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Are counsellors supposed to say things like this?

(33 Posts)
user1476651402 Sun 02-Apr-17 10:15:22

A few months ago I was sexually assaulted by someone I thought I knew well and although what physically happened wasn’t super “serious” it upset me a lot. I’ve had to keep it a secret from basically everyone I know because of who did it, who is someone I still see a lot, and it’s caused a lot of confusing feelings.

Anyway, I decided to get counselling just to have a space to talk about it. The counsellor was very shocked about what happened and was very vocal about how bad she thought it was and how I should report it. I will never report it - I have my reasons and it’s complicated. I have had counselling before for other issues and my experience is that counsellors let you take the lead and are guided by you. This one wasn’t like that. She was very vocal about the fact that by not reporting it I was putting other women at risk. She also had theories about why he did it and what it meant. Obviously I have thought about that a lot myself but it was quite upsetting to hear, and it wasn’t really based on anything I had told her (I don’t think). She also told me I had “Stockholm Syndrome” - again, based on what? I felt really uncomfortable about what she was saying and how she was saying it and have cancelled further session.

Is this usual when counselling sexual abuse/assault victims? I really do want to talk about it to someone but now I am scared to go to another counselling in case it is the same and makes me feel worse. I already feel guilty enough for not reporting it, but because the situation is so sensitive I really, really can’t.


SammyL100 Sun 02-Apr-17 10:35:31

Awful to be going through this when you are looking for help.

I had some counselling recently about fertility issues I was dealing with.

The counsellor revealed she herself had gone through IVF and when I mentioned the tests I was undergoing, looked confused as if I was telling a lie saying "I didn't undergo that test". Bear in mind she went through her IVF 8 years ago. I never went back.

I confided in a friend who trained as a counsellor and she was shocked. No counsellor should reveal details about themselves or pass judgement she told me.

It sounds to me like your counsellor is passing judgement.

I would find another counsellor and if possible make it clear you have had a bad experience with a counsellor when booking an appointment, so are looking for a safe place to talk without instruction or judgement.

Good luck!

SammyL100 Sun 02-Apr-17 10:45:46

Just to ask was this counsellor newly qualified or young? I ask because most sexual assaults are not reported so she shouldn't have been particularly surprised by this.

I heard recently it is as high as 90% are never reported. So if the counsellor was urging you to report than she will have to spend a lot of urging other clients others to do the same.

user1476651402 Sun 02-Apr-17 10:49:48

Thanks Sammy. No, she wasn't young and I don't think she was newly qualified. I didn't expect her to be so shocked about the not-reporting thing as, like you say, most people don't report.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 02-Apr-17 10:53:00

Was this counsellor a member of a recognised counselling organisation?. I would consider reporting that person to their governing body if so.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 02-Apr-17 10:53:51

Talking to Rape Crisis if you have not already considered them may be helpful to you going forward as well.

SlB09 Sun 02-Apr-17 11:03:10

Counsellors are there to help you work through your issues, to promote self reflection and aid you in coming to your own conclusions by gently questioning within conversation. It should be a therapeutic relationship.
I would not expect a counsellor to express such concrete opinions, the only time I would expect frankness is if there were concerns regarding the safeguarding of the client or public and this then had to be reported.

Definately try again as Im sure this isnt the 'norm' and explain yoyr previous experience. Best of luck

FritzDonovan Sun 02-Apr-17 11:35:32

Although the counsellor may be supposed to remain objective during the session, if the assault was indeed serious and the perpetrator in a position to repeat with young or vulnerable people, I can understand the reason she may have said what she did. Also, did she refer to Stockholm syndrome because you are friendly with and continue to see this person, therefore less likely to report?

Offred Sun 02-Apr-17 11:57:15

IME the best kind of counselling is both challenging and supportive/respectful. This counsellor seems to have crossed the boundary between challenging and judgemental.

Find a different counsellor.

ShowMePotatoSalad Sun 02-Apr-17 12:03:47

The only person putting other women at risk is the person committing the assault. NOT previous victims. You are not to blame for the actions of that person, EVER. The counsellor was 100% wrong to say that to you. It could result in further psychological harm being done to you.

The victims of crime need to be supported as much as they can including in reporting the crimes. They don't need to be shamed and made to feel bad for not having already done so. That is just going to shut more and more people off from feeling that they can come forward.


user1476651402 Sun 02-Apr-17 12:38:21

Thank you. Does anyone know where the line lies re safeguarding of the client? Obviously, what happened happened, and I do continue to associate with him and spend time with it (can't avoid it) but would that make me "at risk" to the extent that a counsellor would feel they have to report it? It was not rape, and I am not "vulnerable".

She said that it looked like I had Stockholm Syndrome, I think because I didn't want to report it. She wondered why I was "protecting" him. I don't know whether she has a point, but it made me feel complicit i.e. "you only didn't report it because you love him" type thing. I'm sure she didn't intend me to feel that.

Offred Sun 02-Apr-17 12:54:43

No, it doesn't constitute a safeguarding issue that she would need to report. I wouldn't worry about that.

I think this is just a case of the therapist saying the wrong thing TBH.

ShowMePotatoSalad Sun 02-Apr-17 13:01:03

I could give a list as long as my arm as to why victims may not report. To name a few:

- fear of reprisals/further attacks from the attacker

- fear of blame

- fear that people won't believe you

- being afraid of facing attacker in court

- having family/friends finding out about the attack and worrying about their reaction/not wanting to upset them

I'm not saying that no victims are in love with their attackers but there are so many reasons why someone might not report it. She was wrong to assume she knew the reason why.

user1476651402 Sun 02-Apr-17 13:11:31

Thank you. It's a relief to know that a counsellor wouldn't see the need to report this. I'm very worried about this becoming known.

PotatoSalad - yes, all of those.

Isadora2007 Sun 02-Apr-17 13:23:45

Was she a private counsellor or part of a practice? Did she explain her type of counselling? She certainly is not person centred and maybe just CBT trained which is a lot more prescriptive and will want to tell you what to do.
A person centred counsellor would suit you best- they should be non judgemental and supportive. They do have a safeguarding duty to a degree towards you but they have no right to report anything if you are not vulnerable. Only if something illegal is going on or you are at risk of harming yourself or others.
This person sounds like a twat and a Crap counsellor. So trust your instinct and try a new counsellor?

FrancesHaHa Sun 02-Apr-17 13:31:50

Completely inappropriate.
I used to be a support worker (although not counsellor) with women who had been sexually assaulted. The whole point was that it was non judgemental, because frankly there's enough judgement in the world on women who have been abused without someone in a supportive role adding to it.

I can't see why there would be a need for her to report this.

Maybe consider a specialist counsellor?

FrancesHaHa Sun 02-Apr-17 13:36:32

Oh just to add, I was judged by a counsellor once for some abuse I experieñced as as teenager - similarly for not reporting. I know that she just didn't 'get it'. I actually wasn't there to discuss this particular incident - it just came up.

I did pull her up on it, and she apologised. Luckily I'd long dealt with it, so able to do that, but I know that's not easy to do otherwise.

However, if I did want to discuss it again in counselling, I would definitely see someone experienced in this area, because I'd feel more confident she understood what had happened and what my motivations were.

SandyY2K Sun 02-Apr-17 13:55:27

A counsellor with the BACP has an obligation to report certain crimes that but this is something she should have told you at the beginning of your session and during the contracting stage.

It would be crimes where someone is in danger/ or at risk of serious harm. I wouldn't say your situation fits that category.

I would have probably phrased it as "Have you considered reporting it?". That doesn't sound judgemental, but it does show the counsellor is taking it seriously and recognises its not a non event.

As far as a counsellor revealing info about themselves. It can be done, but not in the way the IVF incident happened. If it comes from a place of empathy it's very different. So it could be "I understand how difficult IVF is, I went through it myself".. And that's where it ends. No further details of this test or that test.

If you don't feel comfortable with a counsellor and then just don't return, but if you want, let her know why. A good counsellor will raise the matter in her own supervision and seek guidance for her learning.

DiversAlarums Sun 02-Apr-17 14:04:50

She doesn't sound very professional. To set your mind at rest she will not be able to report this for you, that would be a huge breach of confidentiality and would get her kicked out of her governing body ( if she is even in one).
Whilst counsellors have to report some crimes this does not fall under that remit. And diagnosing you with a syndrome is bang out of order, I doubt she has the training to do that.
OP, find a new one who'll support and listen to you, rather than make it about her. Unfortunately the term counsellor is not protected so anyone can set up as one. Check future therapists qualifications as there are fantastic counsellors out there

Hulder Sun 02-Apr-17 14:11:56

I see a BACP registered counsellor. We have now a longstanding relationship and over the course of that she has revealed some things about herself.

She has also sometimes quite forcefully told me what to do, rather than let me meander about in a pit I wasn't getting out of - so it's not totally the case that they will always allow you to reach your own conclusions. Mine will say when she thinks my conclusions are the result of my depression or anxiety for example. I've also found it helpful when I think somebody might have acted a certain way because of one reason and she points out it could have been several other ways.

I've also had a counsellor I really didn't like as I found him hugely challenging - but it was probably the best counselling I ever had as he made me think so hard.

So my experience varies but it certainly hasn't been the case that they all sit back and let you take the lead.

However if your counsellor isn't used to seeing people who have experienced sexual trauma, you may find it easier to talk to someone from Rape Crisis who is used to the complex emotions and decisions people make afterwards, without making clumsy statements which tip you off guard.

Mammamooandboo Sun 02-Apr-17 14:28:34

No its not right your counsellor is telling you these things or putting pressure on you to report it (im a counsellor although worked only with children and young people and i dont practise any more) i have worked with survivors of rape and it is has never been my place to push for them to report the attack. Get another counsellor and report yours to the BACP or whichever organisation she is registered under (she should work alongside an organisations ethical guidelines) rape crisis is a good place for counselling and they obviously have a good understanding of what you may be going through

SnugglyBedSocks Sun 02-Apr-17 14:33:51

Change counsellor. I had to as she was telling me all her problems and it really wasn't helpful i.e she'd had a hysterectomy. Her brother was mentally ill. She would go for walks during the night as she couldn't sleep....

user1476651402 Sun 02-Apr-17 15:24:28

Thanks everyone. I don't know her qualifications and experience as she is part of a practice which has a contract with my place of work and you just get assigned to someone.

Regarding confidentiality, I am particularly nervous because if you Google me and my job (my name is distinctive) you could easily work out who the other person is. Presumably a counsellor would never tell anyone, even if they knew. Would they even Google or would that be considered unprofessional?

Offred Sun 02-Apr-17 15:48:26

If you are this concerned about the confidentiality stuff I think you should think about making some kind of complaint about the experience in some way that you are comfortable with as it should give you some piece of mind that she will at least then be on notice that you are not happy and that you will make it known when you are not.

But I don't think she would be allowed to breach your confidentiality in the ways you are worried about. Usually if a counsellor working for an organisation feels there may be a safeguarding issue that they need to report then they will seek guidance from a supervisor on it first without revealing the personal details of the person they are concerned about and if the supervisor thinks it should be reported only then is a report made.

Offred Sun 02-Apr-17 15:51:09

And yes you should never go back to see this one as you clearly do not trust her at all after this so even if you did go back you wouldn't get anything out of it.

Like other people I have had things said to me in various kinds of therapy that have challenged me and have been really helpful but this is not like that. Rather than challenging this therapist has judged you and undermined your trust in her by making you feel she is not a safe person.

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