When your therapist rejects you.


I just read a post from a blogger who describes how her therapist suddenly terminated her without warning.  She writes,

I spend pockets of time here and there throughout the days just wracking my brain trying to figure out what went so wrong. I replay our conversations in my head and try to decipher what this meant or why she said that. I try to figure out what the fuck I did wrong.

It’s devastating and crazymaking.  Unfortunately, being suddenly rejected by a mental health professional seems to be pretty common.   People who have never been in therapy sometimes have trouble understanding how devastating this can be.  We become extremely attached to our therapists through a process known as transference, especially when the therapy is of the psychodynamic type (as opposed to behavioral/cognitive methods like CBT).  The therapist acts as a surrogate parent and for a therapist to terminate a patient without warning is akin to a parent rejecting their child. It’s extremely traumatic and the victim often develops PTSD from the rejection, especially if they already have attachment or trauma-related issues due to rejection or neglect by caregivers when they were children.   The problem is that many people with mental disorders themselves become therapists, often to work out their own emotional issues by proxy.  They may not be aware they are doing this, but it happens all the time.  That’s why therapists are encouraged and even required to be in therapy themselves, in order to address any counter-transference issues that may come up with their patients.

If my therapist ever rejected me like that…ugh, I don’t even want to think about that. I think I would just want to crawl into a hole somewhere and die.  I know he would never suddenly terminate me without good reason and without explaining why, but because I worry about everything, sometimes I worry about that too.

I’ll give you an example of how ridiculous this worry gets.   In my last session, toward the end, I asked my therapist if he had any children.    I don’t think I had any reason to ask other than simple curiosity.   But after I asked I felt liked I’d somehow overstepped his boundaries (he did answer me).   I don’t even know why, really.  He asked me what made me ask him that.  Maybe he thinks this is significant.   I imagined I saw an angry or concerned look on his face after I asked.   But I always imagine negative looks on people’s faces even when their expression is actually neutral.   I feel like I should apologize.    I don’t even know if he was upset by my question but I still feel like it might have been a boundary invasion.    I know he wouldn’t terminate me for this, but I still worry that he might like me less because I *might* have invaded his boundaries.

It’s so dumb that sometimes I feel like I have to be perfect even for my therapist.

Further reading:

50 Warning Signs of Questionable Therapy  (red flags you should know about):

There are over 700 comments under the above post. I was shocked at some of the stories I read about horrible therapists who make their clients even worse.

Infatuation and Transference:  Please be aware that I wrote this post over a year ago and my views about transference, which were mostly negative at that time, have changed.



29 thoughts on “When your therapist rejects you.

  1. I’m gonna go read that post but I wanted to comment about your worry and your question to your therapist. (Although these thoughts may have already crossed your mind.)

    When you go back to therapy, ask him if feels/thinks you crossed a boundary, since this worries you. This way you can talk about that and whatever else is under your worry.

    Therapy is such a great way to learn how to ‘do’ relationships in general. Even if you DO screw up. I’m bad at relatioinships myself and the one thing about therapy I’ve noticed, is that I can say just about anything to a therapist and not worry about someone lashing back at me, raging at me or even just being so hurt that they never want to talk to me again, even for something justified. God knows I’ve had people not want to be my friend after approaching them with something that bothered me in hopes of an adult discussion and resolution.

    Now I’m rambling, sorry. lol

    One more thing I wanted to add is that most likely he’s not offended (or feels boundary violated) given he answered your question. It’s a good question btw. I’ve been wondering if my therapist has kids too and haven’t asked. He’s old enough to be MY father (at 50) and I’ve been thinking lately that I’d wished I’d had such a validating and empathetic father as he seems to be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that might have been why I asked him if he had kids. He’s so empathetic and they are so LUCKY to have him as a dad — I’m envious of them! But anyway, I will definitely ask him if I crossed a boundary and planned to anyway. I know I’m probably silly to be worrying so much about this and it’s silly to think he would have been offended or felt violated, but I’m so socially awkward and constantly question myself. Because of my BPD, too, I haven’t always been good at knowing which boundaries to cross and which ones not to. That’s something I’m getting better at, but I still need to be mindful about it and think before I act.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you this article was perfect timing for me. I had to go see my PCP for a referral to a 2nd neurologist because my 1st is holding my PTSD against me and using it to blame my real medical issues on. He pretended he would see me on next appt. and instead used my patient online acct. to drop me. My PCP told me he said to her he is referring me to a behavioral counselor and I have been doing that for the last year already. I never wanted to go to him to begin with but he acted caring so I ignored my gut (stupid move!) but I have been shocked at how much his treatment of me has rocked my world and upset me. These two articles help me understand my reactions to it all. It is like I am being victimized and not being taken seriously because I have PTSD and like he is accusing me of making things up. I was told people under stress can give them selves a seizure but in a way to silence me not because he cares. Thanks for sharing!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is both an interesting and somehow not that shocking post you wrote. I’ve only been going to therapy for a year but I’ve never heard of transference. It makes sense to get attached attached to a therapist because, duh, we’re human. But I would be heartbroken if my therapist who I’ve spent all this time and energy building up a relationship and some confidence with suddenly cuts me off.

    Thanks for writing this piece. It’s really opened my eyes to something I never considered could happen.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hopefully it never does. I was informed that this is actually against the law. You are supposed to be allowed 3 sessions before you have to move to someone else, during which time they are supposed to help you transition. I think it’s common to be devastated when it does happen. The attachment to a therapist is very strong. I wouldn’t worry though. I’m sure the ones who do this are in the minority and you could take out charges against them since it’s it’s not legal anyway.

      Liked by 3 people

      • 3 sessions. Where do you find this information? Maybe I didn’t read the fine print when I was doing my initial paperwork. That’s good they have laws in place like this. Too many people don’t get that mental health is just as serious of an issue as physical health. Would a doctor just stop cancer treatment abruptly on a patient in good conscience? I dont think so. Neither should you stop a session with someone who is treating your brain. It’s only fair.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Someone on here posted about that. It might have been on another blog though. I haven’t researched it but I bet it is against the law, and if it isn’t, it should be!
          I think problems arise when a therapist develops countertransference feelings toward a patient. That’s why they’re required to be in therapy to handle those feelings when they arise. If they cannot handle them, then yes, they should refer the patient elsewhere but give them 3 more sessions.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Therapists should never suddenly end therapy, especially with clients who have become attached during the process of trying to resolve early trauma. There are many reasons therapists end up having to stop working with clients, sometimes outside of their control. But unless they are physically or emotionally unable to do so, ending therapy should be a process that allows clients to talk through their emotional reactions. If you are worried about your therapist abandoning you, talk to him or her about it. They should be willing to discuss their thoughts and policies about this issue.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My last therapist terminated me suddenly. Told me I was not capable of doing teauma. It made me feel hopeless and devastated. She offered me three termination sessions, but I was too devastated and embarrassed to attend them. I did go for a final session, but it was horrible. I did move on to another therapist, and I am doing the trauma work, and I am healing. After two years, I’m beginning to understand that it was not me that could not do my trauma work, but it was that therapist who could not look at my trauma, could not hear my story, coukdnt not witness my brokenness.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Why did she give up on you? What sort of therapist tells their patient they can’t “do trauma”????
      I’m glad you have found a better therapist and are proving that idiot wrong!

      Liked by 3 people

      • She was, in retrospect, pretty emotionally abusive to me. When I had a bad reaction to that, she was done with me. My story is pretty intense and I don’t think she was prepared for it. I didn’t heal on her terms and I think she couldn’t stand that. She thought that she was the master of trauma clients but it didn’t work with me. She would have had to try new and different stuff. Oh, well. I was meant to be with my current therapist. She’s the best.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. Asking someone whether s/he has children is kind of a generic question; it sounds more like something productive that you’re opening up to him, curious about basic, relatable facts (you have children). It would only be, in my mind, the obsession of information that would make it a distraction, and even then still not wrong without the conscious intent of doing something wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I was rejected by two therapists when I was sued by a total stranger for $10,000,000 and dragged into the court system (a personal injury lawyer representing himself). Two therapists rejected me because they were concerned about getting dragged into a court case. It was the worst feeling! One place actually mocked me at the intake, said a therapist would call me to schedule an appointment and they never did. I ended up going into online therapy. Also started my blog instead of in person therapy. I’m going to try to find a therapist again, but the first two rejections were devastating.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Whoa. Thanks for the post, and thanks to everyone for their comments. I’m just starting therapy, tho I’ve been ‘rejected’ by two places for various reasons. That didn’t feel too personal. Once place said they couldn’t handle bipolar and the other said I smoke too much marijuana. And it’s led me to my current place, which so far…well, the jury’s still out other than to say it’s not bad.

    Trying to keep in mind the entire transference thing to prevent myself from doing it. Don’t know if it will work yet or not, but I have entered the process a bit calmer than I otherwise might have. I feel like these people need to prove themselves to me; prove that they’ll listen to me and work with me. If I feel we’re at odds, I’ll seek out someone else. And now, after reading this, I’m even better armed to know what’s inappropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had a therapist move away on me when I was younger. She helped me a lot and she had to leave her current job for a better opportunity. However it still hurt. With my social anxiety its very hard for me to get comfortable with someone, something that takes time. It’s taken me close to ten years to finally seek a new therapist.

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