Toxic abusive therapist

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Ilovedogs

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Toxic abusive therapist
« on: April 25, 2020, 05:00:36 AM »
I'm not sure where to post this one.

I had a psychologically, emotionally abusive "therapist" and I unfortunately developed some ptsd as a result. She was the first therapist I had seen and I'm afraid I just had no idea what therapy should actually be like, and I stuck with it for 8 months, once a week. This was enough time to get really quite a lot of damage done.

The abuse involved, blame shifting all the traumatic experiences I told her onto me. For example, each time I told her about an experience in which bullying had happened to me, she turned my words round and took the perspective of the bully, showing me how my behaviour had caused the bully to do what they did, and I was just as bad as them. In subsequent therapy I have learned how utterly destructive this was, in each case I had done nothing wrong.

She blew very hot and cold, sometimes I felt real dislike, even hate, off her,at other times she seemed to think I was a sort of wonderful spectacle, and at other times she seemed almost as if she was sexually attracted to me. I was not attracted to her at all and this repulsed me. More than anything it really really confused me, and triggered some childhood abuse memories.

She dismissed every problem I had with the therapy as transference, or me being mistaken. For example when I used to get home I was often very distressed, I realised I had been extremely uncomfortable in the session. I would write and tell her this. She would always reply, you seemed fine in the session, I wonder what's happening when you get home?

I felt sick, uncomfortable, afraid, ashamed, disgusted and very distressed in sessions. My stomach turned over and all the alarms were going off in my head, just as they would were I being abused by a parent or being bullied. She absolutely terrified me. When I told her she said that's what trauma does to you, it feels like it's happening here but it's from the past. I know now, from having good therapy, that this situation was not at all like revisiting trauma. That is also very distressing, but totally totally different.

She was extremely controlling. Three times she "modelled asserting boundaries" for me to see. Once involved shouting at some neighbours to be quiet because she was doing a therapy session and could hear them talking outside. One time it involved storming off down the stairs to go and shout at her husband who she could hear talking while doing her therapy session. The other time involved very aggressively telling me where she wanted me to sit in her office and did not want me to sit, ie on a comfy chair and on a futon. When I said I was uncomfortable dumping my coat and belongings on the floor as there was no where else for them, she told me no, she was comfortable with that l, they were fine there. I was not asking permission to dump them there, I was asking if I could put them on the chair or futon I was not permitted to sit on!

She intimated all the time that her "other clients" were irritating to her, "always changing the day they came for therapy", or otherwise annoying her in some way. She said she couldn't wait to retire. One time I went to a session and I noticed she had moved a lot of things round. She got me to spend the first 10 minutes telling her everything that had changed. She seemed absolutely made up, and said in her usual way that I was amazing, but I felt like a monkey at the zoo, some special object, how did this exercise benefit me? (She once said I was amazing because I was like a machine, referring to my aspergers brain, which I found humiliating and objectifying). She said "all the others" hadnt noticed a thing, to which she may as well have added "the moronic sheep that they are". These were her therapeutic clients!!!

She told a story about her toddler who following some older children had jumped off a big rock and really injured himself. She thought he would have the sense not she said. This was a moralistic story to illustrate to me how people, including her baby and me, followed the herd. All I could think of was, oh my god you let your baby jump off a rock then blamed HIM!!!

She was creepy. She once asked me my sexual preference. It had nothing to do with what I was talking about in the session. What purpose did it have? I felt absolutely horrified, and sick to my stomach. I felt like I was being chatted up in a sleezy bar.

I was getting worse, far worse, in this "therapy" , not better.

I used to come out feeling spaced out, like I'd been hypnotised.

She tried to treat me for dissociative identity disorder which I do not have.

I am autistic, she did not ever take this seriously. She told me she believed all the diagnostic criteria are blurry and she doesn't agree with them anyway, all the major disorders are very similar. Autism she said was probably trauma based, just like the personality disorders, etc, she couldn't find any neurological basis for it. This is completely against all modern thinking and scientific research regarding autism.

She was competitive. I speak German, I mentioned it once because it was necessary for what I was explaining. She said she spoke Spanish. I don't know how it was relevant but it felt weird. Another time she mentioned an old TV programme she liked I said I'd never seen it, too young, but my parents had told me about it l. She said, "but we're the same age, I'm only a few years older". But she was 9 years older I later found out, mid 40s, I was mid 30s. I found this strange.

I knew quite a bit about her, age, previous occupations, number and ages of children, likes and dislikes, interests, etc etc etc. I never asked about these things, she just told me. I have found in good therapy I know very very little about the therapist or her life.

The bathroom situation! Therapy was in her home, in a creepy room upstairs. I had a 50 minute journey to get there. I have a medical condition which makes me pee often. I used to need to pee on arrival half the time. Oh god, the drama! I felt like I had told her I was going to go into her kitchen, prepare a meal for myself out of her food, and sit there eating it until I was ready for the session. I don't know how else to describe it, but I felt like a criminal almost asking to use her bathroom. I used to ask my abusive dad, who drove me to sessions, to take my to a public wc beforehand to avoid this but that felt so undermining and humiliating somehow.

Arriving at the house! She took ages, AGES, to answer the door and when she did the greeting was like one you'd give to your absolutely worst enemy who you were only seeing under duress. No waiting room either, just an open porch to wait in, by a busy road. Then inside you had to pass her living room with big glass doors so if family were inside, as they were sometimes, you had to walk past. She did not ever speak one word except a really cagey, angry, hostile "hello" when you went in, until you'd passed the gauntlet of living room, family photos in the hallway, and the long dark staircase up to the awful creepy therapy room. Terrifying just that bit!

Once when I gave her cash for the session she said, the money is for my time not for my services. If it was for my services, I would be a prostitute! This made me feel deeply uncomfortable and ashamed, like I'd been to see a prostitute.

And so much other stuff. I will stop because this is very long. I just wanted to get that out, it was a horrendous awful experience and I still get a lot of flashbacks and nightmares from it.

Thank you for reading. Andy advice on how to get over this kind of thing very much appreciated. Or just comments. Anything to help me feel I'm not crazy and this was as bad as I feel it was, I gaslight myself sadly due to childhood abuse by two uPD parents.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2020, 05:59:05 AM by Ilovedogs »

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Ilovedogs

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Re: Toxic abusive therapist
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2020, 06:22:57 AM »
One final thing. It turned out she had no training in autism despite having reassured me she could help me regarding my recent adult autism diagnosis. She told me after a while that she had undiagnosed autism. I found this very very hard to believe. She also told me she could relate to all the things on my nhs autism profile after I asked her to read it when she kept on misunderstanding, or misrepresenting, what I said about how autism is for me. Yet she did not demonstrate any understanding of me, or autism, at all in sessions. I will never know but couldn't help wondering if she was actually making this stuff up about her being autistic "like me", she seemed so different and appeared to have zero understanding or tolerance of autism. A book her supervisor gave her to read about women with Aspergers (because she had been discussing me and another of her female clients, she said, who also has a Aspergers) she rubbished, and said the stuff about autism masking was nonsense. It really really is not. I felt very suspicious about her claim she is autistic after this.

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clara

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Re: Toxic abusive therapist
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2020, 01:35:40 PM »
Nope, you're certainly not alone in this experience, ilovedogs!  My first therapist was an abusive a-hole who apparently had some deep issues with his own insecurity which he projected onto his clients.  He was trained in a very specialized form of therapy, one which he never precisely explained as to how and why it "worked," (I actually had to get a book on the subject to try to understand where he was coming from, and I still never quite got it) He refused to deviate from his training, no matter what I said, no matter that the issues I was dealing with he decided to ignore in favor of the issues he claimed I was actually dealing with.  For example, if I said I was having a problem on my job, he'd say tell me about your father.  If I said I needed advice on how to present myself in an interview, he'd say tell me about your father.  Etc.  Around and around it went, for well over a year and a great deal of expense on my part.  I got nowhere, and actually started feeling worse about myself (as you said you experienced).  After every session I would feel terrible, with a sense that at the next session I needed to do something to make myself "right" with him, with nothing changing at the next session, going home once again feeling terrible and on it went.  I started to feel hopeless and beyond "fixing," with problems that could never be resolved.  I deferred to him as the "expert" and started trying to be perfect, which is what he seemed to want while claiming no one can have perfect mental health.  At the time, I believed all the projections were on my part, never realizing that they were often originating with him. 

I got worse,  not better, and not because I wasn't trying.  When I tried to put into writing what I was dealing with and how I was reacting to his so-called therapy, he'd berate me for not being as "articulate" in our sessions.  It only made me not want to say anything at all, and about the time I was ready to give up, he sensed it and put me into one of his group sessions.  And it was there I started seeing him for the incompetent he was.  Because he was dealing with most people in that group the exact same way he'd been dealing with me.  Those who parroted him, praised him, adored him, and saw him the most (i.e., gave him the  most money) would get passes for even the most inane of time-wasting so-called problems, while someone with a genuine concern would get mocked, belittled, dismissed if they didn't give him what he wanted.  If you dared question what he was saying, he'd get angry.  Things finally came to a head one day when he declared that none of us were getting "better" because we weren't working hard enough, and he dismissed the entire group as a "failure" (yes, he called us failures) and disbanded the group.  At first I was devastated, until I started thinking critically about what had actually gone on.  I realized he just wanted his ego fed, he wanted praise, he wanted to feel like he was a great therapist.  When he didn't get what he wanted, he lashed out.  His primary concern was for his own feelings of self-worth, not with us.

I didn't come to that conclusion quickly or easily, because for a long time after I believed I'd failed him in some way.  It took some time and serious self-reflection to realize how toxic this man was.  I didn't want to believe it at first because I believed I was the one with the problems, certainly not my therapist.  Certainly a trained therapist would have resolved their problems and not project them onto their clients!  But they're people just like we are with problems of their own.  After that experience, my benchmark for finding a competent, compatible therapist was understanding that while therapy may not make you feel better (at least immediately), it should never make you feel worse.  Therapist who try to act like they "know best" are to be avoided.  Therapists who don't really listen.  Who try to tell  you who you are and what your problems are.  Real therapy is a discovery process, not a lecture.  Don't be afraid to "fire" a therapist.  They can handle it.  If they can't, that's their problem, not yours!

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Ilovedogs

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Re: Toxic abusive therapist
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2020, 03:49:46 PM »
He was trained in a very specialized form of therapy, one which he never precisely explained as to how and why it "worked,"

I started to feel hopeless and beyond "fixing," with problems that could never be resolved. 
 
At the time, I believed all the projections were on my part, never realizing that they were often originating with him. 

I got worse,  not better, and not because I wasn't trying. 
 

 Irealized he just wanted his ego fed, he wanted praise, he wanted to feel like he was a great therapist.  When he didn't get what he wanted, he lashed out.  His primary concern was for his own feelings of self-worth, not with us.

 After that experience, my benchmark for finding a competent, compatible therapist was understanding that while therapy may not make you feel better (at least immediately), it should never make you feel worse.

 Therapist who try to act like they "know best" are to be avoided.  Therapists who don't really listen.  Who try to tell  you who you are and what your problems are.


ALL this, yes! I really agree, the biggest realisation for me was that it was making me much much worse than I was when I started going, and I came out with exactly the same thought: therapy should never make you worse. I had believed she was maybe making me worse before I got better. No! Therapy can be very hard but I see now how each time it is hard, it also gets a bit easier somewhere inside, in goid therapy. In bad therapy it just gets worse and worse until you cannot do it anymore because, if you're me, you actually feel broken by it.

I find it so traumatising still just thinking about it. Thanks fir sharing your experience of another awful, abusive therapist.

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tragedy or hope

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Re: Toxic abusive therapist
« Reply #4 on: April 26, 2020, 11:56:14 AM »
I learned the hard way... therapists are people with problems. I went to several. I also began training to become one. A good close friend, a spiritual foundation, and my own pursuit of what I wanted through Al Anon and self help  books was a cheaper more rewarding route.

The following is my experience and opinion. I am sure others have found their experiences to be helpful. No offenses are intended.

I had a male therapist call me "honey" and share what I said in my sessions with his wife. I felt his interest was more than professional. In the end I left and told him he was unprofessional. He had no authority over me, but he tried.

I had one who looked at me like I had three heads and seemed only interested in getting more info on the one who called me honey. He sat with a clipboard and stared. He did not relate.. I told him what I thought of him too.

I had a female therapist who insulted my ability to choose my spouse since this is my major problem. I quit going to her and she had the audacity to write me a letter asking me to come back, which I never did.

I thought going into the field of helping people would be helpful to others since I am an empath. So I went to school to become a therapist. While there I had a therapist come on to me in weird ways, (like an unpd) which caused me to avoid my graduation from that course of study. This is when I grew up. I  reported him to the federal education system. I was freed of being a "subject" of his by by doing this.

When I volunteered as part of interning... I found professionals who when gathered with students; found humor and joked about their clients deepest woes.  I quit that avenue of education and quit the "therapists."

Training in the field requires that the student go for their own therapy. No one "graduates" them and tells them they are problem free. Just like this site, I must do the work on my own.

Therapists are people with a myriad of problems. They simply found a field in which to make a living. I was also told by a therapist who was an instructor that people go into the field because they are searching for their own answers to their issues.

If one does their research on the father's of psychology and their lives etc... it would be very easy to resist anything they have said.  They had many and serious problems. All of the dsm3r (it might be 4 r now)... their diagnostic book is written by opinion.  Science cannot prove anything emotional. I think bi-polar may be different.

Be very careful. Be wise. Believe in yourself. You are becoming aware. This is growth.
"When people show you who they are, believe them."
~Maya Angelou

Believe it the first time, or you will spend the rest of your life in disbelief of what they can/will do; to you. T/H

Family systems are like spider webs. It takes years to get untangled from them.  T/H

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Wilderhearts

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Re: Toxic abusive therapist
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2020, 04:19:41 PM »
Sadly, there is a higher concentration of pwPDs among mental health professionals than the general population.  I think possibly they're drawn to it either to "feel" like they're practicing empathy, assure themselves they're "good" people for helping others, to exploit their clients' vulnerabilities so they can feel superior and/or in control (it seems to me this is what you experienced), or to increase their understanding of others' cognition and humanity, so that they can better manipulate others.

My uNPDf had a master's degree in counselling/psychology.  My former uOCPD roommate was in the process of getting her Master's in counselling.  They were both somewhat enamoured with attachment theory.

I was absolutely nauseous reading about what you went through with that therapist - and for eight months.  Of course you were spaced out and disconnected coming out of those sessions - that kind of abuse when you're trying to be vulnerable and process your trauma and challenges is so traumatizing.  I know I can dissociate sometimes, when my anxiety goes beyond my ability to manage it, or I'm experiencing a trauma, and my sister seems to dissociate often.  This is completely different from DID, which is the new term for "multiple personalities."  I would be highly suspicious of anyone trying to diagnose anyone with DID.

I once went to a psychiatrist after I had a severe dissociative episode with auditory hallucinations, following some bad decompensation.  She told me that there was "nothing wrong" with me except that I "cry too much," berated me for using the term "hysterical" to describe my decompensation/extreme distress and loss of cognition and provided a very disturbing and sexually graphic explanation of misogynistic medical practice towards "hysterical" women to explain the origins of the word, and THEN "diagnosed" my deceased uNPDfather as Bipolar, on the sole basis that he had rages and was professionally successful/charismatic.  It left me feeling so violated, disturbed, invalidated, and utterly hopeless that I would get any professional help.  It turns out she had once had her medical license revoked, and on MD reviews many people thought she was severely mentally ill herself.  Thankfully I have a good GP who sent me to another Pdoc afterwards - one who understood what I had experienced and helped me.

When I was on the search for a new therapist, I had a session with a woman who had such effusive emotional response to my hardships that I felt her feelings were overshadowing mine and taking centre-stage in the session.  She also shared intimate details about her life and experiences.  I think I only had one or two sessions and thought, nah, she has poor emotional boundaries.  This isn't healthy for me.  I like to think I'm getting better at spotting red flags, and realizing when I'm distraught because somebody else's behaviour is inappropriate or abusive and crossing boundaries, rather than believing that I am somehow defective, and that's the cause of my distress.

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Ilovedogs

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Re: Toxic abusive therapist
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2020, 06:34:02 AM »
Thanks Wilderhearts. Yes, my uBPD abusive mother says she'd have liked to have a career as a therapist. Her reason is that you'd get to solve people's problems a bit like a detective, she says. She loves detective novels, and has absolutely no sense of reality, just is living in a complete fictional world. I did wonder if this wasn't what my experience with the awful therapist was, it felt like forensic interrogation much of the time without any humanity, and plenty of JADE and me feeling I was in the dock.

Both your experiences sound really disturbing. I'm glad you got out soon.