AIBU to complain about a therapist - or, is this normal?(11 Posts)
Basically, I have bipolar disorder which was diagnosed by a psychiatrist over the course of a 2 year period, and it's well treated with medication. However, I have poor insight into my episodes of depression and have been advised to try CBT to identify early warning signs.
Fine, I thought. I'll go private to get it done speedily. I went to the BACP website.
I met this woman on Sat morning. I explained about me, and what I'd come for, and expected from the CBT. She explained that CBT is about the 'here and now' and not about going over the past.
Then she suddenly said "have you ever been physically, emotionally or sexually abused?"
I was really taken aback and started rambling a bit about my childhood. She kept interrupting and reflecting things back to me but kind of twisting what I'd said. She kept telling me I'd been traumatised as a child because my parents argued a lot.
She then said "you weren't born bipolar, you were in a bipolar household, and it also sounds more like you've got borderline personality disorder". This was after a 30min appointment.
I've never had CBT but I've spoken to psychiatrists and GPs, and I've never been interviewed like that before.
I left the appointment feeling very de-stabilised. I went about my daily tasks feeling very anxious. Later that night, I felt uncontrollably scared and had to phone a friend. I felt I was reliving my parents' arguments, which I normally choose not to think about.
I spoke to a friend and she said that the therapist may have retraumatised me by going too deep in the first session.
I'm just confused as to how I could go in bipolar with a practical plan, only to come out supposedly BPD and reliving the worst parts of my life. Is this really normal for therapy?
Yes complain. When choosing a counsellor it's best to always choose someone who has always been in that profession. The ones who use a divorce settlement to retrain as counsellors in their 40's are truly awful and best avoided
There are different types of counselling, and CBT is probably not the best type for you. CBT in particular is known for being a "quick fix" offered by the NHS. It's notoriously quick and easy to become qualified to offer CBT services. Regardless of whether you make a complaint or not, I would have another look through private counselling websites and send some emails of enquiry. Find out how many years of experience they have, and ask for more details of what they can do for you.
I'm trained in CBT and I'm torn. Asking about previous abuse is OK, a surprisingly high number of women in MH services have experienced this and it can help for an assessor to directly ask. And CBT is about the here and now, so that part is accurate.
The therapist shouldn't be telling you that your diagnosis is wrong, but bipolar and bpd are very commonly misdiagnosed as each other. But really a CBT therapist shouldn't be telling you things, they should be facilitating you making your own conclusions.
It doesn't sound like you hit it off with the therapist. NHS therapists are a bit more closely supervised that private ones so I would always wait for them. You can actually do a fair bit of CBT without a therapist while on a waiting list, there's a book called Mind over Mood which leads you through the basics. I would also think that a nurse (if you have a CPN) would help with identifying early warning signs of relapse.
I've had a similar experience with a counsellor op and it was awful. She would make suggestions and assumptions about things and if I disagreed with her whys we would sit in silence until I relented and agreed with her. She told me I had to talk about a certain experience that happened to me or she could no longer see me as there would be no point (in our 2nd session!). I left totally traumatised and never went back.
I would complain, for a start she's offering dangerous advise that she isn't qualified to dispense. What if you went away and stopped taking your medication because she's said you're not genuinely bipolar? I'm not an expert in counselling but it also sounds like she jumped straight in to potentially traumatising issues instantly without any thought to how you might react after the session.
She sounds remarkably like a woman I saw for six sessions before leaving for the preservation of my own mental health and temper.
Also private. Wonder if it's the same one or if it's a common theme.
She sounds awful. ere are some awful counsellors out there. Asking about previous abuse is not OK and is highly insensitive. CBT is not deep psychotherapy, and CBT people are not trained to deal with this or change diagnoses. She just sounds like an idiot to be honest. There are a surprising number of them in therapy who just go charging into areas they know nothing about. If you meet a good one they can be an enormous help, and you also have to find someone who is a match for you. You could complain about her, but thats another question. When you go to therapy the first few sessions should be the client interviewing the therapist! I know this is difficult because the client is usually at their most vulnerable. But IME its best not to trust someone just because they had a qualification, whatever that was.
PS. I think there are also a few power-hungry, arrogant, rather cold individuals in the world of therapy. Its definitely a case of buyer beware.
I can see why those questions are important. They are pretty big to jump into in the first visit and if she phrased them abruptly like you indicate, then definitely not done sensitively enough - there are other ways of doing it. Generally those things do impact people very profoundly - as your response indicates - so they can impact the course of therapy and it is useful for therapists to know about them. But again, in a very sensitive manner.
Unless she's a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist she shouldn't be diagnosing you - even if she's right.
Definitely agree with green that the first session should be you interviewing them or at least feeling your way, given space to ask questions, address any concerns etc. Especially if it's private because they're not as restricted as NHS therapists are time-wise.
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