Toxic Therapist and How to Recognize One

toxic therapist

Beware The Toxic Therapist

A toxic therapist can make your life a misery. Good therapy provides a safe space for people to get to know themselves so they don’t repeat negative behaviors that could impact their futures or their families’ futures. Given that twenty-one million Americans suffer from depression, twenty million people are recovering from addiction, and forty million adults have anxiety disorder, therapy is a valuable tool to improve mental health.

However, bad therapy can further traumatize people who are already vulnerable, exacerbating mental illness, PTSD, and suicidal ideation.

The most prominent forms of abusive therapists are sexual advances, inappropriate touching, financial exploitation, lack of professional boundaries, or shaming and blaming you for no reason. If you notice anxiety or uncomfortable thoughts after a session, and it’s not about a challenging subject but the therapist’s behavior, it may be time to find another provider.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way how incompetent therapists can join forces with your abuser in gaslighting you and how narcissistic counselors can become entangled in their clients’ lives so they can micromanage them in unhealthy ways. Regardless of incompetence or maliciousness, the results are the same.

So what do you look for?

Lack of Boundaries

An unethical or toxic therapist can overstep boundaries, fostering an unhealthy dependence in their clients. They may dominate sessions with self-centered dialogue and divulge inappropriate personal details. They could intrude into their clients’ personal lives beyond the therapy setting, employing gaslighting and emotional shaming tactics.

Financial exploitation may occur through excessive session fees or fraudulent insurance claims for nonexistent sessions, or they teach clients how to manipulate family members to get their insurance money for sessions. They portray themselves as your savior, the only person who can help, save, or understand you while separating you from your friends and family. They discourage you from seeking alternative perspectives, obtaining a second opinion, or seeking support from sources other than themselves. This behavior empowers the abusive therapist to hold control over your life, fostering a growing dependence on them.

Toxic TherapistL Invalidates Your Pain

One of the worst things a therapist can do is invalidate your trauma with ridicule or contempt. These tactics could involve deliberately provoking your pain through insults or treating you with disdain. Empathy serves as the bedrock of therapy. Without the capacity for empathy, providing practical assistance becomes impossible, and establishing the essential trust for clients to be fully vulnerable and authentic in therapy is compromised.

When a therapist invalidates his client’s emotional pain, pushes them to prematurely forgive their abusers without addressing their trauma, or tries to rationalize their past abuse, he has done them a grave disservice. It becomes gaslighting and can lead to re-traumatization.

A Toxic Therapist Enables your Abuser to Gaslight

Many abuse survivors encounter therapists who falsely assert that their patients must have somehow provoked or contributed to their own abuse. This flawed reasoning mirrors the intellectually bankrupt approach abusers use to diminish their victims. These therapists portray the victim as the perpetrator, label them as deceitful or lazy, and respond with constant suspicion, questioning the authenticity of every account.

Before long, you find yourself victimized once again, this time by the therapist’s abuse, which you never agreed to endure. Needless to say, when someone enables an abuser or justifies their abuse, they should be automatically held as suspect in your eyes. Abusers tend to support other abusers and paint the victim as the perpetrator.

Unfortunately, Lisa’s ex-therapist was utterly unable to spot emotional or narcissistic abuse and berated her constantly in session. He over-identified with Lisa’s boyfriend yet refused to acknowledge the emotional and verbal abuse, no matter how many times it was addressed. Lisa thought she was losing her mind while her boyfriend used therapy to gain the upper hand in their relationship.

Toxic Therapist: Breaks the Law

Therapists are not allowed to disclose any information about a client without the client’s written consent unless there are specific exceptions, such as if the therapist is required by law to report child abuse or if the therapist believes the client is a danger to themselves or others. If a therapist discusses other clients with you, find another provider. Trust me, they’re talking about you to others. If they refuse to report child abuse, report them to the authorities. You may just save a life.

Remember that most therapists enter the field to help others. Just beware of the bad ones.

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