Here, StopBadTherapy.com publishes for the first time the story of Lisa, a retractor who was led by a therapist to develop “the symptoms I was told I was supposed to have—voices, cutting, extreme anger, nightmares, suicidal depression. I had had none of these before I began “therapy.”. Today Lisa says:
“With the help of yet another therapist, I saw that I had indeed been abused. But not by my parents. I had suffered 4 years of abuse at the hands of my therapist, the staff at the hospital, and even colleagues who believed that if a psychologist said I was ill, I must be. My life lay in ruins in front of me. My life savings was gone. My physical health had taken a beating. My professional reputation was a shambles ... Still, I’m better off than the two women in my Survivor’s Group who committed suicide.”
4 Years of Abuse at the Hands of My Therapist
Lisa from Central Illinois
In 1992, I sought therapy for depression. At the time, I wasn’t desperately depressed, not suicidal. Just not interested in anything, and wanting to sleep all the time. I decided to seek help before things got worse. I began therapy at my county mental health center. Before long, the therapist there told me that she was sure I had been molested as a child, that that was the most common cause of depression in women, and that I had all the “symptoms.” I was encouraged to join a therapy group at a nearby university for women “like me.”
There, I found that anytime I doubted that I or anyone in the group had been sexually abused, I was shouted down, and told that I was “in denial”. These doubts themselves were treated as “proof” that I had been abused, as was the fact that I had no memory of any abuse. Yet, I continued to have doubts. As therapy progressed, my therapist also suggested that I was lesbian. I’ve always been a strong advocate for gay and lesbian rights in the church and society, but never thought of myself as lesbian. My therapist offered “proof” for this as well—I wasn’t dating or married and wasn’t all that anxious to be. It couldn’t be that I figured those things would come in their own good time, or that I was satisfied with my life of interesting work, loving friends and extended family, and pets to care for. No, I must have been a lesbian. Well, this just didn’t ring true, so I quit that therapist.
I asked my MD for the name of another therapist, since, even with all I’d been through, my depression was no better. He offered the name of a PhD, whom he referred to as “the best in town”. I began therapy again. Within a few weeks, this therapist suggested that I had been sexually abused by my father. Like my former therapist, he told me to read The Courage to Heal. Like my former therapist, he assured me that the fact that I had no memories constituted “proof,” as did my protestations on my father’s behalf.
I’d point out that he was an Elder in a church that only elects respected members to its Consistory. That my father had been president of his national professional organization. That he is wonderfully caring and gentle with everyone and everything, from his aging relatives to his two cats. All of this served to somehow support the idea that he was an abuser.
Now two “experts” had told me that I had been abused. All my education and life experience had trained me to think that people with more education than me—especially PhD’s—were to be respected and taken seriously. I stopped protesting and decided that it was true in spite of my doubts.
The next 5 years would be hellish. In the course of my therapy, I lost my job and my strong professional reputation was replaced with whispers about how sad it was that I was mentally ill. I was forced to work at a job I was not well-trained for, because my own field was simply not a place where I was welcome. My new jobs (I ended up at two part-time jobs) included no benefits. My therapist had used all of my allotted mental health funds when I had health insurance, but now I didn’t even have that.
I continued to pay $90 a visit, two or three times a week, and simply went without other things. What savings I had went to therapy, or to pay for the four hospitalizations I was talked into. I chose to forego medication for a physical illness, because my therapist constantly promised me that, when I finished therapy, everything else would fall into place and my life would be great. Therapy became the center of my life.
I married a man from my therapist’s church, because my therapist liked him. I know how crazy that sounds, but I was crazy at the time. Of course, the marriage didn’t last, but was just another part of the nightmare that my life had become.
My life was one long cycle of therapy, hospitalizations, Survivor’s Group at the hospital, reading more books about sexual abuse, medications, phone calls to my therapist at any time of the day or night, and the constant bills. I developed the symptoms I was told I was supposed to have—voices, cutting, extreme anger, nightmares, suicidal depression. I had had none of these before I began “therapy.”
Finally, the money simply ran out. Two of my pets became seriously ill, with chronic conditions, and I told my therapist that I couldn’t afford the care they needed and the money I was giving him. I begged him to see me pro bono. After all, he had taken his family on a vacation to Spain while I was juggling rent and car service bills and not paying taxes (I’m in trouble with the IRS to this day), so that I could keep seeing him. Rather than lower his rates, he suggested I have my sick pets euthanized. I didn’t, of course, and started running a bill with him. In time my tab became more than he said he could carry. He also said we had become “too close.” He referred me to another therapist. Now I really was suicidal.
With the help of yet another therapist, I saw that I had indeed been abused. But not by my parents. I had suffered 4 years of abuse at the hands of my therapist, the staff at the hospital, and even colleagues who believed that if a psychologist said I was ill, I must be. My life lay in ruins in front of me. My life savings was gone. My physical health had taken a beating. My professional reputation was a shambles. My relationship with my family was strained, though reparable (I really have great parents). Unlike many therapists, mine had never encouraged me to break with my family—because he thought I should hit them up for money to pay for therapy.
I’ve basically had to begin my life over again. I am in an entry level position, even though I had 10 years of experience before losing my job. I have no savings and went for several years with no payments to my pension fund—I will probably never be financially secure. I have years of payments to the IRS ahead of me, not to mention other creditors. I’ve had to move 400 miles from everyone I know in order to be able to work in my field. Still, I’m better off than the two women in my Survivor’s Group who committed suicide.
I’ve left out quite a lot of detail. My decision to seek therapy made my life a living hell. The man I hold responsible for this is still treating clients, and teaching at the university. Even though I still suffer from depression, I will never see a psychotherapist again. I am grateful to the last therapist I saw, who opened my eyes to the abuse I had undergone, and who really did help me get back on my feet again. But in general I see psychotherapy as a con game, a fraud with no hard science to back it up, a power game played which takes advantage of those in need.
Most of all, I want others to know what happened to me, so that this sort of thing can be exposed. And I want the public to know about the fraud being committed in the name of psychology.
StopBadTherapy.com has withheld Lisa’s last name in order to preserve her privacy in her new home. StopBadTherapy.com congratulates Lisa and all other retractors who have the courage and strength to stand up and warn others about the harmful therapy that has needlessly ruined so many innocent people's lives.