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Page Contents: Victimized by psychotherapy.                    

 

My situation is very complex. Approximately a year and a half ago, I began psychotherapy to discuss some underlying issues regarding some weight gain. I was approaching forty, my 15+ year marriage was failing, my husband traveled frequently, and I was a stay-at-home mom of young children. There was also childhood issues which had never been addressed (molestation by employee of my Dad’s, some physical and verbal abuse by parents, stalked in high school by former friend, and death threats in college by a male neighbor in my apartment community). For me, psychotherapy was a place to open up to my past and my pain. I initially found it to be very intimidating but my psychotherapist made me feel both comfortable and safe. I continued psychotherapy successfully for several months, lost a significant amount of weight, and slowly developed feelings of transference for my psychotherapist. Once I realized this, I asked him if we could discuss [this]. Although clearly uncomfortable with this topic, my psychotherapist assured me this was very normal and the session was handled both professionally and respectfully by both of us. Because this was “normal,” I was a little surprised the following session when he informed me he had consulted with a colleague regarding my case and whether he should continue as my psychotherapist. I felt a little chastised by him and some guilt and shame for having, what I now deemed, as “inappropriate” thoughts/feelings.

Due to my transference issues and because of my husband’s intense dislike of my participation in psychotherapy, I left psychotherapy a short time later. Six weeks later, I returned after the death of a young child I had babysat as an infant.

Huge growth and healing occurred over the next several months in the psychotherapy room. Although the feelings still existed, they were never again verbally discussed. In retrospect, they seemed to seep into our sessions in other ways: body language, expressions, and possibly even dialogue. For instance, once he was giving me an example of how to ask for some intimate time with my spouse and inadvertently, said his name instead of my husband’s. I was unsure if he was experiencing countertransference of if I was somehow projecting my unspoken desires onto him.

At home, my husband and I disagreed on my need of psychotherapy. He felt threatened by my growth. He was extremely jealous and angry about why I would not confide in him. He would ask, upon my return from an appointment, how my “boyfriend” or “my boy” was that day? He had always been very controlling, rigid, and somewhat demeaning but this only intensified as psychotherapy continued. I desired to discuss this with my psychotherapist but felt like I needed to protect him (psychotherapist), I also feared telling him the truth would result in me being terminated.

Slowly, I began to notice my psychotherapist becoming more inaccessible which HE later described himself as coming across as a cold, aloof bastard. More vacations, time off, appointments could only be made every two weeks instead of weekly, etc. I finally had enough and sent him an email after his last hiatus terminating psychotherapy. He quickly responded that evening via email saying it was difficult to hear of how disappointed I had become with him and psychotherapy and that, naturally, he wanted the opportunity to work through many of the issues and experiences I had mentioned in my email.

Because of my feelings of attachment to him, I agreed to meet and discuss in an appointment the following day. His email the night before, created a sense of betrayal the following day when HE terminated the relationship immediately. At that very moment in time, I flashed back to an incident where my parents left me at home alone which later resulted in my being sexually abused. It was an incident I had been desiring to discuss in psychotherapy for several weeks but was unable because of appointment schedules. I asked him, “What just happened here?” I was dazed, confused and in shock. He said I created feelings of ambivalence in him and the conflicting responses were a result of this.

I felt abandoned, alone, rejected, betrayed, hurt, etc.. like I was being punished for being honest. I suddenly became a problem bigger than he could handle—in other words I felt “unfixable.” At that moment, psychotherapy seemed very conditional. (Gives a lot of insight into my childhood!)

He never indicated that I should stay in psychotherapy. He only mentioned he knew of someone who could take over where he left off and was willing to give me her name if I desired. I left without her name because, at that moment, I hated psychotherapy and I hated him. Aside from the ambivalence I created in him , the other reason he gave for terminating our relationship, was the effect it was having on my marriage. He said it would be egregious of him to stay. In my mind, he had put my husband’s desires and needs before my own. Before leaving, I told him I was hurt, angry and confused. I had an emotional breakdown and shortly thereafter, my marriage fell apart.

A few days later, I emailed him and requested the name of another psychotherapist. I began psychotherapy with a female psychotherapist shortly thereafter. For a very long time, I hid the depth of my feelings from both her and myself. I blamed myself because I did not want to jeopardize the idealized parts of him. My new psychotherapist recommended I meet with him to discuss the way my termination was handled. Five months later, we met and it was difficult for both of us. He expressed regret, I expressed extreme sadness and anger. Two weeks later, I learned from my new psychotherapist that she had been consulting with him for the past few months about my case. I attempted to cancel my appointment, but at her request, kept my appointment and explored that I felt betrayed again—this time by BOTH of them.

I met with him again to discuss the affects of my termination and the latest development. He acknowledged the resistance and said it was him protecting himself. His decision to terminate me without input, left me feeling voiceless. Both psychotherapists have made some conflicting comments. I recognize much of what I am experiencing are questions I desire to ask my own parents but I have issues of betrayal and trust in psychotherapy. If I was protecting him, and he was protecting him, who was protecting me? Should I feel betrayed by her desire to share my current psychotherapy with my former psychotherapist?

Knowing the detailed facts of this case, my new psychotherapist sees me as a victim. She recently asked me why I blamed myself—“He’s a doctor for goodness sakes. He is trained on how to respond. It must be my fault because he knows what he is doing.” For me, psychotherapy was like wrapping a gift. It was among other things, the gift of trust. For almost one year, with his help I picked out the perfect wrapping paper and bow to wrap my special gift. In less than one hour, he unwrapped my gift to myself and now all I see is crumpled paper and a used bow. I am mad that I came to psychotherapy to heal wounds, not create more wounds to heal. I feel like I came to work on letting my guard down, only to realize why I always leave it up. I am sad because I was willing to take a risk I had never taken before—show someone my deepest hurts, wounds, and fears. I trusted this person and I feel completely betrayed.

I am angry because I have always been able to function normally. Now I cannot seem to keep it together. I have started an anti-depressant to help me cope through these painful moments. Can anyone ever be trusted?

 
Yes, your situation is complex, and for that reason I have not edited your question to shorten it.

Now, the essence of the matter can be found in one phrase (“my new psychotherapist sees me as a victim”) and, more specifically, in one word in that phrase: victim.

The truth is, you have been victimized in the past. You have been sexually molested, verbally abused, stalked, and threatened with death. Moreover, you have been victimized by your husband’s jealousy and anger.

You have also been victimized by your first psychotherapist. It appears from the way you describe it that you don’t seem to see it, but your first psychotherapist’s consulting with the psychotherapist to whom he referred you is a grave breach of confidentiality, unless you specifically gave your written permission to allow him to discuss your case with anyone. You could sue him for breaking confidentiality, and he could lose his license. In this sense, you have been betrayed.

Finally, you have also been victimized by your second psychotherapist. A psychotherapist can seek consultation for a case only if the consultant does not know the client being discussed. By speaking with your first psychotherapist, your second psychotherapist has herself breached confidentiality. In this sense, you have been betrayed again.

So far, however, there is nothing complex about all this victimization. So let’s see where the complexity begins.

The complexity begins, in the technical sense, with victim anger. That is, in being victimized, you can feel so helpless that your pain remains unspoken, and your anger gets pushed into the unconscious. As a result, with all of this unconscious pain and anger festering in your heart, you can develop a psychological attitude to life that prevents you from being emotionally honest with anyone while at the same time you feel resentment that you are being treated unfairly.

Consequently, the whole point of psychotherapy is to remedy this tendency to keep your thoughts and feelings hidden. Sadly, many psychotherapy clients make the mistake of continuing to hide their thoughts and feelings in the psychotherapy just as they hide them everywhere else. Much of the work of psychotherapy therefore hinges on the psychotherapist not allowing these mistakes to go unnoticed and unspoken.

You have made several of these mistakes, and your long description of the case provides the details.

Due to my transference issues and because of my husband’s intense dislike of my participation in psychotherapy, I left psychotherapy a short time later.  That is, instead of discussing these issues openly in the psychotherapy, you bolted.

Although the [transference] feelings still existed, they were never again verbally discussed.  That is, you chose to ignore something that was right under your nose.

I desired to discuss this [my husband’s feelings about my psychotherapy] with my psychotherapist but felt like I needed to protect him (psychotherapist), I also feared telling him the truth would result in me being terminated.  That is, you failed to speak to your psychotherapist about your husband’s opposition to the psychotherapy and the emotional problems it was causing you.

I finally had enough and sent him an email after his last hiatus terminating psychotherapy.  That is, instead of speaking personally, in the psychotherapy, you hid yourself behind an e-mail. (When psychotherapy consists of regular face-to-face meetings, letters and e-mails are always an emotional cop-out.)

I left without her name because, at that moment, I hated psychotherapy and I hated him.  That is, you bolted, again.

For a very long time, I hid the depth of my feelings from both her and myself.  That is, you started hiding yourself, again.

I have started an anti-depressant to help me cope through these painful moments. Can anyone ever be trusted?  That is, you are back to where you started: trying to hide your pain by punishing yourself and throwing it back into the face of the world.

Now, even though these mistakes are all your own, your psychotherapist is professionally responsible to notice them and bring them into the open. As it happened, you seem to have stumbled onto two incompetent psychotherapists.

So what can you do? Well, find another psychotherapist on your own. And learn from your mistakes: work as hard as possible from now on not to hide your thoughts and feelings in psychotherapy. Speak about everything, don’t hide yourself behind e-mails and letters, and resist the temptation to bolt when things get tough. Your psychotherapeutic task is to overcome your victim anger, and you can accomplish this only with absolute honesty.

 


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