Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Therapist Break-Up

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on October 13, 2011

    Zoe, thirty-two, just “broke-up” with her therapist of two years. She had been seeing him three times a week and now she has “had enough.” Dr. G, as she called him, “was arrogant, insensitive and inflexible, but I miss him terribly,” Zoe says tearfully. “What happened?” I asked, knowing Dr. G as a colleague, but wanting to understand Zoe’s perspective. “He sent me for a second opinion, but then he did not listen to what the second opinion said. Also, I wanted to cut down to once a week and he said twice a week or nothing. I could not believe he was so cold after I had been seeing him for so long. He said he would have his secretary give me my records, so I really felt thrown away, even though it was my idea to stop seeing him.” I can understand Zoe’s dilemma. She was attached, but then she had issues which in her mind could not be worked through. I am sure that Dr. G has a different tale to tell, but my job at the moment is to see if I am the right person for Zoe, given what she has been through, and given what she is looking for. Zoe is married with two little kids. She works as a physical therapist and she enjoys her job. Her trouble is that she is “chronically exhausted,” she reports. Her primary care doctor, a colleague, has ruled out any diseases which might be causing her fatigue. She thinks her tiredness stems from her unsatisfying life. She loves her husband, her kids and her job, but she feels that something is missing. She has a few friends, but she does not find those relationships very satisfying. Mostly, she reports, she feels “invisible”. “You feel taken for granted,” I say, mirroring her sentiment. “Yep, you could say that,” she responds. “And you felt taken for granted by Dr. G,” I say, tying the theme of her life back to her most recent stressor. “Exactly,” Zoe says with the enthusiasm of recognition. “Do you think you can go back and tell him that,” I say, wondering if she should try to work things out with Dr. G. “Maybe, but he thinks we ended our relationship, and he seemed remarkably unmoved by that,” she says, tearing up again. “Maybe he is more moved than you think” I say, wanting to challenge her on her assumption, but also appreciating that she could be right that Dr. G. had little feeling about terminating his relationship with her. “I just feel like I had a break-up and I don’t know what to do,” Zoe says with the pain of confusion and uncertainty. “Give yourself some time to think about things,” I say. “I am happy to help you sort through these issues,” I say, understanding that Zoe needs someone to share her confusing thoughts. “Let me think about that,” Zoe says. “Good idea. Thinking is always good.” I say, emphasizing the wonders of contemplation.

3 Responses to “The Therapist Break-Up”

  1. Shelly said

    No patient likes to be tossed out (don’t you call it divorced) by their therapist. Don’t therapists often divorce their patients if they feel that they can’t bring about a “cure”, if they feel that the patient would be noncompliant or in some way toxic to themselves (i.e. too challenging) or their practice, or if they bring about some nonprofessional feelings that can’t be overcome? Why would a therapist insist on two sessions a week or nothing? No wonder Zoe feels confused.

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    • Therapists “divorce” their patients for a multitude of reasons. I did not speak with Dr. G, so I only have one side of the story. There may be a whole chapter that I am not aware of. It is hard to say.

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  2. danny said

    This is a familiar theme over here as well. it is tough with the “break up” with a therapist that one has seen for a considerable period of time. Dr shirah have you have “thrown out” patients if you didnt feel that they were making progress or any other reasons? thanks for the blogs.

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