If anyone ever wondered how someone got abused in therapy this article gives you all the info you need to know. So if you are in therapy or are thinking of going into therapy soon. Read this article very carefully - Just reading this article could save you a lot of suffering. I'm hoping to have a little badge or something made for clients to wear - once they have read this article. More info on that soon.
Please print out and stick it on your coat for your next therapy session. It will tell your therapist that you do not wish to be abused in therapy now or ever.
Many thanks to Aly (Three Wows) and the Therapy-Abuse site.
Ray Hurford - VEX
After all of my weird therapy experiences, I would go so far as to postulate an abuser cycle (based somewhat on Lenore Walker's ideas from The Battered Woman - tho the subject is somewhat different the concepts are the same and can be applied regardless of gender).
I'm really not sure what goes on in therapy psychologically politically - I don't get it and I wish I could get training just to get some insight into what "filters" therapists are viewing their clients through. However, I do believe that while we may regard this cycle as abuse, they do not, in fact, I really think that they believe they are trying to help us by attempting to make us "better" in whatever way they think is "better", generally if they can make the symptoms disappear, that is "better", so if I'm depressed but asymptomatic, that's improvement. I think they start by gaining our trust (the "nice" part), and once trust and some amount of dependence is secured, they move on to the stage of getting us to change our behaviour, and to do this they withdraw all those "nice" things and punish us for expressing the problem behaviour (nasty) and reward us for thinking like them (nice), thus "unconsciously" (if distress is unconscious) changing our "problematic" behaviour through behaviour modification, but who would realize this, since they don't come out and say they are doing this - they don't have to, and if we bring it up, they can always deny it.
1) Victim Selection/Identification - the abuser has lured into his/her sphere a person who will be an eligible victim. The abuser "tests" the victim for responsiveness to identify a suitable victim (some factors they look for may include vulnerability, lack of social support network, tendency to self-blame, accept too much responsibility, respect abuser as an authority or superior, low self esteem, high Abuse Tolerance, high self-doubt, need for approval, and an abuser would know exactly what to look for, now wouldn't they?)
2) Warm-Up Period (Gaining trust) - Abuser attempts to get victim to trust abuser by emphasizing similarities, validating, empathizing, positively reinforcement, identification with victim, compliments, appreciation, noticing little things about the victim and praising them for it, generally creating positive transference and other warm fuzzies ("nice"). The victim is encourged to see that others are responsible for their problems. Basically the victim bonds with the therapist and has no clue what lies ahead. This stage may last for weeks or months. The abuser is cultivating the victim's dependence on them for reinforcement and support. ***This behaviour is highly addictive, similar to being in love. It hurts to lose this behaviour***.
3) Initation of Abuse - once the victim is suitably trusting the abuser (the abuser can test for this by dropping the occasional put- down and watching the reaction of the victim) behaviour modification begins, mildly at first, just small things. Basically whenever the victim says or expresses or does something the abuser thinks is "inappropriate" (ie not what the abuser wants them to say express or do) the victim is punished by withdrawal of the affection, coldness, disagreement, verbal abuse, questions that raise the victim's self-doubt, manipulation to arouse fear/guilt/sadness responses from the victim. Blame for the victim's problems now is put squarely back on the victim. When the victim says/expresses/does things that the therapist approves of the victim is postively reinforced and rewarded with praise, positive interpretation, told they are improving etc., generally regaining the abuser's "good graces". Kind of like how a parent would treat a child - all adds a whole new meaning to terms like "re-parenting" and "inner child". Punishments for minor transgressions become increasingly severe. At first, the victim wonders what he/she did to lose the abuser's "positive regard" from stage 1 and becomes convinced that the abuser withdrew the affection as a result of something the victim did, thus the victim continues to attempt to regain that positive regard by continually compensating for whatever it was (everything because they don't know) that caused the loss in the first place.
4) Total dependence on abuser's approval (enslavement)- the victim reaches a point where total autonomy (self) is lost and merged with the abuser. The victim is totaly dependent on and is afraid of the abuser for rewards (victim has lost ability to seek own rewards, lost sense of self). The victim is pretty well merged with the abuser, to the point where the victim starts to acquire parts of the abuser's personality (I've seen it happen with a family member, those traits are adopted right into their personality, it's really scary, and they aren't even aware that they are behaving like the abuser!). If the victim does somehow manage to attempt to break away from the abuser, the abuser goes back to step 2. I think that this is why some of the therapists I have encountered have demanded that I cut off contact with my family, and if this is not successful, they denigrate whatever feedback I have from my family or other people I interact with (ie. when I mentioned that I was not improving, the therapist's response was that he thought I was, but that I wasn't aware of it and that what other people around me were experincing were the effect of my "improvement" - ya, I can see how increased irritability could be construed as "improvement"). I've been through this too many times - enough to know that the idea of the "well adjusted person" varies from therapist to therapist, and strangely enough, the therapist's idea of the ideal person is *gee* a reflection of themselves, so all they want for me is to be a reflection of who they are.
I'd love to do an expieriment where I mirrored them totally and then learned what they thought of it. I'm sure they think this must be "for my own good" but perhaps they don't realize what damage they do. I mean, in their minds, making me into what they want me to be, and resolving my problems in doing so is a solution. Problem is, for me it never works. I wind up having to mask my problems because I know I'll get yelled at if I talk about them, so we wind up talking about the weather. Usually I just leave then as I see no point in continuing because every time I bring something up I want to discuss, I expect that punishment phase and I don't. It is a simple but powerful technique that has been used for thousands of years. Talk about "domestication". We need to keep in mind that not all therapists do these things. And I've met a lot of people who use this method who are not professionals. Just remember, it's not your fault, it's just their "m.o." Aly