After spending months on a wait-list, with no clear indication whatsoever when I would be able to start therapy, I got a phone call out of the blue that they were finally offering me treatment. Clearly, they too felt it had taken long enough. They were absolutely right, but I just sat with one problem: I felt no connection at all with the therapist in question. So, I refused their offer.
Why I refused treatment
My first intake(s)
My initial intake with this institution took place last autumn with a department covering anxiety issues. However, at the end of our intake, they sat me down and carefully explained I actually fit a PTSD diagnosis. They then referred me to the trauma department, where I was scheduled for a new intake with a rather curious therapist.
During my intake with her I felt like I was undergoing a very important oral exam – and failing. She took out a DSM-V manual, started listing the PTSD symptoms, and basically asked me to provide proof for this new diagnosis that had been established by her colleagues. I constantly felt like she was doubting me and my diagnosis. In a follow-up appointment, she admitted “the tests indeed showed that I did actually have PTSD”. Thanks, I guess?!?
This follow-up appointment was set up to discuss treatment options. It turned out I had been given lots of unclear and/or false information, which obviously caused confusion on my side. I had had my eye on treatments that apparently were only applicable to personality issues. This would mean, the therapist explained, that we would have to dig for a personality disorder. We agreed that personality issues did not seem relevant at the moment, so we decided on a different route instead: NET-treatment first (something they do not officially offer, hence my confusion), and possibly another look at personality issues after. However, soon after doing personal research, I found I felt no connection at all to personality disorders, and it would be very unlikely I would get diagnosed with one. So in my mind, I had completely disregarded this idea.
Then, a little while later, the out-of-the-blue phone call happened: we’re going to start NET-therapy asap and see how it goes. I was baffled and didn’t quite know how to respond. I was also at work when I received the phone call; not the most appropriate location to talk about this comfortably. The minute I hung up the phone, I realised there was no way I would be able to go into therapy with this woman. Unfortunately, this only turned out to be the start of the story.
How I refused treatment
I got back in touch with therapist E. from my first intake with the anxiety department, and explained my story and why I felt no connection with the other therapist. She was very kind and told me I had the full right to do this, and confirmed I had made the right decision. Quite a relief, for the time being.
Follow-up phone calls
After discussing this with her colleague, E. rang me back to announce that I was put back on the wait-list. She also asked me to do an appointment over the phone with the other therapist, M., so I could explain further why I didn’t feel like going into therapy with her. I agreed and felt relieved I wouldn’t have to come all the way to therapy to tell M. to her face why I didn’t like her.
But then I got a phone call from M. She mentioned that she would like to talk in person still, because – get this – it was unclear which wait-list I needed to be on, considering I might have personality issues (?!?). Interesting, because we had never discussed the actual possibility of personality issues, and she had no proof that I might have them. Plus, I knew by now there was little to no chance I actually had a personality disorder. However, M. said she had discussed this with her colleagues, and she wanted to meet me in person to talk it over, because according to her, there was a good chance my problems with our relationship stemmed from my personality and/or relationship issues. Thanks again!?
I was absolutely furious because I felt like M. was trying to shove her own mistakes into my shoes. This also felt like she was abusing her power as a professional therapist: after all, she was (supposed to be) the expert, and I was only a patient. It was almost as if she were saying: this girl has mental problems, she’s the issue, she obviously doesn’t trust other people, blablablablabla. During our phone call, she asked if I understood, and I was very careful to not say yes. I didn’t tell her I agreed or understood, but I did say I was willing to discuss it in a face-to-face appointment. Unfortunately, I felt like once again I was going to have to defend myself against M.
What happens now?
As agreed, we discussed our issues during an appointment – however, due to measures taken against the corona virus, I didn’t have to come into the building after all and we were able to do it over the phone. I definitely felt like I was defending myself again, but I think I did so properly and expressed my feelings very clearly. I also explained to her that I felt it was unjust to address personality issues as long as she’s got no official diagnosis for it. At the end of our exchange she agreed to put me back on the wait-list for trauma therapy.
Of course this has already been a long wait – I was first submitted to the wait-list in August – and you could say I might as well take the first best offer. The problem is, this isn’t the best offer. I know there is no point going into treatment with someone I don’t trust, especially not for something as delicate as trauma treatment. I’d rather not waste my time and energy attempting – and definitely failing – to work it out with a therapist I strongly dislike, when instead I could just hold on for a better match.
So, I should now be on top of the waiting list and I could get another offer any moment. For now I’ll be waiting it out like I have been for the past few months.
Have you ever broken up with a therapist? Or have you had any similar experiences?
Sometimes I joke finding the right therapist is like dating, and almost as impossible as finding true love (which, coincidentally, I don’t believe exists). Sadly it is true for many people that building a safe and meaningful relationship with a therapist is often made quite difficult.
I’ve heard lots of strange and interesting stories from various people with unfortunate therapy experiences. Have you encountered anything likewise? What’s your experience with therapy-patient relationships?