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Weird abrupt termination by therapist

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Weird abrupt termination by therapist

Postby Sirtriz » Sat Jul 14, 2018 9:13 pm

I had been seeing a female therapist (I’m male) for 5 years. I’ll call her L. She is 48, but married. I am 50 and never been married. I started seeing her when a relationship I had with a woman working in my department turned tumultuous. I suppose I was at a place in my life where I really wanted a relationship to endure because, I’ve never really known that my whole life. So, the failure was devastating and made me feel like quite a failure romantically, though I am a good-hearted guy, reasonably good-looking, financially secure, and practical. In my years of therapy with L, I never really got over this relationship, but mostly learned to carry on, but would have bouts of depression. Still, I was grateful L never pressured me to do things I didn’t feel were “me” or judged me if I am a particularly sentimental and lone wolf type of guy. Plus, occasionally I would have some brief contact with the former girlfriend…maybe every 6 months or so either she or I would initiate contact (she hasn’t worked in my department for a few years now).

So, all this time with L as my therapist, I felt we had a good rapport and boundaries. She is attractive, which I admit I liked because it was nice to be able to talk with a pretty woman regularly, but it was far in the back of my mind and I hardly gave it much thought actually. I mean, I felt I had a good sense of boundaries there and was proud of that. She was attractive, but not necessarily was I attracted to her. There never has been this feeling like some get where they fall in love with their therapist. I never felt anything like that at all. I really do treat women quite respectfully, which is another reason why it’s so devastating to be my age to have never had a successful relationship.

Anyway, L allowed me to email her and I would process things in emails between sessions, or if a topic came to mind, I’d write about it. We’d use this as a way to prep for sessions and focus on topics of discussion in person. My appointments were weekly or bi-weekly depending on how busy I was at work. It’s always been hard for me to express myself verbally, but have improved over time. Nevertheless, I felt I could tell L anything in writing, and that helped me speak about anything that was particularly difficult. The emails were anywhere from none to 3 between sessions depending on if my appointment was weekly or bi-weekly. Occasionally I might have gone to 4 or 5 if I had a lot of topics come up for me. She rarely replied to my emails other than to say “we can talk about this at your appointment” and maybe some very brief comments. I was OK with that entirely, I never expected her to take time to reply.

Sometimes with the emails I’d just write something goofy, or share something off-topic (i.e., not therapy related), just for some levity. Like, if I was on vacation and something interesting happened, maybe I’d send L an email telling the tale...or maybe I'd send her a link to an interesting article or a funny video. Often with this stuff she’d reply back briefly but cheerfully. I thought this was all good so she knew me as a whole person, not just issues I struggle with. I felt all this helped build rapport and trust between us.

On a few occasions over the years, something particularly stressful and anxiety inducing might happen to me and then I’d email a little overboard. Like I'd email describing the situation, then bam, something else would happen to complicate the situation, so I'd send an update. At those times I felt very foolish for the quantity and when I went to my appointment I’d say I feel embarrassed and afraid she’s going to kick me to the curb. But, she always brushed it off like it was no big deal and I shouldn’t worry about that. She also said she didn’t want me to feel afraid to tell her anything, even if it was something about my interaction with her directly.

Also, she’d often say “let me know how it goes” or “keep me posted” regarding various things going on in my life. So, I took that as permission to email with updates. But, I’d always try to be cognizant of the quantity as a whole because I didn’t want to make a habit of sending a large amount.

So, this past year I had been hit with several losses or setbacks. A major one was my grandmother going into assisted living when she was the family matriarch and her house the place that brought our whole extended family together. Decades of memories. The stress of this transition shockingly resulted in several rifts in the family where various factions are not speaking to one another which I feel rotten about. Additionally, my job dropped my performance ranking which was unfair because I know the level and quality of my work, the pride I take in it, how I mentor others, how much money I save for the company because of my expertise, etc. So that was very demoralizing to work so diligently and not receive appropriate recognition (similar to my efforts with girlfriends). And, I turned 50, which, as I said, I feel wasted and embarrassed as a man because I’ve never known what it is like for a woman to truly love me and too afraid at this point to risk dating, so facing the prospect of living the rest of my life alone never knowing what I felt I deserved. And then there were some other losses or stresses a little less impactful…but it seemed nothing was going in my favor so it was a pile-on.

So, a couple months ago I had something very frustrating occur and I vented and processed a lot in email. Then, I felt overloaded, so to balance that negativity out, I wrote some off topic junk. On top of that, my grandmother’s house went up for sale and I had some out of the ordinary interaction with the ex-girlfriend. So, there were more emails to L than normal and I did feel embarrassed about it and told her so.

Well, at my next appointment instead of asking me as usual, what topic do I want to discuss, she brings up the quantity of emails and that she wants to put a boundary on those. The boundary would be, no more emails except for therapy related issues. I was like, well, in a way all my emails are related to therapy, even if on face value they seem off topic. I explained some are for levity, some are so you know me as a whole person, some are so you have the full picture. Well, I was so overloaded with grief and anxiety from things going on in my life and I had told her each of my past few appointments how overloaded I felt, that I couldn’t believe she’s coming down hard on emails now after all this time. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I broke down crying, I’m embarrassed to say, because that isn’t something that I physically am able to do much. L seemed frustrated and like she didn’t know how to respond. I was barely able to speak to her at all after that. She asked if I wanted to talk about my family or ex-girlfriend, but I just didn’t feel the trust like it was really ok.

Then, for the first time in 5 years, I was a no show at my next appointment. I told her I was afraid to come in. I wrote some emails about it -- after all they were therapy related, so technically allowed per her boundary. When I went to my next appointment, now she wanted to tighten the boundary even more. She told me she wasn’t going to read my emails anymore, only if they were scheduling related because I sent too many. So anything I want to say will need to be said in person. I tried to explain this doesn’t seem right, because she isn’t considering the context and how she may have contributed . And based on her attitude over time where she even seemed to encourage emails and was forgiving the few times I’d slip up and go overboard. I ended up walking out of the session because L didn’t want to understand my point of view at all, she only wanted to set a boundary and that’s all that mattered to her. Like, I’d say “well I don’t think this is fair because…” and she’d cut me off and say “it doesn’t matter, I’m setting a boundary”. Like boundaries are the end all and be all and if you want to set one you don’t need to consider another person’s feelings. I said, it isn’t like I’m an ogre who abuses people so a rigid boundary is paramount, I just had a bad week and sent a few too many emails.

The next day she sent me a termination notice. She said she was busy that day meeting with clients but would send me referrals soon. I replied back that was terrible to cut me off and then tell me she’s meeting with clients all day, but never me again.

In retrospect, a few sessions back, she seemed a little dismayed with me about emails exchanged with the ex-girlfriend and boundaries I had with her. So, it’s almost like L (my therapist) took it upon herself to identify with the ex-girlfriend and enforce boundaries on her behalf via emails I’d send to L when otherwise L and I never had any boundary trouble.

I feel so shaken up and mistreated by L. Of course I’ve sent some emails explaining my feelings about this, but hard to say if she’s even read those. I’m in a bind because she cut me off, and seems unwilling to consider my viewpoint at all and there is no recourse for resolution. I definitely am not interested in seeing any therapist again after this.

Well, I’m not looking for feedback on any issues I have mentioned here, like my relationship or anxiety issues. I don’t need that, I just described some for context. What I’m wondering is if it seems my therapist acted fairly. Also I am aware that some therapists have strict boundaries about emails, but just as many think it is OK in this day and age.
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Re: Weird abrupt termination by therapist

Postby TheGangsAllHere » Sat Sep 15, 2018 3:21 am

I'm sorry you were treated like that. In my opinion, you didn't do anything wrong, and none of this is your fault. I was mistreated in a similar way by a therapist a long time ago and it was very damaging.

That's NOT how setting boundaries is supposed to go. If she was worried about something to do with you, like that you were becoming too dependent on her, then she could have raised that concern and discussed it with you. Or if she felt it was taking up too much of her time to read and respond to the emails, she could have raised the issue with you and had a discussion to see if you both could agree on a limit that felt like enough contact for you, and not too much for her. And to just terminate you with no discussion or warning or explanation is just terrible.

I know you didn't want feedback about you, but this kind of interaction with a therapist, and the fact that she got drawn in beyond her limits and expertise and then acted abruptly and unprofessionally, might be because you needed someone more skilled with these kinds of attachment issues and with the kind of boundaries that are needed. Because it sounds like the kind of issues that are caused by early relational trauma, and those are very complex to treat and need a specialist.

My therapist now, who is VERY good at this stuff and teaches trainees about boundaries all the time says that if they are too rigid, then it's too cold and distant, and if they are too loose, then it isn't safe. You kept asking, appropriately, for clarification and for her to be able to accurately assess her feelings about the amount of contact as it went along and to be honest with you about it. She didn't do that and that is COMPLETELY her fault.
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Re: Weird abrupt termination by therapist

Postby Sirtriz » Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:23 am

Sorry for the delay in responding. I really appreciate your input.

I recently had a situation come up related to many things I discussed with this particular therapist over 5 years. The idea of finding a new therapist to go over all the history was overwhelming. Not to mention I did feel she dealt with this issue about me well. So I hated to try finding a new therapist that would "get it". So I contacted her asking her to please see me again, that I would put this rupture behind us as an anomaly, and comply with her latest wishes about boundaries (i.e., no emails). I tried to summarize again why I thought the original termination was unfair, but that I would put it behind. The issue I now have at hand is quite urgent. I attempted to call a few times, each time throwing myself upon her mercy. But she has no response whatsoever. I admit I find this so baffling and heartless if not unbecoming a therapist. I tried to appeal that I find her block against me disillusioning and that I don't even know if I'd trust another therapist. I asked her in a voicemail how this is congruent with the concept/promotion of healing relationships. It doesn't seem to be. I feel extremely alone with the latest developments of this issue she and I had extensive history covering. It's quite a burden. I feel like going to her office and camping out until she arrives and confronting her.
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Re: Weird abrupt termination by therapist

Postby TheGangsAllHere » Sun Oct 14, 2018 3:52 am

I think you need to give up on this. I'm impressed that you had the courage and flexibility to consider contacting her again after what happened, but I don't think it's salvageable, and I definitely don't think she has the skill to be your therapist.

I would recommend finding someone with a LOT of experience in treating attachment issues, and to do some thinking about your early attachment experiences--like if there was there emotional neglect or abuse that has caused these difficulties with relationships in your life. That's just completely a guess on my part, but it's what came to mind when I read your description of your experience with this therapist.
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