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Did my therapist purposely trigger me to prove her point??

Mary Green

New Here
Short story lonnnnng:

So I’m about 5 to 6 months into therapy and I found a great therapist who I got along with, but sometimes just due to me being me, and things I have going on sometimes I don’t get my assignments done on time. I understand that not completing these things when she’s asking me to isn’t ideal and holds me back, but of all the things she’s taught me in this five or six months, one is to not be so hard on myself when I don’t accomplish something.

For example, I am opening a business right now, currently have an online clothing boutique and opening a local store, son’s father in the ICU after motorcycle accident with brain damage, went no contact with my mom (reason for therapy), let go of friendships that weren’t healthy recently, so the small circle of support I had to help me with my son before is completely gone now so now I have more on my plate and all by myself, and then I was like let me throw therapy on top of this. So when I tell her my struggles in my business and my life and that I stress that I don’t do things correctly, or get them done on time (working for yourself is hard you have to be very motivated and when you’re depressed, well you know what happens.) So she tells me are you just looking at the bad? Are you not looking at the accomplishments you are making in your business and she gets me to see that I am accomplishing a lot and I should recognize that. That I’m making accomplishments even though it’s slower than I think I should. Well guess what I understand that now and I was like you know what you’re right and I’m able to go a little easier on myself with this process and if I don’t get something done today at the boutique that I need to, I don’t stress about it and beat myself up over it. But at the same time I am applying that to other areas in my life where I feel less then as well because that’s the goal right, to get me to use these techniques to think of things in a more healthy way and so to me that applies to therapy too. It’s my money, I’m not being forced to do this, and if I find it too much to get the Assignment done then I’m not gonna stress about it because when I went into it and realized “oh my gosh this is like being in school with all these assignments and you have to write all this stuff and this is definitely going to be challenging” and I would get stressed out about not having assignments done because when I don’t have an assignment done, or maybe when I would miss an appointment (which I’ve only missed two in the almost 6 months I’ve been going which for me is really good), she gets very visibly disappointed with me.

She goes from being very upbeat and my super cheerleader on all the stuff that I do and have going on, and like the only one who supports me when I say oh I did this to get the Boutique ready, I did the floor or I finished the walls and whatnot and she’s like right there in my corner, always a smile when she greets me, but then the second I don’t do something, It’s visible disappointment.

After the first appointment I missed, when I rescheduled (we do this online by the way), when our cameras turned on she was not her usual smiling self and I was like oh boy she’s upset and here I am starting to apologize profusely like I’m really sorry whatever whatever. It was an important reason why I missed. Same thing the first time I hadn’t finished an assignment when I said I would, which was writing about a family member, visible disappointment and “I can’t help you if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do” which I totally get it and she’s right. But that led me to start to stress out that I was gonna let her down lol. But using the tool she gave me I very quickly was like no by your very definition I should not let you stress me out and I know that I am here and giving my everything and if I prolong this another week because I didn’t get my assignment done this week that’s my choice.

I’m an adult and it’s my money. If person a who went to the same thing as me can be farther in the process of healing in a year, and it takes me two years to get where they got in year, oh well, we got to the same place right? That’s what she was trying to tell me when I am having maladaptive thinking about the other things in my life so you better believe I’m applying that to everything, which includes therapy too, but I also understand that I’m stubborn and there for a reason so there’s that. So last appt we’re doing cognitive distortions and challenging problematic thinking and I guess I thought I was supposed to be writing mine down and I didn’t. I took all the sheets she gave that I was supposed reference and was supposed to pick out which thought it was, all or nothing, should statements etc and read them completely. Even tho I didn’t write these down, I immediately started using them in real life. Knowing about these really does help you see when you’re doing it and how to turn it around. I used that shit like crazy lol! I was able to completely change the way I reacted to a bunch of things that week that wouldn’t have gone the same way 6 month ago.

I was super proud that I was able to pick this up quickly and start applying it. So I guess my mistake was telling her I didn’t do the assignments and not clarifying whether or not I was even supposed to be writing these things down or if I was just supposed to pick out the specific issues from the list she gave me on what the kind of thought it was. I told her immediately when I was like oh I kind of didn’t “do it” when I probably should’ve said “didn’t write anything down” but I did use this all week and then I told her all the situations where I used it and she was just super mad.

Like her whole demeanor changed and she was just like oh so you’re healed and you don’t need me then you don’t need to be here and I was like no like that’s not what I’m saying but what I’m saying is like I applied this to real life, I didn’t write it down. Sorry but I used it and it actually help me And she had me feeling bad about it so it was a very uncomfortable session for the rest of the session and I was kind of silent a lot, which is not normal, but it was just a lot of her like looking at me and like you know, shaking your head at me and I can’t help you if you don’t wanna do this, I can’t help you if you don’t wanna do that but I guess you’re healed now because you know everything and I’m like yo.

So the session ends, and six months ago me would have definitely not scheduled again right away. I’ve been really good about scheduling every week. I would’ve rescheduled, rescheduled again and then most likely dropped her and found someone else or quit altogether. I wouldn’t have even dealt with it, but I was like no, you’re not gonna do that you’re gonna go back, you’re making your appointment right now for next week and you’re not gonna run from this like normal you’re gonna deal with it so that’s what I did.

So I show up to my appointment today and instead of the normal smiling face that she always greets me with and how was your week and tell me about it, she was not enthusiastic at all, very like oh well just tell me what’s been going on and just not her normal self. And I was just trying to answer her questions and stay positive and let her know what’s going been going around on and the topic came to my son getting out of school and me and just kind of getting ready to go back to work because I still have to work while I build this boutique and I’m also trying to go to school for business so I’m like you know this is the first time I’ve been alone and not had any help like at all at all and so I’m just so you know I’m trying to prepare for that and she was like what do you think is gonna go wrong, what do you mean prepare and I was like I’m not saying anything will, I’m just saying I’m just getting ready to face any challenges that come my way in a more healthy way and instead of freaking out about it, I’m just gonna be ready for whatever and deal with any issues head on in the best way that I can and know that I’m gonna be ok.

This was not good enough for her. She just kept questioning that like why do you think somethings gonna go wrong and what if everything goes right and I’m like well that’s great if everything goes right, but she just kept like egging it on like she wasn’t accepting what I was saying. Like she was accusing me of just assuming everything was gonna be wrong and I was having maladaptive thoughts that something bad was definitely gonna happen or I wasn’t gonna be able to handle it so I was preparing for a shit storm or something and I was like no, it’s not like that, like that’s not even how I’m feeling. And she just kept pressing and pressing and pressing and she can see me getting more visibly agitated because I’m like just repeating it and she’s just repeating the same stuff over and over and she just maintains that really cold demeanor.

So I was there like not even knowing what to say and she’s just staring at me and asking me questions about why I would say I need to be prepared and I was just getting so frustrated like how much more do you want me to explain this to you until the point where I was getting like loud with her until I started crying like I don’t understand like how much more you want from me with these f*cking papers, like I’m doing it in real life, I don’t get it and she was like that’s it I’m ending the session and just hung up.

I was heated not gonna lie during the session when she was pressing me I could feel myself getting hotter, but Kinda in the back of my head I was like is she doing this on purpose to try to get me to see that I need to do these assignments and I’m not healed and I’m still reactive etc, well shit, who wouldn’t react to that?

I think that triggered me to get angry too because I don’t like that, I feel like that’s playing games with me just to prove your point. I feel like she saw me getting more and more agitated and used it to try to teach me something when she should’ve just moved on but it went overboard and then she just ended it.

Like I don’t feel like that was right for her to do to me and I feel like it goes against everything she’s teaching me. I feel like she wasn’t hearing that I was telling her how much success I was having with these papers and just kept doing that to imply “you didn’t complete the assignment and now look at you thinking your healed and look how easy it is for me to trigger you and oh look, now your triggered and upset and I’m gonna hang up” which I don’t even think I didn’t complete it because I’m not sure is she ever even said I had to write it down to begin with, and this is all because I didn’t clarify it and I understand that, but I still don’t think that went right and now I just don’t know what to do.

Schedule another appointment? apologize? do I have anything to apologize for aside from not clarifying exactly what she wanted from me?

I’m just really confused and new to therapy after having a really bad experience with it 15 years ago and a bad experience 10 years before that when I was a kid. So am I right to feel like she took that too far? Is it normal for therapists to act like that? I totally get that I don’t know how this goes and I’m new to this so I know this could be normal and I just don’t know it.

Thanks for reading this lonnnng short story.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
I’d be confused if my T hung up on me no matter how upset I became unless I was yelling at him then this would be a great teachable moment. Though I think mine would fall off his chair if I raised my voice since I can barely manage a whisper when I’m upset.

Sounds like you have a lot of questions so email them and see what she says, proceed from there. If you yelled at your T I’m thinking start with an apology for raising your voice because the rules of civility dictate it be so. As she left it I’d think she’d expect an email. Be blunt with your questions but maybe end with the last one because it seems accusatory. The last one being Did you trigger me to prove a point? I’d be in shock if she did, that seems like a terrible way to handle a PTSD person. But then some Ts have no business being one. Maybe ask what she hopes to gain by disapproving when you don’t meet her expectations.
 
oh so you’re healed and you don’t need me then you don’t need to be here

I’m ending the session and just hung up
These are two moments that stand out / bring up questions, for me. A therapist's job is to help us explore our feelings and reactions. If you are expressing a sense of growing confidence / competence around the skills in the worksheets, it would make sense for her to encourage you and help you build on that positive foundation. If you are expressing discomfort and frustration, a good therapist will usually be glad to know that and will engage with you about why you're feeling that way, and how to work together effectively.

As you described them, these seem like moments when she was having big feelings and reactions of her own. It sounds like she may have gotten accusatory? If that's true, then I would want to know whether the therapist was capable of a sincere, thorough apology. If this was a one-time occurrence with a thorough apology, I might be willing to give them another chance.

Factors that could change this read of the situation:
- If you began to verbally attack her, call her names, make threats, etc. then it might be appropriate for her to end the call. I don't know about this one. Context matters.
- With ptsd, specifically childhood or domestic violence stuff, a lot of us tend to read disappointment or anger in places where something else is going on. We're very sensitized / attentive to signs of disapproval, because it could be a sign of danger. I'm not saying "you are misreading your therapist." I can't know that, or even begin to guess. But if this feels like a possibility - or a habit in other areas of your life - it's worth saying to your therapist "hey, it has seemed as though you're disappointed in me, and less responsive, and I end up feeling [emotions]." A good therapist can help you explore those feelings and why they're so strong.
 
To me, this would be a problem in certain types of therapies. But in others? Totally expected.

For example, in its original form, DBT was heavy on homework and completing worksheets and attending a certain amount of classes a certain number of times over a certain period. It was specifically structured that way to assist with a specific type of mental health issue.

There’s other settings I’ve had therapy in where it was almost exclusively homework, review of the homework, and graduation at a set end point.

There is value in those types of therapies for certain issues. For example, it can be an excellent way to tackle therapy resistance, or to build coping strategies in people that are time poor, or struggling to form a strong alliance with individual therapists.

So, whether or not this is completely out of line, or entirely predictable, depends on the type of therapy.

Ultimately, the goal is to not need therapy any more. It’s quite possible you’ve reached the end of what this therapy, being offered by this therapist, has to offer. If so? Celebrate that as a win.
 
I agree that we sometimes read into to things, but twice in a row and you are fairly good at recounting what was said verbally and non verbally so I’d think this is her style. sit with the papers in an honest way and decide if this type of therapy work is for you. Some of us with ptsd need other types of resources. You did look them over and apply some of the techniques so it does seem like you are not averse to trying them. My daughter also sees a psychologist and has homework in the form of these papers and she doesn’t do them but is completely honest with her psychologist. I think with them the attitude is to try again or to decide why you avoided it, but they do it together. With my psychologist he’s never going to use paperwork or homework as what works for us both is mindfulness and resources that he’s taught in session, grounding, core values etc. the key in both relationships I’m describing is togetherness. We both see separate psychologists for different reasons, but we both have a working together relationship and the skills we are learning are best suited to us. If it were me after reading this I’d ask myself if this paperwork is helpful and if you see the two of you has having a working relationship. Secondly, if she’s hung up on the paperwork and sees it as working together with her and the best model for healing growth work with her and you admit to not doing it, albeit by her standards then she is seeing you as not working said program and coming back each appointment with the same issues. If that is your assessment of her then either buy in completely to this therapy model or bid her farewell. She may be hung up on thinking you are sabotaging. Either way, reading this bothers me tremendously as a poor fit. you’ve had other poor fits and know when it is so, what is your intuitive self saying about all this apart from the advice here? We often know before we ask but seek validation. My psychologist is kind, calm, curious, present and sees our session through to the end regardless of my demeanour, even though I wouldn’t shout there have been testy appointments.
 
To me, this would be a problem in certain types of therapies. But in others? Totally expected.

For example, in its original form, DBT was heavy on homework and completing worksheets and attending a certain amount of classes a certain number of times over a certain period. It was specifically structured that way to assist with a specific type of mental health issue.

There’s other settings I’ve had therapy in where it was almost exclusively homework, review of the homework, and graduation at a set end point.

There is value in those types of therapies for certain issues. For example, it can be an excellent way to tackle therapy resistance, or to build coping strategies in people that are time poor, or struggling to form a strong alliance with individual therapists.

So, whether or not this is completely out of line, or entirely predictable, depends on the type of therapy.

Ultimately, the goal is to not need therapy any more. It’s quite possible you’ve reached the end of what this therapy, being offered by this therapist, has to offer. If so? Celebrate that as a win.
Thank you! I’m actually speaking more of is it normal for her to get so visibly disappointed in me and to trigger me like that yesterday. I mean she had me in a certain type of way lol. It just didn’t seem right. I know the assignments will be a normal part of it.

These are two moments that stand out / bring up questions, for me. A therapist's job is to help us explore our feelings and reactions. If you are expressing a sense of growing confidence / competence around the skills in the worksheets, it would make sense for her to encourage you and help you build on that positive foundation. If you are expressing discomfort and frustration, a good therapist will usually be glad to know that and will engage with you about why you're feeling that way, and how to work together effectively.

As you described them, these seem like moments when she was having big feelings and reactions of her own. It sounds like she may have gotten accusatory? If that's true, then I would want to know whether the therapist was capable of a sincere, thorough apology. If this was a one-time occurrence with a thorough apology, I might be willing to give them another chance.

Factors that could change this read of the situation:
- If you began to verbally attack her, call her names, make threats, etc. then it might be appropriate for her to end the call. I don't know about this one. Context matters.
- With ptsd, specifically childhood or domestic violence stuff, a lot of us tend to read disappointment or anger in places where something else is going on. We're very sensitized / attentive to signs of disapproval, because it could be a sign of danger. I'm not saying "you are misreading your therapist." I can't know that, or even begin to guess. But if this feels like a possibility - or a habit in other areas of your life - it's worth saying to your therapist "hey, it has seemed as though you're disappointed in me, and less responsive, and I end up feeling [emotions]." A good therapist can help you explore those feelings and why they're so strong.
You’re right, I do react like that to disappointment and it is one of the things she’s trying to show me, not to assume when I think someone is disappointed the reason why they may be upset. However, our session ended not great last week so naturally when she got on all sullen I was like “she must still upset with me that I about the assignments” I did swear, but not at her. I held up the papers as I was bursting out in tears and said “I don’t know how much more you want from me with these f*cking papers” and that’s when she ended it. I do feel like she acted like that on purpose, to try to show me that I’m still not healthy because yeah, it was easy for her to get me to break. but I feel like that wasn’t the right approach and it seems wrong for someone to act like that even if it’s really meant to help me. Because she’s building me up but I sure am applying what I’m learning to therapy too. I’m not gonna be stressed out over it. I’ve decided to take a few weeks away from it. Enjoy some of summer with my son and focus on my business. Thank you for the response!

I agree that we sometimes read into to things, but twice in a row and you are fairly good at recounting what was said verbally and non verbally so I’d think this is her style. sit with the papers in an honest way and decide if this type of therapy work is for you. Some of us with ptsd need other types of resources. You did look them over and apply some of the techniques so it does seem like you are not averse to trying them. My daughter also sees a psychologist and has homework in the form of these papers and she doesn’t do them but is completely honest with her psychologist. I think with them the attitude is to try again or to decide why you avoided it, but they do it together. With my psychologist he’s never going to use paperwork or homework as what works for us both is mindfulness and resources that he’s taught in session, grounding, core values etc. the key in both relationships I’m describing is togetherness. We both see separate psychologists for different reasons, but we both have a working together relationship and the skills we are learning are best suited to us. If it were me after reading this I’d ask myself if this paperwork is helpful and if you see the two of you has having a working relationship. Secondly, if she’s hung up on the paperwork and sees it as working together with her and the best model for healing growth work with her and you admit to not doing it, albeit by her standards then she is seeing you as not working said program and coming back each appointment with the same issues. If that is your assessment of her then either buy in completely to this therapy model or bid her farewell. She may be hung up on thinking you are sabotaging. Either way, reading this bothers me tremendously as a poor fit. you’ve had other poor fits and know when it is so, what is your intuitive self saying about all this apart from the advice here? We often know before we ask but seek validation. My psychologist is kind, calm, curious, present and sees our session through to the end regardless of my demeanour, even though I wouldn’t shout there have been testy appointments.
Honestly she’s always telling me I don’t show enough emotion, like she wants me to cry and I usually don’t because at that particular time, what I’m saying isn’t bothering me. Now I do show emotion and it’s like oh no, not that. I have a strong personality and speak my mind. She’s definitely pointing out the avoidance. It’s my main vice I use. She was great at first! I was so happy I found her after only one other try with a very nice and sweet woman who wasn’t cut out to be a counselor lol. But like I said, the going from super happy cheerleader to your mom when you miss curfew doesn’t work for me. I’ve thought maybe she’s helped me as much as SHE can, but the thought of trying to find a new therapist is daunting. I forgot to mention the psychiatrist back during Covid who never smiled at me once… he was fun. So gonna take some time to think. Thank you!
 
I think you’re asking a lot of a human being to not show their emotions. What would the therapeutic benefit be to you if she hid her disappointment?
I agree. I think if you have a trauma history based on people pleasing and your T is trying to get you not to do this then they’ll probably hide disappointment in a lot of things because they know it doesn’t take much for you to read into it way more than is intended. At the same time that therapist is going to push you away from doing it as it’s in your best interest.

I wonder if instead of expecting your T to hide their disappointment you might have a conversation about your feelings instead as I’m sure it would be more fruitful.

My T knows when I am feeling guilty about something because I start the conversation that way. “I know you’re not going to like this but…”. That way he’s given a chance to say yes or no, and why and we can talk about it. Generally I’m spot on, but in denying his voice I don’t get to grow from the human interaction. I hold all the guilt and emotions and stuff them down and the cycle of my life continues.
 
Why are people blaming the op… sounds like the therapist is just annoyed things didn’t go her way and decided to “get even” by intentionally upsetting her client. People are human but that wasn’t professional and it wasn’t right of her to intentionally agitate and trigger her patient. So what, OP wasn’t writing down the assignments but they were still doing it in real life which gave them progress, so shouldn’t the therapist have been happy for them? Who was the therapist to treat OP like that? She should’ve handled herself better and looked at the bigger picture instead of getting stuck on an assignment not being written down. Trying to bring the OP down was way out of line.
 
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