Group Therapy: A Shit Show

This post serves no purpose other than to vent about the group therapy transition I experienced today. Lol so if you’re not in for some quality crying via words, look away.

Group tonight was a shit show. We had the new girl, L, for the first time. I emailed her beforehand to ask why she chose to keep the rate at 60 even though she is an intern. I tried to be respectful and not call her on it in front of the whole group. But, in hindsight, I was apparently not gentle enough in my email. I tried. I really did. Though, also, I don’t feel like it is my responsibility to sugarcoat for my therapist.

Here is the email I sent:

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She went immediately on the defense and took it as an insult on her competence. But she is going to be less experienced, all sorts of jobs pay based on experience. She then said something that caused me to question J, whom I trusted implicitly. She said, “I wonder if this is similar to how you are in your other interactions.” That felt shitty. I said, “no, actually, I’m usually pretty chill.” And she said that’s not what J told her, that J told her I send a combative email almost every week. Yes, I email for extra support, but I don’t call J out for things or act like an ass like she implied. I don’t think I do anyway. Maybe I do. But it still felt highly inappropriate of her to say because of the context. I felt like she was hurt so she was trying to hurt me and it definitely worked.

Then in the middle of group she stopped me mid-sentence to tell me off and tell me what I meant by something I said, which she completely misinterpreted. Fortunately, one other group member stood up for me because I was trying really hard to just express feelings and thoughts and not trigger the new therapist. It seemed like everything we said she had to argue against. Me and the other group member weren’t feeling heard  or like it was a safe space for us to express our needs. The other group member made a comment about L needing to be able to see that we were the ones with trauma and that we pay for that space to be able to say what we think and feel without having to worry about hurting the therapists feelings.

I tried to piggyback off that and explain that when she called me out the way she did it really hurt me because that isn’t the kind of person I am and I would never intentionally insult anyone, but that I did feel like she was triggered and I had to be a caretaker for her. She said she wished we would have just asked for what we need, that she wished we would have just asked why she was in this? So someone did ask. And she said, “it’s the concept of the wounded healer.” I said that’s all she had to say but that she can’t blame us for not asking because we’ve been in therapy long enough to know we don’t ask questions that personal of our therapists.

The whole thing ended with her saying she needs to consult with her supervisor and J to see if she is actually the right fit for the group, which is good because initially she was saying all of us had to decide if we were the right fit for the way group would now be run with her in charge and that seemed unfair. We were already there and have already established relationships with one another. And if we get triggered, it is to be expected. She doesn’t seem to have the toolkit to handle her own triggers, much less ours.

And, for the record, I was not the only one with concerns about the money or the fact that she also works with sexual assault perpetrators. This is a group for sexual abuse victims. It feels like a conflict of interest.

I don’t know. I’m just questioning so much. Was I wrong about J? What did J really tell her about me? How could J betray my confidence like that? How could I ever trust J again? Why would J leave us in the hands of this woman who seems so easily triggered, who doesn’t know us and doesn’t seem able to get to know us? I know I’m placing a lot of responsibility on J but I just don’t know where else responsibility lies. I own that I chose to try the new therapist. I chose to show up today. I chose to voice my concerns about the fee and the thing about working with perpetrators and maybe I didn’t do that in the right way. I get my part. But I didn’t completely cause this confusion.

24 Thoughts

  1. Dear KD: In Brooklyn, New York, there is only one thing to say here: “Oy Veh!” So so sorry about such a MESS – you surely don’t need this. It sounds to me that you stayed strong!!! GOOD FOR YOU!!! Love – TS

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    1. Thank you! I very much broke down and sobbed in my car before I drove home. And I almost cut but I was fortunately able to talk myself out of that on the way home. So, so triggering. The whole mess.

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  2. Woah! L is out of line in so many ways. More or less admitting to using the group to work through her own problems and openly expecting you all to meet *her* needs for validation, and not being able to step aside for a moment and calm down from her own triggered responses makes it extra clear that she doesn’t have the same skill level as an experienced therapist – which is all the more reason she shouldn’t be charging the higher rate. And if it was bad for J to share that grumble about your emails, it was doubly bad for L to use that knowledge to jab at you. *Maybe* there is a grain of truth there, *maybe* you didn’t handle it as smoothly as you could, but hell, you’re the client and she’s the therapist. She’s the one who’s supposed to react calmly and if she doesn’t like your behaviour, to discuss it constructively and maybe model something better, not get butt hurt and defensive over it all and take it out on you or the group. That’s what she’s paid for. Which takes us back to point #1. Glad you were able to resist the urge to cut and I hope you can find a way through this.

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    1. That was definitely the problem. She didn’t take the time to get a handle on her own triggers so we could all step back from the train wreck and move forward. We just fell deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. I just wish she could have said something like, “I can tell a lot of us, myself included, are feeling triggered right now, I suggest we try [insert applicable skill].” But it was nothing like that.

      You’re definitely right about the email jab. I think she knew that would be a sore spot because I was so open with J about how things ended with C. And I made it clear to J that as long as she had firm boundaries that were clear I would respect them. And she hasn’t ever said anything about the occasional email being outside her boundaries. So it hurt that it came up that way.

      Ultimately, you’re right though, she was responsible for acting a certain way because she chose to take on our group. And she didn’t uphold her part of that bargain.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh what a bitch! It was a fair question and she chose to put herself on the spot in the session. The fact that she went on the defensive and turned on you says a lot about her boundaries. I’m glad that the others backed you up though. In a way, I hope that she made the J stuff up because J has breached confidentiality if she has shared your emails with her. I hope you’re able to sort this out in some way.

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  4. Oh yes, she definitely doesn’t have what it takes to lead such a group. Do you feel comfortable speaking to J about all of this, and particularly about what L said about what J told her?

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  5. ugggh!
    I’m so sorry this is how things went for you. If the group therapist gets upset over questioning fees, I’d hate to see how she reacts in other circumstances.
    If J did make those comments, that’s completely unacceptable (and I can’t help but feel as though she did, because why would the new group leader make those comments otherwise?).
    Sending you lots of hugs. xx

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    1. Yeah, she said she could handle whatever we threw at her but apparently she wasn’t ready for people who don’t trust easily. And I hate thinking J said those things but I know there has to be some element of truth to that.

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  6. A very difficult situation, and one that doesn’t sound like it was good for you or the intern, who sounds like she wasn’t ready for the deep water. A hard time for you, for sure, and I’m sympathetic. Just a couple of things to add to the comments above.

    If the intern is working for the agency, she probably is not being compensated by the full amount of the fee you’ve been asked to pay. Indeed, it is conceivable that she had no hand in fixing the fee amount and that she receives no larger amount than she might have if the charge were $30. Since she is an intern, she may get a relatively modest salary for as long as she is present, not a fee for each service she performs. I may be wrong here, so one would have to know exactly what her arrangement is to know whether this was a business decision benefiting her.

    Second, if I understand you, you are saying that your initial communication to the intern was via email, not face-to-face. You might want to ask yourself whether a face-to-face conversation might have had a chance of producing a less defensive reaction from her. This is not to say it would have. Absent facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and the opportunity to “read” how our words are coming across, our written communication has a greater chance of misinterpretation than in a quiet moment speaking alone with the other. It is a risk we all take and is often unavoidable. Our world has made it hard to avoid, I’m afraid.

    Best of luck in the group and elsewhere.

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    1. I did try bringing it up in group last week and it was glossed over, so I took that to mean we weren’t talking about it in group. So I emailed, thinking I was respecting that boundary. She requested that we talk before group. So, I showed up early. The conversation was painful and awful so I was happy to leave that God awful conversation alone and move on in group but she brought it back up numerous times as I spoke of other things.

      As for the charge, you may be right about what she makes of the fee but the other groups run by interns at the same practice get a $30 per person fee. Her group would be the only intern run group getting compensated at a $60 per person rate, which is even high for the area, but we paid it because J had so much experience. Regardless, she did say that she and J decided to keep the fee what it was because it was such hard work to work with trauma survivors. That, to me, implies there was some conscious decision making around the fee. And I do get that is her right, to decide that, it just doesn’t seem fair to us or the other interns at the practice.

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  7. wow. the fee thing aside, i am shocked that she thinks that being the ‘wounded healer’ is something around which to organize her work. Jung write about that archetype as a latent force that animates the therapist, and one which he or she needs to manage effectively in relation to the patient as the particular relationship unfolds. The last thing she should be doing is running a trauma group to fix herself! That’s super unprofessional, perhaps bordering on the unethical. None of you should be in the business of taking care of her! This is her damage, and should be dealt with by her supervisor. I’d ask for my money back if I were you!

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    1. I genuinely think that she felt she had her business enough under control to actually run group. But I think when she was faced with group, she discovered it was much more than she could handle. How she ended up handling it though was completely unprofessional, for sure. Honestly, I didn’t even check to see if my card was charged. I’m sure it was and you’re right, I don’t see why any of us were paying to be triggered and to take care of the therapist who was charged with caring for us.

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  8. it might be worth it to reach out the J — I bet she just mentioned that you are someone who reaches out for extra support via email. The combative seems like K’s add-on — and is also a completely inappropriate thing to say to you.

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    1. I did reach out to J but I was in a really emotional state. I basically just asked if it was true, if she really thought those things about me. I anticipate that she will suggest we talk over the phone or in person, once she is back from vacation.

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  9. I don’t know what exactly what I would do if I were in this situation. I would most certainly consider not attend the group if L is leading it as it appears that she doesn’t have a handle on her own triggers. Yes, it does seem like a conflict of interest if she is working with both survivors and perpetrators. This on it’s own is concerning to me and I would personally not trust L because of this. If I was a member of this group I would talk with L’s supervisor and bring up the issues you have about L. I hope the situation with L and the group gets handled quickly and smoothly as possible.

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    1. I am definitely not attending anymore if she ends up staying in charge of the group, because you’re right, she does not have a handle on her triggers. I’m letting her talk it through with her supervisor first though, before I raise the issue. I have no interest in going to group to leave even more triggered than when I came. It’s sad because I really felt that group was a safe place with J before, but not only did L take away the safety of the group under her leadership, she said things that called into question the trust I put in J. That was a low, low blow to me, since trust is so hard for me to come by. Definitely inexcusable.

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  10. I’m genuinely shocked at how terrible this was, at so many levels. She was clearly unprepared for this kind of work (at any fee level). I’m so sorry you had to experience this. Group is supposed to be such a safe, supportive place, and she turned it into something that was all about her and her wounds and her needs. (I am sitting here shaking my head AND rolling my eyes AND making disgusted faces.)

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