Therapist Lashed Out At Me. Is That Normal?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Hi, I have been seeing the same therapist for about 4 years. She recently told me that she was increasing her fees, because she has needs too. I take a lot of trips, and she stated, I have clients who are always taking trips and do not pay their bill. I told her, I pay my bill. Then she said, if I dont increase your fee then I am enabling you.? And that I need to decide what is more important, therapy or trips. She also stated that she feels like she has to walk on eggshells with me, and that she needs time off. I always believed that therapist were healthy with appropriate coping skills. She seems to blame me for things, and when I bring something up, she denies it. I feel like she has been fake, and is suddently resenting me. I would have appreciated her being honest with me. All I said to her was, if she increases my rate then I will come every other week instead of weekly. And I told her that I felt like I was too dependent on her. I feel connected to her because I have shared soo much about myself to her, but I’m not sure I want to continue therapy with her. I originally went to her for substance abuse and it has been a long road to recovery. She probably feels discouraged. I tend to be brutally honest and perhaps that made her mad at me? Resentful that I am taking vacations and she cant. Anyways I am having hard time with this and cant stop thinking about the things she accused me of. Any insight, or advice would be deeply appreciated. Thanks.

A. Under the best of circumstances, communicating is extremely difficult. People know what they think they said because after all they already knew what they wanted to say but often their words did not communicate their intent. To make matters worse, even if one has said everything perfectly, their words are being interpreted by the listener who is using a filter of past experiences, personal biases and concepts.

Many times people will argue vehemently for an hour or more and then one will say to the other “well you said…” and the other will jump in and say “no, I didn’t say that.” Often that clarification will end the argument.

Miscommunication happens very, very often. We are so sure we know what we said and what they heard. We should only be sure that we know what we meant to say. We should be quite concerned if what we said was actually communicated to the other person. Did we not say it well? Did they not hear at all what we meant?

This could apply to your situation with your therapist. From your letter it appears that your therapist was informing you that she would be raising her prices. What was said after that is open for interpretation. What did both of you mean by your comments?

I don’t know. Only the two of you can clarify the meaning of your words and why they were spoken. It is often difficult for a therapist to inform their clients of a rate increase. I believe it is far easier to hear that your accountant has raised his or her price or that your dentist is charging more for a cleaning or that your yearly checkup with your PCP has just gone up $25. I believe this to be true because usually the therapist and client have a much closer, much more personal relationship, than other professional relationships. When your therapist raises their rates, it is almost as if your friend is showing you that they really don’t care about you. It will almost always be a hardship of some kind for a client to pay more. So the therapist, who is supposed to be helping you, is making your life harder.

In reality, your therapist is paying more for their electricity, telephone, office supplies, office staff, rent, etc. Prices for almost all things have consistently risen through modern history. The cost of living rises each year.

When your therapist told you that you could take fewer trips, I believe it may have been because you had said “if she increases my rate then I will come every other week instead of weekly.”

Perhaps she was telling you that weekly therapy was more important than trips. I could go on and on attempting to explain the meaning that both of you were trying to convey but it would still be mere conjecture. Only the two of you can clarify the meaning of your words.

According to your letter, you have done well with the help of this therapist. There are many good therapists but all are not created equally. Some are very good, some not.

You could always find a new therapist and perhaps you should but first you should try to work through this issue with your current therapist. In therapy, there are often new floors to break through. They are important and often come at odd, unexpected times. Could this be such an event? Could this resolution bring necessary growth?

It is certainly worth the effort to find out. Congratulations on caring enough about your therapy to write to me for my advice. It would have been far easier to just quit therapy or find a new therapist. That “caring” often is the best predictor of a successful therapeutic outcome. Good luck.

Dr. Kristina Randle

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Jan 2011

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Therapist Lashed Out At Me. Is That Normal?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/01/06/therapist-lashed-out-at-me-is-that-normal/