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"It gives me little pleasure to write about my experience of being harmed by therapy. I believe in the values espoused by therapy. I once trained as a social worker. I have also had good experiences talking to counsellors and a Clinical Psychologist. But my experience of NHS group analytic therapy was so terrible it still weighs on me six years after it occurred. So that's why I want to share my testimony. At the time I went along to NHS Psychotherapy curious to learn how it might help. I went along despite having improved alot since the referral was made. I was off medication and coping with life. But I thought I should take the chance to try Psychotherapy. I was intrigued. I spent six weeks talking to a therapist about my life and filled in personality questionnaires and answered questions about childhood abuse and negelct. I asked what impression this had all given the therapist and the question was brushed aside. She recommended I join her group. It was explained that it was "group analytic therapy" or what the goal was. I wasn't offered an alternative choice. I weighed up whether I wanted to go or not and decided I would give it a try. That's when the trouble really began. I really did not like the atmosphere of the group and felt really disturbed by the seeming blankness of the therapist. I should say it was the same therapist I had spoken to. After three weeks I realised I really didn't understand what the connection was between everything I had already spoken about and why I was in the group. I didn't hear anything from the other members that made me want to continue. Then the therapist invited the group members to speak about someone who wasn't there. I was a bit shocked by this. Then there was a Christmas break. Over those weeks I asked myself alot of questions about "what have I entered and what does she think is wrong with me?" I became extremly distressed. I told my GP I felt really troubled by how this was shaping up and how I did't want to go back. I felt somehow tipped upside down and plunged into depression. The GP offered to tell the therapist I wasn't coming back. I agreed. But then the therapist phoned me and encouraged me to come back to the group. This began a year of going along nearly every week despite feeling more depressed. I was confused by every utterance from the therapist. I ruminated all week and couldn't work or function. I researched. I said I don't want to continue several times. But I kept getting letters encouraging me to come back. I tried in the group to explain I found this situation to distressing. I tried phoning the therapist to say I was confused. She said "Good!" I said I wanted to leave. She said "that's why you are in therapy." I said I don't find it helpful. She said "come and tell the group about that." Sometimes in the group the therapist said things to me that I felt were like bear baiting. None of it was comprehensible to me. I wasn't even sure if there was supposed to be a therapeutic alliance with a group therapist. I never saw any evidence that the meetings were helping anyone. Eventually another Christmas break came. I phoned and left as message saying I wasn't going back.. The therapist wrote and asked me to meet with her. Out of the perverse sense of duty I had to the therapist I went to the meeting. She maintained the stance of not understanding why I had found the whole experience negative. She shook her head at me. I didn't care anymore I just knew if I had to sit in her group once more I might take my own life. I couldn't excuse or permit her invasive questions or opaque comments. I couldn't continue just to try and protect the other group members. Staying would be up to them. I left. But of course I was stuck ruminating and was now addicted to trying to understand psychotherapy. I dug into what is "group analytic therapy." I learned about leaving it to the group to figure out. I learned about harm rates. I learned about informed consent. I learned about how unwilling therapists and group analysts are to consider therapy as harmful. I wrote a complaint and was just told "we are sorry you found it unhelpful." A year later feeling depressed by the experience I complained again to the Head of Psychotherapy. I told them they waste peoples time not giving them information to make informed choices. I told them I felt trapped in the therapy by the therapist. The took on some recommendations for helping people. I don't know if they took them onboard. But since then I've struggled to really get past the feelings I felt during that time. Of feeling trapped and unheard. Yes, that might sound like a summary of my childhood. But if there's no trust in the relationship I don't really see how it could ever be more than a traumatic experience. At the time I was totally isolated but stuck with the cult like power of "if you leave you are running away from help." Now I can say to you I should have trusted my instincts. My hope for others is that if they feel uncomfortable with therapy of any kind and if you raise it and do not feel answered - RUN"

"I was targeted by a supervisor who knew my therapist. I am a therapist also and wanted a supervisor because I had done some courses my therapist had suggested. 
The advance was made in an on-line session. I was so frightened that I froze. It was said in a way that made it seem as if I had made the proposition first. I had not. I did not ever want sex with this person or a relationship. I could not tell my therapist, because they knew each other and it "would all be OK." I was silenced and abused.
The sexual abuse happened in my house. It has affected everything in my life. My family, my friends and my children. I have PTSD because of the trauma.
I then realised my therapist made the introduction, so I thought back, I had been abused and harmed for 20 years by this therapist. When I challenged the therapy, I was called a liar and "didn't complain at the time" was thrown at me. I was sold courses and added onto a marketing email list without my consent. The email address was used frequently for personal exchanges, so it was confusing boundaries. The therapy was about the therapist not about me, always. I was raped 30 years ago and went for support to recover. I was told that "I was lucky because I was alive!" There was no irony in this statement; I was devastated."

"I am a survivor of the mental health system. I am 68 and started my journey in an old asylum after a hysterical breakdown at work. I was given Valium and turned into a zombie. I was discharged to community care which was wonderful, but I was still a passive patient. I lost two decades and my husband became a chronic alcoholic and died - I call it slow suicide as the right help was not available. I had a very good CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) and a very helpful Art Psychotherapist. I do not have this NHS support anymore, as despite my long history, I am deemed to be recovered and discharged to Primary Care who have no services to offer unless I am in crisis, which I will avoid...so....."

 

"When I attended my CMHT [Community Mental Health Team-NHS] for help with trauma I was asked, "Have you been successful all your life at preventing yourself from being raped"

"My first experience of therapy: in the initial session I expressed uncertainty about my reasons for being there, so the therapist suggested he hypnotise me to discover. I declined; he seemed a bit creepy. In subsequent sessions, he hypnotised me without consent & age-regressed me. I was confused & had periods of  partial/complete amnesia. I kept asking what had happened & whether I had been hypnotised. He said not & suggested previous trauma was affecting my mind. I partly believed him - more so as my mental health deteriorated. He claimed it was imperative I stay in therapy to work through my issues. Unfortunately I did stay & saw him 2-5 times a week, mostly "for free", for years. Initially he was charming & seductive. 
Under hypnosis, I discussed feeling profound guilt, because my childhood friend had been beaten/raped by her dad which I witnessed during sleep-overs. He would return late drunk, wake us & attack her. He never hurt me. I lay motionless, taking no action each time she was hurt, which led me to feel I had failed her & decide I was bad. A view compounded by subsequent abuse we both experienced from a friend of his. The therapist said it was okay, he would help me with these issues, but then he raped me, saying it was what I wanted/needed. This happened often; he scheduled appointments when we would be alone in the building. Over time he encouraged termination of contact with my loved ones. I became unwell & dependent. Later, I felt he hated me & wanted me to die. 
I raised a concern with his professional body, after therapy abruptly & messily ended leaving me angry & curiously bereft. I was too ashamed, confused & fearful, to include details of the abuse. I also felt weirdly loyal & doubted myself, especially as the hypnosis had left me with fragmented memories which felt somewhat unreal. I tried to build a case on minor matters. The case officer appeared bored & contemptuous, “do you want me to process your complaint or not?”-when anxiety led me to dither. I imagined her on the other end of the phone filing her nails. And what a processing! The therapist denied all, lied, withheld documents & attacked me. After a protracted to-&-fro, the case was closed without action. 

The governing body: provided no support; were not trauma-informed (in fact my trauma reactions were used against me); expected me to identify, gather & submit all evidence without help from them & appeared biased, even taking the therapist's word over my documented evidence. They didn't seem concerned for the safety of future clients, nor remotely curious.

I doubt I was the only one he harmed & wish I could prevent risk to others. The life I had before was worth living. Since, I feel sort of dead. Subsequent therapy is hard; I now lack trust. I can't imagine a good life ahead, but that's my hope & it's better than it was."

"I had 5 years of therapy with a UK therapist, which turned out to be one of the most harmful experiences of my entire life. Previous to this I had positive experiences of therapy. I have a diagnosis of complex PTSD and my therapist allowed me unlimited out of session contact. This created a really unhealthy dependency due to maternal absence and my early life experiences. I started to psychologically unravel and told her I was becoming mentally unwell and she did nothing about it. I nearly had a breakdown.There were no reviews of my therapy and no questioning of my deterioration.
I am still trying to recover from my therapy experience and would really recommend that clients, especially those with complex trauma, be very careful when embarking upon therapy. It also became very evident that the kind of harm which happened to me is barely recognised by some governing bodies. Therapy has the capacity to harm as well as heal and if you are harmed through incompetence it should be recognised in the same way as someone harmed by a medical doctor. The mind can be as fragile and susceptible to harm as the body. I'm really glad that more people are talking about therapy harm but there is too much blaming of clients in certain quarters. Thanks for letting me share my experience."

"My therapist made a pass at me. At first I thought I’d misunderstood. I gave him a “huh?” look. He repeated it, slowly, deliberately, with intent. I just froze. I stared at him, totally speechless. 
Then he verbally attacked me. Accused me of having made a pass at him, said he had ways to protect himself from me, told me I was “challenged”, that nothing could ever happen between us, that I needed help. He was acting as though I’d leapt up and had been pulling at his clothes or something. But I hadn’t. I’d been frozen and speechless and silent and stunned. I couldn’t find any words to stand up for myself or to rebut his accusations. It was the most gigantic head f*ck. 
Over the sessions, I had trusted him totally. But in this moment he broken that trust in the most dramatic way. 
It has taken me months and months to find words for what happened. I get that the freezing was a trauma response - that it was part of the fight or flight response. 
And although he didn’t physically attack me, I do now totally understand why sexual assault victims sometimes can’t fight back, why they often blame themselves, and take a long time to come forward. 
I blamed myself to the extent that I apologised to him. I look at that moment in retrospect and it blows my mind that I was so taken in by him that I thought any of it was my fault. 
The trauma of that violated trust is taking a long time to resolve. I’ve had EMDR therapy. It’s been harder to get over than objectively much worse things that have happened to me. I think that’s down to the way he broke my trust and how I couldn’t stand up for myself. 
I won’t officially complain about him. I’m sure he’d repeat his allegations and it would be re-traumatising."

I started therapy looking to heal from maternal neglect and abuse. It was incredibly hard to bring myself to trust someone again after a previous experience with a therapist. But I spent years working on myself, loosening the grip of childhood abuse with body centric support like Trauma Sensitive Yoga. I softened my expectations of being hurt again and worked and worked on easing myself to be able to let someone in again to work on what was left.
And she said all the right things. She told me how much she wanted to be there for me, she told me she wanted to be there for my feelings. Even when I expressed doubt that she didn't know what that meant she overrode me telling me that was her core focus, on being there for feelings so they could feel safe being there around someone again.
I worked with all of my parts telling me to not to trust someone and let them see anything vulnerable and I reassured them that that was from the past and this is now.
She told me how if things were different and we had met under different circumstances we would have gravitated to each other.
She told me how special I was being part of her Friday clientele and how priveleged I was.
But when I reached out I started getting rejection. I started being pushed back to a point where I was no longer sure what if anything I could reach out for support for. When I tried to bring up stuff from the past she changed the subject to be about her and what happened to her growing up. What her complicated upbringing was like, what the conflict with her siblings was like, her history of behaving badly and her complicated history with her mother. And if it wasn't about her it was about her other clients or about the paradigms of psychology.
And all the while she was telling me what a good listener I was, and how good she felt coming to our sessions knowing there were no expectations. She told me I was so easy to talk to and on one occasion, a rare moment of self awareness breaking through, asked if she was sharing too much.
She lowered her price and I was too scared to jeapordise what I already had and the sense I had somebody in this with me for the first time in my life. I now feel groomed.
She touched me, a hand on my shoulder, or my knee.
And for some reason the conversation frequently drifted back to my dating life despite it never being one of my goals in therapy.
I felt manipulated into a position that was feeding some need of hers but was slowly crushing me under the weight of carrying the process alone and going into an awful childhood to heal by myself.
When I tried to talk to her I came at it from a place of vulnerability, not anger. I thought I was probably somewhat to blame in letting it happen or just adapting around her. I tried to say I felt like I was missing something that I needed in sessions and I got ridiculed for it. She ridiculed me for trying to have a conversation over needs in therapy. I was trapped. And on top of that some months later down the line she tried to talk to me about how she wasn't getting enough space for her to be her like I was supposed to be considerate of her emotional needs while being ridiculed for mine.

And over time the therapeutic process degraded. When I confronted her with my misgivings that I tried to resolve early on in therapy and was dismissed on, suddenly she became the victim. She told me she felt like an emotional punching bag and therapy terminated shortly after. At no point did I raise my voice, nor insult, nor verbally abuse her nor degrade her nor threaten her.
And yet somehow this ostensible adult that ridiculed me when I exposed a vulnerability is the victim.

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