Social skills for autonomous people: boundary violations in therapy


all-women-kick-ass asked realsocialskills:

do you know what particular boundary violations in therapy AREN’T considered unethical? because i am also studying to be a therapist and would very much like to avoid said boundary violations with future clients.


Something horrible one of my therapists did to me:

He told me that because I was I’m the system, I was not a real adult and never would be. And that therefore I would never be allowed to make major life choices without consulting him.

He then told me exactly how he’d manage it. He would make my choices for me. Then he would communicate to my parents such that they would make all my decisions for me.

Another thing he did was hold my sleep disorder against me. He said real adults can control their circadian rhythms and he would not let me make choices until I could sleep all night.

He and another therapist also communicated with my parents, without my permission, signed out otherwise, about me, after I reached adulthood. That’s not only wrong, it’s illegal.

My psychiatrist had a lengthy conversation with my mother that was basically about how if I didn’t take a medication for narcolepsy (after it was clear I didn’t have narcolepsy), my life would go to hell in a handbasket and I’d lose all my friends because I didn’t care enough to take care of myself.

Same shrink decided that the only valuable course my life could take, was to overcome my autism, and go on to become another Temple Grandin. He wanted me to become a psychiatrist just like him, work with autistic children, and contribute to autism research. Anything less than this and my life would be a waste.

This was combined with another huge boundary violation:  He basically every time I went along with his plans for me, he wrote that I was making progress and becoming higher functioning. If I went against his plans for me, he’d say I was regressing, becoming lower functioning, or ruining my life.

Going against his plans for me was one of the best things I ever did. It was my first step towards being able to run my own life and my life has gotten better and better since.

Mind you, he was probably my best shrink. But not realizing the power he had, he abused it without even trying.

Another shrink told me that I would never be able to think for myself. That it would probably kill me to do so.

Same one told me that he was going to get inside my brain. Create a version of himself that lived inside me. Kill off the me that lived in there. And replace me with a version of me he built himself. And then climb in there with me so I couldn’t disobey him anymore.

I don’t know what the hell he did to me but there’s still remnants nearly two decades later.

And that’s just off the top of my head. All of these things are in the category of things you should never ever do to someone.

The easiest to do accidentally are protecting your goals for your patient onto them. And then seeing moving towards those goals as progress, moving away as regression. Watch out for that.

I’d also recommend the video, the ethics of touch, by Dave Hingsburger. It’s not just about touch, it’s about boundaries in general.

I have had my sleep issue be ignored, glossed over, and have even had a therapist get angry with me because I was so desperate for sleep I wasn’t getting and they thought it didn’t matter. Literally “so?“ was said many times. Everyone thinks that my complete inability to sleep without meds/enough meds is my fault snd if I can’t sleep even with meds then it is clearly my fault bc i must be doing something wrong. This attitude coming from s therapist whom I enjoyed and trusted up until the last year I was in school, was damaging.

A lot of people I know who have sleep disorders have been emphatically told that it’s just because they’re practicing poor sleep hygiene and if they’d just try harder their problems would go away.

when i met her my roommate told me by way of explaining something that i did not catch, “because (she) practice(s) sleep hygiene." 

she is a shrink. is sleep hygiene a shrink thing? is it trendy? It looks like a buzzword. I’ve read about all that stuff before back when I had insomnia issues, and I don’t remember it ever being called ~*~sleep hygiene~*~.

I feel like it’s kind of weird to call it hygiene when it’s about habits, not cleanliness. like…keeping irregular hours or eating before bed doesn’t make you dirty.

idk it seems like a stupid name for a thing.

I didn’t stay with my psychiatrist very long, but it was long enough for me to realize I didn’t want her in my life. I am biologically intersex and mentally agender (if that’s a thing, it’s how I feel) and it took me a long, long time to become comfortable with that, to understand my difference and realize that just because it made me different it did not make me a lesser person. My psych outright ignored my request not to grill me over it, after I had provided her my emotional journey through it (psychs need to know where you’re at, right??? I felt it was an important part of what makes me me, the strength I gave myself when I stopped hating myself for that), and devoted all of her time to weaseling more and more sensitive, near-triggering memories of that time from me. Demanded I take a look at support groups and hormone specialists to fix my ‘problem’.

I told her precisely where she could shove her bigoted, self-centered demands and left. So I guess when someone tells you that they’re happy with who they are, or some aspect of themselves, don’t immediately launch into an attack as if that site has a huge red bulls-eye targret on it.

God that lady pissed me off and left me in panic attacks after seeing her every week for four months.


And, more generally - if a therapist doesn’t care what *you* want to work on, and seems to prioritize triggering you over helping you figure out how to deal with the problem you’re seeking help with, something is seriously wrong.