My Therapist 'Terminated' Me and It Was Not OK
I wish I could go back to my therapist, but she said no. I don’t know why she said no, but she did.
And while I’d love to fake a smile and say I’m OK, I can’t. It hurts. It hurts a lot. They say time heals all wounds, but it’s been a long time and this wound hasn’t seemed to heal. She said I had done nothing wrong, but our work was done and it was her choice. I’m not sure what this means, but it has hurt me. I asked for some time to process this, but all she offered was 50 minutes.
Fifty minutes for my anxious, shaking body to tell her how much her words hurt me. Fifty minutes to attempt to string together words to describe a year of immense suffering. Fifty minutes to explain how traumatizing it feels to be an individual with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) and to be kicked to the curb unable to stand up after being run over by a vehicle only doctors get to drive.
I became upset at being offered only 50 minutes, and by becoming upset, she took away the session altogether. Like a child having love taken away, a familiar experience of the abused and neglected, my opportunity to speak with her was taken away when I asked for fairness and space to process my pain.
Her last email was addressed to me, and instead of signed by her first name, she signed it, “Dr.”
I tell my story not for sympathy, but for the world to further examine the power dynamic of psychotherapy and the pain caused by termination.
We are not just names on your caseload. We are human beings, some with immense shame, looking for support. We trust you to share our most intimate parts of ourselves without judgment or abandonment. We trust you to meet us where we are at.
Especially for clients with trauma, please stop with the abandonment to teach us a lesson or avoid having to deal with disorganized attachment. One of the basic needs of human beings is relatedness. For the traumatized client, it takes a while to trust and relate. When we do finally get here, we may idolize you as the parent we’ve always wanted. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, it’s our humanness shining brightly.
It’s a therapist’s job to hold the frame from the start. It doesn’t need to be created with tart tone, and there doesn’t need to be tape outlining the boundaries. Rather, if the therapist helps a client see them as a guide and not their caregiver, the therapist will help them to bring their fragmented parts together and stand complete, firm and grounded.
I believe abandonment or termination is never needed. What is needed is for therapists to be required to take courses on trauma, for them to always do an intake and for them to never blur boundaries. We are fractured more when terminated.
Please stop terminating clients and learn the necessary skills to work with trauma. If this isn’t something you can work with, avoid listing trauma-informed, borderline personality disorder (BPD), dissociative identity disorder (DID), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), C-PTSD or any trauma-related diagnoses on your profile as something you can work with.
I can’t tell you the amount of pain that comes from being terminated.
Be careful with our hearts, and if you really feel you need to end the relationship, do not use the word “termination.” Set us down gently and wait until we feel secure in our next therapeutic relationship. It isn’t much to ask.
Unsplash image by Mitchell Hartley