Posted by: Marie | May 9, 2009

(65) Who’s causing conflict?

Post #65
[Email to the Colorado Association of Psychotherapists sent on Friday, August 8, 2008]

To Whom It May Concern:

I am hoping someone in your organization can provide some guidance . . .

I have been a client of a psychotherapist for about six months — we have recently developed some conflict in our relationship and I will likely end our therapy because of it.

While I am aware that I am angry/reactive/sensitive (which is why I’m in therapy) and that I have played a significant role in the creation of the conflict by the way I handled it, I also believe my therapist has played a significant role as well. He disagrees and says the problem is 100% mine and he has zero responsibility.

The conflict started when I told him, a few weeks ago, I was not satisfied with some aspects of the service I was receiving — I believe he is not meeting some minimum professional standards:

1) He does not take notes during the session (maybe he makes notes afterward?) and he is unable to retain/recall key information such as whether my parents are still alive, if I have siblings, if I’ve ever been married, what triggered my recent drinking binge, etc. He only recalls information I have given him within the last week or two, so it feels like we are starting from scratch every 2-3 sessions — this has gotten significantly worse in the last 4-6 weeks (which is why this has all come to a head now).

2) The sessions lack continuity. He asks me to do certain homework assignments, stressing the importance of that homework in what we will be doing the next time we meet. Then, at the next session, he has no memory of asking me to do the homework and doesn’t implement it into our therapy, and our focus is very different from what he said it was going to be (we move to a new topic) — it feels like we never reach resolution on any one subject. This happens about 90% of the time.

3) We have very different religious beliefs — this concerned me as he is a Christian pseudo-minister and I am more into “new age” religions — but he assured me he could provide secular counseling, that he could respect my beliefs and that he could refrain trying to sway my beliefs to align with his. In our last session, we got into a religious discussion (which is fine as long as he keeps to our agreement). Repeatedly, he asked me what I believed, I would tell him, then he would say (and I quote), “but that can’t be right because the Bible says . . . ” or “your logic is not sound and therefore your belief can’t be valid” or “you are making up your own religion which means you believe you are a god in your own right”. I told him that my beliefs are valid simply because I chose to believe them and whether or not they make sense to him was immaterial. I also told him that he was disrespecting me by saying my beliefs couldn’t be “right” and “valid”. He disagrees — he believes he was simply fulfilling his duty as my therapist.

4) I believe his own “stuff” is getting in the way — his last email to me demonstrated this dramatically: He stated that I said I felt abused by him — I have never said that or even thought that. He stated that I said he is a bad person — again, I never said that or even thought that — I questioned the level of service he is providing (I was very careful in my wording) — I actually really like him as a person. He said I blamed my anger on him — I have never done that, I am very clear that my anger moved into place long before I met him. He was triggering it on purpose in the session so we could bring it to the surface and look at its causes and effects, but he is not the source of my anger. He said he doesn’t like being threatened by violence — I have never threatened him or even acted violently except to moderately raise my voice in our sessions (after he encouraged me to behave angrily if I felt anger). When I was younger, I was physically violent a few times — because of that history, I insisted we implement safeguards to prevent that from happening while he was triggering my anger in the sessions. During the religion discussion (see #3), he didn’t follow those safeguards and so I took the precaution of leaving the room to cool down to keep things safe.

5) When I stated my above complaints (#1-3) and asked him to respond to them, his only response was that I am angry/reactive/sensitive, that it is all about my “stuff” and that it has nothing to do with him. Therefore, he believes he has no obligation to respond to my complaints.

So . . . . am I being unreasonable here? Are there some minimum standards for the profession that address things like note-taking, continuity of session content, respect of religious beliefs, addressing level-of-service complaints, etc.?

Thank you!
– Marie


  1. Good for you.


  2. I believe all your concerns are legitimate. He is the one who is supposed to be the expert. My T and I have different religious beliefs but she respects mine and I respect hers. Our beliefs don’t get in the way of my therapy.

    Your therapist seemed to be bringing tons of his ‘stuff’ into your sessions. It shouldn’t be about him at all. I glad that you were able to recognize it and give voice to it.

    • Hi, lostinamaze –

      Thank you for your kind words . . I so agree with everything you wrote . . . I was so new to the process of therapy that it took me a while to recognize that he was bringing in his own stuff — I launched into therapy assuming that every therapist would know to keep his own stuff out.

      Thank you for your input!

      – Marie

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