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Doctor Blake
Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience:  Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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I think my therapist is verbally/emotionally abusing me, he

Customer Question

I think my therapist is verbally/emotionally abusing me, he constantly changes rules, accepts gifts (expensive pens, gift certificates, etc) and speaks to me about personal things, as if I was a friend who was getting to know him. He tells me to text him when I want to ask him something (which I do because the important things I need to talk about don't always come up in session) and I know him in as part of a large social organization in the town I live in. He offers to make coffee or tea for his clients, which he sees in his home office. He also accepts if I offer to stop at Starbucks on the way to my appointments. People who know him from his social connections either love him or hate him. He is a tour guide for this spiritual organization as well.

I care about him (partly transference, but partly because I am nice to just about everyone--I am very open hearted, something everyone loves or so they say). He also lets me ask questions about behavioral science issues (which I do to help with some of my professional work) and questions about everything from spirituality to metaphysics to love/tantra.

Sometimes he is mean (when I see him in the social organization we both belong to), and rude on occasion. I don't know if I am being overly sensitive or not. When I said to him (in a therapy session) that I thought he needed me as much as I needed him, he got angry and said that is not true. His words/actions make it feel like he has blacklisted me at the social org and this is upsetting because I love the org and many of the members are like family (not him).

Plus he has friends over his house when he sees clients and these same friends may recognize clients in town or at the org.

Is this me whining about my feelings being hurt because he says "we can NEVER be friends, NEVER have and NEVER will." (But according to him I can go on one of his group tours.) The never being friends while I am client I understand, but what about in a few years--especially since he has been more of a life coach than a therapist and because at least 2/3 of our work together has been not therapy as traditionally defined.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Doctor Blake replied 3 years ago.

Doctor Blake :

Good evening, and welcome to JA.

Doctor Blake :

I don't know the nature of your therapist's credentials, but among most State Board of Psychology, the behavior you describe could be grounds for unethical and/or unprofessional treatment and/or inappropriate relations with clients.

Customer:

He is a licensed clinical social worker.

Doctor Blake :

Do you know if your therapist is a medical doctor (physician), a psychological doctor (PhD, PsyD, ...)

Customer:

MSW

Doctor Blake :

Ahhh... just got your message.

Doctor Blake :

And what state do you live in?

Customer:

Virginia

Doctor Blake :

Given what you have described, and please understand - I only have your side of the story - I would strongly believe that the Virginia State Board would find this behavior highly unprofessional and perhaps a breach of professional ethics.

Customer:

I understand about using transference to address unhealthy relationship patterns. I also have a very successful career as a gov contractor. I am close friends with clients, but never cross any ethical (financial)boundaries --I would lose my job.

Doctor Blake :

If, for example, you were to contact the Virginia Board of Social Work, you could more directly ask these questions of a board member or representative (without necessarily having to divulge the therapist's name). You could gather more information about the problem and his behavior - and decide how/when/where to proceed.

Doctor Blake :

They can be reached at: http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/social/

Customer:

Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX like this is all my fault but I pay him a lot (out of pocket).

Doctor Blake :

I regret that, being trained as a Cognitive Behavioral Clinical Psychologist, I don't really care for the notion of "transference" as I find it is often a way that therapists manipulate their clients - and not for their benefit.

Customer:

And lately it seems that he either hates me or is really struggling with counter transference. He got divorced this year.

Customer:

when I mentioned that it seems like he needed my help and was learning more from me than I was from him, he got really mad

Doctor Blake :

Regardless of theoretical orientation, I believe that you may have reason to explore reporting your therapist for inappropriate (or at least non-therapeutic) interactions with you.

Customer:

(not violent)

Customer:

okay...I will check. I don't want to get him into trouble, but I don't want anyone else to have more emotional trauma as a result of interactions with a therapist.

Doctor Blake :

I understand that he may not be violent... but I believe, from your description, that your relationship is far from healthy. If you were describing this kind of relationship about your dentist or plumber or gynecologist, I would be very concerned.

Customer:

I have had others and they never acted this way--but I never had one offer coffee from their home office either

Doctor Blake :

I agree that you are not only helping yourself - but you are potentially helping other clients... and (more importantly) his behavior sounds erratic and bizarre enough that *he* may be having some significant issues himself.

Doctor Blake :

Most professional boards work WITH professionals to help them to recover from whatever their problems may be... and provide additional training, support, and supervision to not only help the therapist - but all of his/her clients.

Customer:

Should I find a different therapist? I have seen him for two years.

Doctor Blake :

I applaud your wisdom in checking out your feelings that, "this doesn't seem right." Ultimately, if you choose to proceed, you may be helping a HOST of people, not just yourself.

Doctor Blake :

The fact that your asking the question, "should I find a different therapist?" (to me) answers your question.

Doctor Blake :

If you were having these feelings about your dentist or your general practitioner, would you continue to see him/her?

Doctor Blake :

In short - yes - it's time for a new therapist. The new therapist will help you sort through this stuff so that you can move on.

Customer:

But I do like him and care about him --and don't expect him to be perfect. No, I would find a different dentist and then see if a different relationship would develop.

Doctor Blake :

And, no, you don't need to explain ANYTHING to your previous therapist.

Customer:

He helped me grow as a person, and through a difficult time (divorce).

Doctor Blake :

If your dentist made you uncomfortable (and believe me, being in a dentist's chair is a VERY VULNERABLE position), you would find another - and your wouldn't feel any obligation to explain why. It's a PROFESSIONAL relationship.

Doctor Blake :

Please understand that, while I appreciate that you may be grieving what you perceive as a loss, the fact that you are perceiving this relationship as "someone I've gotten close to" or "he helped me through a difficult time" is inappropriate.

Customer:

He only makes me uncomfortable when I see him outside of his office though--so isn't that my issue?

Doctor Blake :

I've helped people through difficult times - but don't feel that they are friends and have NEVER engaged with them on a social level.

Doctor Blake :

I've seen therapists myself, but have never grieved when it was time to move on.

Doctor Blake :

I believe you have enough reason to discuss this with the State Board to help you determine how best to proceed. You need someone who can spend some face-to-face time (or at least voice-to-voice) to help you sort this out. The State Board will not jump to any conclusions - and you can certainly explore this FIRST without having to divulge any names.

Customer:

Okay. I will move on then....thank you.

Doctor Blake :

But even if the State Board says, "Well, ma'am, this really sounds like your issue, not the therapist's..."

Doctor Blake :

...you still really should move on. What you have described is a level of enmeshment/codependence/transference-counter-transference that is not helpful or healthy.

Doctor Blake :

And, I think that since you are exploring that question - you probably recognize the answer.

Doctor Blake :

Besides, having others to talk to about this will help with the detachment, disengagement, and possible grief you need to experience in order to be healthy and move on without feeling guilt.

Doctor Blake :

Thoughts?

Customer:

I really messed up another relationship --this is a pattern I am trying to break, it is pathetic that (as my kids say) I am a great mom, but have bad taste in men.

Doctor Blake :

You have a really back "picker," as I often hear in group therapy?

Doctor Blake :

STOP BLAMING YOURSELF for what may be an ethical violation on behalf of the therapist.

Customer:

and did a bad job chosing this therapist

Customer:

what is picker?

Customer:

oh--you mean poor criteria for executing my free will?

Doctor Blake :

Picker... you "pick" bad men... (which is really a silly notion, isn't it)!

Customer:

at least I have great kids, a great job, and great friends. Maybe someday I will get the emotional intimacy stuff right..

Doctor Blake :

Please remember... talking with the state board will help you look at this more objectively. I strongly STRONGLY urge you not to blame yourself for what may be grossly unprofessional behavior on the part of this therapist.

Doctor Blake :

Or... maybe you'll see a therapist who maintains appropriate boundaries so you don't feel all "yucky" when you see him in (or out) of the therapeutic relationship. ! :)

Customer:

You have my sincere thanks for you help.

Doctor Blake :

Take a deep breath... talk to your friends... and please, contact the state board.

Doctor Blake :

You'll be helping yourself, other clients, and possible your therapist as well.

Doctor Blake :

At least you'll have peace of mind as you move forward.

Customer:

"Roger" have a nice evening.

Doctor Blake :

Good to speak with you. Have a great night.

Doctor Blake :

Please click <ACCEPT>

Customer:

He will be a hard habit to break...

Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience: Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
Doctor Blake and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I wanted to ask a couple of follow up questions about my therapist, the one I asked about previously. I haven't gone back to see him since the end of June due to his and my summer travel schedules.

BotXXXXX XXXXXne up front: I think he (my therapist) needs me more than I need him.
When I told him this, he got rather upset and said (via text) I "experience boundaries personally. I have these boundaries with all my clients. It isn't personal and has nothing to do with liking you or not. You are very likable and like everyone also have behaviors and action patterns to work on."

Issue: it still really bothers me that he has friends over when he sees clients sometimes. He assured me his friends all respect what he does and that it isn't an issue. However, sound carries, especially if the screen door in his office is open and someone is upstairs (he lives in a two story condo by the beach). His friend from work, who is also his chiropractor, stays with him when he is in town but when questioned he said different licensing rules and Dr. S is friends with many of his patients.

Issue: Given that he, my therapist, is a lecturer at the ARE, where he utilizes the exact same techniques (including scripts for hypnosis, the difference being at the ARE it is group hypnosis and in his office as part of a therapy session it is one on one), how can he have a double standard by being friends with people who come to his classes/lectures at the ARE but then hold to the state board rules/regulations that forbid any friendship/other relationshp outside that of client/therapist for a minimum of 3 years to me (especially since we interact in both places)? It seems like a conflict of interest, or at least a double standard.

He gets referrals for clients from the ARE sometimes. Granted they are not "friends" according to him. He has "never had a friend become a client, although several friends have asked". But he ends up acting like a "therapist" to his friends at times (from what I have glimpsed).

My close friend indirectly works for him, he is the supervisor at the ARE visitor center (she works in the bookstore) and she thinks there is a strange dynamic between he and I that he is not healthy for me (because of some of the things he says or how he replies in emails and text messages.)

Problem is that I miss talking to him, he has been much more of a "life coach" for the past year (and I very happy with that, but it is the source of my confusion as well). I think of him as a favorite teacher, and thus as a friend, not as a therapist. However, I am also hurt and annoyed that there is an inherent conflict of interest in his work as a therapist and also as a visitor center supervisor, lecturer, and tour guide for the ARE.

I gave him an ipod touch ($395) recently as a thank you and vacation gift. He said "thank you...Very kind of you...almost too expensive tho....but thank you all the same."

I like him as a person and he really did help me through a bad time a couple of years ago (result of a breakup/divorce) when he did functin as a "therapist" for about 4 months back in 2009. I know he has been going through his own issues this year, his wife of three years and he divorced a few months back -- things had not been good between them since I first met him.

I am hurt because I really want him to continue to be my life coach, he is really good at it. But while he will do that in his "role as a therapist", it doesn't translate to being also working as a life coach and thus I cannot be "friends" like I have always been with my teachers, coaches, etc. So I am confused because he says one thing but acts another way. And I am hurt because I do like him and miss not asking him about things (work, relationships, etc) because he is very intelligent, funny, and provides perspectives on human behavior that I can then apply at work , with my kids, etc. He also tells me about the trips he takes and some of the interesting people he meets, etc.

I typically follow the rules, unless times (as in current events/geopolicical situations, etc) necessitate a review and restructuring of the rules. So I understand the rules and licensure regulations for a therapist and the way the attorneys and congress dictate health care and education in the US. But I also understand him, his role and strengths as a "healer", the ARE, and what works for me, and how relationships grow. He told me he continued to see his own therapist for almost 20 years because he became like a father to him (his therapist passed away from old age about 10 years ago). I feel the same way towards (my therapist), he is someone who has become a friend (and it is mutual from how my other friends act/behave, etc.)

Any thoughts? Should I still pay to see him as my therapist, but have him fuction as a life coach (but not as a "friend'), one who provides a non biased viewpoint to the questions I always ask? And should I continue to ask him questions or about different things I know he is doing, most of which he answers/discusses (unless I tease him about new girlfriends)? I miss him and his input and discussions about food, travel, music, etc. I also want to go on some of the group tours he leads--he said I am more than welcome to join one.

Sorry this is so complicated, but the conflict of interest (private practice and his multiple ARE roles) and friendship lines are so blurry and he is a good person that I do trust. But the having friends over when a "client" is present is a potential breech of privacy, isn't it? And is it really okay to be friends with your chiropractor but not your therapist?

It bothers me that he can hold survey lectures or healing workshops at the ARE (Here is an excerpt on what his workshop focused on--sounds a lot like therapy and was...)

  • Realize the power of thought to shape and transform your daily life
  • Recognize the importance of your attitudes and emotions on your spiritual path
  • Learn the role of ideals, forgiveness, and loving service to your soul's journey
  • Establish realistic, practical goals that make life more meaningful day by day
Apologies for being less than succinct--I am a member of the ARE so our interactions are complicated by design.

I know my issues with him are my fault, but I am used to dealing with complicated situations (policically, etc). Should I find another therapist? Or is this something that I need to work through---as he puts it, " this is part of our work together"?


Expert:  Doctor Blake replied 3 years ago.
Good morning. Thanks for writing to JA.

I'm sorry to hear that this remains a significant issue for you. I think that the fact that you continue to struggle with this speaks to the degree to which it has become unhealthy for you.

I believe that reframing your considerable (and understandable and justified) concerns about his professional/personal boundaries as "this is part of our work together..." is a form of manipulation and further clouding of your relationship. In, perhaps, the olden days when psychoanalysis and/or psychodynamic thought permeated a segment of the field, this type of perspective might have been presented (but not justified or empirically valid) as part of the transference-countertransference that you're "working through."

You should understand that psychoanalysis (PA) still happens as does psychodynamic (PD) therapy - but it is rarely paid for by insurance... or for a limited time only (20 sessions, say) for the simple reason that insurance is informed by science. PA/PD doesn't work - and it often produces the kinds of results we're seeing here. Clients who are confused about their therapist's behavior... uncomfortable social interactions... sometimes the fear that confidentiality is not being professionally managed or maintained, etc.

I believe you know the answer to your question. I agree with your long-term friend who relayed to you that this relationship is simply not healthy. I believe you would benefit from beginning a new healthy relationship with a short-term focused psychotherapist and/or life-coach who helps you to address specific, focused goals and or target behaviors/feelings. One of those goals might be, "How do I move beyond this unhealthy relationship with this therapist? How do I continue to function in social settings in which he is present? How do I protect myself from getting entangled again?"

Lastly, I do not believe, for one second, that you are to blame for this matter. (One of your last statements was that "I know my issues with him are my fault.") Maintaining professional boundaries and relationship is the primary responsibility of the therapist/professional. Clients come to therapists to address important matters (whether life issues or diagnosed mental health problems) that require respect and care. A fundamental part of both respect and care is recognizing, respecting, and enforcing appropriate professional boundaries. Your therapist, based upon what you have said, has not done this. That you would blame yourself speaks further to the blurred and enmeshed boundaries that this therapist has either (a) allowed to continue or (b) may have actively fostered based upon his own behavior.

Should these matters continue, you may wish to consider legal action... or at least speaking with the local state agencies which grant your therapist his license/licenses.

I *do* wish you all the best with this difficult matter. While it is challenging, and it is YOUR challenge right now, I do not believe that you should feel responsible for having created it. You *are* responsible, however, for recognizing that it *IS* unhealthy - and for doing something different that will get you to a healthy place.

Thanks again... and please feel free to let me know if you other thoughts/concerns. Otherwise, please click <ACCEPT.>
Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience: Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
Doctor Blake and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Hello Dr. Bowden

The issues with my previous therapist are still troublesome (once in a while) and I am not sure why they are.

I really miss him sometimes. It feels like I lost a dear friend and I want to "catch up" with him, to see how he is doing. I know he had started to date someone, but it didn't seem like it was going all that well according to what a friend told me (she is the one who told me he had a new girlfriend --I didn't ask).

The reason he ended up divorced is (according to those he works via in his non therapy job) is partly a result of how he treated his wife. Apparently, when they would have people over for dinner, he would berate/make fun of her/put her down, etc. He apparently has an issue with his public vs his private persona . He also made a rude comment about his new girlfriend's son infront of his coworkers.

I have seen firsthand at conferences/lectures that he definitely likes to have women admire and depend on him emotionally (that is how I felt in therapy). But I quit going to conferences becuase the last three I attended (post therapy) in which he was one of the mutliple speakers ( I usually avoid his talks), he used (verbatim) some stories/quotes/issues I shared in therapy that are rather unique to my work/personal situation, and the jokes (dissing Cleveland for example) seem like too much of a coincidence.

I know so much about him (we even spent four hours on Christmas Eve and 4 hours on New Years Eve last year together in sessions), which surprised me because he said he usually went on vacation during that time. But he was fairly alone for the holidays--he has many "friends" but fortunately he found out a couple of weeks before Christmas last year that some folks in town were actually cousins from Puerto Rico and they invited him to spend Christmas day with him--or he would have indeed been alone.

I really miss our long talks --my sessions were usually 2-4 hours once or twice a week. We shared so much (and from what I have studied about psychology and human behavior) while it was 60% about me, it was 40% about him. I read if a therapist offers a client coffee/tea and the client finally accepts, that is a sign that healing has begun. But I for the 50-100 times I brought him coffee/scones, etc. (I usually stopped at Starbucks on my way and always offer to bring something just as I do at my work),I think there was one time I actually tried a new flavor of tea he had (we often talked about where we traveled/wanted to travel, shared restaurant/food info--we are both "foodies").

My former therapist had the priviledge of seeing so much of who I am--I trusted him and let myself become emotionally vulnerable around him (he would keep pushing for me to "drop the walls" or to "stop censoring my feelings" when I was with him in a session, saying that was necessary for healing. The result was that I really feel we developed more than a standard therapist/client relationship.

My children are amazing and wonderful --I am so blessed!! I have many friends and a career I love. I work hard, and push myself, but I think that is because the one thing I hope for for most is to find someone who mutually wants a true life partner/soul mate, so he and I can help each other become our best selves. I am not so sure my current " boyfriend" is that person. I have been casually dating him for over two years (and we were finally physically intimate earlier in the summer--he lives on the west coast but is in the process of moving back to Virginia)--and while I like him and we continue to have a good relationship, I am not sure if I want this to move any further along that the current status quo.

I have repeated invitations to dinner (three different long time single friends have said they would love to take me to dinner at the Inn at Little Washington--one of my favs) two others have invited me to go sailing on the Chesapeake and to Bimini, another to travel in general...and there is someone who is a "friend with benefits".

I met someone new earlier this summer who just came back into town for a work event. I want to know him better, but after two casual double dates a week ago, think "he is not that into me". He is back in the country in Nov, and we are supposed to get together--but I am not contacting him, I have decided to wait and see if he actually follows through and calls.

With everything going on in my life and all the amazing possibilities, my heart still belongs to my old therapist.

About a month ago, I was looking for a life coach and saw that another client of my former therapist posted a comment on a therapist/doctor ratings page that said he had been unprofessional ("Telling a client that she is hot and that you would date her if you were single is not appropriate"). This is exactly the phrase I used when I told Peter in a session about what I said to a longtime friend who was going through a divorce.

I have a great life coach now--he is like the teacher and village elder and basketball coach who always seem to have just the right advice.

So life is good, except for that one thing...I can't seem to get my former therapist out of my heart, he and I just seem to "get" each other on so many levels....I think I perhaps I grew to love him, and maybe that is why I still feel such a loss...? I am not angry, just occasionally sad and missing him so much. We shared a lot of time, music, the entire spectrum of emotions, even had a few deep spiritual issues/discussions. I helped him with work briefly, providing suggestions for speakers, conference topics, etc. , and well, it was complicated.

"I almost called him tonight just to say hey, how are you these days? I wish you well..." I know he has substantial healing of his own, due to issues with his family growing up, getting divorced this year, I "get' him on so many levels....

Any thoughts as to moving past his and my relationship?

Kind regards,


Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Note: If Dr. Bowden is not available today, I am happy to wait until he has a chance to answer.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Apologies, I meant I would like to wait for Dr. Blake.

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