View Full Version : dumped by my therapist -- need advice

04-20-06, 03:33 PM

I've been going around bragging about how I had the best therapist in the world for almost 3 years. Let's call her Priscilla, or P. So she had shown herself to be incredibly talented, totally on top of the latest research, whip smart in terms of social relationships, down to earth, easy to relate to, compassionate, and soooo committed. I've been so grateful to her for helping me change my life. She was the first person that suggested I may have AD/HD, after years of getting every other diagnosis in the world. At her urging, I changed doctors and finally found someone to treat me for the AD/HD. And I told P everything. She "got" me. I trusted her.

Now I learn that she no longer has time for me. I'm not surprised that her practice has grown so much. She's great at what she does. In a lot of ways, I'm an obvious patient to drop. I only see her bi-monthly, and not even so consistently. I pay a slightly reduced fee (because I'm a low-income grad student). I have cancelled appointments occasionally (but always with a couple days' notice). But I always pay my bills on time. I don't harass her between appointments -- she's always telling me I should check in more. We've gotten along really well -- for almost 3 years.

So, after all this time, to be such a low priority for her? I'm stunned. I'm so disappointed in her. And I didn't even mention that this is probably the most challenging period in my life. I'm in the process of finishing my degree right now and looking for work in a field that is incredibly competitive. And she knows about all my pre-existing psychological conditions. She knows how vulnerable I am right now. And P will not even give me an appointment! She said if I needed attention now, she could recommend someone and get them up to date on my treatment and everything. She insists that if she had any extra time I'd be the first person on her list, saying she would call me as soon as anything opened up. The thing is I even considered her a friend. We've gotten along so well. I really thought she was the best therapist in the world. And she dumped me.

How should I respond? I'm upset and I'm angry with her. Am I right to find this a bit unethical of her? Shouldn't she recognize commitments to existing patients before taking on new ones? I wrote her this letter stating these things, not so much cuz I want her back -- the magic is gone. But because I really want to give her a piece of my mind.

Has anyone else had similar experiences? Am I right to feel wronged?

04-21-06, 11:29 AM
I understand your being upset. It would be difficult to hear that she cannot work you in her schedule any longer, especially since you've been seeing her for several years.

I don't believe this is unethical of her, however. I would assume that since she can no longer see you she is not taking on new patients.

You can also try to think of it in another way, perhaps she believes you are doing well and are not needing her services.

I encourage you to not think of your therapist as a friend. A friend is someone who mutually shares information, hanging out, etc. A therapist is someone who helps you. It shouldn't be a mutual thing. If it is, then that's unethical.

If you are needing a therapist, perhaps you should call her and ask for therapists she recommends, who she thinks you will fit well with.
At least then, if you need to, you'll have someone to go to.

04-21-06, 12:38 PM

So sorry to hear that your therapist has decided to ditch you after three years. If she did not give you a reason (too many missed appointments, not paying, cured) then she has technically dumped you fo rno reason and that is not only unethical but illegal. I would attempt one more time to get a straight answer from her as to why she made this decision. Maybe she has health problems herself or some other personal reason that she is no longer seeing patients. That being said though she has a responsibility to you once she has taken you as a patient. Doctors and therapist don't get to dump their customers (patients) the way other businesses do. She may have a legitiment reason, but you have a right to know why. I understand you do not want to see her now after this, but it would be interesting to hear what she says if you state that you feel she is dumping you when you know you are not ready for release.

Hope you are able to find another therapist soon and that your own worries over your current life issues do not cause you greater difficulties. My htoughts are with you. It infuriates me when those in the helping professions act in such an uncaring manner. Remember she is your therapist, not your friend and that as your therapist she has a legal, binding responsibility to you and if she can no longer help you she has to set up for you to see someone else that can take your case.

04-21-06, 08:44 PM
Here is the American Psychological Association (APA) ethics website if you're interested.

"10.10 Terminating Therapy
(a) Psychologists terminate therapy when it becomes reasonably clear that the client/patient no longer needs the service, is not likely to benefit, or is being harmed by continued service.

(b) Psychologists may terminate therapy when threatened or otherwise endangered by the client/patient or another person with whom the client/patient has a relationship.

(c) Except where precluded by the actions of clients/patients or third-party payors, prior to termination psychologists provide pretermination counseling and suggest alternative service providers as appropriate."

It is unethical of her if she did not provide pretermination counseling. She did offer to give recommendations.

04-22-06, 01:06 AM
It may not be illegal, but it is borderline unethical IMO. I don't know all the circumstances, so I can't make that determination. If she indeed let you go just because she's getting too busy and has better paying clients -- that is a problem. She should also have at least several session or more to deal with termination issues, not just a this is our last session.

I'm sorry- that can't feel good.

Take care and I hope you find a good new counselor.


04-22-06, 05:54 PM
I may be missing something - has she said she won't give you an appointment EVER? Or has she said she won't give you an appointment NOW?

There's a big difference between the two.

04-22-06, 06:06 PM
Yes, I'm wondering the seems weird that she says if anything opened up you're the first on the list and if yu need help NOW she'll try to find it....sounds like she's having problems with her sched being booked up without much flexibility...

I might interpret that differently based on what you've said in your post, though there may be more to it.

If this makes sense, would it be possible for you to call her secretary and ask when the earliest appointment available would be?? Then you can see if she has no time "ever" or in 4 weeks yes...

It's just that if she was that good for you, it would be a shame to give it up without being absolutely positive..

And yes, I'd take livingwithchaos' advice if it is absolutely "no" and you need someone, you should def get her to help you find someone new.

crime scene

04-22-06, 06:59 PM
That's an interesting way to interpret it Diane and c_s and I hope that that's the situation that is occurring.

It is riding on the lines of ethical/unethical if she will never see 2unruly again.
I've taken an ethics course dealing with behavior therapy and psychology, so that's the standpoint I was/am coming from.
Unethical is something I hesitate to call someone when the lines haven't been clearly broken.
To me, these gray lines are when I want to hear both sides before making a decision as to ethical/unethical.

On the other hand, if I were in your situation, unruly, I would be upset by this turn of events.

Master Rat
04-23-06, 01:38 AM
Maybe she feels she has taught you everthing she knows and you would benefit more from some one who sees things a little differently.

Growth requires change and change is never easy.


04-25-06, 07:50 PM
Thanks everybody for your thoughtful and informative replies!

Well, just to answer some lingering questions. She didn't come out and say I can't see you anymore, find someone else. She said that she could provide references for other therapists should I need to see someone now. She also said she would update them on my history. The thing is, I did ask her for her first available appointment, and she wouldn't give me one, only telling me she would get back to me if anything opens up. She said she isn't accepting any new clients, which I don't doubt.

Yeah, point well taken on the warning about considering her a friend. I know it's important to maintain this boundary. And, maybe this was a problem on her end. I thought about this as I tried to interpret the situation in the most generous way. See, I think it would be okay if she had warned me in advance that her practice was getting busy and that she may not be able to keep me if I didn't start seeing her on a weekly basis. Many therapists, I understand, provide some kind of written "agreement" or guidelines about expectations regarding scheduling/payment/etc. I never got this and never got a warning -- maybe she approached our relationship in a less business-like way than she did others due to our "friendliness"? Maybe she failed to issue me a warning because she was being too "nice" to me?!

And, alas, we both know very well that I still need counseling. So she did not and would not offer that up as an excuse. Nor did she suggest that someone else may be able to help me more at this point. Sadly, she offered no good reasons.

I haven't even replied to her yet. I wanted to get feedback from others first -- and I have a rule against clicking "send" when in tears. Now I've got some good perspective. Hopefully I'll be able to get in some appointments with someone before I lose my health insurance at the end of the summer!

Thanks again folks!

04-25-06, 08:13 PM
2unruly -

It really is very unfortunate that she did not give you any warning. She should have and she should have told you why, she should have given you a pre-termination session.
Thanks for giving us more of what happened. What happened to you is unethical because she didn't give you any warning, a specific reason nor a pre-termination session.

04-27-06, 12:33 AM
I'm sorry to hear this...I didn't think therapists could dump their patients but maybe she has a reason???

Also I think you read too much into your patient/therapist relationship.

04-27-06, 10:23 PM
I have had it happen, myself.

Once i was seeing a female psychiatrist. She was supposed to be able to help people with PTSD using that new-fangled EMDR stuff. *barf*

I did not improve under her therapy. In fact, i got worse. (Anxiety, nightmares, more avoidance, more intrusive thoughts/emotions, etc.) She was perplexed and ended it.

There can be other reasons for a Therapist to terminate. eg transference or counter-transference issues.

In such a case, the doctor/nurse/counsellor has to end treatment -- b/c it affects their ability to treat you properly. That *is* an ethical reason to do so. To not do so would be unethical.

eg if i were attracted to a patient, i would have to end treatment, if i were a shrink; or if the patient reminded me of someone i hate, or my Mother, or someone i love, or such.

Such feelings [counter-transference] totally impact on, and IMPAIR, one's ability to practice properly.

I suppose you may never know why she has ended things.

Perhaps, also, she has helped you as much as she can, with her "skill set" ...[although I think you would deserve to be TOLD that].

If it totally bothers you [and understandably it should; you have a long history; she has become a bit of an attachment person; shared a lot of info.], then I think you should ask her if she can tell you why, or somehow suggest why.

Mostly I think you need to know that you [personally] did nothing wrong, and that this is not a rejection of you as a Person.

Honestly? It is likely that You are better now.

05-01-06, 03:13 AM
Have you considered writing how you feel in a letter and sending it to her? Even if you don't send it to her, just getting the feelings out may be beneficial.

If she offered other therapists, and the willingness to catch them up to speed on your case, doesn't that satisfy the guidelines posted by Living-- (c) in particular (by the way, thanks for posting those)?

I think she could have been more sensitive to your feelings, regardless. :( I'm sorry you've been hurt by her lack of sensitivity.