When Therapy Goes Bad

In my sophomore year of high school, I started therapy for the first time. I didn’t actually want to go (I’m not really the type of person who likes talking about my feelings in person) but my mother eventually convinced me that I needed it (and I did; I had depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and undiagnosed ADHD, and as a result my grades started slipping and I started spiraling).

So I started going to therapy. My mother hoped the therapist would finally be able to diagnose me with ADHD (she had correctly diagnosed me, but she needed a diagnosis from a therapist before we could start getting me on medication). However, my therapist believed that we needed to treat the depression first, and because I was feeling terrible, I agreed.

For a while, the therapy seemed to be going well; I felt like I was getting better, my family noticed that I was more pleasant to be around, and I rediscovered my motivation and started trying harder in school.

But then the therapy that had been helping me started hurting me. My mother and I have discussed this at length and we think that the trouble started when I told my therapist about my father. Now, my father can be rather strict at times, and has always pressured me to work hard and do my best so that I can succeed in life. Unfortunately, we are sometimes at odds with each other (and can get into some pretty loud arguments) but I’ve never doubted that he wants the best for me, and I love him unconditionally (like a father). But as I talked with my therapist about my father, she started putting words in my mouth and worse, thoughts in my mind. Over the course of a few weeks, she slowly turned me against my father. It seemed like she was fishing for some traumatic event that would prove that my father was abusing me (even though he really hasn’t), and in the absence of real abuse, she was going to convince me to make some up.

When this first started, there were so many times when I wanted to say, “No, that’s not like my father” or “I love my father, stop pretending that I don’t” but I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself or my father. It’s something I regret deeply.

My mother recognized that the therapy was doing more harm than good, and that the therapist was trying to trap my father (she had requested a family session, which would have undoubtedly ended with harsh words and possibly worse) and so we stopped my sessions. I was honestly relieved, because I had been getting more depressed as they continued (I started thinking about hurting myself near the end).

Still, I wish that at my last session I had told my therapist that she had badly splintered my relationship with my father, and that she had planted ideas in my mind that would take years to get rid of. I didn’t, and I regret that.

But I hope that my story can help others find the courage to stand up to therapists like her. Back in sophomore year, I was impressionable and desperate to have a voice, so much so that I allowed someone to decide what my voice was for me. I sincerely hope that if you find yourself in a similar position, you won’t let your voice get taken away from you, and you’ll find the courage to stand up for yourself and advocate for the kind of therapy that’s right for you.

-cmblanc

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