Bad therapist


Bad therapist


your avatar   Tammy, 25-year-old woman

I have suffered from depression and anxiety and was diagnosed in 2008 and 2013. I have been seeing an LCSW not so regularly for about 2 years now. I have had some issues over this time with things she has said to me and have come to a point now where I've realized I may not trust her anymore. Here's why: When I began my treatment I wrote her a letter stating what I had been going through, what I wanted to fix and an idea I had that we could try. She referred to this letter in a group session as a list of demands. I continued to see her even though I felt uncomfortable.

When I cried during several appointments, she would ask "What do you want me to do?" The tone of her voice (not the question) made me feel very uncomfortable, like maybe I'm doing something wrong. When I told her that I needed help, which I'd asked her for through e-mail and a phone call, she asked me what I wanted people to help me with. "Eating, bathing?" she said.

Maybe I am not being vocal enough about my needs, but is this normal? Should a doctor say/do these things, or do I need to look for a new therapist?


    Bob Rich, Ph.D.

Dear Tammy,

The essence of a therapeutic relationship is empathy. This is when I can see the world through your eyes, without becoming you. I have an intuitive, emotional feel for where you're coming from.

It is clear that this woman has not succeeded in establishing such a bond with you. Therefore, she is guaranteed to fail to be of benefit to you. If you don't like the food in a restaurant, you don't bother to go back. Is this not the same situation? So, you have the right to stop going to her. Find someone who is in tune with you, just like you'll try out a different restaurant next time you feel like eating out.

Writing a letter at the start of therapy, in order to set out what you want out of the contact, is an excellent idea. After all, her aim needs to be to facilitate you achieving YOUR list of objectives. That's what therapy is about. So, you did something constructive, and she got things wrong. And disclosing the contents of this letter to a group is only permissible with your express permission.

It seems to me that you tend to take other people's negative actions in a way that doesn't serve you well. So, treat this contact with a harmful therapist as a growing opportunity. "This was a bad experience. What can I do to make myself a better, stronger, wiser person?" The answer to this question is up to you, not to me, but I have a few suggestions. Maybe it can encourage you to be more assertive. This is what that means:

You can handle an annoyance in three ways:

    1) Bulldozer: "Get off my toes or I'll punch your face in!"
    2) Doormat: "Sorry for being in your way. Please trample on me."
    3) Assertive: "You're standing on my toes and it hurts. Please get off now."

The assertive formula is: "When you do this, I feel... so please do that." You don't need the formula in words, but use the philosophy behind it. Second, you might decide that you have rights, and when someone tramples on them, you don't need to take it. Third, possibly, you might consider this woman to be a "negative role model:" This is how NOT to respond to people in distress. Then design how you would have acted in her place - and do that.

I'm interested in what else you might come up with.


This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit:


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