Abuse and abandonment by therapist

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. I have been dealing with severe PTSD for the past decade, a majority of it stemming from child abuse, neglect and abandonment. I worked weekly with my therapist for 9 years. She said because of what my mother and father had done, that she had to reparent me. She insisted on having sessions in my home. Called on the phone nightly. I was supposed to completely rely on her and let her in completely if I wanted to survive. She would insist I hold her hand when I was having flashbacks or dissociated. Sometimes she would insist I sit down on the floor next to her. She then dissapeared for a couple of weeks and when she came back she was mean and angry towards me. She yelled at me and then yelled more when I cried. After a bunch of this and me asking for us to see someone for help she asked me to call her. I called her cell phone and she dumped me on the cell phone. She managed to repeat alot of the emotional crud I went through with my own mom and it triggered all this old trauma from when I was a kid. Now I am completely a mess. My PTSD is out of control. I can hardly sleep. I have nightmares. I saw another counselor and now it turns out the stuff the old psychologist told me turns out to be boundary violations, abuse and abandonment. I have never been this bad. I have flashbacks all the time. Going to therapy now causes me to have flashbacks and after the session I pass out. I feel really messed up and damaged. I am purposefully not being explicit about what went on because it triggers things too badly. It has destroyed me and made me really ill. I am close to losing my job and when I have flashbacks they spiral between my childhood abuse and my therapist’s abuse, then I get suicidal. This is really scary for me, I don’t know how to fix this. I have tried to talk to a couple of different counselors and they always get upset about what I tell them. They tell me that I was abused and I should report this. I want to report it because it has destroyed my life and I don’t want this to happen to another one of her clients. BUT I can’t talk about it! I have tried to write something but it triggers me and I am afraid I will lose it and try to kill myself. I want to stand up for myself and report what happened but I try to talk specifics and I get so I can’t talk.. then flashbacks.. then I pass out. How can you report therapist abuse, abandonment and boundry violations when trying to express details cause me to spiral into flashbacks and suicidality? Would they believe me? Where do you get help? There is information for clients who have had their therapist have sex with them… but I don’t find any resources of what to do.. or where to get support.. for other therapist abuses. This is the end of month 11 of this. I am not well. This has made me so much worse. I feel broken and betrayed. I don’t want to die, but the flashbacks happen and it is like an automatic response. I can’t even go downtown because I am worried if I see her I will lose it and kill myself. I freak out everytime I see a car like hers. I have a hard time going home because this all happened in my own home. Does this happen to other people? Do they get better? How do they managed to do it? I am strong and try my best, but I realize that what is happening is scary, dangerous and at times life-threatening. How can a therapist tell a client how good they are and how much they love them and then after 9 years.. just throw the person away like trash? I did everything she told me to do. I don’t understand what I did wrong to deserve this. Where can I find help or others like me? I think my life is in doubt. How do you stand up for yourself and live through it? What if I stand up and they don’t believe me? That might just kill me.

A. I am sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with your therapist. I cannot stress strongly enough that if you feel that your therapist has not helped you, you should find another therapist. Nine years is a long time and if the therapy would have been successful you should have been strong enough to handle any ending. It’s important not to dwell in the past and to continue with therapy. You have seen a couple of new therapists.. I don’t know why they would be reviewing this with you to the point of producing suicidal thoughts within you. The only important thing is for you to feel better, to overcome whatever problems you currently have and whatever problems specifically that produce your suicidal thoughts. No, I am not familiar with any therapy that follows the parameters that you described in your e-mail letter. There are many, many different forms of therapy and the bottom line is the best therapy is the one that helps you the most. I am not worried at all about what happened to you in your nine years of therapy. I am very concerned with what’s going to happen to you in the next nine years. I cannot overemphasize that you must move forward in therapy, move from therapist to therapist if necessary to find one you can connect with and help you become stronger. If you have suicidal thoughts, you should not hesitate to admit yourself to a hospital. I wish you the best of luck.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 May 2005

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2005). Abuse and abandonment by therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2005/05/04/abuse-and-abandonment-by-therapist/