Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Breaking up

I had all good intentions of continuing my August Moon blog series this week, but if I am going to be honest, it has been a very trying week (and it's only Wednesday).

On Monday, I made a phone call to my therapist. And she absolutely fanged me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon crying and crawled into bed early with a blistering headache. I woke at 1am and spent the rest of the night going over and over what she'd said, her screeching voice stuck in my head on an endless loop.

I eventually decided to go to our scheduled session yesterday. I was really angry and more than a bit afraid. I was planning to tell her that I was done and that she had no right to speak to me the way she did.

But I was also open to see how she'd respond to the incident. Previous experiences of "tough love" have been followed up with a gentle and open discussion (and an apology) which had been really useful.

Unfortunately, she chose not to take this approach. Instead, she lectured me for twenty minutes on how inappropriate it had been for me to call her and how uncommitted I had been to the therapeutic process of late and how little respect I had shown for her professionalism. Then she demanded I apologise to her.

I have to admit, I was in shock.

Apparently, she believes that my calling her outside of our appointment time to mention that I was questioning whether or not to come (something I thought relevant to recent discussions) plus my flagrant disregard of the 48 hour minimum cancellation policy (or payment required: something I was genuinely unaware of and she never thought to mention in three years) were symptomatic of deeper issues in my personality.

In short, she believes that I am self-absorbed, immature and unprepared to face the consequences of my actions. I am in denial about what is really going on for me and I "clearly have more going on" than I think I do.

After twenty minutes of just listening and letting her words wash over me (it was too much to absorb but experience tells me never to interrupt an "expert") I tried to defend myself, saying I was genuinely unaware of her cancellation policy and that her manner had really hurt me. Her response was that I was a "big baby".

But then she told me that I owed it to myself to continue the process and that if I didn't, I'd "put a hex" on all the work we'd done so far. She said that she was committed to repairing the relationship.

I stood up and said that I needed time to think about it, that there had been a lot to absorb and there had evidently been a number of things I hadn't considered. I put my money on her mantle, plus an envelope containing cash withdrawn from my savings, an estimate of all the times I'd jipped her over the past three years (along with a terse note that said I never owe anyone... something I'm sure, would have made her furious, because it was "not about the money"). Then I apologised for a second time and walked out.

I am pretty bruised today and still trying to unravel it all. My husband has been fantastic, as has my best friend and two other dear trusted friends.

I've made an appointment to see a counsellor at work tomorrow to help me put it work out what is going on. What I really want to understand is whether those character flaws she flung at me have any truth to them. I have to confess, they are needling me. All I can think of is the times that I have been vague, selfish and passive aggressive in my life. Could it be that these things really are going on for me under the surface and I am not aware of them or in denial?

Or is it my [now-former] therapist's attempt to deflect onto me her unprofessional behaviour? I mean, really: I've been punctual, cooperative, communicative and totally committed to the work over the past three years. One ill-concecived and badly-timed phone call and I'm suddenly on the shit list? It kinda doesn't compute.

One thing I know for sure.

I am never going back.

If there are things going on for me, I had kinda hoped she'd be the one to help me work with them. Together, we've done an excellent job... until now. I just don't think I can go back and be shouted at and told what a terrible person I am. I don't think it's true and I don't think it's helpful.

I also don't believe in hexes. It's an unfortunate end to a valuable relationship. But the work we've done is strong and true and deeply embedded now.

I'm not the one who burnt the bridge.

She does not deserve to know what happens next.


  1. While I am a big believer in therapy, and the good it can do, it's only good if you trust the therapist and know that you won't be allowed to work things through in your own time. The notion that somehow you had cheated her, when she is after all, someone that you pay to listen to you & to help you, is ludicrous. It sounds as if she crossed the line and forgot that her office should not be a place that you should dread going to. I don't believe in hexes, either, and I applaud the fact that you are brave enough to work with someone and share so much of yourself. It sounds like perhaps the break will be for the best. Hugs to you, my friend.

  2. Holy crap on a stick dude. As someone who BC (before child) was a counsellor, I'm appalled at her response. Completely unprofessional and out of line. Do you know if she is a member of a professional body such as Aus psych society or the counsellors association? These bodies have a code of ethics and standards, and it sounds like she's broken them big time.

    I'm so sorry that this has happened. I hope your work counsellor can help you through it in a professional manner, and my email is open to you if you ever need it :)

  3. Oh dear Kat, what a horrible experience to go through. It's not acceptable for a wellness professional to act in that way. I don't think there was anything inappropriate about you calling her - and in fact, I've made a "not sure this is working" out of hours call to my counselor as well. Maybe it was not well timed, which you probably couldn't have known. Wouldn't jump to the conclusion that it was ill-conceived.
    But. Even if she has some 'rule' or 'policy' on phone calls, that was not an appropriate or professional way to explain it to you!

    As for personality traits, does a person who only sees us in the context of scheduled appointments, no matter how regularly, does really have that much insight? Her job is to help you unravel and understand your inner workings, not to tell you all sorts of negative things about you as a person.

    Good on you for standing up for yourself. I am deeply impressed that despite this experience, you do see the value of the work you've done - and this, to me, speaks much more of you and who you are than any negativity anyone might throw at you. Big, big hugs.

    It's a horrible feeling when those we have trusted use the knowledge of our inner selves against us. So glad to hear that you've been supported.

  4. Wow. That is all I can say. Wow. And it is not a good wow. I am truly disappointed in your therapist. I am sorry for you having to have such an experience. I hope you can find someone who is interested in helping you to unravel the things that make you innately you, and who is deserving of seeing what comes next.

  5. Oh my....a therapist with her own issues. Who'd have thunk it? ;)

    What a horrible experience. I am shocked and furious on your behalf. If she wanted you to "respect her professionalism" maybe she could have tried being professional?

    In the past, when people I have cared about and trusted have shown their true colours, as devastated as I have been at the time (and sometimes for a whlie afterwards), it's always been a good thing. Yes, I would have liked these people to continue with me on the journey but it was the people I thought I knew that I grieved for and miss, not the people they proved themselves to be. Your new chapter is beginning and you can't take the dead weight with you babe.

    I applaud you for wanting to unravel this - and I hope you get some reassurance, support and closure on it - but my gut feeling is that this was not really about you. It was about her.

    Huge hugs xx

  6. Since when is insult-hurling and name-calling PROFESSIONAL!??!?!?! Sounds like she needs some serious self-reflection and therapy of her own, and you have now made a very lucky escape.

    I'm so sorry you went through that. I can't imagine how awful it was, having to front up and see her, only to be on the receiving end of more ridiculous behaviour.

    But I am so proud of you, especially in the way that you can still see the value of the work done to date, and also for leaving that note on her mantle - she can read it and suffer in her jocks!!! :-)

    Love you lots.


  7. After reading your account about your therapist, I was SHOCKED and APPALLED by such unprofessional behavior! Good for you on making the decision to stop working with this individual. It is a great sign of mental wellness that you are looking out for yourself instead giving more credence to a so called 'professional' over your own good judgement of what is best for you!
    I guess your therapist managed to help you despite her crazy unprofessionalism ;)