h quit drinking I could gain a better perspective on who I was really married to, underneath the self medication. I do believe my ex-h is a very sensitive person who lacks any sort of mechanism for coping with his emotions and feelings. However, I was not willing to engage in couples counseling with him unless he quit drinking first.. While substance abuse is involved in any relationship, therapy can not be effective for a couple until the substance is out of the picture. In my mind at the time I said “oh yeah, let me go to therapy with him on a Friday after work, then have him go to “happy hour” and when he comes home we can discuss what we talked about in therapy….not a sane idea!

So my ex places a call to this therapist and requests an appointment. I was in the group the therapist ran and at the end of it he tells me my then husband called, wanted to start therapy with him, and asked me ” If I was cool with it”. I said yes, PROVIDING his issues were his to deal with and mine were mine, that in no way was this to be couples counseling! If and when he could help him stop drinking completely, I would reconsider engaging in marriage counseling, and not before. I am 100% sure I made a clear statement about this.

However…after my ex-h started therapy suddenly I had to answer for issues that came up in my ex’s sessions with the therapist. It became ” ex-h said this and ex-h said that”. If I brought some fight we had up, it became “that’s not what ex-h said”. I was dealing with the distortions of an alcoholic through the “middleman” of a therapist”. (My ex’s sessions were on late Friday afternoons, and mine were typically on Saturday or Sunday mornings.) The therapist was making this marriage counseling without both parties in the room, and would frequently complain that “he didn’t know who was telling the truth”…again, I did not ask him to determine this! I was there to learn how to help and take care of myself.
What I got instead was my life and perspectives distorted by an alcoholic husband and a therapist who didn’t follow through with he agreement he made with me. I lost trust in the therapist and the therapy and should have “walked away” then and there.
In fact the therapist allowed my ex-h to share emails I had written and he had “hacked” into. A serious breach of confidentiality. I confronted the therapist on this and he didn’t seem to think he violated confidentiality, of course when I asked to share a phone message left on my cell phone by my ex-h, the therapist wouldn’t listen to it as it would be breaking his confidentiality with my then husband…..WTF!

At some point my ex absolutely refused to quit drinking, emphatically saying “I will not quit drinking”. So I filed for divorce.

This went on for the rest of my therapy with this therapist, even after the divorce, the therapist would ask how things were going with my ex, and if I said anything negative I was accused of “being the problem”

The therapist’s attitude was that whatever my ex said about me must be the truth and whatever I said about my ex was my own negative self projection! The therapist didn’t do this in the opposite direction. My ex’s words were “how it was”.

There are many more details to this story but they are a mute point.Bottom line is that the therapist should have known better than to have taken my husband on as a client. I would say it’s close to impossible for a therapist in this situation not to at least unconsciously “choose a side”, and entertain his own biases regarding marriage, relationships and perhaps his own paternalistic viewpoints.

On my end…I had the responsibility to walk away from the therapeutic relationship after explaining how I felt, and I did not. I stayed with it, if for no other reason than my past, which said “hey, I was here first” …something that goes back to having been the firstborn and having been “dethroned” by the birth of a new sibling. Not exactly a conscious cognitive memory! Yet those issues can influence our present day choices.

So that is Red flag #7 Your therapist takes on your spouse as a client and it’s not couples counseling!!!

BTW…My current therapist wouldn’t even consider taking on a friend of mine. In fact, would have to consider very carefully taking on anyone who was only even an acquaintance. This therapist maintains very clear boundaries, yet the therapy remains very open and very safe…and oh so refreshing and healing!

“Caveat Emptor” part2 “to prove your case is difficult”

Imagine that your mental health professional got up out of his/her chair, came over to you and slapped you across the top of the head, but not hard enough to leave a bump or bruise. You have no proof as to what happened behind closed doors! You can go to the police and file physical abuse charges, but the therapist can completely deny doing this, perhaps claiming you were “making it up” as you weren’t happy with something he/she said, and that you’re “exacting revenge” by claiming this. You are the Mental Health Client…the Practitioner a professional, you have no proof, and the MHP walks away!
Hopefully you don’t go back…but if you grew up with childhood abuse issues you probably will…thinking if only you “behave” and say what the therapist wants to hear, he/she won’t hit you again, just as it was “at home” many years ago…the same goes for emotional abuse!

Proving your case in a Licensing Board complaint about a Mental Health Professional is very difficult.
Most of what you claim is “hearsay” evidence. If you claim it, and the MHP denies it, there is nothing to “prove” your case . Even if you wrote notes during the sessions, and they were 100% accurate, your notes have no bearing on the case as you are the client and not the “expert”. They will say the information/evidence you present is “distorted”. The MHP is considered to know what he/she is doing, and to have absolutely clear sight, and you are assumed to be “unknowledgeable”.
Yes, you can prove certain things like billing issues and insurance fraud, but if the insurance company doesn’t prosecute, you have no recourse. Everything else is hearsay!
The only way to prove your case would be through media based recordings, and what “trusting relationship” uses recording devices from the onset?

Even sex with a MHP is difficult to prove with no physical evidence, if strongly denied by the MHP, and you are the only one making a complaint.

I was told by the licensing folks in my state that since I was the only one that has a filed a complaint about this particular MHP, that insurance fraud did not occur as there was no pattern in the MHP’s history, and I couldn’t provide proof that he “intended” to commit fraud..
Yet, if 5 or 6 other clients filed a similar complaint, then it would be considered fraud…huh?

Most people do not file complaints for several reasons…
1. they feel they are the one to blame for the abuse/exploitation
2. they don’t know a process exists
3. they know the process that exists, but it is intentionally designed to protect the mental health professional
4. they don’t want to hurt the MHP (see #1)
5. they feel it’s too much work to go through (this is debatable!)
6. they are manipulated (“gaslighted”) by the MPH into not filing a complaint

there may be others but those are the ones that come to mind.

If a surgeon botches a surgery, the results are obvious (yet are still often denied), if a Mental health professional botches a case…the wounds are invisible…and since it’s considered “science”…what is not seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or physically able to be felt (by others)…doesn’t exist.

Filing my case was “worth it” and would not hesitate to file another if it became necessary. Even if the MHP is not “found guilty” they still endure a significant level of stress and hopefully will think at least twice about exploiting another client in the future.
The complaint will also remain on the MHP’s record as long as the person remains a licensed professional in the State they practice in.

“What therapy should be” by Dr.Dan L Edmunds

A great article by Dr. Dan L Edmunds on “What therapy should be”


Dumb things therapists say (do) #3

Ok…so it was a 1000 am appointment, but it wasn’t 800 am. I arrived on time and waited in the driveway for the client ahead of me to come out, 10 minutes late, as usual. I went into the office and started in on the session and about 5 minutes into it the therapist suddenly in the middle of what I was saying, says “I’m going to go upstairs and make something to eat, otherwise I’ll passout.”

At least he could have eaten it upstairs, but no!… he comes down with a toasted bagel with jelly and something to drink, and proceeds to eat it while we’re talking!
Another one of those “What the heck!” feelings!…and no…he didn’t even offer me a glass of water.

This could also fit in the “red flag” category. Eating in front of a client is never a great idea, and it generally shows the therapist can’t manage his/her day and attend to his/her own needs. A quick snack at the start of a session is certainly understandable, but stopping a session in progress, and then eating in front of the client is just unprofessional, not to mention rude!

Imagine if your M.D came in to examine you with a submarine sandwich in one hand, and a coke in the other!

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get to write…. a Halloween Nightmare…red flag #7…when your therapist takes your spouse on as a client and it’s not couples counseling!

dumb things therapists say #2

“Why would I speak to one person (the client) when I could be speaking to thousands?”

This statement was made when the therapist was regaling me with his grandiose fantasies of becoming the latest greatest motivational/public speaker.