Can a therapist protect you, and should they? (Or, "How to feel safe in a therapist's office.")

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littleoc

Sponsor
I have a strange question.

I am rather scared to go to see therapists in public places because I am afraid of confrontation.

What is the therapist supposed to do, and can a therapist protect you, if another client attacks you or if someone you know is waiting for you in the waiting room with intentions of controlling you or attacking you?

Can a therapist protect you, and should they?

I can't picture a safe scenario in my head. I just see my therapist getting hurt and me being responsible.

I am thinking that this is a mix of intrusive thoughts getting mixed up with a few terrifying past experiences I've had. Including my father attacking school employees, my mother, and etc, and my ex sitting in waiting rooms so I would remember sessions better so I would tell her every detail of therapy, and of times (Especially in hospitals) where I was attacked by other patients or witnessed patients attacking other patients, or hurting themselves suddenly.

I am trying to think of how to feel safe when with my therapist, and how to not think I need to be alert to danger to either protect her from physical harm or protect her from the possibility of seeing something terrible. It is such a strong feeling that I am keeping several secrets because I am afraid of disturbing her and seeing her break down in any way. That was a danger for the past-me.

I tried the method of imagining something silly saving the day, which generally works for intrusive thoughts, but it doesn't work for this issue.

Has this happened to you? Do you have any advice?

Thanks!
 

Teamwork

MyPTSD Pro
That’s super tough. Whenever I have said anything to my t about protecting him or concern for him, he has named it as such and let me know he was looking after himself. The times I said it though, I didnt realize I was saying a caretaking or protecting thing, but he named it as such. I would do my best to tell her what you are suffering, it would be very useful information for her to have. My t happens to sit extremely still and one day I asked him when he was going to fly out of his chair at me and attack, since that was what i was reading the stillness as. He worked on it from there on in with me.
 

Kubash16

Policy Enforcement
I don’t know if you currently have a T and I’m not sure what you mean by meeting them in public places. But, maybe try finding one with a set up like mine: between the therapy rooms and waiting room is a locked door and he walks me in and out, so in my mind, say we open the locked door and there is someone bad in the waiting room, we can quickly close the door and call 911. No protecting each other needed.

But I can imagine just in a human sense that if you come out of the therapy room and get attacked that the therapist won’t really be thinking about therapeutic boundaries but reacting in a human sense to get the attack to stop in whatever way necessary. I think if attacks happen, rules kinda fall by the wayside.
 

littleoc

Sponsor
Thank you @Teamwork and @Kubash16 :)

I'm a little afraid to talk to my therapist about this. It feels like speaking it will make it even more of a concern...? I will try to at least talk about fearing for my safety and others'.

@Kubash16 I do currently have a therapist. She is a trauma therapist who is pretty much self employed, but shares an office space with two other therapists and a church youth group to split the commercial rent (or something like that). The office is shaped like a house. Because in 1970 it was a house. I walk in from the carport into the kitchen when I do to see her, and her office is the first bedroom on the left across from the bathroom. The waiting room is the living and dining room areas. I'm pretty sure people can hear me, which generally isn't a problem because no one is there usually. Except for my mom who occasionally stays my entire appointment (and for the record, while I am terrified of her hearing me, she does respect my privacy and she also has never physically attacked me -- she's a good person).

I like the idea of the safe office you mentioned, but I don't think it would be possible because of the house-structure of the office. But I do appreciate that idea. At least it is private in her office. By "public" I meant that I had to go out of my house, I think.
 

Kubash16

Policy Enforcement
I gotcha now. When you said public I’m thinking like at a coffee shop?! Lol. I’m not sure how would make that layout safer. But you definitely should talk to her about it, she may have some good ideas or can accommodate in some way.
 

littleoc

Sponsor
Lol, never a coffee shop! Hahaha. Alright. I will chat with my therapist about this! I'll report back if I learn anything that may be particularly useful to others :)
 

Sideways

Sponsor
I will chat with my therapist about this!
You have a history of underestimating your ability to communicate your needs effectively, as well as catastrophising the potential outcomes of communication. Maybe see this as another opportunity to use your fantastic communication skills.

Given your T’s job? It would be unusual for her to nof already have safety protocols in place. Mostly, these are kept private from clients because it defeats the purpose lf a safety protocol if you tell everyone about it (for example, the distress button hidden under her desk? She’s not gonna tell anyone it’s there!).

It makes perfect sense that your brain is super-alert for potential threats. That’s pretty much textbook ptsd. The trick is to not let it start getting in the way of your life, particularly when it comes to the really helpful stuff like seeing your T.

You have nothing to lose by chatting with her about this, but there are a whole stack of potential benefits. You got this one in the bag - go for it:)
 

littleoc

Sponsor
You have a history of underestimating your ability to communicate your needs effectively, as well as catastrophising the potential outcomes of communication. Maybe see this as another opportunity to use your fantastic communication skills.
Thank you for this! I hadn’t noticed it at all, but I agree with you.

Come to think of it, I think that’s effecting me with current work.

It helps to hear that it’s textbook PTSD also, because that means I’m hardly the only one with this challenge and also that means my therapist will know how to handle it.

Thank you again! :)
 

Justmehere

Moderator
Therapists are trained to maintain safety. It’s part of their job. Don’t do her job for her! You are not likely the first nor the last trauma patient she has had that was concerned that violence would happen outside of the home, including it occurring at the office.

I'm a little afraid to talk to my therapist about this. It feels like speaking it will make it even more of a concern...? I will try to at least talk about fearing for my safety and others'.
Speaking a problem out loud won’t make things more dangerous, but the opposite. It will give your therapist a chance to help ensure safety.

I’m glad you are going to talk to her about it.
 
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littleoc

Sponsor
Thank you @Justmehere :hug:

Words just feel really powerful to me. I'm not sure if that's the OCD or not, but maybe I should actually explain that to my therapist at some point so she knows about it at least.


I was thinking about this this morning, and I think I made this post because I got triggered. I was at my brother-in-law's and he started attacking me (verbally, not physically) out of nowhere and my mother and sister kind of just watched. So I am supposing that brought me back to thinking about this topic, despite that not being the first time it's happened nor the worst case of it happening in literally anyone's history. So maybe I need to ask what I'm supposed to do in those situations, also. And how I'm supposed to be reacting when my family gets attacked randomly. I've protected my little brother from my in-law, and my twin brother, but my mom joined him in making fun of us as teenagers. Said that teenagers don't matter because all they do is try to rebel and argue and cause problems.

Which ironic because my sister and her husband both were involved with drugs and alcohol and partying as teenagers, while the rest of us, as teenagers they were making fun of, tried really hard to not be bad kids. And two of us nearly died because of all that. Not because we were being horrible teenagers.

But anyway, I suppose I will leave it at that for now. I've got so much to talk about with my therapist at this point. :/ But I will do it. Maybe I should make a list.
 

Sietz

MyPTSD Pro
I just see my therapist getting hurt and me being responsible.
You tend to feel that about anyone you care about, right? If people get hurt in your life, your brain assumes responsibility for it.
I think it should definitely be something to be brought up in therapy.
So I am supposing that brought me back to thinking about this topic, despite that not being the first time it's happened nor the worst case of it happening in literally anyone's history
Doesn't matter if it happens a lot. No one should treat you the way he treated you. You certainly don't deserve it, and it shouldn't happen even if you did deserve it for some reason. The rationalization that it is common shouldn't be an excuse for it happening.
So maybe I need to ask what I'm supposed to do in those situations, also. And how I'm supposed to be reacting when my family gets attacked randomly. I've protected my little brother from my in-law, and my twin brother, but my mom joined him in making fun of us as teenagers. Said that teenagers don't matter because all they do is try to rebel and argue and cause problems.
It's not your responsibility to save your family, even if you feel responsible for their pain (which you're not).
People in your family take you for granted, I think maybe if you stopped for a minute trying to save everyone and just witnessed the dynamics at hand, you could get a clear picture of what you want to be involved in, what it's in your force field of protection that shouldn't be there, and what you can actually do for others.
I'm sorry to be so blunt, I do really think some emotional distance (especially physical, but we know that's not a possibility right now) would really help you get a better understanding of what you can and can't accept around you, concerning your family.
Not because we were being horrible teenagers.
Well, I know you know that because your sister did drugs she wasn't a horrible teenager either. Those comparisons were put there but not by you, and it's fairly common to think we're hell spawns because we rebel, and that if we don't rebel we aren't as horrible as them who do. It's okay to rebel against abuse, it's okay to be submissive to save your ass. The horrible part is not the bad coping skills of the teenagers, but what the parents did to the teenagers in the first place. I know you know this, but it's easy to get into our heads how we feel deserving or not, by other people's standards.
 

littleoc

Sponsor
You tend to feel that about anyone you care about, right? If people get hurt in your life, your brain assumes responsibility for it.
I think it should definitely be something to be brought up in therapy.
Hm... yes. Partially because I am not sure how to react or not react. Which makes it scarier somehow.

My brain seems to assume responsibility for too many things. Now that you’ve brought it up. I’ll be sure to add that to my list for therapy — thanks :hug:

Doesn't matter if it happens a lot.
Okay, fair. He should probably learn to control himself. It was very hurtful at the least. I’m tired of him calling not only me, but everything I like and interact with (including communities, university, etc), stupid and useless and “millennial trash.” He doesn’t seem to know that he’s also a millennial. He was born in 1989, which does not make him older enough from me to keep bothering me.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, I do really think some emotional distance (especially physical, but we know that's not a possibility right now) would really help you get a better understanding of what you can and can't accept around you, concerning your family.
You can be blunt. If I don’t like it I can go chill somewhere :P

I think so too. I’m thinking I won’t be able to see it objectively very easily without moving away. So, hopefully that happens soon.

Well, I know you know that because your sister did drugs she wasn't a horrible teenager either.
No, she wasn’t a horrible teenager, not at all! She was going through some major fear, betrayal, and abandonment. And a NDE (near death experience) for the second time in her life without getting therapy. And then bullying in school afterward because the kids thought it was neat to be clinically dead twice, I guess? I seriously don’t blame her at all. I’m glad she somehow managed to get clean without therapy!!! Probably a superpower or something. Plus she has a beautiful son now and she’s so proud of him. So that’s great! ❤️

She participated in bullying me as a teen, though, and it is confusing to think about for me. She kept calling us bad kids alongside her husband, and then my mom joined in. It was really hard. It gets twisty and more confusing from there, though, so I think now is not a great time to explain that.

But anyway, yes, I don’t think my sister was bad because of the substances. She probably only lived because of them in some ways. Not in others though.

It's okay to rebel against abuse, it's okay to be submissive to save your ass. The horrible part is not the bad coping skills of the teenagers, but what the parents did to the teenagers in the first place.
Thanks for that. I actually did need to hear that, I think
 
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