Taking Back Our Power
From the trust-me therapist
I have always been skeptical about therapists; some people seem to enter the field to fix themselves as much as to help others. I know there are plenty of good therapists, and there are also some bad ones. Unfortunately, I have had both.
The bad ones talk through the whole session and never let you get in a word, or are super opinionated and you feel worse after going. We went to a marriage counselor once and she told my husband that he didn’t seem to take responsibility for anything. It was mean and uncalled for and, I felt, unnecessarily judgemental, not to mention unhelpful. We left and never went back. We worked through our issues on our own. In fact, our marriage is stronger than ever since we took responsibility for ourselves instead of relying on a third party to fix our relationship.
With this experience in mind, when my son decided he was “trans” at age 15 after an awkward time in his life, I was cautious about therapy—but I needed help. So, we selected a therapist that had worked with my son for a short time when he struggled in 3rd grade. We thought this therapist would be a safe pick since he knew the younger version of our son, and therefore would possibly support him without affirming his transgender identification (which he would know was not innate).
But that wasn’t the case.
While the therapist said he was on the same page with us and wanted to help our family, he didn’t know much about what transgender meant. He said he would just listen to my son. But after awhile, I got that strange mother’s intuition. My gut told me to watch out. Then I overheard the therapist, on zoom, tell my son that his parents would one day accept him as their daughter. He also told my son that his mother is anti-trans.
That night, I told the therapist that we wouldn’t be needing him anymore. I found out he had texted my son, a minor, after I fired him.
The therapist called my husband and asked for one more session, to reach closure and see my son one more time. But there was no way I was not going to let him see my son alone—I had trusted him, and he had betrayed my trust over trans ideology. So, we decided that this one last session would be a family session.
When we logged on to the virtual session, the therapist was expecting to see my son alone. He freaked out, had a meltdown, told us off—and then hung up. My son was surprised to see his therapist behave so strangily and crazily, so I reminded him what I had always said about therapists—that some decide to be therapists to work on their own problems. This wasn’t about us but about him.
My son started asking for a therapist, so I decided to try again, really hoping the next time would be different.
This time I found a non-affirming therapist from a reputable site, and my son started therapy, right after turning 18. We created a comfortable relationship with the therapist, and we were able to freely talk and meet with her. Four months later our child decided to estrange himself from us.
We never saw it coming. We did not know the therapist would cut us off too. We realize now that, once my son started talking to this professional, he slowly stopped talking to us. It felt as if the therapist had replaced us as parents and we were paying for her to parent our son now.
At the time of the estrangement, my son was meeting with the therapist multiple times a week. He continued these sessions after he left our home—and we continued to pay the bill. Months passed with no communication with our son, and the bills continued to arrive, as our son continued with his 3x per week therapy sessions.
We were hesitant to cut that last strand of connection, however tenuous, with our son but, with no contact, we suggested to the therapist that we reduce his sessions to once per week. The therapist insisted that my son needed to meet at least twice a week. It was a horrible situation, and we felt manipulated into complying. The therapist asked us just to trust her, but how could we do that? Our son had completely cut contact with us, and we had no evidence that the therapy was benefiting him at all—it certainly was not benefiting our family. We worried he was using therapy as a crutch, and would remain in a state of dependency and victimhood. Now the large bill is the only indication we have that our child might still be alive.
We stayed with this twice-a-week schedule hoping the therapist would bring about a reconciliation, but now we don’t know if this will ever happen. Although paying for all these sessions is a financial stretch, we would spend our last dime to help our son. In this case though, is therapy a lifeline or a dead end? In light of the information black hole and the ongoing estrangement, there is a dismaying feeling of emotional blackmail that comes along with the therapy bill. And yet, the therapist has been our only lifeline to our son, so we have reluctantly continued.
I heard of an estrangement support group where parents have identified their child’s therapist as the number one thing keeping their child estranged. That is not promising. Is there really no way that our son’s therapist, while maintaining their confidence, can assure us that the therapy we continue to pay for is actually taking place? Our son’s therapist knows our situation, that we are paying the bill, and that we are doing it because we love and care for our son beyond measure and want him to be safe and healthy. I know that, by law, the therapist cannot talk to us since our son is over 18, but it does not break any confidentiality laws to give us some sort of general update, instead of handing all the power over to my son for him to decide if she, his therapist, can communicate with us.
There have been so many adults in my son’s life with savior complexes, who helped give him power over us - doctors, school counselors, therapists - and now this current therapist, who may be driving another wedge between us and our son. These so-called professionals have caused so much damage to my family. I don’t think it’s right for this therapist to guilt us into paying a great deal of money with no communication in return. At what point do I look at the harm it’s doing to my own mental health?
Should we stop paying, or are these therapy sessions necessary for our son to heal? Are they the thread that holds us to our son, or the barrier that keeps us apart? There’s simply no way to know what’s the right decision. Having no therapist is better than having a therapist who may or may not have the best intentions for our family. I want to trust this therapist but my gut is making me feel uncomfortable again. I do not know if she is helping, harming, or contributing to alienation of our son.
We love our son and would do anything for him. We are very concerned about what will happen to our son next—but at this point we want to take back our power.