Group Therapy is a relationship advice column to which readers contribute their wisdom.
A reader writes: A couple of years ago, my long-term therapist shocked me by hiding her face when she saw me in public. I was never courageous enough to confront her directly, only months later asking why I triggered negative reactions in her. That’s when I learned how low her opinion of me was. I never went back. Now I am seeing an amazing therapist but still can’t get past that rejection. How do I tell my new therapist without putting her in a compromised position with a colleague?
Ask your new therapist
It is a therapist’s role to help individuals address difficult emotional experiences, explore the issues involved, and find a healthy and healing way forward. Perhaps exploring the issue with your new therapist will also lead to breakthroughs concerning other experiences of rejection and loss. And to your previous therapist: Shame! They should have ended the therapeutic relationship if they had such a shallow perspective of you.
Erin Brown, Clinical Social Worker, Peterborough
Let them discuss it
As a long-time therapist/counsellor, I have often heard complaints about other colleagues. My approach is to find out what they did or didn't do, and address how it is affecting the client now. Your therapist cannot discuss anything with your former therapist without your permission.
Teresa Laucis, Toronto
Examine your own actions
Focus on the right thing: You summoned up the courage to ask your previous therapist why you triggered negative reactions in her. However, you seem to be concentrating on her actions rather than what you did that contributed to them. Your worry about putting the new therapist into a compromised position indicates that you would be going into the conversation pointing a finger at therapist #1. Your therapy needs to be an exploration of your own behaviour, so lay it all out.
Andrea Smith, Vancouver
The final word
Full disclosure: I've hidden behind the melons to avoid people at the grocery store once or twice, too. And I've seen people do it to me.
But therapists should be held to a different standard. Clients come to them for help solving emotional problems. Why go into therapy if you're going lower someone's self-esteem and create a need for more therapy? That sounds like a plot from a Woody Allen movie. Perhaps this therapist should be in a different line of work, where ruining someone's ego is a job requirement - the host of Hell's Kitchen for example.
But Erin's right. You should tell your therapist about what happened. That may help resolve other issues that are related to rejection and loss. And so what if your therapist ends up thinking that her colleague is bit of a doorknob? After all, therapists are still professionals with boundaries. Your old therapist may have had a fear of confrontation and was unable to break up with you; perhaps she needs some therapy.
Andrea's worried about your focus on the rejection rather than the underlying causes. I kind of agree. Not everyone's going to love us in this world - let's assume they have terrible taste in people and stop wasting our feelings on them. We have better things to obsess over anyway, like how we're going squeeze into our bikini this summer.
And let this be a lesson for us all. The next time we see someone we don't want to talk to, let's step away from the melons. She may be about to tell you about the perfect bathing suit she discovered, which hides all flaws.
Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Next week’s question
A reader writes: I ended a 15-year friendship when the friend seriously overstepped boundaries after my marriage breakup. Now she continues to contact my teenage daughter, even inviting her on holiday. I’ve written requesting that she contact me first to avoid awkwardness, but now she’s become close friends with my ex and gets to my child that way. I recognize it’s a teenager’s prerogative to have her own friends, but I find the situation odd and uncomfortable. What can I do?
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