My therapist won’t let me leave (3 helpful tips)

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In this blog we will discuss what you can do if your therapist won’t let you leave. 

We will also discuss whether you should report your therapist and if so, how you can go about that and what happenes if you do report them. 

My therapist won’t let me leave: what should I do?

If you have been trying to leave your therapist but they are not allowing you to leave, understand that this is a very concerning issue particularly if you find yourself powerless against them. 

Here are a few things you can do in this case:

Understand your narrative

If your mindset is that you cant leave because your therapist wont let you leave, you have to understand that your narrative shows that you think yourself hostage which is not entirely true. 

Within a therapeutic relationship, the power you have and the rights you have makes you equal to your therapist which means that you have every right to leave if you want to without question. 

Understand where the real issue is 

The real issue is not you against your therapist, but you against you.  This means that there is a certain part of you that is dependent on your therapist in terms of making choices and taking action. 

This is fairly common especially when you have shared a long history with your therapist and have become attached. 

Take some time to think over what is causing you to deny your own power in this relationship that is holding you back from leaving. 

Address termination

The next thing that you can do is to address termination directly with your therapist and take the time to talk about the relationship coming to an end.

An ethical therapist will work you through the negative feelings that come with breaking off a relationship- even a professional one. 

They will also most likely help you work through this over the next few weeks or over a few sessions at the least. It is a slow and gradual process and it will take time, however during this time be mindful of understanding that this is a process and they are not actually holding you captive. 

Take charge

If your therapist is still being wishy-washy about termination, which an ethical therapist should not be because you are entitled to elave when you want and have a positive termination experience, you can take the lead. 

You can say something like:

“This will be my last session, but I’d like our good-bye to be a positive experience, and for me that means talking about how uncomfortable I’ve felt when you’ve not been responding to my request to stop therapy.

Take the time during this last session to cojnfront them about how you felt and your experience and attempt to come to a close. 

Walk away

No matter what happens in the session, the moment it is done or even earlier, walk out of the room without any thought of coming back irrespective of what your therapist tells you. 

Sometimes it is best that you trust your gut about yoru therapist and look forward to seeking help elsewhere. 

Report the therapist

You can also take the step of reporting the therapist if you notice that their refusal to let you go has caused you much harm and has encroached your boundaries and your rights. 

How to report a therapist?

Here are a few steps for you to take in reporting a therapist:

  • Looking into the licencesing or preceding board related to psychotherapy and counselling of your state and country. 
  • Fill out an official complaint form, or email and submit it to a licensing board. This form is usually a downloadable PDF that you can mail in or an online form that you can find on the licensing board’s website or the state department’s website.
  • You might have to mail in a request for the form for some cases, if that is the case- make contact and request for a form. 
  • Contact the department of board directly if it’s possible by phone and let them know your grievances. 
  •  However, for any formal complaints it is usually mandatory that it must be submitted in writing. 

What Happens When You Report a Therapist?

When you report a therapist, this is the probable things that could happen:

They will investigate your claims

Filing a complaint against a therapist is an in-depth process that requires a lot from you and the parties involved to see it through. It is not a one time thing and you will be expected to be part of the entire process. 

When you file a complaint, the licensing board will investigate it which means that they will talk to you and the therapist about what happened. 

Interview

As part of the investigation they will have to interview you for your experiences and your claims in order to seek evidence and provide a basis for your complaints. 

Collecting evidence


As part of the investigation, it is very likely that they will rech out to you and the therapist along with other parties for evidence and proof of your claims. 

This will require plenty of cooperation and time from your end as well as the therapist involved. 

Dismissal

If the board, after investigation, determines that the complaint has no merit, they will dismiss it and take no further action. 

This usually happens when complaints are not covered in licensing law which means that whatever you have claimed does not violate licensing law or professional codes of ethics.

In such a case, because a licensing board has no jurisdiction over it, it is likely that they will dismiss your case. 

Formal hearing

If the board finds that there is evidence supporting the complaint and that it does fall under the board’s jurisdiction, the board may enter into a settlement process with the therapist or may proceed to a formal hearing. 

The more serious the offence is, the more likely that a hearing will be held where the  therapist’s licence could be permanently revoked if they are “found guilty.”

Disciplinary action

After the hearing and the evidence has been collected and proven, the board will take disciplinary action based on the violation of licensing law or professional ethics caused by the therapist. 

In such a case the severity of the consequence will reflect the severity of the violation that will be decided odn by the board and in some cases, by other authorities.

What are some other reasons you should report your therapist?

Here are some reasons why you should consider reporting a therapist:

Sexual advances

You should report a therapist if the therapist has initiated and reciprocated a sexual relationship with you, had sexual contact with you, or made sexual advances toward you.

Pressure

You should report a therapist if they put pressure on you to get involved with another personal or professional venture or business of theirs that is not related to the work you are doing in the sessions or if it is violating your rights as an individual person. 

This includes professuring you to take part in or involve you in illegal behaviour or engaged in illegal behaviour in front of you.

Violation of boundaries

You should report a therapist if they have crossed personal and professional boundaries that have resulted in a “dual relationship” with you.

For example if they continue the sessions when you start a dual relationship as a family member, or even in a professional setting in which they have misused their power or role by taking information shared in sessions for application elsewhere, including breach of confidentiality. 

Violation of Confidentiality

Therapist confidentiality is a major ethical aspect of the mental health professional field. 

This means that your therapist should not be sharing any information about you unless they think you are an immediate danger to yourself or someone else. 

If you have any reason to believe that they have broken confidentiality, for example your details with someone else who they are not supposed to consult with, you have the right to terminate and move on. 

If you recognize any of these signs in your therapist, it is very likely that they are being unethical. It is best that you report them. 

Non responses or abandonment 

If you find that your therapist has not been mindful in their responses via email, chat, or calls nor have they helped you feel safe, heard, and supported and the non responses continue- it is possible that your therapist is breaching ethicality and it is best for you to move on to someone else. 

The therapist abandoned you by suddenly stopping services with you without giving you time and notice (and help) as well as they are not responsive, you should report them.

In such a case, you can let them know that you would like to terminate the sessions with them, report them  and be direct in your feedback while doing so. 

Insufficient qualification

If you have noticed that the therapist is not qualified or trained to provide a service to you, you should report them as well. This included medical advice, career advice etc, for which they are not trained. 

Harm

If your therapist has caused you any physical and psychological harm as a result of providing services that weren’t therapy or that were experimental, harmful, or dangerous, you should report them. 

This includes failing to fully explain what they were doing or why, such as not telling you that you were part of an experiment they were conducting etc.

Discrimination

You should report the therapist if they have engaged in things or took actions toward you that were racist, homophobic, sexist, and discriminatory.

How to choose a good therapist?

Here are some things to pay attention to if you want to be safe when you connect with a therapist online:

Look into the therapists’ credentials

It is possible that when you are matched with a particular therapist, you can look up their credentials and experience online. 

This means that you might have to do a little background check independent of whatever information that they have provided on their website. 

This is for your own mental health and wellbeing, so take some time to cross check the credibility of the therapists that have been assigned to you. 

Professional guidelines

Pay attention to whether the service providers you are talking to are adhering to the five principles of ethical counselling that most mental health professionals stick to.

They should focus on you and stick to the ethical principles. If they aren’t and you feel unsafe, it is best to withdraw from these services. 

Trial mindset

You have to understand that when it comes to therapy, it takes time to find the one that you are able to connect with. So go into each session with each therapist with a mindset of getting yourself comfortable and being open to new people. 

Just because one therapist does not fit well with you does not mean that all therapists at Betterhelp are the same, take time to get acquainted as well as open yourself up to the possibility of changing therapists and trying out new therapists when one does not click with you. 

Trust your gut

The moment you feel something is off with the professional you are talking to, choose to withdraw. A person who is ethical will not blur the lines between providing the help you seek and other interests. 

If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in spite of what they may be telling you, it is best if you stop the correspondence and seek out help elsewhere. 

Conclusion

In this blog we have discussed some of the reasons you should report a therapist and other unethical behaviours of a therapist. 

We have also briefly discussed how to report a therapist and what happens when you report a therapist.

References

Filing a Complaint Against a Therapist: When, How, and Why to Do It (and When Not to Do It). Open Counselling. Retrieved on 13th April 2022. https://blog.opencounseling.com/filing-a-complaint-against-a-therapist/

Signs Of A Bad Therapist: When to Move On. Betterhelp. Retrieved on 4th April 2022. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/signs-of-a-bad-therapist-how-to-know-when-to-move-on/

How to tell a therapist it’s not working. Zen Care. Retrieved on 4th April 2022. https://blog.zencare.co/how-to-tell-a-therapist-its-not-working/

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