(2 min read) Words I almost never hear a therapist or psychiatrist say: “I don’t know. I’m not qualified to answer.”

A newbie therapist once told me after hearing me discuss an alcoholic family member for 5 minutes “the only thing you can do is call the police (to help).” I had to remind her this distant relative alcoholic had nothing to do with my couples therapy. I was only sharing anxiety to give my partner context. “This is why I’m a million miles away.”

The therapist disagreed, claiming to have every right to discuss what she saw fit. When asked to respectfully back off and acknowledge my boundaries, she lectured me on “what a good therapist is”, holding herself in very high regard while justifying her overreach as required for great therapy.

To be clear, I personally found this advice awful. And wrong.

My jaw dropped, having spent 45 days in rehab and over a decade sober (hundreds of AA meetings and hours of therapy/psych included). The police are ill-equipped to handle mental health anything.

That was the last thing this therapist said to me. I left immediately and have yet to replace her, scared to trust again. I had to mansplain to my partner why this equated to awful therapy we had to leave. It was my word against “professional” consult. I effectively cornered myself into problems by pushing back. A risk of therapy no one talks about: wrong guidance & poor leadership causing train wrecks.

Therapy is like fitness, the stronger and more educated you become, the higher caliper of treatment you require. It’s an inverse relationship. So as you age and learn, the quality of bell-curve services goes down significantly. Just like a trainer who doesn’t know olympic lifting or basic mobility.

Protect yourself and your treatment (as patient) with data-driven professional peer review if possible. It’s important to know right from wrong while managing expectations, else you can cause real life problems for yourself. My partner did not agree with my therapeutic sentiment. So I got boxed out without a supportive peer. The couples therapy designed to be a bridge became a wedge. And I came off poorly, an added bonus I didn’t need in life or in love.

Right or wrong advice, I asked her not to discuss the topic and she didn’t respect these simple boundaries; a huge red flag for any therapy. Had I heeded her advice, I may have called the police on my own family, effectively putting this person in jail for years (3rd strike). This overreaching tendency to provide life-altering advice almost in passing, with little regard for short term aim or long term repercussions is a dangerous reality present everywhere, something I call “hip shot therapy“. Besides, I was in couples therapy for my relationship, not seeking tangential advice on addiction. She was not qualified as an addiction specialist, but had no problem speaking up as if she was.

But it no longer matters. And not this therapist or her boss know the reality of what happened that day; it drifted into the treatment ether useless. As is accustom to an industry operating inside a vacuum void of constructive feedback.

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