Mental health is a complex, multifaceted field, with many different treatment modalities and philosophies. In short, therapy is as much an art as a science. The result is that, occasionally, a therapist can do more harm than good, and it may take several months for a patient to realize the therapist’s practices have become abusive. If you believe the treatment you are receiving from a mental health professional is abusive, here’s what to do:
Signs of Abusive Mental Health Treatment
Many people enter treatment for mental health issues at the lowest points in their lives. They may have alienated family and friends, lost jobs, and lost self respect. Consequently, it can be difficult at first to determine if treatment is working or is making things worse. A few signs of abusive mental health care include:
-A mental health professional who isolates you from family and friends by encouraging you to end close relationships or undermining relationships
-A mental health professional who is overly fixated on medication, who does not take side effects seriously, or who will not address concerns you have about a particular medication
-Lowered self esteem. If you find you’re feeling worse about yourself after several months of treatment, it’s possible that the treatment is undermining your recovery rather than enabling it.
-Failure to listen. A mental health professional who is not an effective listener, or who seems to consistently get facts wrong or misunderstand what you’re saying is someone who is not a good fit.
-Breach of confidentiality. A mental health professional who does not keep your sessions confidential is breaking the law.
-Sexual advances. Therapists, psychiatrists, and psychologists should never sleep with or make sexual advances toward their patients for any reason. If your mental health professional is making sexual advances toward you, the damage to your psychological well-being can be immense.
Confronting an Abusive Mental Health Professional
Many patients who find that their therapist is abusive or just incompetent end up feeling guilty about this decision. Patients can often grow dependent on therapists and feel a strong sense of obligation toward them. However, it’s important to remember that you are the customer, and if your therapist is not serving your needs, it’s time to move on. Schedule a final treatment session, briefly explain your issues, and move on. Do not allow the therapist to argue with you or convince you that the problems you are having are your fault or part of the treatment process. You deserve the best mental health care possible, and if you’re not getting it, it’s time to find someone else.
When To Make A Formal Complaint
If your psychiatrist or therapist has made sexual advances toward you, gotten medication dosing wrong, breached confidentiality, or refused to listen to you about medical side effects, it’s time to file a formal complaint to prevent other patients from being damaged. Psychiatrists are licensed by the medical board in their state, so this should be your first stop. Therapists and other mental health workers are licensed by different licensing boards. Find out what kind of license your therapist has, then contact the licensing authority to file your complaint. You may have to provide evidence of your complaint, so be sure to keep good records and document all instances of abuse.