A few years ago I was referred to a highly reputable and respected psychologist who, in the midst of writing academic books and journals, also crossed the border on occasion to speak at very prestigious universities. From our first session we got on very well and both acknowledged that our therapist/client relationship would be an effective and suitable one. During our second session he asked me if there was any direction that he shouldn’t take our sessions and I touched on one particular area that I was not comfortable talking about at that time.
Over the course of six months things were great and moving along very well, until they weren’t anymore. My ethical and competent therapist, this highly regarded professional crossed a boundary in such an improper and alarming way that not only was our client/therapist relationship breached, all trust that I had in him was lost instead replaced by fear and suspicion of ever continuing therapy again.
The vast majority of professionals who work in the mental health field are working in it because they want to help us, but like in any other field we are going to find a couple of bad apples that can leave us feeling vulnerable and violated if we’re ever in the unlucky position of crossing paths with them. If this is the case with you please don’t give up, there are ways to work through it so you can build up that trust again because I honestly believe that therapy is so important to your health and well being.
In my case the breach was so significant that it required a formal complaint. I was left feeling so weak and afraid that I requested help from my psychiatrist and general practitioner and they both took action to guide me through the process. If it weren’t for them I would not have had the strength to follow through. After the complaint was filed and the dust settled I still had my psychiatrist for my medication purposes and she has always been willing to devote her time to counselling as well during our appointments, but I still needed that therapy, and going about regaining the trust to get back on the horse was very difficult.
People show up to therapy for a multitude of reasons. I needed to get an objective point of view to help sort out a lot of my issues and concerns once I got the medication situation somewhat adjusted. When it was time to go back I was looking for someone who could provide me with some suggestions on healthy coping techniques and how to build the skills that go with them but first I needed to acknowledge what had happened and deal with my feelings of helplessness, it was a convalescence of sorts. I had to accept that there was no going back to change the situation and that I had a choice to make. Move on or don’t. After quite some time I chose to move on. Don’t get me wrong, it still stung and I have never forgiven him, but I have chosen to not spend another moment or spark of energy on this man. How did I do this? I did it with the help of a really good therapist.
Armed with suggestions and referrals from my supportive psychiatrist, I interviewed potential therapists that were accepting new clients. I understand that not everyone is in the position to do this, so if you aren’t then the first thing you do when meeting your new therapist is to tell them what happened with your previous therapist. You don’t have to get into details of the breach if you don’t want to, or you can tell them everything, it’s up to you, just let them know that there was a breach. Let them know that you are still a little gun-shy and in the process of rebuilding trust, and if there are areas that you do not feel comfortable taking about then state them in such a way that it is crystal clear. A good therapist will work with you at your own pace and will ask you when you’re ready to dive into uncharted waters. A good therapist will lightly guide you when they know you are ready, but help reel you back if it’s too much too soon. They will also provide you with the skills to help you navigate those waters on your own. And above all a good therapist will be on your side and let you know exactly what your rights are because they really do want to help you and they want to make sure that this never happens again.
A lot of us bare our souls to our therapists and if they abuse that confidentiality or violate or betray us then it can do serious damage, but it’s damage that we can recover from. Allow yourself to hurt, heal and move on. Easier said than done, I know, but still doable. As strange as it sounds therapy can help you untangle the mess of therapy gone wrong. I had a really bad experience with someone I trusted who was in a position to help me and it turned me off of therapy for awhile, but then I needed help sorting through the turmoil and giving it another chance was the best thing I could’ve done. If you have to take it in a baby step that’s okay, just take the step.