Home Anxiety Is My Therapist Exploiting Me?

Is My Therapist Exploiting Me?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been seeing her off and on for 15 years for talk therapy and paying by check after the first six months when my insurance ran out. She has me come 3-8 hours per day, sometimes up to 3 days in a row. She also travels to our home and I put her in a hotel plus pay all expenses.

When I expressed apprehension about a friend traveling with me to a trip where I had to work two days, she said she would love to go and support me. At first she said just pay her expenses. Then as the trip neared, she felt I should also pay her daily rate since she couldn’t talk to other clients. She also asked us to see certain shows I would never have chosen.

She has also asked me repeatedly to hire all of her immediate family members. When she got sick, she wanted me to see her other relatives who are psychologists as well. She wants me to hire her son to do home repair, her grandchildren to babysit/play with/socialize my now tween.

My husband believes she is modeling parental relationship but my parents don’t make us pay them. I am not depressed. I simply have issues handling stress and getting alone with my inlaws. My husband makes plenty of money but I feel really taken advantage of, especially when I tell her over and over to stop asking me to hire her relatives or that I am not going to schedule any more weekend sessions right now. Her phone rate is $100 per 50 minutes and sometimes she calls me when a client cancels. I feel like her main source of income. She is a licensed psychologist. She also asked me not to tell anyone that she was going to travel with me or about how she comes for 3 days and charges me for everything, plus expenses. She has even started to ask me to take her shopping during these visits. I hate shopping.

Every psychologist adheres to a code of professional ethics. From what you’ve written, it appears that your psychologist is violating that code. Take a look at: https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/counselor/lpc_ethics.shtm. That code specifically forbids soliciting clients and getting into a dual role. She has become much too entangled with your life.

It’s hard for me to imagine any problem that requires 15 years of therapy with sessions of 3 – 8 hours a day as well as weekend visits. Learning how to cope with stress and how to improve the relationship with in-laws is often short term therapy. You are not obliged to accept phone calls that she initiates, much less pay for them. Shopping isn’t therapy. Neither is going to shows you don’t like. The fact that she is asking you to keep her behavior secret is a huge red flag.

I suggest you file a complaint with the Board of Registration of Psychologists for your state. Here’s the link to the complaint form and instructions. http://www.tsbep.texas.gov/how-to-file-a-complaint-enforcement. I have limited information. The Board will want to hear your complete story and then will make a determination.

I advise you not to tell the therapist that you are filing a complaint. From what you’ve told me, she will make every effort to talk you out of it and probably bill you while she is doing so. A therapist who is doing legitimate work has nothing to fear from a Board investigation.

I’m very glad you wrote. I hope you will now take this situation to the Board.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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