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Did my therapist screw me up?

After eight years of working with my therapist, I have lost my family and have no friends. Was I right to kick her to the curb?

It sounds like you are dependent on her — and that is not the goal of a good therapist, agrees our concerned elder.

Dear EWC

I have been working with the same therapist for eight years. She charges $200 an hour and has acted very unethically and unprofessionally at times. She claims to be a ‘healer’ and truth be told I have seen much evidence of that. She claims to work with the body, but blurs the line a lot when she starts advising me to travel more, work with different people, or not apply for any jobs because it would make me too tired to succeed in my home-based business. Then she denies she has led me to make certain life choices or advised me financially. I have lost my family as a direct result of her leading me to make poor decisions with my time and money. I have no friends anymore and am fairly isolated as a result of not having a workplace for so long. She calls herself a life coach and states her goal is to help clients live their ‘life purpose.’ She continues to say that results are coming, coming, and that their slow arrival results largely from me asking ‘why’ too much. She claims to have spiritual understanding and based on results I have seen with physical healing, that seems true. All things considered, I kicked her to the curb this week because she refuses to take the time to address my questions and concerns about a lack of results. But I feel as if my life can never, ever work out in any way if I don’t continue to work with her. After all, I have invested all of my 20s into this process, and we are almost there, right? I have never met anyone else who does what she does, and the results of her work are supposed to be things like not dying unhappy and avoiding breakdowns in your life because you’ve already worked through the difficult stuff… how could I refuse that? I feel so powerless. It doesn’t help that I have repeatedly failed to build a life for myself and have no one else I feel can support me.

Alexandra replies

I’m glad you reached out to us. I can’t claim to be an expert on therapists, so I really can’t give you a definitive answer to your question as to whether your therapist has “screwed you up”. However, your letter intrigued and concerned me, so what I can do is offer you my personal opinion, based on a long lifetime of experience.

You talk about this person as a therapist, a life coach, a healer and someone who claims to have ‘spiritual understanding’ and who ‘works with the body.’ That seems to me to be a great many roles for one person to play — some of them somewhat conflicting — and makes me wonder what actual qualifications she has. You say she has behaved unethically and unprofessionally at times and, although she denies this, you feel very strongly that she has led you to make some poor choices that have left you without family, friendless, and isolated.
You have been working with her for eight years — you say for all of your twenties so I assume you are still a fairly young person — and invested a great deal of money at $200 an hour. It’s my understanding that the quality of the therapy — and not the quantity — is of prime importance, but it seems like the result of all this time and expense is only that, having lost family, friends and the opportunity to meet people through a workplace, she is the one constant in your life and you have developed quite a dependency on her. While dependency is not at all unusual in therapy, it is not the goal of a good therapist. You say she does not respond to your questions and concerns and only says that results are ‘coming’. When, I wonder? Do you believe that you’re ‘almost there’?

Even a novice understands that the purpose of therapy is to improve your everyday life, your social interactions and your relationships, and your life should not revolve around your dependency on therapy sessions. I’m a little surprised about goals such as “not dying unhappy” and “avoiding breakdowns in life”. While I’m sure it would be wonderful not to die unhappy, I think you’re rather too young to worry about that — and life offers no guarantees, no matter how much therapy you have now. Nor can any of us avoid breakdowns in life — it’s through the difficult times that we learn and grow strong. I simply do not believe that you can ‘pay now’ to avoid all trauma in the future. Have you heard the expression “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”?

As I said, this is purely my own opinion, but it seems to me that you have only failed to ‘build a life for yourself’ because, through your long dependency on therapy, you have not given yourself a real opportunity to try. You sound like an intelligent person and you are certainly not powerless. I truly think that “kicking her to the curb” could be a good thing for you if you can gain some confidence in yourself and what I believe are your own considerable abilities, and if you can come to realize that you can still have a great future even if you have discontinued therapy at this time.

This is in no way intended as a reflection on your therapist — I have to say that I have never heard of anyone who does what she does either, so I can’t venture an opinion. However, there are other good therapists out there if you feel you need some support in the future, but I hope you will at least give yourself a chance to see what you can do on your own. I believe that you can, in time, reconnect with family, make some new friends and have a wonderful, successful future. I hope you will think positively and believe that too.

I wish the very, very best for you, whatever you decide to do. Please feel free to write back if you need to ‘talk’ more.

Letter #: 436975
Category: Self-Improvement

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