Hatred and Anger for Your Therapist

As I discussed in an earlier post on psychological defensiveness, we humans try to protect ourselves from emotional facts too painful to bear – that is, we “lie” to ourselves about them.  That’s our nature and everybody does it.  The job of a good therapist is to make you aware of those things you don’t know about yourself (and probably never wanted to know).

As I listen to my clients talking, they inevitably reveal things about themselves without knowing it, and I try to tell them what I’ve heard.  I rarely get through on the first try (you know, that “resistance” thing).  I keep listening.  If I hear more evidence, I’ll try again to show it to my clients.   If I was right and my view becomes more persuasive, they usually become uncomfortable.  Maybe they’ll get angry.  Sometimes they hate me for telling them what they don’t want to hear.

With all of my patients, at one time or another, they’ve hated me … even when they agreed with what I’d just told them.  In my view, this is an expected part of the relationship, just the way it’s normal for children to hate their parents from time to time.   With severely disturbed clients in long-term treatment, one of the main jobs of a therapist is to allow room for their hatred.  With borderline personality disorder, hatred is often the central focus of early work.  My clients who’ve spent months or years hating me and come through on the other side always feel profoundly grateful that I could bear with them and not retaliate.

Even in much less severe cases, hatred often comes up.   If clients feel comfortable in treatment and love their therapists because they’re so kind and sympathetic (see my post on the difference between empathy vs sympathy), the therapy is of little value in my opinion.   With the best intentions, that sort of therapist ends up supporting the lies clients tell themselves.  Though the therapy may be of immediate solace, it has no lasting effect.  It’s the job of a good therapist to confront those unconscious lies we all tell ourselves, and thereby make his or her clients “uncomfortable”.  Resentment or hatred is often the immediate reward for a job well done, but on another level, clients are grateful to us for telling the truth.

Finding Your Own Way:

These posts offer tools you can use to dig deeper, maybe to discover some of those lies you don’t realize you’ve been telling yourself.  In that sense, they’re meant to function like comments I make to my clients.  It wouldn’t surprise me if you disliked some of what I say, or turned away from it.

Think about your reactions to the various posts.  Do you find any of them irritating or offensive?  Have you dismissed any out of hand (“That doesn’t apply to me”), or found yourself thinking more than once about how off the mark I was?  If so, go back to that post and spend more time with it.  See if you can figure out what makes you so uncomfortable about it.

You should feel uncomfortable.  My subject matter is about difficult and painful subjects – anger, hopelessness, shame, hatred;  If you really digest these posts, they should disturb your equilibrium, bringing a bit of the unknown (and unwanted) parts of yourself into the light.

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Joe is the author and the owner of AfterPsychotherapy.com, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.

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162 Responses to Hatred and Anger for Your Therapist

  1. James Brumley says:

    What if your therapist screwed you over.. in my case, facilitated in getting me terminated from my employer of ten years. My point being; ‘What if the hatred toward your therapist is well founded?’

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      That’s a different matter altogether! That’s more like malpractice.

      • Anonymous says:

        Frankly, I think you are wrong…I’ve had inklings of this suspicion for a long time, having gone to therapy for a long time with nothing but pain to show for it. Recently, I lucked upon the book Self-Coaching by Joseph Luciani (a psychotherapist), which I am amazed I read given my developed disdain for psychotherapy. It has helped me immediately, and I anticipate my life drastically improving thanks to that book and that book alone. The fact of the matter is there’s no need to delve into the past, or dredge up anger and sadness. Luciani says so, and it makes total sense to me.

        I frankly believe that a huge amount of, and probably most of, therapy is utter fraud, which is designed so that the patient is unable to speak to this fraud without it being framed in the context of, “this is an expression of your past anger or sadness, and you need me to bring these emotions out so that the healing process can take place,” which ironically and tragically, just keeps the patient coming back for more pain. My opinion (and this is something I believe is a fact that the profession is in denial about) is that there is no need for a therapist to know all that much about the patient. In fact, there is no need for a therapist whatsoever. There is a huge amount of data about the archetypal problems that people have. People merely need the information to help themselves, and nothing more. But since psychotherapists insist on imposing their need to seem like they are helpful, they basically make stuff up about past anger and “using me to deal with it.” I say people need the right information, no more and no less. In theory, psychotherapists might be helpful in the provision of this information, but more often than not just want to dredge up emotions so they can feel like they know what they are talking about. More likely than not, I think, therapists lead “patients” on a wild goose chase a lot of the time. I think there needs to be a serious and wholesale re-evaluation of the profession, to be generous. Because all that my Harvard-trained psychotherapist did was basically ruin my life. For example, he told me to “run as far away from your parents as you can.” So I cut off contact with my parents for a year, and it just destroyed things between us.

        If I had of known I could just read a book and feel better, which is the case now, having been driven basically to the edge of suicide by my arrogant “therapist,” I would have simply done that. But the tragic fact is, therapists will continue to impose their faulty view of the world, and people like me will just wonder, what did I do wrong?

        That being said, the one psychotherapist I recommend is Joseph Luciani. His book is called Self-Coaching, and despite the fact that he has a respect for the profession that I don’t, the core of his program for getting better is solid, and I can virtually guarantee will work for anyone with so-called mental health issues. It gives you a systematic program for getting better, which is ALL you need. Maybe other books do the same, but I tell you that all the information you’ll ever need to get better and stay better for your lifetime is in this book. He is mistaken only in his belief in the psychotherapy profession in general.

        I feel guilty even posting this. I don’t wish to tear people down. But something needs to be done about this idea that psychotherapy is some benevolent force, when in very large part it isn’t. I think often, and I have no idea how often, but I think it is very often, it confuses the hell out of people, and can be highly destructive. Thanks!

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          It sounds like you had a very bad experience with your therapist. I’m glad you found a book that helps.

        • Sol says:

          Totally agree I had exactly the same experience. Sadly there are a lot of angry and misguided therapists that overly obsess over childhood and ruin people’s lives by decommissioning the adult ego state in people, leaving them regressed, confused and full of life threatening hatred. They create more problems than they fix and often use their profession as a way of validating their own distorted world views, which they dangerously impose onto unsuspecting clients. My one single handedly destroyed my relationship with my dad who I once admired and indoctrinated me into demonising him, probably to make herself feel better in some messed up way. I lost the last 6 years of him, hardly visited him and he died without me ever waking up from her spell. Luckily I came across a book which highlights the exact same issues outlined here and more regarding the intoxicating and dangerous elements of therapy when carried out by an incompetent moron.

          It’s no different to an occult and these deluded fools think the world is broken and they have the answer. Which they do not! They are wolves in sheeps clothing.

          • Michele says:

            Don’t leave us hanging! What was the book??

            I agree with you, btw. My therapy was largely a waste of time and money. Mine was a University of Chicago graduate, very much a student of the Rogerian method. She sat there like a stump, stared at me for 52 minutes, and offered very little commentary and almost ZERO advice. Every Thursday afternoon for two and a half years.

            I guess I was crazy, to put up with that for all that time.

    • Ariver says:

      I had a similar experience that my therapist facilitated in making me ending my job willingly.

  2. Marla Estes says:

    Even outside of the therapeutic setting, I can find this same kind of dynamic at work. I’ve noticed that when I feel, for instance, that I’ve acted incompetently (an aspect that I find difficult to accept in myself) and someone else has witnessed it (whether or not they actually judge it as incompetent – fact is, they usually don’t), I hate them for having seen me in this way. It like the joke, “If I tell you, I have to kill you,” but this is more like “If you see me (in this less than ideal way), I have to kill you.”
    I am finding as I work w/ this cycle, it allows me eventually to develop more compassion for myself, to become more whole really. So my hatred (which in its subtle forms is an icing out of others) is actually a portal to self-understanding and self-acceptance of all of me.

  3. Lisa says:

    Can you write something on fixation feelings clients experience for therapists. Also, where after long time spans in therapy, endings might mean coming to terms with the loss, after you finish; learning to live and cope alone after so long in therapy. Letting go of therapist.

    Thanks

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I would love to. Give me a few days to think about how to respond. I have some experience that I think applies. Thanks for posting.

      • Kimberly April says:

        Dr. Burgo,

        Did you post an answer to this? I’d love to read it, as I will shortly be in this very same place in about 6-8 months, and although I am the one who asked when therapy would be finished, I was not prepared for the Energizer bunny feelings and thoughts that permeated my weekend right after asking and finally getting some idea of a timetable. Thank you.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I’m not sure which question you’re referring to? Can you copy the text and submit it in another comment? Thanks.

  4. TikunOlam says:

    I may be late to this thread but I was hoping to share my thoughts.

    As psychologist and once patient myself, I am concerned that some of the visitors to your site may misconstrue some of what you have expressed here. There are cases where there are legitimate reasons to be angry, patients are right to be angry and should not be ignoring their internal dialogue or frankly, their gut instincts because too often, they aren’t actually lies.

    In addition to the psychotherapist offering interpretations, as therapists, it is also so important to recognize our own limitations, our own counter transference, our own projections. When our patients know that we recognize that in ourselves, they feel empowered and experience psychotherapy as more of a partnership, which, from my point of view, makes for more productive therapy. They censor their thoughts less, they feel freer to express their anger and less guilty and shame when they express themselves in way that they may believe will lead the therapist to reject them (even if the therapist won’t).

    As a graduate student in analysis, I remember believing that my therapist was omniscient. This belief shut me down and looking back, I did not grow in ways that I should have. I believed that every negative feeling I had toward her or her words, must have been a result of my “lies” and that belief kept me from expressing those feelings. My own experience as an individual “on the other side of the couch” helped me grow as a therapist even if my once supervisors may be disappointed to find out that I abandoned some of the classic psychodynamic ways they tried to teach me.

    I am looking forward to reading further posts and I am glad that I found you via twitter. All the best as you grow this site and find readers with whom to share your valuable thoughts and insights.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Thanks for your comments. Very well written and thought out. I completely agree with your remarks about the kind of internal work we therapists have to do every day with our clients. Because close work with people in pain stirs up a lot of emotions in us, this job of self-reflection is an ongoing challenge.

      I always tell my clients that they, after all, are the only one who can know the truth about themselves; my job is to tell them what I think I hear them saying, and only if it rings true and they find it useful does that interpretation have value. There is the reality of resistance, of course; in those cases, I never insist upon an interpretation. I wait and keep listening; if I was on to something, more “evidence” will emerge, but if I was wrong, we move on to the next issue.

      Most of my clients come in wanting to believe I’m omniscient. I believe it goes with the territory of being a therapist: when people are suffering and in confusion, they naturally want to believe there is a person who knows everything and has the answers. With EVERY patient, it is part of our job to address this belief; it’s not always easy to detect, especially if the client doesn’t articulate it, but we must nonetheless be on guard. That kind of idealization, as you say, is counter-productive in psychotherapy.

  5. Grace says:

    Regarding TikunOlam: ” In addition to the psychotherapist offering interpretations, as therapists, it is also so important to recognize our own limitations, our own counter transference, our own projections. When our patients know that we recognize that in ourselves, they feel empowered and experience psychotherapy as more of a partnership, which, from my point of view, makes for more productive therapy. They censor their thoughts less, they feel freer to express their anger and less guilty and shame when they express themselves in way that they may believe will lead the therapist to reject them (even if the therapist won’t). ”

    This is quite valid. As a therapist myself and currently in therapy for grief and loss, I am in this exact place in the therapeutic process. From my “client” perspective of the therapeutic relationship I currently am in, I have found myself hesitant or more appropriate term, “protective” in allowing myself to share and express all pertinent feelings due to the experience of my therapist not recognizing her own countertransference/projection issues. When approached, denial and deflection is experienced. As a therapist, I find myself wanting to confront to address this dynamic, however as the client, this act is not as easily done so for fear of rejection.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Grace, you’re in a difficult spot. Does your therapist take up your remarks in terms of your transference, or is she simply telling you that you’re incorrect in your perceptions of her?

  6. Elina says:

    Sorry for my English, I’m not a native.
    I think there is big danger to too keen on the game ‘trust-hatred’. The result of a consultation in which my therapist was just trying to frustrate me, was deep anorexia. So, it was enough for me, I didn’t ask therapist for help. Helped myself, and it took 6 month of my life.
    My therapist said: “Well, you can complain to me.” And he wasn’t truthful in both cases.
    I don’t hate him. But the question of confidence to any person is closed for me – I will not admit anybody too close.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Elina. I disapprove of therapists who deliberately frustrate their clients or manipulate the relationship in order to arouse certain feelings. The result is often just what you describe — a feeling of betrayal and damage to the basic trust involved in dependent relationships. It doesn’t sound to me as if you hate him; rather that you feel betrayed in your trust — not surprising. I hope that you’ll eventually be able to feel that there are truly trustworthy mental health professionals in this world.

  7. Elina says:

    Thank you, Joseph :-)

  8. Marie says:

    I spent sometime getting some counseling when I returned to college. And I was having some difficulties with my adviser. the problem was my adviser didn’t understand what I was doing.

    I spent a lot of time discussing this in counseling and my counselor decided my research was wrong and one day counselor decided I should explain my research to him because he decided I was wrong.

    I felt so exasperated because the counselor had been the one person I felt good about discussing the problems I had with my adviser. So I walked out, exasperated.

    I am guessing from reading your article that my counselor must have thought he had unmasked a deep issue. Instead he wasted our time. Because I decided to approach other academics about my research and they understood it and explained it to my adviser, so it was definitely my adviser who had the problem.

    I was annoyed because I needed counseling about so much in my life. Unless he wanted to test how I would react to other things he had actually seen. I dunno. I just wished he’d disclosed something that would have been useful to me.

    I suppose it was me who wasted the time, cos I was talking about a problem I could solve myself in our time. I dunno.

  9. Nicole says:

    I have been seeing a therapist for 2 1/2 years and about 4 months ago I left my emotionally abusive husband. Since then the sessions have changed drastically and things are much more relaxed and casual. It’s difficult to tell whether my therapist initiated the change or if I brought it about due to the changes that I have been experiencing from freeing myself from an abusive relationship.

    However because our sessions have gotten so casual, I have been experiencing transference and I have brought it up on a couple of occasions to my therapist. He has not taken it seriously at all and has done little to try to help me work through it so it has dragged on for several months now. It has been getting more and more difficult for me to stop thinking about him and fantasizing about him.

    A few weeks ago I started to feel like he has had feelings for me as well, perhaps for longer than I have. Call it women’s intuition but I feel that he does from his body language, the increased frequency of smiling and laughing with a twinkle in his eyes, his teasing me, his sharing little tidbits of information about his personal life, his asking seemingly innocent questions that really have no relevence to my therapy, etc. Recently he gave me a book that although is pertinent to what I’ve worked on with him, sent up a flag for me because of the way it was given to me. He tried to pass it off as if it was no big deal except that it seemed important to him that I have it.

    Anyway, I confronted him about the whole countertransference business and he completely denied it. For every point that I made, he turned it back on me as if I was misperceiving things due to my history of emotional abuse. I felt very much like he was taking advantage of my disadvantage by using the therapist explanation to cover up feelings that he was too ashamed to admit to himself. When I confronted him he didn’t seem to be lying, I just think he convinced himself he didn’t have these feelings.

    I would like to hear your perspective on this.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      From your description, it’s hard for me to tell whether your therapist actually has some counter-transference issues. The fact that he denied it doesn’t sound good. If he really felt he didn’t have a problem, he could have instead explored what it meant to you and how you felt about it. Denial just sounds defensive. “Teasing” also concerns me. The self-disclosures might be a problem, depending on what he’s telling you, but as I don’t know what that information is, I can’t really evaluate his behavior.

      I also wonder whether taking up transference issues is a normal part of your work together. As I see it, transference doesn’t just come up now and then; it’s a central part of the ongoing work. Unless he’s used to working that way, your therapist may not know what to do with your feelings about him. If he doesn’t understand them, they may simply make him uncomfortable. You should probably continue to talk to him about this, and leave open the possibility that you may be mis-perceiving him. If you are, it would be because you NEED to do so, to work out some particular issue in the context of your therapeutic relationship.

  10. Nicole says:

    I had another talk with my therapist about this a couple of weeks ago and he refused to even consider that he might be experiencing counter-transference that was affecting my sessions with him. It really made him uncomfortable to find out how strong my transference feelings were and he actually could have done considerable damage to me had I not been aware of the existence of such a thing and had I not trusted my own intuition. But I think the whole thing freaked him out so much that his countertransference issues went away and my transference problems went away also. Now I am seriously considering finding a new therapist as I am now finding it impossible to trust him completely after all this. He seems very passive in our sessions and doesn’t bring things up from previous sessions. I always have to decide what I want to talk about each week. Is it normal for a therapist to always give the responsibility of what is discussed to the patient?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I almost always let my clients decide what we’ll talk about; it’s a very psychoanalytic stance. But on the other hand, I wouldn’t avoid talking about transference and counter-transference issues since they’re often the meat of the matter. Keep talking to your therapist about it; if he can’t make you feel heard and understood, then follow your instincts and move on.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I haven’t always agreed with my therapist and have at times been ticked off, but hatred? THat’s pretty extreme. I can’t say I ever felt hatred for my therapist.

  12. Bonnie Burton says:

    My therapist must be doing his job quite well. He and I have brought so many unknown and unwanted parts of myself into the light during our years of work together that I can read many of your posts without discomfort — not because I think you’re an idiot and they don’t apply to me, but because I can now say, “Yup, been there, done that!”
    I can’t count the number of times I hated my therapist and had no problem telling him what an idiot he was. But a strange thing happened during this process — when I stopped trying to push away those unwanted parts of myself and I began to accept the truth about my motives and behaviors, I realized that he wasn’t the idiot — I was! And being able to acknowledge that was a turning point for me in my therapy. When I no longer fought so hard to defend against the truth about myself, I started to like myself more than I did when I actually thought I was a “good” person who would never want to hurt or control or manipulate anyone because I knew how it felt to be hurt and controlled and manipulated.
    I wish more therapists would be more persistent in helping clients to recognize and acknowledge those unknown and unwanted parts. But it seems like far too many get caught up in not wanting to “blame the victim” so they fail to address our issues of rage, control and manipulation, preferring instead to “meet our need” for affirmation and validation that we are good and the people who hurt us are bad. If only it were that simple.

  13. Sheila says:

    There’ a quite a danger for a therapist comfortably to assume that a client is angry because he’s hit on some wonderful truth. Clients also get angry because their therapist is wrong, or because there are other misunderstood circumstances in the discussion, or because the client has different priorities. Or because may the therapist was simply tactless or condescending. This blog post reads like a grand rationalization for invalidating client feedback. The client is too stupid to know what’s true or good for her.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Any therapist who would “comfortably assume” anything, without corroborating evidence elsewhere, and confirmation from the client, would be incompetent.

  14. jessie says:

    I walked out on my therapist today. After nearly three months of weekly therapy I finally vented or more like vomited my anger……and projected it on my therapist. I wont go into the details ‘the story’ around my anger but it essentially involved me being frustrated and angry with the way the therapy was going and feeling let down. To be honest, I feel it doesn’t really matter ‘the fine detail’ as to why I was angry at my therapist ie the detail of my discontent…it could have just have easily been my rage at the colour of the wall paper in the room. All I can say is, I ‘needed’ to get angry (if that makes sense).
    Her first response when I criticized the therapy and said I felt I had reached a ‘cul de sac’ was to say “well if you want to leave thats fine by me”. She also became defensive with my criticism. I got even angrier then and very upset. In the end after a half hour of this forward and back, I threw the money on the table and walked out-I felt badly let down.
    In hindsight now I realise that history has indeed repeated itself for me. I grew up in a house where as a child, it was not okay to be ‘me’. My father’s mood swings included getting hit (and I dont mean a light smack – I mean something more like a verbal assault at best – physical assault at its worse). In particular expressing opinion/ anger or indignation was NOT ALLOWED and resulted in severe punishment. My therapist knows all this. I have talked about it ad nausea in therapy. She has even commented on my inability to ‘discharge’ anger. I finally got the courage to do it today – not intentionally, I didn’t plan it, but I guess deep down I knew I had to.
    I realise now that what I wanted was someone who would not judge me for venting anger. I wanted someone who would not retaliate by rejecting me or my anger (saying ‘you can leave if you want’) or retaliate with defensiveness and judgment . I wanted ‘a safe place’ and acceptance.
    It took a lot for me to express anger in therapy. Deep down I was terrified of rejection and punishment. Unfortunately my fears have been justified. Its all very distressing because on two occasions (once at the first session) she told me I was hard work (she qualified this later saying she felt I was hard work because I did’nt express a lot of emotion in therapy!). By God, in the end I have paid a price for expressing feeling in therapy. One thing is certain. I won’t be going back.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What a disappointment, to say the very least. As much training as we get in helping people, few of us know how to bear with that kind of rage when it’s being directed at us. It sounds like she wasn’t the right therapist for you but don’t give up on therapy altogether. Keep looking.

  15. Jules says:

    I recently had my therapist confront me, and I feel betrayed. Not because of the content, but in the way it was delivered. It felt like one of those arguments that you have with someone, where everything starts out fine… then all of a sudden, out of the blue, the other person starts in with a random, arbitrary, and capricious stream of verbal bullets from every direction. No matter what you say, it’s wrong. I couldn’t defend, could not agree, could not say a damn thing, he just kept going and going…he just kept talking over me, telling me that everything I said was bullshit, I over intellectualized, threw in a few more “criticisms”) (one was true, one was not, he was really just on roll and seemed to be having a good time) If he would have said one thing at a time, that would have been different. He would wait till I broke down, and then start with the kind words… This last time I walked out. This is how my father used to conduct his verbal abuse, by the way, and the therapist knows this.

    I think, as a previous poster mentioned, he was trying to “frustrate me” to get through my defenses. I feel betrayed, like the whole building up trust process was just prep for the “real work” . This has been going on for a month and it leaves me feeling confused, very, very angry, and shut down, not to mention depressed. I’m having to force myself to concentrate on my work, but it’s getting easier I have not talked to the therapist in a while and actually don’t think I plan on going back. This makes me so sad, but I’m getting over it day by day. Back to being alone, and I’m OK with it.

    Is it also OK to go into therapy knowing a bit about the “process”? I’m learning quite a bit. Part of me feels like it’s my fault for “resisting” but there has got to be other ways to confront a client than what I experienced. I had to draw a line somewhere.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I can’t gauge your therapist’s intent, but I disapprove of deliberately frustrating your clients in order to motivate them. It doesn’t work. Instead we need to point out to our clients how they’re avoiding real contact, or intellectualizing, and try to understand WHY. Is it fear of exposure? Is it dread of becoming dependent? Is it shame? There are many reasons why someone might intellectualize, and our work is to try to understand why. It sounds as if your therapist doesn’t really understand the concept of resistance; assuming that he has met with your resistance, he seems to be treating you as if you are “bad” instead of trying to understand what you’re warding off. It also sounds as if he is frustrated, due to his lack of understanding, and is blaming you for his own limitations.

      As for knowing a bit about the process, of course it’s okay. Over the years, most of my clients have been other therapists and they often know a great deal.

  16. Jules says:

    Yes, he’s frustrated. I asked him to stop doing that, to be kinder- but now, by telling him that I felt “offended” I think I gave him more reason to do the “tough love” routine, and gave him more “ammunition” to classify me as BPD. He won’t back down. I’m now in the process of distancing myself- (one of my defenses!) I’m afraid of being labeled as BPD if I call him again soon. I got to dependent, it’s too hot and cold for me. Thanks for this reply, I need to um, think about this, but not too much!

  17. Stephanie says:

    My husband and I have been seeing a female counselor for about 6 weeks now and since day one she has seemed to rub me the wrong way. I gave it a chance though. I personally am open to the fact that I have a lot of issues to face and resolve in myself to help make my marriage work, but my husband has a lot to work on himself since he has a past of physically abusing me. From the beginning the counselor tends to address me far more than my husband and my husband just sits back to enjoy the “show.” She has been argumentative with me and condescending and has tried to justify my husband lying to me for the sake of not having to be “nagged.” She has also made many assumptions about me as a woman and the dynamics of our relationship just 2 sessions in and she didn’t even try to figure us out first or our dynamics before jumping in with her “opinions.”
    I am infuriated with my counselor right now because my husband had another “episode” and he ended up in jail for domestic violence and we are only in contact during counseling. We just had our first meeting since the incident and the only thing she addressed my husband with was “what pushed you over the edge?” and then the only ramification that he received was a comment she direct towards both of us about how I could have addressed things differently and how his reaction should have been different. THAT IS ALL! Nothing else, no looking deeper into his issues and instead she turns everything on me and tries to figure ME out in the situation.
    To me she seems to be a bit sexist and holds things to a double standard. She condemned him for being there showing he cared, but then she tells me I’m not as dedicated to working things out as he is. Well I’m there too and I should be the last one there TRYING to work things out because I’ve been hurt and abused and shouldn’t even be giving him a chance.
    She also told me that “it’s life” for children and people to be talked to in a condescending and frustrated tone all the time and basically argued with me that my feelings that by leaving our son with my husband who’s always “frustrated” with him is invalid and not about our son, but about ME. I have to disagree. She doesn’t know who he is and doesn’t seem to care to get to know, so instead I’m wrong and she’ll try to fix me.
    I’m sorry for the rant, I’m just frustrated and need to know that I’m just not frustrated with everything and that she really is a crappy counselor.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I would say that your feelings are a good indication that this is not the right therapist for you. I’d advise you either to go alone to another therapist to discuss these issues, or get a consultation with a different marriage counselor. If you want my opinion, while I’m sure there are things you could do to help the situation, spousal abuse is less a “couples issue” than other issues; in large part, it’s about his explosive rage and why he can’t control it. You might want to wonder why you picked someone who abuses you, and why you’re even interested in working it out. Why aren’t you putting an end to the abuse by leaving and looking for something better? If it were a one-time experience, that would be different; he sounds like a serial abuser and you need to protect yourself, first and foremost.

  18. Sheila says:

    My therapist seemed like a somewhat normal guy until one day he just snapped. I was going through a terrible time–job loss, surgery, child troubles, money troubles–and he made an insensitive joke at my expense. I said that the joke hurt my feelings and he just started yelling at me. He said I was a bully, that I manipulated everything, that I wasn’t so perfect, that I didn’t appreciate anything he did for me. He got up and paced right in front of me and even leaned over me as I lay on the couch yelling, “You want me to be sorry? Well, I’m NOT sorry!” and said he couldn’t see me at my regular time the next week although I probably didn’t WANT to anyway. And he said, “You don’t know ANYTHING about me!” I still can’t really make sense of why he said what he did. I thought if I had a feeling (like feeling hurt at a joke), I was SUPPOSED to express my feelings as accurately as possible. I stopped seeing him (I had a closure meeting, but I knew he wasn’t going to apologize, so I just focused on trying to forgive him–and yeah, he said he didn’t want to get into it). But now it has been a year since it happened and I am ashamed at how shattering this event has been to me. I think about his red face and his anger and his pacing around, and feel sick. For months I would wake up crying. This fall, I was so close to suicide that my new therapist made me write down a pact about why I wouldn’t kill myself. This desperate feeling went on for months. I knew I would never get any resolution for this, and that’s the way life is, but I wish I could just put it behind me. I feel like an idiot for having this pain me so much after a whole year.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What an awful experience. Your former therapist sounds emotionally abusive and this traumatic experience has only added to your pain, making your struggle even harder. I’m sure your new therapist has told you that the former therapist’s behavior was entirely unprofessional and that you have many good reasons to feel hurt and betrayed.

  19. Sheila says:

    Thank you, Dr. Burgo. Your words were very comforting to me.

  20. Sophie says:

    “My clients who’ve spent months or years hating me and come through on the other side always feel profoundly grateful that I could bear with them and not retaliate.”

    Recently my therapist got angry at me, which was profoundly hurtful to me. It was a strong anger and when I told her it felt like she was angry at me she agreed she was.

    I am going to talk to her about it more, but I would like your perspective on therapists getting angry at clients. Prior to this outburst from her, I trusted her not to retaliate and not to get angry at me. The fact that this trust is broken is difficult for me.

    I know I can express angry emotions at my therapist, and we have both discussed that I do it because I have such feelings of self-hatred.

    Do you think it is acceptable to express strong anger at clients? If so, what place does this have in therapy?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Sorry for taking so long to get back to you, Sophie — I was on vacation last week. On occasion, I think it may be acceptable or even necessary for a therapist to express anger, but it should never be retaliatory. She would need to explain to you why she felt angry, and hopefully, it would reveal something about your behavior toward her that would be illuminating — useful, that is, for you in understanding yourself.

  21. AAK says:

    I am a recovering bulimic who has had no binge/purge symptoms for almost 9 months now. I have a team and have been with my therapist for over a year. Still trying to get my meds right it has been difficult and the body image issue is bad. Have been encountering heavy duty transference (woman to woman) lately which I have been able to talk about and also extremely embarassing. I understand this is a big turning point for me because I have been seeking an authentic, caring relationship my whole life. I knew I would be too much for her and too needy and sure enough the more I slowly clue her in to how much I need her and am attatched and think about her the boundaries get tighter. Today she told me she will not respond to my emails because she can’t give me what I need. I am angry that the rules are changing a bit, she is less willing to share info about herself and I am frustrated that I have to feel all of these feelings when I much prefer to purge them. I don’ t think she can fix me and might possibly quit me.I think I expected to much and definitely thought giving up the eating disorder would be the hard part not the pathetic depression I’m suffering now because my therapist and I can’t be as close as I would like us to be.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The problem is that your therapist doesn’t know how to deal with and understand your transference, and also that her boundaries were poor before and she’s only now setting better limits in response to your feelings. But the anger you mention is also part of the transference and you need to bring that up and go into it deeply. If your therapist can’t tolerate your anger, that will tell you something important about her.

      • Red says:

        On the other hand… Do you think that your therapist somehow set you up to believe that she could fix you in some way? Did she ever start out by being a motherly, warm, overprotective figure who emphasized how much she cared about you and how she would never judge you and how she would always be there for you? If so, then maybe she was the kind of person who would enjoy setting out to deliberately create transference because she likes feeling needed and depended upon. People like that are sometimes on the lookout for people who are needy and vulnerable because they make easy prey, so to speak.

  22. AAK says:

    Thank you, I believe she had ok boundaries before, but now they have just become tighter. As a recovering bulimic it is hard to hold onto my feelings for too long ( want to get them out of my head like a purge). Was bulimic for 25 years. I have also found that it takes me a bit to process so sometimes things don’t click to later on in the day. I keep notes, but it isn’t, the same. I see her twice a week. Weekends are hard. I have cut a few times and have given my husband some pills to hold for me all over these stupid feelings I have for her that I am just learning and trying to accept will not be able to be met. For some reason it is devastating for me and feels so embarrassing to talk about event though I am. When I ask her how she feels about the stuff I bring up about my transference she wants to keep the focus on me or says how do you think I feel about it. She doesn’t want to make things anymore heated then they already are. I thought the hard part of all this was stopping the behaviors of the bulimia after so long not all this stuff that is coming up. It is ruling my life. I feel brave for telling her whats going on even though I can’t divulge everything at once and I know she wants more, but the more she gets the stricter she gets with me and the quicker I lose the relationship that I have idealized with her. I know that when I accept this the intrusive thoughts will get better and so will I, I just so want her to be my friend and fix me.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The two important things you say are (1) you have idealized your therapist; and (2) that you want her to “fix” you. These are often features of the infantile transference, where the therapist becomes (in fantasy) a kind of idealized mommy who could miraculously undo all the damage, if only you could be with her always.

  23. Sara says:

    Not only did this not make me feel uncomfortable, I feel relieved and grateful.
    I want my therapist to love me (I know this is a desire from childhood) and I hate his guts because he doesn’t.
    I know underneath that hatred is pain and loss.
    He thinks he’s “not effective” because I’ve walled him off.
    I worry that he’s going to end therapy because he “doesn’t know how to be effective” for me.
    I think he needs to be patient and let me hate him for as long as I need to hate him.

  24. J says:

    My hatred isn’t towards an actual therapist but towards a wannabe therapist who took a psych 101 course at college and decided that she was an expert. She liked to amuse herself with brutal honesty which she considered to be charitable/free therapy. I had the misfortune of working in a foreign country with her and, because she could speak the language and I could not, I needed to work together with her. So I was completely cut off from my family and friends back home and the only communication I had was with someone who only spoke to me in patronizing, condescending psychobabble.

    She never once let me walk up & approach her and any efforts of making small talk fell flat. But she never stopped harrassing me with her honesty. Her ‘Hey, I’m just being honest.’ comments were always unsolicited and usually about me being unattractive, undesirable and unwanted. I kept a list of all her comments and planned to show it to my friends when I got home. Typical examples were when she used to randomly, bluntly tell me that an attractive girl like her could never have sex with someone as ugly as me. Then she would do her usual just-being-honest routine and that she wanted to know how that made me feel in great detail.

    I pleaded with her to stop. I told her that I was never a fan of psychology (I’m not) and I’d beg her not to talk to me at all. She would say things like, “Don’t you want to know what your problem is?’ to which I would respond ‘NO!’ I’d insult her or ignore her and she would complain about my ‘resistance’ and would complain that I was impossible to understand at all. I dealt with it until about the 7th week of being abroad when things really started getting bad and I made a failed suicide attempt.

    My personality has never been the same and I feel numb and empty all the time. I’m about as agroaphobic as you can get and I rarely eat or sleep or even watch tv. The person I used to be is completely foreign (my unwanted ‘therapist’ used to call me a “frat boy” for being outgoing and wanting to hang out at clubs all night.)

    My youngest sister’s own suicide attempts brought me to actual psychologists and it has just been disasterous. I told one about my sister’s problems and the very first thing I was told was that it was the “stupidest reason” she had ever heard for someone seeking therapy. I walked out. Then that same therapist chased me down and told me that she said I was being emotionally flat and unreasonable.

    I’m told that I don’t understand how therapy is supposed to work. I’m told that I talk about all the wrong things. I’m told that therapists aren’t there to be my friend and that I should expect to be challenged and to hear things that I don’t want to hear. I’m told that I’m a poor candidate for medication. I’m told that ‘when the student is ready then the teacher will come’ – but I’m one of those hopeless, heartsink patients who will never be successful in therapy.

    I decided to write an email to the girl for an explanation and she just belittled me for attempting suicide and reminded me that if she didn’t like me then she wouldn’t have provided all that free counseling for me.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      What an awful story. It made me think of a favorite movie line, from the old Pride and Prejudice: “Honesty is a highly over-rated virtue.” What arrogance on your “friend’s” part, to presume to tell you whatever she thought might be true about you. Sounds to me as if she was simply projecting all her “shit” into you in order to get rid of it. Ugh.

      It also sounds as if you’ve had a collection of bad therapists (not hard to do since so many of them are bad). The therapist who told you that yours was the stupidest reason she’d ever heard for seeking treatment seems utterly incompetent to me. I agree that therapists aren’t there to be friends, that the work involves challenging you and that you may not like hearing it, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been talking about the “wrong” things or will never be successful in therapy. If you’re truly suffering, just keep looking for the person who actually understands you and can speak to you with condescension or contempt.

  25. Valentina says:

    I just recently discovered this website. I was in therapy for a long time with a freudian psychoanalist, form 1994 to 2001. My problem, now, is that I still hate her guts. And I think this is not countertransferance.
    She manipulated me many times, for instance she did all she could to persuade me to date a guy I had met on the internet. I met this man face to face, once, and he explained me his fascist worldview, in total contrast with mine, said he was taking heavy psichyatric medication, was very aggressive and unpolite to anyone except me (on dates I always observe how guys behave with other people, such as waiters, I think it helps to see their true personality) and told me he had a collection of over 300 firearms (in Italy, where I live, firearms are strictly regulated and not very common). I also realized he had lied about where he lived, his academic title and other things, to make himself look more important.
    When I told the therapist I didn’t want to see him again, she accused me of being “aloft” and have “unrealistic standards”. In the following sessions, she kept insisting that I should give him a chance. Luckily, I started dating another guy and she gave up.
    A few years later, the guy I had supposedly discarded because I was “aloft” , murdered his wife (who he had met through the Internet, too), a neighbour and shot three more people, before taking his own life.
    As I’m a journalist, I wrote the story about my date with him on a magazine. I think it could be helpful to other women in case they met a psychopath. But I feel guity about leaving the therapist out of the story: I should have warned people about her, too. Actually, that story gave a boost to my career, and I didn’t want my first article to bring a lawsuit from the therapist and to mark myself as somebody who dropped out of therapy.
    But I feel guilty about it. The therapist harmed my best friend too, manipulating them into staying in a relationship with an emotionally abusive man. And I’m sure she did and is still doing harm. I don’t think she means it. I think she’s so sure of her worldview that she thinks she’s doing good.
    I never confroted her: she refuses to see patients if they don’t pay and the alst thing I want is giving her more money.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Your anger is definitely NOT transference. This analyst’s behavior was highly unprofessional and about the farthest thing from psychoanalysis I can imagine. My guess is that confronting her would be fruitless as she’s absolutely convinced she is right and you, by definition (the inferior patient) are wrong, your reactions easily discounted as neurotic. I’m so sorry.

  26. RC says:

    Joe, you say you’ve had clients who’ve “spent months or years hating me.” That’s pretty amazing, and amazing that you’ve stuck with them through all of that.

    Do they usually cite specific reasons for hating you? Are they ever unsure as to why they hate you? I remember one time feeling a lot of hatred for my therapist but I couldn’t focus in on why. I think I ended up saying something like, “I don’t know. I just do. I don’t like how you dress and I hate how you slump in your chair.”

    It was really a difficult moment, because at the same time, I’m also conscious that this man is a person who is genuinely trying to help me, and who has treated me with respect and dignity. It’s hard for me to call him a stupid a**hole and not even know why.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      With my clients, it came up in the transference. One of them was so full of unconscious shame that he attacked me every time I put him in touch with it. That was his defense — to start screaming with invective, rather than feel the shame. With another client, it resulted from her extreme hatred of her own needs and feelings of dependency. The more dependent she felt, the more she wanted to attack and devalue me.

      • RC says:

        Thanks. It’s great to hear these accounts of other peoples’ struggles in therapy, and how you experience it.

  27. Johan, 19 years old says:

    I’m currently in a pretty severe depression and I’ve been in therapy for the last six months. It has gotten to the point where these sessions were the only thing I was looking forward to in my life. After almost every session I would feel calm and relaxed for a couple of hours.

    Now that she’s currently on vacation I’m seeing someone else in the meantime. I hate the new therapist. Now after every session I instead feel anger and despair. My urge to harm myself and the self-hatred is becoming worse the more I talk to this new therapist, I find every suggestion and comment she makes to be stupid and ridiculous.

    Is this how it’s supposed to be? Can I only make progress if there’s constant anger?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I don’t think it needs to be constant, but it definitely needs to be dealt with. I wonder if your have re-directed the anger you feel toward your therapist for “abandoning” you over the vacation and directed that rage instead toward the substitute.

  28. DK says:

    This article helped me realize why my therapist irritates me sometimes, in fact sometimes I leave sessions angry because she’s willing to be straight with me on matters I maybe try to avoid paying attention to. She wants me to get better, so sometimes that means pushing me to see truths I might be avoiding. Thanks.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Exactly. Part of the job description is having people resent and feel angry at you for telling them the truth they don’t want to face.

  29. weezy says:

    I feel anger towards my therapist for terminating me 8 yrs. ago. I am again with this therapist, have been for past five years. I have BPD. Him terminating was the lowest point in my life. A lot was going on at the time it happened. I was abusive towards him.
    In your opinion, can a therapist ever be helpful again to a BPD patient that they have previously terminated? Is the retraumatization too difficult to work through with the same therapist that did the retraumatizing? Should I consider the many past years of therapy a wash and start all over again? Don’t know if I have it in me.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Yes, I think he can still be helpful to you, but I would expect a part of what you need is an acknowledgement that his termination of you was traumatic and probably a mistake. Why did he terminate you when it was so obviously the wrong time?

      • weezy says:

        Thanks so much for the quick reply!
        I know he was in a tough position. My mother in law had a heart attack and died on the day I went into labor with my second child. I was already having negative transference towards my therapist prior to giving birth. I had found out that his daughter was pregnant at the exact same time and in my fantasy world, felt like I had to compete with her for his attention. Part of my chronic stuff to work on. I had great difficult dealing simultaneously with the two very strong emotions of great joy and great sorrow. Experiencing life and death at the same time combined with pregnancy hormones triggered something in me. I also felt much shame for not coping well when my children and husband needed me so. I was also left alone a lot the days following giving birth so that funeral plans could be made and affairs were dealt with.

        I became wishy-washy about returning to therapy and when I did I verbally criticized him. I became angry and left slamming the door behind me and then took it a step further and grabbed some magazines and threw them at his closed door. I went out to my car and then when I realized what I did, I tried to go back in his office and that is when he told me “I was not allowed back here”.
        He stuck to that. He said I had to be responsible for my actions, that there would be no further contact between us.

        I was in shock. It was a very, very low point for me when he left. I had gotten mad before and slammed his door while leaving but never did anything like throwing things. It took a really long time for me to trust that he would be around for me while I needed him to be. But when I did believe it, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. I believed him when he said, “I’m not going anywhere, you can’t get rid of me, you’ll fire me before I fire you, I’m a bulldog I don’t give up, I’ll be here not matter what, etc…” I was physically sick and just in an even deeper state of mourning while trying to pull it together for my kids. I had no self-esteem, no trust in anything and felt a deep sense of betrayal. I took it too far, it was my fault and I’ll always regret that but he must have been feeling negatively towards me prior to that without me knowing. He had helped me soooo much during the prior 7 years. I was a mess when I began therapy with him. I was able to bond with him aftera long while and grew to trust him wholeheartedly.

        I would call him from time to time after that happened and he would speak with me and listen to what I was up to but when I asked to come back he would just say “not at this time”. I saw a few therapists but never stayed long, was scared to let anybody in again. After THREE years, I called him and said I was going to ask one more time, and he scheduled an appt. for me. It’s humiliating in a way that I had to beg to come back and couldn’t move forward. We’ve been building me back up as best as that can be done. And only recently have we discussed in a deep down way, the termination and how it affected me. Just a few weeks a go he apologized saying he was very, very sorry that it was so painful for me. He admits to “not being able to continue under those circumstances” and refers a lot to “taking responsibility” and “suffering consequences of actions”. It’s like him terminating therapy was a punishment for me because of how I acted that day.

        I think he had had enough, you know how people suffering with symptoms of BPD can burn people out. He couldn’t see it through. I think we’ve forgiven each other and I am feeling trusting feelings towards him once again, but that special connection is held somewhere way down deep inside me. I know it’s still there, it shines through sometimes but doesn’t stay in the forefront for too long yet. I’m waiting to see what happens. He worked so hard for me in the past but things change and I’m learning that I can’t rewrite the ending to this therapy relationship. It’s different now.

        You’re absolutely right, I needed to hear that he was sorry for having hurt me and I do think that it was the wrong decision due to the issues I deal with. That’s what hurt the most, he knew more than anyone else in my life how much it would hurt me if he went away. I sometimes still can’t believe it happened. I shouldn’t have acted the way I did, but he shouldn’t have said “I’ll be here no matter what”.

  30. ooak says:

    I required long term therapy to resolve the effects of deprivation in childhood. (Mother was a psychopath) A great deal of my therapy consisted of being permitted to be angry towards my therapist. The process of expressing rage within was at times very frightening. My terror of rage, caused clinical depression. Once the rage was expressed there was little to fear.

    I believe you are on the right track Dr Jo. I wonder how many other doctors have your insight and compassion, and are not triggered by their patients anger?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It’s interesting, what you say about the link between rage and depression. That has been my experience, too, both on the couch and sitting behind it. Thanks!

  31. ooak says:

    Repressed rage, and the fear of it is held in place by the lid of depression. Once the rage is vented there is no longer a fear of it. It is a very simple concept. Perhaps too simple for such a complicated illness like clinical depression. The trigger to that rage is rejection or the fear of it. In my early adult life my storage of rage reached a critical point, and needed venting. The therapist’s aim was to bypass the anxiety, and aim for the rage. In so doing the anxiety dissipated. It became more interesting when infantile rage was expressed. At that level I found the REAL rage.

  32. salma says:

    hello. how can we tell if hatred is caused by the therapist’s honest remarks or by reasons of transference? thanks in advance.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think that’s the therapist’s job, to help you know the difference. If he or she responds defensively to your hostility, then it may be quite legitimate. If, on the other hand, the therapist helps you understand the unconscious reasons for your hatred, that would be different.

  33. ooak says:

    Never, in my wildest dreams did I think this process would end in me being hated, feared and shunned by fellow sufferers. No, I am not an inspiration to anyone wanting a “cure.” I am your worst nightmare. And to think it was all done without antidepressants, yoga, meditation, and CBT!

    Far better prevention, rather than the cure.

  34. Someon Orother says:

    I hate therapists in general. Mine wants me to vent mine in the session but I told her unless she wanted me to kick her ass, then she better really, really rethink that decision!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      If you hate therapists in general, I wonder why you’re in treatment????

      • weezy says:

        Dr. Burgo, you may not wish to answer this, but have you ever terminated a patient when it was not their wish to do so? If so why? Did you or would you ever work with them again?

        Still processing things and am curious.

        • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

          I terminated a client under those conditions only once, many years ago. She was an extremely ill elderly woman and I felt that I wasn’t helping her. It seemed unethical to continue accepting a fee for my services when I felt I was doing no good. Otherwise, I have never terminated a client against his or her will.

  35. Ave says:

    I came across your website in my search for articles (preferably by a professional) about feelings of anger/hate towards your therapist. I have these feelings toward mine for his boundaries. I am not permitted to contact him between sessions. Presumably this applies to all of his clients. No telephone calls, no email. Unless it’s an emergency. In my life I’ve had three important therapists (and one OK therapist). This is #3. The first two, plus the OK therapist, did not have these rules. If I felt like I needed to call, I could. I rarely even took advantage of the privilege, but apparently just having permission to contact them was important because it enrages me that this therapist doesn’t permit it. We’ve talked about it. He says it’s not personal and that not everyone can accommodate all of your needs. I’ve been struggling with this for a while. I’m not a “just let it go” kind of person. But we’ve also talked about this ’till I was blue in the face. It just makes me more angry. I don’t think the anger will subside until he gives in and tells me I can contact him if I need to. But that won’t happen. If I told this guy I don’t like cold water, he’ll tell me to dunk my hand in cold water every day until my dislike goes away. So I was wondering if you had any words of wisdom about this kind of anger/hate. Thanks.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I understand why you’re angry, and I understand why your therapist sets the limits he does. It seems a bit extreme but certainly not unprofessional. I wonder if he takes this up as a transference issue … say, how awful it feels simply to have to wait for what you want between sessions. It’s the kind of interpretation I often make, liking it to the earliest experiences of need and dependency.

      But it also sounds as if you legitimately need him to be a bit more flexible. When he says it’s “not personal,” that doesn’t help, because you need his policy to be personal to you, to take your particular needs into account. On the other hand (too many hands now), it may again be part of the transference, where you want him to make an exception for you, among all his clients. I don’t know, but I’d keep trying to explore the issue with him in sessions.

  36. Holly says:

    Hi dr. Burgo, I have had a relatively short period of time in therapy but to my absolute horror in my last session I threw up after discussing a painful experience in my life, my therapist was not at all fazed by this and always insists I choose the topic that we talk about. He also recommends that I cry , wail or scream if need be but I can never read his face or his emotion which bothers the hell out of me. On getting home after that particular ” vomit session ” I emailed my therapist and abused the living daylights out of him , called him every name I could, tore apart his character and endlessly told him how much I hate him . ( he has not replied or called ) . This behaviour on my part is so distressing , embarrassing upsetting and forign to me that I don’t know how I’ll ever get back to an appointment with him ! And to add to my confusion I really like this psycotherapist ! My out burst has frightened me and in turn it may have done the same to him for which I fear he may terminate my appointments with him ? Any advice or clarity on this would be greatly appreciated :)

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      My advice is to trust him and go back for your next session. If he’s good, he’ll help you understand what the outburst means and why it came about. But in any event, this happened because you NEEDED it to happen; you need to bring up these angry feelings and get help with them.

  37. EST says:

    Dr Burgo, I have a question related to a situation where my client has expressed the belief that I ( his therapist) do not like him. He has not raised this with me directly in our sessions but contacted a senior colleague who in turn explored what his preferences were in terms of how to address this. what was established was that he wanted to continue with our sessions and commented that he had no doubts about my competence or skills as his therapist, so the offer of changing to a different therapist ( extended by my colleague)was declined by him. The outcome that has been agreed is that the 3 of us will meet together ( i, his therapist, the client and my senior colleague) to discuss how to proceed with this. I am now reflecting on this and wondering what to do or how to ‘be’ although i also think that I need to continue ‘being’ as I am with him. The client reported to my colleague that I have not ‘done’ anything in particular to fuel or support what he thinks, but he just ‘feels’ as if he is not liked by me. I guess my question is do you have any thoughts about this in terms of what i can reflect on or how I might broach this issue when we have our meeting. Thanks for any suggestions or thoughts.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m offended on your behalf. Your senior colleague is interfering where it’s none of his business. He should have said to your client, “I think you need to discuss this matter directly with your therapist. It might shed some light on your issues.” Something to that effect. Obviously it’s a transference issue, and one familiar to most of us who work with clients who suffer from self-hatred and shame.

  38. EST says:

    …something i perhaps needed to add to the above post…..this meeting was offered and arranged by my colleague without any prior discussion with me, my initial thought about this was it was premature and not the first option i would have considered as a helpful way to proceed.

  39. Em says:

    Hello Dr. Burgo. I have been to therapy and counseling on a few occasions, and believe myself to be quite an aware person. I consistently work on my own self-development and study mind-related issues.

    I have very recently started therapy again, in order to deal with a traumatic situation that occurred recently which brought up some unresolved feelings from my past. At my initial consultation, which was emotionally intense for me, the therapist brought up some core insights which I really resonated with, and which I wanted to further explore. During the second session, she did not bring these up again, and instead the session seemed to go nowhere with me just talking about many random things, and I left feeling very unsettled, confused and uncomfortable, as if it had been a pointless exercise. I did not exactly understand why I felt this way, and I didn’t understand why the therapist did not guide me toward the issues we had spoken about the previous week. This feeling stayed with me for a few days until I came across some relevant material online which helped me to better understand why I was feeling the way I was.

    At my last session, I explained all of this to the therapist and I asked her for some guidance as I did not want a repeat of the last session. I explained that the insights she offered at the first session had really resonated with me emotionally, and were at the forefront of my mind, and therefore I asked her if she could guide me to speak about them, as I had no idea where to begin. I asked her if perhaps she could ask me some questions to help me find my place. Unfortunately, the therapist reacted very badly to what I thought was a simple request, and began speaking very defensively to me, saying she thought I understood what therapy was about, she was not going to ask me questions as she didn’t work like that, she said I only wanted a “quick fix”, or CBT, and she told me I was not being co-operative with my therapy as arguing with her was externalizing an argument I was having with my subconscious.

    Finally after going back and forth for some time, with me trying to help her to understand what I was genuinely feeling as opposed to what she was insisting I was feeling (she was the therapist and her training meant she knew better) she eventually said that I was saying she was not good enough (and refused to believe me when I told her that didn’t even enter my mind), and stated categorically that I argued with her the entire session, and I didn’t trust her. I was in shock with all of this, and I thought it hugely ironic, as it was obvious that she didn’t trust anything I was saying to her, and she kept looking for underlying motives I might have (which she stated categorically I did have). When I disagreed with her opinions, and told her I simply didn’t understand where to begin dealing with the insights she offered, she would cite her training as evidence that what she said was right and I was wrong.

    Always being (mis)treated with suspicion, or encountering people who believe they know better than me about who I am and what my intentions are etc… is one issue I actually came to speak to her about, and therefore I was hugely upset at the end of the session, as here she was doing the same thing! I told her that I was extremely tired feeling that way, and that if she didn’t believe what I was saying, then I was not going to spend any more time trying to convince her and that therapy with her wouldn’t work for me. It was then as if something changed in her, and she suddenly stopped arguing with me, saying that obviously I feel the need to justify myself to others and she must also feel that need. I apologized if I had upset her, but she did not apologize to me. I came away thinking she had acted very inappropriately, and wondered why I had apologized, and also why people in my life react this way to me!

    At any rate, I decided to check out some information online regarding appropriate therapist conduct, and just general information about how sessions work and different kind of therapy, and I then came across your site. I decided that the biggest lesson I could learn from all of this was to trust myself, and to stop trying to figure out “what I did wrong” as this is exactly what I started doing when in conversation with her (the “why doesn’t she understand me” thinking) and afterwards “what did I say to make her react like that”.

    Even though I am now not sure that this therapist is the right therapist for me, I have decided to go to my session this week (viewing it as possibly my last with this therapist) as I don’t want to make a rash decision, or run away from a difficulty. I thought it might be beneficial if I explain the misunderstandings I had regarding my therapy expectations (I have since learned more re the distinctions between different therapies, and the kind of therapy she offers) and I thought to give her a chance to see if she can acknowledge/admit her own issues from our previous session. If she cannot, then I know for sure I need to move on, as I would not be able to trust her.

    I would really appreciate your feedback on this, as all the advice you have offered above has been extremely clear, grounded and insightful.

    Many thanks for your time.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      It sounds to me as if your therapist felt quite defensive, as you say, and rather than listening to what you said, “blamed the patient.” This doesn’t bode well. I think you should follow your instincts, and your idea of going back for a final session just to make sure of your decision seems right. I suppose it’s possible that you’re having some kind of transference reaction, based on your statement that you have an issue with people who think they know more about you than you do, but if so, then your therapist didn’t handle it very well.

  40. Brian says:

    I have skimmed this somewhat. I don’t know if what my comment will have any relevance or not. Right now I am in therapy. I am in a roommate situation that turned intimate relationship. The girl seems like she has some control/abuse issue. She seems screwed up to me. I feel like she has manipulated me, and that she is two faced and just today in fact she was talking about me behind my back on the phone and I just happen to over hear it. In a session I had (today actually) I mentioned what is going on and that I had told my therapist that this situation could turn bad at any moment and I have decided to move. She said don’t. Don’t run away. Without going into all the details for an extremely long post, I feel this girl could turn violent or the situation could just turn really bad really quick. Why would she tell me not to move out? I told her that sounds like bad advice on her part. She constantly does this. And I feel like its because she really isn’t trying to help me. Am I wrong? Is there really any benefit to staying? Because that just sounds crazy to me…maybe this is not the appropriate place for this. If that is the case please disregard, and delete.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I think therapists need to be very cautious about giving advice, and only do so when they are certain. From what you tell me, your therapist didn’t have much of a basis for telling you to stay, unless she felt you had a history of breaking off relationships early and thought you needed to keep trying. Even then, I think her advice is questionable.

  41. EM says:

    nice blog post!

    i am going to an ED therapist and she told me she was frustrated with me because it seemed like i didn’t want to listen to what she is saying and we weren’t going anywhere… she also keeps referring to things as my “DISORDER” in this weird negative way that feels like she is using to her advantage. also, i’m vegan, and she at first she said i didn’t have to drink milk. then she brought it up in front of my dad and just puts me on the spot and made me break down and cry and when i cry she never comforts me. its just super awkward and she even said ‘ i have to pay attention to my feelings and i’m frustrated and i don’t feel a connection…’ after we talked more later with my dad in the room she got us to a place where we are going back. but for WHAT? she hasn’t even addressed what we will work on and the last 2 appointments have just been fights about food basically and i wish she would just help me with the emotions like i told her.. and she keeps saying… “we will get to that.” its so annoying! its a lot of money too. and im not underweight now, so its not like she has to shove food in my mouth and we “need” to fight about food you know?

    what do you think? should i go back?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Your therapist is “blaming the patient” for her own lack of understanding. If there’s a lack of connection, it’s her job to understand why rather than to berate you. Maybe you want to look for help elsewhere.

  42. Y says:

    Hi Dr. Burgo,

    I’ve been in therapy for the last 14 months, and the relationship that I have with my therapist is actually a lot like a marriage (sometimes things are really good, sometimes bad, and often often unremarkably amicable).

    Recently, however, our therapeutic relationship has gone downhill. I grew up with an extremely abusive father, and I coped by fantasizing about older, extremely intelligent men (teachers, guidance counselors, etc). To make matters worse, I was often given inappropriate attention by the aforementioned group, which only encouraged this desperate behavior. To make a long story short, my current therapist fits this fantasy perfectly (older, intelligent, sensitive, etc). Maybe I even chose him because I knew I could return to the comfort zone that saved me from suicide during my teenage years.

    The obvious problem is that I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m a wife, and a mother, and I’d like to use therapy to help me strengthen and further appreciate these very important relationships, instead of regressing into fantasy. My current life is full of abundant blessings that I never experienced during my childhood, and I long to fully enjoy the present.

    My therapist understands my need to fantasize, but he wants to eradicate what I still deem a special ability. He recently mentioned the idea that he felt used, and that maybe I was using therapy for my own personal gratification. He is currently extremely angry, and even spontaneously ended our work together at the end of a session this week. I’ve quit/threatened to quit several times before, but I recognized my behavior as resistance, and never assumed that my therapist would mirror this behavior. His anger increases when I suggest that he is uncomfortable with my attraction to him.

    I’d really like to continue with this therapist because I actually believe that he is quite gifted, but I can’t figure out why he is so angry. Also, why is he so determined to rid me of my fantasies almost instantaneously? Aren’t we supposed to be able to dissect these feelings even if it takes years?

    He’s agreed to continue our work together, but now I’m scared he will fly off the handle and dismiss me again. Any advice you could give me would be wonderful. Thank you so much!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Anger like that from a therapist is a potential sign that his own issues are getting in the way. He may be gifted, but that doesn’t mean he can help you work through this issue. Wanting to “eradicate” your fantasies sounds odd; instead, he should be trying to understand why and when you do it, and what you’re trying to escape.

  43. Maureen says:

    I can’t speak for others but personally when I hated my last therapist it had nothing to do with any brilliant insight he was making. I hated him because he was chronically late to sessions, would bill me the wrong amount, kept forgetting my name, kept forgetting basic details of my life, confused me for other clients, etc. It just built up resentment and so one day I quit – haven’t missed him. Next therapist was just as useless, but she was very nice and didn’t elicit any anger from me at all. Personally I can’t feel truly angry against someone unless they have done something very wrong, like violated my rights in some way. I did resent my first therapist a lot though.

  44. susan says:

    Hi Dr J, I am in my ninth week of therapy and its the first time in my life that i have actually had any therapy. I go every mon and i find that between sessions i process and journal my thoughts, feelings etc… By Friday i am counting down the days until i can get to my next session to discuss issues that have arisen from my last session.
    Last week my T told me that he was booked out for the next monday and i would have to wait two weeks to see him again.. …… I felt really rejected and abandoned and like i wasn’t important and it would not matter if i had to wait the extra week. This has brought up all kinds of emotions and im wondering if i should tell T this but i am afraid that it will sound like i have some type of ” spoilt brat syndrome” would you rather your clients were honest about what they were feeling in regard to this matter.. Or should i just suck it up and not say anything.
    thanking you.
    susan

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      You should definitely tell him. But that seems odd. Don’t you have a standing hour that is yours?

      • susan says:

        my first appointment was on a monday and after our session he would look at his appoinment book and generally say “Next monday?” i would say “yes” He would offer a time slot and book it in. His office is actually half an hour away so he would come down to my suburb each monday and the rest of the week he would be seeing clients in his office base.
        I didnt want to wait two weeks so i took an appointment 11 days later even though i have to drive the half and hour to see him. After reading your blogs which are really insightful i didnt want this issue to appear as though i was becoming emotionally dependant on my T but rather that i am new to therapy and have lots of thoughts, feelings and emotions running around in my head.
        Thanks you so much for your reply to my blog.
        Susan

  45. unknown says:

    hi…i don’t know much about this but i have a question…is it right to lie to a therapist? if you went to a counselor about your depressed friend and so that friend’s counselor went to them to talk to them and they just denied it and said that they’re okay and have nothing to talk about. is it right for me to tell my counselor that the friend hasn’t said anything to me because they probably didn’t think it was a big deal?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      I’m not sure I understand the question but it’s never a good idea to lie to your therapist. It defeats the whole point of the work.

  46. Julie says:

    Hi Dr J,
    I have been seeing my therapist for 8 mos. I am a high functioning borderline. Since I’ve been seeing her, my life has improved. Her style of therapy is a little bit of everything (she won’t say exactly what that is, I have asked many times) and she prides herself on being a “straight shooter.” Sometimes I think she can cross the line with that and be outright offensive, but it has never been a problem until now. I am currently in an MFT grad school program so I know a little bit about what is appropriate and what is not. My mother was in town last week. I have many conflicting feelings toward my mother, as my childhood was rampant with abuse and neglect. I see my therapist twice a week. At the first appointment during my mother’s visit, I felt paralyzed and could not say much. I was overwhelmed with anger and sadness, and was “in and out” of the session in a disassociative sort of way, if that makes sense. When I went back for the second appointment that week, my mother had been gone for one day. Now I was struggling with both the anger with my mother for the past and grief that she was gone. I was even more “resistant,” meaning I was looking out the window in silence, generally being difficult. The therapist (in my opinion) took my behavior personally and became very confrontational with me. We began to argue and things heated up. Then she said “I think this is fake anger. You’re just being fake.” I reacted very strongly to this statement and froze in silence over what I perceived as an attack reminiscent of my childhood. She became more out-of-control (in my opinion) and began accusing me of attacking her. She was on the verge of yelling, making comments like “It’s my job to tell you when you’re being fake!!! (in response to me telling her that I wasn’t being fake),” “Now you’re just repeating yourself! Is this how you talk to your husband?! Maybe this is why you have problems getting along with people!” At that point, I said something along the lines of “maybe the same is true for you.” Not good, I know. That made her really angry. Then she kept going, with things like “Now you’re telling me I don’t know how to do my job?! You’re just attacking me. You’ve been attacking me since you walked through the door. You’re pissing me off. Is this how you talk to other people?!” For the most part, I honestly don’t believe I was attacking her, but was rather trying to feel my strong feelings within the safe confines of therapy. Anyway, she kept going and getting more angry and cutting me off when I was trying to explain myself. Finally she said, again, “Is this how you talk to your husband? Like you’re an attorney or something?!” At this point I said I don’t think anything good is going to come from this and got up to leave. She said “Don’t walk out of here a victim.” I just apologized and left.
    Now I really don’t know what to do. The therapy has improved my life, but I feel like I have lost so much trust and respect for her over this incident. I am willing to explore my resistance, my anger, my fear, all of it….but I don’t want to ever be talked to like that again. I don’t think things could ever be the same. I can’t find any evidence, either online or by talking with people in my life or from my school, that her behavior could be considered appropriate under any circumstance. However, I am attached to her and can’t imagine leaving. I have an appointment Tuesday and don’t know if it should be the last or not. I feel so hurt and angry and severely disappointed. I feel that I have lost my “safe place.” I also don’t know where to go from here. I know I need a therapist, but I don’t want to go through this again. I know I can be difficult, but I feel like she crossed the line.
    Anyway, thank you for your posts. I enjoy reading everything you write. Take care.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Sounds to me like she did cross the line. It’s one thing to talk about anger as “defensive,” meaning that it’s covering up something else, and quite another to call you “fake.” That seems like name-calling. Plus the question “Is this the way you talk to other people?” feels blaming and like an attack on your character.

  47. Anonymous says:

    So I have had difficulty with getting along with 4 out of 5 different therapists in the past two years. Unfortunately I can’t see the only one I liked because I moved. The others I hate for what I consider extremely valid reasons, so does this mean that therapy just won’t work for me and that the one guy was a lucky once in a lifetime, or is it really possible I found the only 4 awful therapists on the planet. I want to get better, but when all I do after seeing them is cry and feel worse about myself, maybe I should stop going altogether. I’d appreciate some advice as far as what is best for my mental health.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Hating four therapists “for extremely valid reasons” sounds unlikely. I’d suggest you try another therapist and entertain the idea that your hatred might not be justified.

  48. rebecca says:

    A person could die waiting around for an apology from an incompetent therapist. After 9 months of therapy I was discharged on the spot (with no help or follow-up; I ended up being sent to the ER by my MD) and told: a. her clients must be able to tolerate cancelled appointments without getting angry; b. I had turned the focus “on her” by becoming attached; and c. she didn’t know WHAT THIS (a wave of her hand) was. I did my own research and photocopied some info from a therapist’s manual on Borderline Personality Disorder that accurately described all that had happened in 9 months, and two weeks later got a diagnosis, by mail, without apology. The diagnosis was, of course, BPD. She won’t speak to me at all, but I’m still reeling from her callousness.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Find yourself a good therapist. I’m sorry to hear you had such a bad encounter with a therapist who sounds fairly unskilled.

  49. Mary says:

    Hi, I was recently in therapy because my doctor said it would be of a great benefit to me. I never really understood what therapy was about until recently. The therapist listened to me and participated actively, however there was a moment when she made an interpretation of my words that I trully disliked because those words meant that she was thinking that all of my problems had only one reason. Actually all she needed to do was ask a question and I realized what she was thinking. From that moment on the sessions where similar to hell for me because I could no longer feel comfortable with her and because her thoughts, that I fiercely resisted meant I could not tell her about other things that were happening in my life because she would try to justify her thoughts with “autosabotage” on my part. It is like she drew a wall between us and I sincerely felt very bad. Are we slaves of what therapists believe? In my case I was very much offended because she thought something about me as part of my reality not my unconscious mind and when she could no longer support this idea she kept on insisting to inforce it and I felt ashamed, in pain and angry (violently angry) most of the time. I do understand what you explain but I think the majority of us go to therapy because we believe it to be a place where we can be listened and have some sort of peace, however, if all of our words will be used against us to make us angry then what is the point? Who pays to feel worse? I recently came to an understanding of what therapy really is. It consists of bringing the unconscious mind back to life and this would be liberating and cure us. It also means that we are supposed to obbey our innerselves even if we deny this and we consciously want different lives for us. Do we know this when we go to therapy? I do not think so. To tell you the truth I have made an appointment for an interview next week and I am considering cancelling because I honestly believe that I am a lot better without it. There are many problems in life that are coincidences and not things that we subconsciouly bring to ourselves. We are not responsible for absolutely everything in our lives, we live in a society and we interact with others who may also have problems affecting them and us. I am not saying I am not responsible but therapists believe the world we have is our own doing and I disagree. Some things cannot be changed as much as we would like to. When you say “no” in session it means “yes” for psychotherapists. This attitude may lead you to believe you hit the target but you just simply irritated the client or patient. This cannot produce health. How can and angry patient improve? Do we have to take your words as the ultimate truth? Can´t you be wrong? I would like your feedback on this because I have been very interested in this subject since it happened to me because I am very disappointed on the results.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      The client always determines what is true in the end. A therapist who continues insisting on her point of view when it doesn’t feel right to the client is just … well, a bad therapist. You should never have to take a therapist’s opinion as gospel. Clients often resist the truth, but that doesn’t mean the therapist should become dogmatic and insistent. Instead, if the therapist is “right,” more material will come up to validate that view and ultimately convince the client of its truth.

  50. RRF says:

    “The job of a good therapist is to make you aware of those things you don’t know about yourself (and probably never wanted to know) .”
    And probably still don’t want to know. Why would you?
    “bringing a bit of the unknown (and unwanted) parts of yourself into the light.”
    Surely “unwanted” means “not wanted”. It doesn’t mean “might be enjoyable”.
    For what purpose? I find this baffling. Could someone please explain? The article doesn’t explain why seeing yourself in a bad light would be a good thing.

    Bonnie Burton’s post suggests that through therapy she discovered herself to be, in her own words, an “idiot” and not a “good” person. Why would anyone pay someone to make them feel that way? Surely that in itself is insane.

    The article says that humans protect themselves from things that are “too painful to bear”. It doesn’t say things that are “somewhat painful” or “a bit awkward” it says “too painful to bear” and then suggests that people who are protecting themselves from these things are in the wrong.

    I do understand that rather a large part of the premise of psychotherapy is to do these things but I don’t understand why it is thought to be beneficial. The world is full of opportunities to have a bad time for free. Why pay for it?

  51. anonymous says:

    Hello! I am a therapist with teenagers in a somewhat voluntary program. It is a therapeutic special education program working with students with mental illness. One of my clients, whom I have been working with for 1 year, has been attempting to push me away since the start of our work and outwardly presents as a nonvoluntary client. The client has stated that they “hate” mental health professionals from past experience and therefore “hates” me. I have tried multiple approaches to create a therapeutic bond and at the moment progress seems to be made, the client will revisit the reasons they hate me and say inappropriate comments towards me when around other students. This client has presented with abondonement issues regarding their past, and I believe the client is trying to reaffirm their belief that “everyone leaves” which is causing the deliberate refusal to participate in individual/group therapy. Any ideas on how I can encourage the client to work through these feelings or address deeper issues without reaffirming their beliefs regarding mental health professionals?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Boy, that sounds too complicated to address in a short response to your comment. Sounds like you might need some good supervision.

  52. ray says:

    hello,
    I am at a crossroads and don’t know what to do. It will be hard for me to correctly address every aspect as my way is quite complex and confused and prone to blame and resistance.
    I have been in psychoanalysis for 10 years( I was still thinking 5 0r 6 years but its been 10)
    the classic never contact between sessions, no chit chat on the way in, therapist behind me on couch. I don’t think he hates me but I don’t think he likes me.

    The therapist I feel understands my way of operating extremely well, better than I still want to understand it. I have a fantasy-want someone to save me, to be the all encompassing mother I never had, I am needy and defensive and manipulate and think getting angry ( not necessarily outwardly)will win my tormentors over ( and most everyone in my mind is a tormentor) and get them to see me and feel bad and make it all up to me, all it does is make people dislike me.

    This all becomes very complex because I am quite aware of the things I do but still continue to hold on, am quite paranoid everyone hates me( which they also possibly do due to my actions etc but there is a deeper feeling too) Know I am a huge common denominator in all these ” bad situations”. I know the things I do are not endearing but hope someone or everyone will see beyond this to see the poor sad child needing love.I am also reluctant to take full responsibility for my actions because I feel like thats saying everyone else is right and I’m wrong, or my parents were right to dismiss me, reject me and abuse me. everything I do centers around others and my relationship with them, mostly negative interactions I will obsess over for days or more. There’s so many more nuances, I have a lot of anger but am not comfortable with that, am very deluded even though consciously I know its bullshit that tomorrow or next session or etc I will stop all this and be better and so its okay, and extremely sad and empty etc.

    In therapy we have gotten to the point where I just tell examples or stories of these situations and always end up at the same point, he’s supposed to fix me or save me or i could do it if he would just help me, I get defensive and upset and default to but I just don’t really know how to do it or I have no choice I can’t help it, he defaults to that I am saying I’m not interested in the work I have another agenda. Now all this is true, I do try but I think he’s right, to seem like a good trying person but not really doing it for me or to really do it. I don’t really want to see how I am because it involves me being wrong and bad, the main factor and due to my past that means way more than just how I act now.I get upset and sad and hard done by in therapy but also everywhere in my life, he says as the victim needing more suffering for my fantasy saviour to finally see and come . anyway on one hand I can see how all this works, but on another I still want it and any realizations are very superficial, the system keep feeding itself over and over. In some ways my life has gotten a bit better and in others worse, and its been a long long time. We never laugh and I’m a pretty funny person, he only sees this side of me, and he sees me as an only negative instigator with people which is true but I also have a caring kind side.

    So my problem is that we have gotten to a point, I actually was thinking of leaving last year, now he is saying its getting close to the end if I keep deciding to go the same way every-time.
    ( the funny thing is he says he initiated it last but I did)
    Anyway this is where it gets very tricky, I know I will very likely do the same thing with someone else, I do keep doing the same thing over and over so how does he deal with that after 10 years. I know I do hope ( sort of secretly) someone new will be the magic I have sought my whole life. But also know dynamics between people can be a factor too.

    But and heres where I often oscillate between is it me or them, he also does nothing different ever, he mentioned something about me getting my father to hit me around as a child as I do prompt negative attention from people ( if this was an example though its a very bad one surely, as this did happen to me and surely this was not my fault) and he said I was abusing his services because I had to cancel a few times lately on very short notice because I am about to finish my masters and am under huge overwhelming pressure which he knows and had other meetings or work to do. He told me if I do it again without appropriate notice( which is quite long!) I will loose my appointment time. I think abuse is a very strong word to use, especially knowing very well that I have major issues.

    Although this does feed into me wanting to be able to “get away” with things because people should understand my issues and see the poor sad child they come from. I just want to blame someone else for everything in my life, I know am resistant and he has been patient but is 10 years too long with no real progress? Can therapists break through these barriers or am I dreaming. I also see a more counsellor type of woman who work more on body/mind connection is possibly a bit new age which I’m not a fan of but maybe she has helped me more in only a year or two? I’m afraid to leave the other one, he really does get my ways but maybe he also constantly reinforces it over and over. there is never much positivity or kindness, which I understand but am also extremely sensitive to be unloved and unimportant.

    I am so torn between its him and its me, I am often late or take a long time to pay have done the same thing over and over for years so I see his frustration, I am afraid to take responsibility for myself because that means big things for me, perhaps someone else is better but he also knows so well, and again it is also a trap of repeating behaviors for years.

    I really need to change but I don’t know how I ever will, its either lala land oh yes I will I’m doing it now I feel better its going to happen, or I can’t I’m too helpless, or I feel overwhelmed and desperate and sad and angry or I’m totally resistant deep down. Because everything I do is projection and interaction to get some sort of attention from people, mostly just lived out in my mind as I have learnt its best not to display these things too much though they do defiantly seep out a lot. I have lost a lot of friends, been single most of my life, have big issues from childhood and am running my life into the ground of endless suffering, anger, despair loneliness, but I hold on and on and on and Don’t know how to wake myself up so to speak, I am also one of my tormentors who never comes through for me.

    Its so much more complex but I’m sure you get the jist. I don’t know how to use my therapy for myself, to do anything for myself and not to effect others, I don’t know if I should stay with him or If i just want to run away of if this is more suffering to stay. I can’t stop wanting him to fix me so really what can he do? I’m sorry this is so long, but I wanted to give a clear picture, maybe you can save me now too. part joke part not. I also do this tell the story of my troubled ways over and over but never do anything about it. I am also prone to be very hard on myself and he reinforces this, the other concellor supports me and recognizes how far i’ve come.

    Would another therapist help me? or how can I break through with this one after 10 years?
    How do I take responsibility for myself and what is his responsibly and ability?
    he is like the cold detached unsupportive parents where everything was my fault, even though it probably is now. Is there a way through in this sort of situation?

    thanks.

  53. ray says:

    sorry I know my post was extremely long, I didn’t realize till after I posted it! I wish I had read the guidelines properly and kept it short. I appreciate you can’t give advice to everyone that would take a huge amount of time but any advice anyone may have would be greatly appreciated.
    Perhaps I should remove the older post and write it again, short and sweet? thanks.

  54. ray says:

    Okay heres a shorter version of my mammoth post. I hopes its still not too long.
    I fear my therapist hates me but more so that we are both wasting our time.
    I have been with him for 10 years, classic analysis style- sits behind, no chit chat, no between contact, often won’t answer my questions, no homework. I feel a lot of anger towards him because he isn’t helping or fixing me!
    We now just always get to the same point, talk about the same things, over and over and over.

    He knows me very, very, very well in one sense, the fantasy I have of being saved by that one person who will see the sad lonely child I am inside and the rejection, victimization and abuse, helplessness, neediness I create with others and myself to attempt to bring this about. I have become very angry, bitter, needy, have pushed most of my friends away, have been single for a long time and obsess constantly over these stories of suffering “poor me no one loves me or they keep abusing me” situations. Everyone is my tormentor including myself. Anyway there is a lot involved. He also feeds directly into that rejection etc with the therapy style he employs.

    the thing I wonder is if this is a dynamic between me and my therapist or if no one can help me because I don’t really want help just magic saving? To my therapist I constantly refuse or choose to not get help in the way it can happen with him. To me it feels out of my control.
    I know this is a ‘trap’, that I am the common denominator, that I am in control of myself,
    that I am not helpless or can’t do it and that it does come down to me, but this is conscious thought, the way I act and function does not feel this consciously aware or relatable. is there a better therapeutic way to get someone who is resistant and
    “trapped” wether thier own doing or not to move out of it? Or am I hoping for a miracle.

    I have come to see with him my resistance is very, very strong and my issues have a very firm hold on me and have for a very, very, very long time. But after 10 years in analysis I am possibly getting worse in some ways and am not moving. I sometimes wonder if his constant reinforcing of your not doing it, your refusing,your not taking up what’s offered, just sets it further in stone. The detached style of course also feeds into parental styles and unimportance.

    Yes I do want to blame him for things not working although I am aware on a conscious level I am a major problem and contributor as I am in all areas of my life. I think I need to be blaming someone at all times, as well as myself.

    But the other point is will any sort of therapy be able to help me? Is there anyway I can break through with him and myself? How do I combat resistance, I feel as I can’t or don’t know how?
    How can I take responsibility and make changes in my life when perhaps deep down I don’t want to for some reason. Is it time to move on or is that just the hope the next person will be the one. How can I help myself to get real and do something! To use therapy to help not just add to my life story of rejection?

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      There’s an awful lot of questions there, and beyond what I can address in a reply. Maybe other readers will have a response that might help.

      • Red says:

        A cop-out reply, as usual. If you are not making any headway with the therapist and things appear to be getting worse instead of better, then he’s not going to help you. Be aware that some therapists are adept at victim blaming, so the problem may not necessarily lie with you after all.

  55. ray says:

    You can get rid of my other super long post. Thanks!

    Can you just answer me if 10 years talking about the same block over and over and not moving beyond it, is it time for a change? Any answer you might have or comment to my post even short would be very, very greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Ray, ten years is an awfully long time. If you feel stuck, like you’re not getting anywhere, and your therapist is simply blaming it on your resistance, I’d say it time to move on, at least to get an outside consultation.

  56. Havah says:

    Can a therapist be 100% objective like not being his judgment be clouded by his personal, cultural, religious, etc, history?
    I am extremely mad at my therapist because I sometimes felt misunderstood and judged by him. When that happens, I really resent him because I feel like he analyzes everything from his own culture, as if it should be an universal benchmark.
    I am an African woman who has lived for the past 2 decades in both Europe and North America. I don’t like talking about my personal life at work and I have some coworkers who find that standoffish. The thing is that discretion and reserve are highly appreciated and people who are always telling outside what happens in their homes, are definitely frowned upon in my culture. Besides, as far as I am concerned, when it comes to work, I am hired to do my job, not to find so-called friends. So even though I understand that some people might think that work is another place to have “friends” and that a way of seeming friendly is to tell everyone what you ate the day before with your family, well I don’t feel the need to do so. I already have friends, the ones who wake up at 3 AM to drive you to the hospital, not these superficial relationships people have with each other and that they deem friendships (I hate Facebook by the way:-)). I am very fine with being just civil with my coworkers and what should matter is how competent I am at my job. Since when work has become a popularity contest?

    My therapist doesn’t seem to respect or get that and I am so sick of having to explain to him that someone doesn’t have to be like everyone else to do one’s job, that there is nothing wrong with me and if we were in a different country, he’ll be surprised to see that his and my coworkers’ interpretation of ” being approachable” would be questioned. Sometimes, I just wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to find a therapist who has been in contact with different cultures, people, I mean someone who understands that sometimes the problem is a cultural one, someone who knows how to stop being eurocentric. Yesterday, I had to tell him that we’re 7 billion of people on earth and that we couldn’t be expected to be all the same or view everything the same way.

    Anyway, I am writing this and I can feel myself being mad again at my therapist.

    • Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. says:

      Warren, one of the regular commenters on this site, once said that he believes all therapy is culturally bound, and I’m inclined to agree. If we work really hard, we may be able to be objective and not view a client from a different culture through our own particular lens, but I think it’s very difficult.

      On the other hand, I remember a friend of mine who worked in the Peace Corps and returned from Morocco with a husband. After living in our culture for about a year, he began to become conscious of all sorts of feelings about his parents that he never would have recognized had he remained in Morocco. So are people really different at heart, or do different cultures inhibit or permit us to experience certain universal emotions?

      I don’t know, but your therapist should at least have respected your values.

  57. A. says:

    Ray,

    I don’t have much advice to give, but I want to let you know that I can really relate to your story. While I have not had 10 years of psychoanalysis, I feel some of the same pains you describe of wanting to be “fixed” somehow. It’s almost like I want the therapist to understand me to the point it magically makes it better – the alternative makes me want to throw up. That’s how sick it makes me: this idea that I must carry my own baggage – my lot in life -and just move on. So I get to lose out on a childhood I should’ve had, parents who should’ve seen me but were too absorbed in their own issues (yadda yadda I could go on all day but you probably see where I am going with this) and I am left (ONCE AGAIN) to pick up the pieces while my therapist just watches. It’s a reenactment. It doesn’t seem anywhere near fair, does it? Have you expressed any of the resistant/angry feelings with emotion attached? You probably have, but I’m at a loss of how to break through this for myself- just wondering aloud…

    I’m beginning to think that anger is a bigger part of my own story than I had originally thought. I am damaged inside due to emotional abuse and neglect and that doesn’t only cause sadness, but I’m sure a lot of anger as well. Probably justified. And maybe I have to stand up to that scolding feeling, you know? The one that mocks me and says, “get over it, suck it up, grow up, you are such a baby, you’re a waste of time!” The one I secretly internalize and project onto others, back down from helplessly and then beat myself up over mercilessly. Maybe I need to react somehow and fight it? I don’t know how to move past it for sure… I don’t know, but I’m hoping I can channel the anger in a way that can propel me forward through this therapeutic journey…

    Not sure if that helps at all, but just know that I hear you.
    A.

  58. Mary says:

    Hi Dr. Burgo, it’s Mary again. I just wanted to tell you that I think your answer was very helpful and that I did not cancel my interview. Right now I have a different therapyst. I have been with her for a couple of months. Things are going well but….you know I think I get it now….I honestly believe that we are not fully aware of what a therapy is about and since we do not really know about psychoanalysis we believe it to be a place where we will find support and nice words and……this is so not it! The job of the analyst is to help us see things that we cannot see for ourselves because we cannot hear ourselves, we need another person for this. This person is as human as we are and may or may not make a mistake. I will put my faith in therapy once more because it is not entirely up to the analyst, it is really all about me. If I want to see I will and if I don´t nobody will make me see. The truth is within myself. Anger is not productive but is revealing, it is not healthy but it can provide the key to the cure. The attitude has to be different, I am going through this new experience with the idea that something will come up that will be painful but I still want to hear it since I am not perfect. I know I will be angry and I have already told her that I want to handle this in session if it arises. I want to change things for me. This is the very reason why we go to therapy. Thank you for allowing us all to vent with our posts Dr. Burgo. Your answer has been with me all this time. It is amazing that you probably took a few seconds of your time to read and answer me and with this your helped me so much.

  59. MR says:

    I began seeing a therapist about two years ago. I went to to deal with problems in a past relationship and to deal with work issues. Most of my work issues consist of me being paranoid and sensitive. I admit that I can take things a little personally. At the first session of therapy, I answered a questionairre and was immediately told that I am severely depressed. Now I kow that I might not neccessarily be the happiest person in the world, but I was able to have a full time job, my own apartment, pay my bills, maintain a healthy weight, and do moderate exercise. I began crying when she told me this information. I procceeded with the therapy. I found that we were always talking about my childhood and my relationship with my family. I look back on my childhood as a happy time. It was not perfect, but it wasn’t bad either. I would cry at almost each session. Instead of saying that it was alright to cry, she acted like I was this really depressed person who was always in tears. This made me angry because that is what I thought I was there for. To let everything out. Its not like I am running around crying in public. I also wanted to talk more about the issues that I deal with on a daily basis. This very rarely happened. She also told me that it is very scary how incapable that I am of making adult decisions. Excuse me. Like I didn’t finish college, get a masters degree, and have a successful career. What decsions are you talking about exactly? And isnt’ incapable a rather strong word? She also told me that I have anger issues that stem from my childhood. Poeople who know me say that I am very easy going. This made me all paranoid, and I ended up being super nice to everyone from then on. I don’t want to be this raging angry person. We only talked about what she wanted to talk about. Maybe I just don’t understand therapy. She also always told me that I needed to date online. I have nothing against online dating, but it is not for me. At no time did I mention in therapy that meeting someone was one of my goals. I did meet a nice guy while in therapy. Not online, not that there is anything wrong with that. The guy treated me very well. We had a great time, but he ended up moving for work. As soon as he moved, she looked at me head shaking and said that I immediately need to begin online dating. Like yesterday. When I told her that I met the last nice guy at a party, she acted like that was like finding a unicorn and that it was likely to never happen again. When I wanted to talk to her about how to handle problems at work, she said that my problems stemmed from me not online dating. Being a single woman is of course a very unhappy existence. You need to buy all of your own food, cook, clean, and do everything by yourself. I ended up getting angry with my family over holiday time for not being sensitive to how difficult my life as a single woman is and for not being more accomidating to my needs as a single woman. I don’t feel that way now. The therapist said I am very depressed and very anxious. Well, now I no longer have a job. This also made me angry. Yes, I quit. Now I did learn some things from her. Maybe I am just resistent to the process. Maybe my account of things is different from hers. I don’t know. I don’t see her anymore, but I am left feeling very confused.

  60. yrydyce says:

    hello,
    I no longer know what to do , where to turn.
    my soul has been crushed by the betrayal of my long term psychiatrist., among a litany of grindingly sad things.
    I have no questions.
    wish I had some great wisdom to share, I don’t .
    Sorry to take up this much space/ wishing you all great courage & endurance w a pinch of luck

    xxxxx Beless us all.

  61. Laura says:

    I do hate my therapist. I first went to him because I needed help getting out of a destructive relationship and because I suffer from severe social anxiety. After a couple of months of me talking about this guy he told me (he was very angry) “We’re here to talk about you, not about him” I understood… but after that I was too embarrassed to share my feelings or experiences, I saw the guy in question a lot more times but never told him, felt as if he would judge me. Then there was my situation at the office, I hated everyone, I had problems with everyone because (I understand it now) my own issues, I mean, my boss was very difficult and it was not a healthy environment, but that type of thing happens in all jobs; when I talked to him about it he would support my bad opinions about others instead of helping me deal with the situation. I started talking about quitting and being a freelance, he said I should… when I finally did it (I got angry about something and quit, it wasn’t even a planned decision) he seemed surprised, but he supported my decision. I am now completely isolated, no friends, no family, no formal job, freelancing requires a lot of networking and that’s very difficult for me, so I don’t work that much, I’m deeply depressed… I told him that maybe I should look for a formal job, he told me “you weren’t happy in a formal job, why would you do that?” and his solutions to my problems? : “You should be more spontaneous, go to the airport and take a flight to a place you’ve never been before… oh, but I know you wont do it because you’ll tell me you’re afraid of it” or “take acting classes” or “you have a very funny and sarcastic way of expressing yourself, you should try standup comedy” I wonder how am I supposed to be a comedian when I’m afraid of leaving the house. I blame him for my present situation, I know my decisions are my responsibility but I feel as if it was his job to protect me from myself. Am I right to feel this way or is it just a normal “patient reaction”? I hope I’ve expressed myself correctly, english is not my first language

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Your therapist sounds fairly incompetent. Don’t hate him; just look for someone better.

      • Laura says:

        Thank you for your reply :) I did end the relation with my former therapist and found a new one, had my first session yesterday… and I have to say, looking at her neutral face, listening to her comments and having to repeat things about me that I’ve talked about 1000 times put me in a really bad mood… it will take at least 3 or 4 sessions for her to know just the basics of who I am and what my issues are; maybe I should take a break from therapy

      • Red says:

        I believe it is wrong to tell a patient not to hate. I don’t believe that the therapist has the right to tell a patient what emotions they are and are not entitled to.

  62. Cee says:

    I’ve read this post several times. I’m firing my theraist tomorrow and it is so painful. She got her stuff in my therapy (own life stressors and she took it out on me). She admitted an owned her stuff. Unfortunately, what she said and when hit my attachment an relational trauma like a bomb. She has become the “object” while I’ve been doing amazing work (she is an specialized adjunct I see in addition to my more seasoned primary therapist). Even though I try to differentiate its gotten so bad I feel like I’m playing both sides of my therapy. She will tell me how she feels about things I am thinking or saying and tell me wht I am thinking or feeling. She had said she would try to assume less and ask me questions but she hasn’t. The last straw was two sessions ago being told “listen, I am NOT your parents, the transference ends now”. Even despite me (and my other therapist…) explaining I realize and am fully conscious of and trying to own the feelings triggered in my therapy as they relate to my parents. It’s turned in to a horrific re enactment and I feel like a failure terminating. It’s awful. I really adore her strengths but talking about this all for 6 months now :( anyway just browsing the Internet trying to sort my feelings.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Sounds like you’ve made the right decision. Any therapist who would say, “I am NOT your parents, the transference ends now” has no idea about how to work with transference issues.

  63. JT says:

    Dear Dr B, I read your article plus all of the questions and answers here with interest as I recently had a ‘fit of rage’ on my new Psychotherapist. I’m diagnosed with BPD and she works within the framework of DBT. I was confused about my anger as she didn’t really do anything to cause it. It is by no means my first therapeutic intervention, in fact I’ve had every type of failed therapy from psychoanalysis to group work over the last 10 years. I’ve loathed some of my 1:1 therapists and discontinued but never felt actual rage towards one before. Having read your opinions and comments here, I now realise my anger was indeed not about her and was my own issue which for some reason I must finally have felt in a safe enough place to vent. I felt dismayed at the time as although I was in an incredibly destructive mood, I found myself raging critically at her about our previous session – which although it hadn’t been too great, certainly wasn’t the issue causing pent up anger (that had in fact built up as a result of a visit to my mother). I basically went off like a small volcano but made it quite personal to the new therapist and at times she looked somewhat dismayed and slightly upset although maintained a calm and steady demeanour. I feel extremely distressed about maybe having hurt her feelings or have been too verbally abusive. I will fully discuss this with her next time I see her and am well able to separate the parts that were valid criticisms of the previous session and the (huge) parts that were just me spewing out venomous rage. I need to know for myself that she has the capacity to both contain me when I was somehow triggered into an angry frustrated fearful child state of mind and also deflect my inappropriate anger from herself. I genuinely wasn’t attempting to ‘test’ her but seemingly it has turned out that way. I’m also concerned she doesn’t think I do this often, I’ve literally never done it to any therapist before. For the benefit of other people, I can see clearly here this one incident of rage filled hatred was absolutely not connected to the therapist or therapy and was solely about me and trauma being triggered. I’m not saying all cases are like this, they’re not, but many are. Also I feel that as much as I may have been unconsciously ‘testing’ which I feel quite embarrassed about, so are some other people here and it does seem to me some people have unrealistic expectations of therapy / therapists and their set boundaries. Good luck to everyone on their journey.

  64. Janelle Gold says:

    I was wondering if you might elaborate how to tell the difference of when a therapist is hated because participating in therapy is hard for the person, and when it is possibly more of an indication that a different therapist or therapy style would be more appropriate? Specifically, how would a parent of a child in therapy who claims to hate the therapist/therapy be able to sort out the difference?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      That’s hard to answer in any kind of general way. I’d have to know the specifics.

      • Janelle Gold says:

        BACKGROUND: The child is 8yo diagnozed with a Mood Disorder NOS and Aspergers. The child is concurrently seeing a child psychiatrist and attempting to get moods stabilized – it’s a work in progress so to speak – and therapy has been recommended as you might expect. The current psychologist has been working with him for about 6 months and the current goal remains developing anger management/coping skills. TYPICAL SESSION: The child will only mildly resist to going to therapy at first, perhaps just a moan and say “not her!” The session starts with a 5-minute briefing where we discuss some of how his week went, in the most recent session we relay a fit of rage that happened at school that started with sneaking toys to school, and ended with making death threats, running after one of the special education teachers and a student while flapping his arms and screaming and then biting/chewing his arm in frustration (not, unfortunately, an atypical type of occurence at school/home/store or otherwise). During this exchange the child seemed to be embarassed and ashamed of the recounting of the events and slouched in the chair. Therapist interrupts several times to tell him to sit up, say he will have to sit in a different chair etc. I wonder if she is actually trying to make him mad (it’s not hard to do), if this is part of a therapy technique. Then the parent is dismissed so she can work with him just the two of them, and by this time child has elevated voice, not hardly even seating in a chair, actively defying her request to move to a different chair. From the waiting room you can hear the kicking, screaming, and occassionally an attempt to run out of the door to escape. After therapy the child is very worked up, not about the chair presumably. He recounts how there was a worksheet and she kept erasing his answer (note – we are used to his perception of events being different than most, so we always ask lots of questions to any story he tells to try to imagine how others perceived the situation). He was agitated about this for hours, she kept erasing his answer, repeating this phrase in frustration and disgust over his percevied unfairness over and over. With prompting we gather he was supposed to write down things “about his angry feelings”, he was listing actions he actually did in the office that day like kicking her furniture, screaming and trying to run away and she was prompting him that perhaps he could go “angry just inside your eyes, with your eyes shut” he says it is no fair, he answered the worksheet and she kept erasing it, he hates her. (He always has a different reason to hate her, but the intensity seems to be escalating). I wonder if he had any idea that she was trying to help him think of less destructive ways to act when he gets angry, when I attempt to explain it to him he doesn’t get it. He just concentrating on how he hates her and it is unfair. THOUGHTS: I don’t even know what I should be looking for anymore in either choosing or retaining a therapist for him, not to mention gauging whether or not it is possibly productive. I’ve never contemplated dropping one before, most others get exasperated while working with him long before I give up hope it might help, eventually. We have had several other therapist over the past 4 yrs (therapy ended each time when the therapist indicated they didn’t think they were qualified to help him, weren’t a good match, weren’t progressing, he either refused to say anything to some of them or just joyfully played toys with others – this is the first that he has hated).

        • Joseph Burgo says:

          He sounds like a major challenge, and probably beyond the skills of most therapists. It does seem to me that he has a transference going, where he is bringing uncontrollable anger and rage into the room and into their relationship — that’s a good thing if the therapist knows how to deal with it. Unfortunately, she sounds like a CBT-type therapist who doesn’t work at all with the transference.

          • Janelle Gold says:

            Thank you for your insightful comment. I believe we will begin to seek a therapist that has background and skills to deal with transference, but meanwhile continue care with the current therapist. It may be a long search to truly find someone capable of helping him significantly, but at least this gives me some new ideas on what to look for next.

  65. Angela says:

    I am feeling not total hatred but anger and disappointment with my therapist, to the point I don’t know if she’s right for me all of a sudden. We do online therapy. I shared a music video that was deeply relevant to me, a dark one, but with a redeeming ending. I was in a great mood when I found it, exuberant, and really looked forward to sharing it with her. I was hoping to have a lighter-level session on the eve of me taking a much needed one week break from what is usually 3x a week therapy. But… she said the video was disturbing.

    I had a realization, it felt like, the same type maybe others have had when you’re dating or in a relationship, and the other person says something that just opens your eyes to the fact they’re not right for you. She said she didn’t like videos like that, too violent, etc. and told me how she walked out on a violent movie. I felt SO rejected… my heart was kind of tied up in that video. It was dark and had scary moments, but it had an empowering heroine and a positive ending, I was shocked actually that I disturbed her by sharing it, and very sad and felt she wasn’t there for me. She told me after she’d been in a very different place emotionally, a celebratory one, and so the video was jarring. Told me she identified with some of the action and it exacerbated her negative reaction.

    But I got very mad and felt that if she can’t deal with a disturbing video… she can’t deal with me. If she couldn’t find the beauty in it, the poetry and the powerful message of it… I felt she is to shallow and lives in more of a Mary Poppins world than I can ever hope to inhabit. I know that is unkind of me to say and I know it’s judgmental, but I don’t feel she can relate to me, and really be in the trenches with me somehow. She’s been there for me discussing abuse and other difficult topics, says nothing is too much for her, but I felt like I got a more honest reaction when she was suddenly faced with the video, and now I don’t know….

    What do you think? I have written her letters to follow up, mad letters about how I think she should be ready to work when she’s in session, open to serious things like this, and that if it’s too disturbing for her, then so am I. :( She said it wasn’t “too” disturbing, but.. I don’t want to make her unhappy… I found the dark video powerful, compelling, with some beauty in it… and I want to be with someone who can see that, or I’m just embarrassed to have those parts in myself. Please help?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      Maybe you have to accept that she isn’t perfectly attuned to you. This doesn’t mean she can’t help you. No therapist can understand everything perfectly, and they will inevitably disappoint us from time to time, just as good-enough parents sometimes disappoint their children.

  66. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for your on-target reply. I have let my guard down with her, feel very vulnerable in ways I’m not accustomed to lately, so sometimes I feel the sting of rejection much more strongly, even when unintentional. We worked it out within a couple of days as she gave the video another chance and apologized for her strong reaction getting in the way of what I wanted to share. The impromptu nature of our sessions sometimes complicates things I think, easier to misstep when she’s not prepared for a session with me, but it’s a blessing simultaneously. My only regret now is posting this publicly, but… c’est la vie I suppose, unless you are able and willing to remove it?

  67. Nadeem says:

    @Dr Burgo:
    If you don’t mind my saying and after reading some of these comments would you agree that SOME therapists are idiots?

  68. FallowDeer says:

    I have BPD and after struggling just to get through life and survive for 50 yrs finally the fact that i’m not living, am chronically lonely and totally isolated, long term unemployed and have oodles of problems to go with etc made the health service realise that perhaps i need help. I had 2 yrs psychotherapy with a therapist with whom i developed a really close, trusting and caring relationship. I can’t deny i became very dependent on him- not surprising given my background an circumstances. Whenever he had to cancel sessions for annual leave i told him how bad it made me feel. He never mentioned ending our sessions, not once. One day all of a sudden he announced he was leaving. I haven’t seen him since. I am utterly devastated. i can’t believe he let me down like that . Ever since – this was 6 mths ago- i’ve been depressed, very tearful and just can’t get over it or move on. It really hurt and still does. WHAT CAN I DO??? i’m desperate. Part of me is desperate to be with him again and never let him go again, part of me is so furious i want to revenge and destroy him back

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      He terminated your therapy during a single session without any notice whatsoever? That’s outrageous and in my opinion, constitutes professional malpractice. As for what you can do, all I can suggest is that you try again. Not all therapists are so callous.

  69. luther says:

    My recent experience with my therapist has left me both angry and disappointed. My sessions were once a month. I was being treated for stress, anxiety and depression, after traumatic events in my life. Whenever I would tell him of positive changes happening in my life he would put them down . At first I thought this was some type of reverse psycology but when he started to put down my physical looks, I knew this was very unprofressional. My first instinct was to reply to him and say, have you yourself looked in the mirror. My therapist always looked like he just climbed out of bed unkempt and unshaven. I think I regret not saying this to him. Because my therapy and meds were being paid by the Canadian Government who do you complain to.I’m sure there are good and bad therapists.I believe that therapists and psychologists should be evaluated themselves to determine whether they are of sound mind.

  70. Puzzled says:

    My problem is that my therapist seems to resent the fact that I don’t take all of her advice, or accept all of her opinions, and gets as emotional as I do when we quarrel, which is often, and is often about distractions like… whether I take all of her advice and accept all of her opinions. She tells me I am uniquely resistant among her patients and I accuse her of being ridiculously domineering. I respect her overall judgment and believe she means well, but there are times when I think she’s crazier than I am, and that makes me feel very insecure . I thought tilt was the patient’s job to emote and the therapist’s to analyze; instead we bicker almost like an estranged couple. Is this typical?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      If you’re quarreling with your therapist, that is a very bad sign. Also, a therapist who accuses her clients of being resistant doesn’t really understand resistance and how to work with it.

  71. Puzzled says:

    Brief follow up: Is it my job to more or less freely vent, perhaps allowing a full transference to occur, or is it to have a modulated “adult” conversation with the therapist in which I treat her essentially as a stranger and remain scrupulously mindful of her personal idiosyncrasies? I had a different therapist who had me “practice” going on a date, carrying on a social conversation and holding hands in a movie theater, for example. That’s a lot different from listening to me free associate and then offering an interpretation.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      It would depend on the type of therapy. If the therapist works with the transference, he or she would encourage you to give full expression to your actual feelings, whatever they may be. Therapists uncomfortable with transference prefer a more “modulated ‘adult’ conversation,” as you put it.

  72. Allie says:

    What if you’re angry with your therapist because you feel they interrupt you when explaining yourself and you feel they no longer believe anything you say? I don’t understand why but with my therapist I feel paralyzed and unable to speak up for myself. She’ll interrupt me before I finish a thought and that leaves me feeling like I can’t talk to her. I also have a problem with “hypochondriacing” things so she no longer trusts me. For example I explained I had a bad side effect to a new medication and she thought I made it up because she had never heard of that reaction before- which I wasn’t it was a severe reaction- other people witnessed the side effects and I went to the doctors and they weren’t surprised at my reaction to the medicine at all and not to take it. This has made me very upset and I feel like I cannot trust her.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      If you have a therapist who doesn’t listen and who insists you “make things up,” rather than trying to understand what you’re telling her, I would suggest getting an outside consultation. Maybe you’re with the wrong therapist.

  73. Vi says:

    I have stumbled upon this website upon looking up bad therapy experiences. I have been in therapy for roughly 9 months and I don’t feel like anything in my life has improved at all – in some ways I feel it has made me feel worse. “Find a new therapist” is not an easy option as there are so few of them where I come from.
    In hopes of an answer, I basically have two questions:
    – is it normal for a therapist to make you feel like anger is not an acceptable emotion under any circumstance? ( eg – if you’re feeling angry you must *always* think of what you did wrong in that situation *first* and how it could have went differently )
    – does normal therapy consist only of “what does that make you feel?” and “what do you think about that?”, because that’s basically all I’m getting most of the time and it feels like I’m literally talking to myself without getting any relevant feedback.

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      No, it is not usual practice for a therapist to make you feel like anger is unacceptable, and no, (good) therapy doesn’t only consist of such simplistic and stereotypical questions.

  74. Alex says:

    Hi,
    First sorry for my english, it’s not my mother tongue.
    I have a big problem with my therapy, which I started 4 years ago.
    To put it simply, I started experiencing panick attacks outside of therapy (after 3 1/2 years of therapy) and that really dreaded me. They were awful and I was sure I was going crazy. Usually they were linked with hate images, or impulses. Once, a few weeks after the first attack, I also experienced a panick attack while lying on the couch. It was horrible. I don’t know what I felt, as this time I didn’t actually notice the hate in me. My therapist just asked me “what do you feel ?” as he saw I was in a really bad state. I just said “I don’t know, I’m not feeling well”. It passed, but just after this session, I got back home and had a terrible panick attack, without knowing why.
    My therapist then left, one week later. I lived hell for one month, only thinking about his return, not sleeping, having horrible nightmares, and imaginations of hate that would terrify me. As I was studying for my exams and was unemployed, I had a lot of time and I would wake up shaking, dreadfully waiting, counting the days before he would come back. At that time, I also spoke a lot to my parents about these feeling (which is something we never do), and they were supportive. Or at least present for me.
    This was this summer.
    Since then, I live with anxiety all days, I sometimes have paranoid thoughts, but I used to be able to manage them and remember they are just images, but since I take an SSRI (4 days ago), I’m not sure about what to think of these fears.
    Anyway, the thing is that I think a have GREAT anger against my therapist, I often think that he is responsible for my today’s state, that he’s responsible for having me live an experience that is actually way worse that what it was starting with him, that he just didn’t manage the transferrence, but I have been completely unable to tell him. In facts this is untrue – I told him about this hate for him, but every time I do, I feel like a stupid child who is just trying to obtain something. I can’t LIVE this anger, I can’t let it out. When I do it, it’s because I have prepared myself for telling him, but at the moment I enter his office, I don’t feel anymore hate, and it just all feels like acting to tell him I hate him. And now when I fantasize it, it is so strong that I imagine I will shout out with mad anger, and it scares me that he would… I don’t know what, but that he wouldn’t bear it. Maybe I fear hurting him. I also fear that destroying our relation would only lead to worse for me.
    My therapist usually reacts very little when I’m angry. He is always very detached and professionnal.
    I have a very strong attachement to what he says, and I find myself often agreeing totally with what he says and I fear I am just unable to protect myself, I fear that the transferrence is so heavy that I can’t be myself with him, that I’m just accepting everything he says, that I actually forget myself when I’m with him and that this will destroy me.
    I already feel destroyed.
    My parents were unemotional and as far as I remember they didn’t love each other, and I am the last of three child who has seen a total chaos in his family : the parents hating each other, and my two elder sisters fighting with them all the time. I have been playing a lot of video games and have always seen myself as the “little angel” that is always smiley, gentle and sweet. I just can’t cope with all of this and it is driving me totally crazy and I’m obsessed with that thought of just losing my mind.

    He seem’s to have total confidence in the fact that I’m not crazy, and when I talk about stoping therapy he says that I may “stay with all of this” if I do… Sometimes I regard this as a threat.
    Last time I talked about it he just said “Ok, do we see each other on friday ?”, although to me I wasn’t talking about stoping right now… I felt this as rude too.

    Now I fear so much for our next encounter, which is tomorrow, I keep asking myself what I should do to feel better, what I’m supposed to do, or to say… my self-confidence is reduced to basically nothing.

    What should I do ?

    • Joseph Burgo says:

      You most definitely need to go into all this anger with your therapist. It should become the primary focus of your therapy because it is mostly likely the source of your panic attacks and “paranoia.”

  75. Julie says:

    Is it normal to feel bad about a therapy session? Like I may have upset my psychologist because I avoid the deep feelings and change topic? Or because I wanted to believe that the feelings I had as a teen when I was suicidal have passed? She told me she wasn’t convinced and that she needs to keep me on track. I noticed she had a lump forming in her throat. I told her I hated my childhood but I only realize now aFter that session it’s because of vivud images I have of myself as a child? If I go in next session and not look at her in the eye and talk about those images do you think therapy will get better? I don’t want to give up or her to give up on me

  76. Alex says:

    Hi,
    Sorry for the giga-comment I posted yesterday. If you want to answer it’s still with great pleasure, but I think the situation will eventually get solved. I have had a very honest chat with him today and feel much better. I just hope it lasts…
    Anyways, even if you didn’t answer or read my last post, I want to thank you for all the answers you’ve given so far, for your advice seems to be enlightening, as your posts on your blog are.
    I was so lost and analysts are so invisible on the internet that your website was a real relief.

    Best wishes.

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