Request for Professional Review

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As most of you know, I’ve been going back and forth about the decision to file a formal complaint against my former therapist for her highly unethical behavior. If you’d like to know more about the specifics, you can read about it here or here.

(Short version: she abruptly terminated treatment with me after 10 months of twice-weekly therapy. I walked in to session one day and it was over. No transition and no new therapist in place. And to top it off, she blamed it all on me.)

I’ve been agonizing over this because I think I always knew that what she did was very wrong. But in the aftermath of losing her, I was still intent on preserving the relationship and trying to stay connected with her somehow. I loved her and she was important to me. Thus I was afraid of doing anything that might provoke her and push her further away from me. Now that all ties have been officially cut, I’ve had more clarity and the chance to think about this objectively. With my new perspective, it is clearer than ever that what she did was unethical.

Still, though, I’ve been doubting myself and whether or not filing such a complaint would be an act of retaliation or some attempt for me to remain connected to her somehow. I don’t want to be punitive. And I don’t want to get myself into some long drawn-out process that will be emotionally draining.

I’ve been debating over whether to not to bring this up with the therapist I’m seeing now. Since she is also a social worker, I felt that this might be a strange topic to discuss. I also admittedly don’t want her to think I’m the type of client who just files arbitrary complaints left and right when things don’t go the way I want them to. (She would probably never think that, but I don’t want to risk it. Or, more importantly, I don’t to risk that I will perceive her reaction as some version of the aforementioned opinion.)

Luckily, Wife and I have a friend who is also a therapist. Even better, she’s a therapist who’s not a social worker. So when Wife and I went to visit her and her husband this weekend, I used the opportunity to pick her brain a LOT. I’d sent her the link to this blog, so she was already aware of what happened with Zooey. And let’s just say she was not impressed.

Our (very long) conversation helped clarify this even further for me – which is to say that regardless of any additional layers I may have brought to the situation because of the nature of my trauma or the stupid insurance dilemma, Zooey was 100% wrong in the way she acted. My friend basically said that it didn’t matter what my diagnosis was or how I was responding to treatment, I still deserved a proper transition.

Which then brought me back to the question of “why?” Why did Zooey have to stop my treatment so immediately? What was so damn urgent that she literally could not bring herself to continue to see me long enough for me to at least get a new fucking therapist?! Why didn’t she think I deserved that?!

To which this therapist friend responded by adding that even if Zooey was up to her eyeballs in some intense transfer/countertransference feelings, it was still her responsibility to handle my termination in a professional and ethical manner. Also, apparently there are all kinds of resources for therapists who find themselves in a situation that is overwhelming. So if her normal supervision process was not proving useful, Zooey could have called some sort of therapist crisis line and received emergency supervision to gain additional insight and guidance for how to move forward with my care. The point is – she had options beyond what she chose. And her decision was wrong.

So then I just explicitly asked my friend outright if she felt, given all that she knew, that Zooey was in need of professional review? She answered with a resounding “yes”, which is all I needed to hear to finalize my decision. Because if another therapist can look at this scenario and be absolutely certain that Zooey acted unethically, I must not be totally off base. She further told me that as she was reading about what happened, she visualized herself as the therapist and tried to imagine how she would handle a similar situation. Ultimately, she couldn’t find any scenario in which she would find it acceptable to just abandon a client in the middle of treatment.

She also pointed out that had I not had a solid support system in place outside of Zooey, this could have been even more disastrous and damaging than it already was. I thought about it and then said, “You know, I think Zooey was really banking on that. She figured I would be okay because I have a supportive wife and friends and some family that loves me.” Which really pisses me off because the relationship you have with your therapist is not a substitute for the relationship you have with others in your life (and vice versa). If the support of everyone else in my life had been enough, I wouldn’t have sought therapy in the first place.

True to the nature of Social Work, I cannot actually file a “complaint”, but rather a Request for Professional Review (RPR). Which means that I submit paperwork explaining who I am, who Zooey is, how we were engaged in a professional relationship, what ethical violation I believe she committed, and when it happened. I also have to sign a confidentiality pledge.

I looked up the timeline and it would seem that it’s generally not too long of an ordeal (hopefully). The NASW’s Intake Subcommittee has 10 days to acknowledge that they got the paperwork and notify Zooey that she’s been named as a respondent. She has 14 days to respond to that notification with her own paperwork. Once the RPR paperwork is accepted as officially complete, the Intake Subcommittee has 45 days to decide whether or not to accept the case for actual review. If so, they will refer it to either the National or Local Chapter to proceed with mediation or adjudication (I highly doubt this warrants adjudication or the attention of the National Chapter ). Then, in the case of mediation, the Chapter has 45 days to appoint a mediator, an NASW representative, and schedule the mediation. At this point, Zooey and I both would have the option to submit more support documentation. Here is how the NASW describes mediation in their NASW RPR Procedures Manual:

Mediation is a collaborative problem-solving process in which a neutral third party guides a discussion intended to help the parties in the dispute define the issues, obtain relevant information, and generate reasonable options for resolution. As part of the process, a Mediator approved by NASW will aid the parties both in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution and in drafting a written version of that agreement.

Mediation is a conflict resolution process that is valued both as an element of social work practice and as a way to resolve grievances related to violations of ethics. Because mediation is a conflict resolution process in which the parties themselves decide on the outcome, NASW does not determine whether specific violations of the Code of Ethics have or have not occurred.

I honestly don’t even know what that really means for this situation. I’m not sure this “dispute” is between Zooey and I. To me, it’s more of an issue that needs to be addressed. I suppose my goal would be to draw attention to Zooey’s misconduct and allow her the chance to receive some additional supervision or training to correct her unethical behavior. I didn’t deserve this. She was wrong. This should never have happened to me and it should never happen to anyone else.

So tonight I am going to finish writing the summary statement and tomorrow morning I am going to mail the RPR to the Intake Subcommittee.

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26 thoughts on “Request for Professional Review

  1. Bourbon says:

    Request for professuonal review….why do they have to jazz it up? The complaint I made had to be worded as a “fitness to practice concern”. Its a complaint. Let’s not be all flowers and bunnies about it!! Glad you went thru with it though x

    Liked by 2 people

  2. kat says:

    glad to hear you are doing this, even if it is not some kind of sanction that says she broke ‘this’ rule. (although to me the whole process you described sounds kind of hinkey, like not a real complaint or not a real problem..) but i am glad you are doing what can be done anyway…we all should have the courage to do so whenever we encounter this issue as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Kat. I agree – the whole thing seems really granola and “feel good” but it’s my only option. Hopefully someone will take it serious enough to have a word with her.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Devin says:

    Glad you are doing this. In 2007 (?), I was seeing a “christian” counselor. I wasn’t sure where I was with God and was going through the process of coming out. One of our first sessions I had told her that I thought I might be bisexual. Then the topic didn’t come up again for a little while. When it did come up in a serious matter and something I was ready to talk about, her statement was, “I can’t justify that, and you need to find another counselor.” She didn’t give me any resources or transition me over to anyone. Just left me to figure it out for myself. I wish that I had been as strong as you, at the time, to do what you are doing. I didn’t have a clue what protocol should have been. It wasn’t until a little later when I got a new counselor, and she was appalled at how the other counselor had treated me, that I realized what should have happened. It’s really good that I wasn’t going through one of my “on the edge” times. Things could have been ugly.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zoe says:

      What the actual fuck? Regardless of her religious affiliation she should not have left you hanging on the basis of (what sounds to me, correct me if I’m wrong) your sexual orientation. Just. What? How do people like this keep getting licenses to work? D:

      Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Oh wow, Devin, I am so sorry that happened. The other counselor was absolutely right – she was 100% wrong in her behavior. Having a moral disagreement about sexuality is one thing, completely dropping a client out of nowhere because of their sexuality is quite another. And it was highly unethical and unprofessional. I’m also glad you were in a fairly stable (enough) place and thus things didn’t get ugly. But she had no way of knowing that when she dropped you. It’s scary to think how many incompetent therapists are practicing out there…

      Like

  4. Boost Connection says:

    Brava to you! I applaud your courage and willingness to stand up for yourself while asking someone to take a hard look at how their behavior can negatively affect others. You are 1000% in the right here. If she’s not willing to learn and accept responsibility, then she shouldn’t be practicing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tina says:

    Wow, I guess I used to think more black & white about something like this. If my psychologist wasn’t able to helps me, well, don’t waste my time & yours. Tell me you don’t have the skills & lets “part as friends”. Oh, but NOW that I’ve experienced transference in therapy for the 1st TIME EVER😜 (ugh), I would be crushed, devastated & in the fetal position if my psychologist abruptly dropped me like a hot potato:😂 and omg don’t set unclear boundaries & expect me to assume what you really mean. You’re my therapist & I’m struggling with transference so I 💜💔 you. You’re going to have to spell out your expectations & boundaries clearly or I’m going to find any loophole to bend & blur them.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. littlevoicetalks says:

    I had a very similar experience myself. Wrote letter and then sent it and then retracted it whilst my ex therapist was none the wiser.

    Circumstances and who we are will be different. But I know for me, I had to let go in the end. I felt so wounded and hurt and what I still believe was awful behaviour but I also knew I couldn’t cope with another deepening layer of hurt and ill-will. I also felt that who I was and why I was seeing this person would be under the microscope and felt I would already be at a disadvantage due to the fact I was suffering with emotional problems.

    I had to let go for myself. And that was the biggest gift I gave myself. This person would be in my mind all the time and the feelings of rejection, abandonment were horrific. I had to stop the thoughts and continually say ‘no, you have helped so many, I wish you all the good things I would want for myself.’

    I have come to a place of peace now. I still know in my heart how it ended was wrong. But I have forgiven although not forgotten. And the fact I know it was wrong will never be changed. These are my valid feelings and I have every right to them. No court can change that or governing body but what they could do is declare that my ex therapist had behaved correctly and I would have to live with that feeling of injustice forever. It would burn like hell. Only he and I would know the real truth and what happened behind the doors of the therapy room.

    Whatever you decide just make sure you work out what you would do depending on the outcome so you are prepared and emotionally supported.

    I was with my therapist for 5 years and it has tainted the way I see therapy these days. But what I also know for a fact, most therapist come to their profession after they’ve been in a therapeutic process for the same kinda things we suffer! Barking mad if my old therapist was anything like me 😉 x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Your feelings are absolutely valid and you certainly have every right to them. I”m sorry that you even had to go through this. I’ve brought this up with the therapist I’m currently seeing and I plan to keep discussing it with her as this unfolds. Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Drea says:

    Hi Andi,

    You certainly have the attention of many followers, and we will be awaiting updates on the process. I think your action to file the review is an important one, for a couple of reasons. Any professional in a position of power over a very vulnerable person (i.e. mental health client) needs to be held accountable for their actions, such as a surgeon would be held accountable for botching someone’s physical health. Mental health is no less important, nor should the kind of negligence that happened to you be overlooked. Yet often, the only time we hear of a client actually holding a therapist accountable is when a sexual relationship has transpired. Why is emotional neglect any less important of an issue to address? I certainly don’t think it is. I had my own experience with an unethical therapist that damaged me quite a bit, and can relate to your very legitimate frustrations and pain. Taking on clients with trauma is a major responsibility (and privilege), and therapists need to be prepared for the challenges and commitment it takes. Perhaps your review will prompt Zooey to be a more insightful and introspective person, which will benefit any future clients she has.

    I also wanted to say that given the recent story shared by Julia, I applaud your decision to trust yourself that this is the right decision to bring you peace. You certainly have a supportive contingency here online backing you up, and I am sure you have the same in your personal life as well.

    All the best.

    Drea

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      You make such a great point here, Drea. It shouldn’t be just the more sensationalized, egregious violates that get attention – being emotionally neglected is also a serious violation. I certainly hope that this process is something that Zooey uses to reflect on her behavior and become a better therapist, but that is entirely her decision.

      And yes, I really do have the best supporters on this blog. I am eternally grateful ❤

      Like

  8. Cat says:

    One of the first counsellors I ever attended was when I was ‘coming out’ and resigning from the church. She told me on our first session that she was a committed Pentecostal Christian and reminded me of what the bible says about homosexuality. I couldn’t see her again and was so livid, I made a formal complaint. There was no hearing, but her supervisor agreed with me and gave assurances of additional supervision for the twat.

    I think what you’re doing is right. I am a little confused about the mediation and wonder who would have grounds to speak to her if they don’t determine whether violations have occurred. It sounds a bit like, ‘we can never be wrong’ and what would sitting down for a chat achieve? Sometimes we just need to stand up to the bureaucracy… and whatever happens, it takes a clear message to Zooey and her seniors that her termination process is not acceptable under ANY circumstances. Good luck with it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. lilylanders30 says:

    A therapist/social worker/psychiatrist/psychologist or anything of the sort, should NEVER just QUIT on a patient, especially without a back up plan of some sort, set to be in effect immediately. I am very sorry that you had to experience this, it was very wrong, both professionally and as a person. Totally unethical and uncalled for. I hope that “justice” so to speak, of some sort, is brought upon this therapist. Her behavior is not acceptable at all. I’m glad you did have support outside of her though and glad you have a new counselor that you like. I hope it all works out for you!

    Liked by 1 person

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