Patient Beware

I worked with an alternative therapist off and on for a couple of years before Max was born.  She is really good at what she does - she helped me with a few issues that felt big in my life - being bullied in a business partnership, a major job decision, and the looming uncertainty of whether Ted would ultimately be "the one".  These were things that I was really ruminating and obsessing over and she helped me to calm my mind down.

I happened to have been in her office earlier in the afternoon on the day that I found out I was pregnant with Max.  That was the last time I had seen her until he died.  Another patient of hers is a friend of mine and by the time I called the therapist (a couple of weeks after losing him), she had already heard the news.  She told me that she was so glad I got in touch and that she really felt she could help me.  I felt hopeful.  It was early.  I don't know what I was expecting, but I did feel like if anyone could help me, it would probably be her.  In the same conversation, she told me that since the last time I'd seen her, her prices had gone way up - that instead of charging $150 (or in that range) a session, she was now charging over $400.  But, considering my circumstances she'd let me have the old pricing if I bought a package of six sessions.  I knew I'd probably need at least that many so I didn't really think twice.  Though I did take pause to contemplate the absurdity of charging over $400 a session to others.  But, "good for her" is what I thought.  She IS really good.  I am sure that there are people willing to pay that much.

Of the six sessions I paid for, I only ever had one.  At the beginning of the session, she told me that she had a dream or a vision that Max was reincarnated and was coming back to me.  She told me to focus on that (which I did - until about six months ago - I actually became obsessed with the idea of him being reincarnated).  She also told me she thought having another baby would be a good idea because when her dog died, she was super sad for about a month until she got another dog.  That felt like nails on a chalkboard to me.  It was the first (of MANY) times that someone would compare my child dying to their experience of losing their dog.  I know that for many people their dog is their "baby" - but I don't know any non-elderly person who expects NOT to outlive their dog.  For that, and MANY other reasons, it is not the same.  It just is not the same.

The session I remember was amazing.  She did a guided mediation with me, where I actually reconnected with Max and my grandfather.  They were right there.  I could practically feel my lips on his cheeks.  Just thinking about it now makes my heart hurt.  Looking back I can't explain if it felt so real because there was some realness to it, or if I was just so early in deep, traumatic grief that my mind was playing tricks on me.  I remember telling her afterwards how much I felt that I needed to come back soon.  She reminded me how lucky I was that I had paid for the package since her prices had gone up.   I felt like I needed her to get to him.  She told me to repeat the mantra "My baby is coming back to me".  I did that.

The next session got cancelled and I can't actually remember who cancelled.  I want to say her because I know I was on pins and needles waiting for it.  Anyway, doesn't matter, it didn't happen.  I wrote her to reschedule and asked if she thought we should try and do the same thing again or if there was something else we should do.  She wrote back to say it was up to me and I should think about it because I only had two sessions left and that her prices had gone up so she couldn't give me the same prices for the next package.  She also seemed to think I'd bought fewer sessions than I had.

At this point - a couple of things.
1) I know that therapist are not our "friends".  They are service providers and we are their clients....BUT....I believe that we want to feel like they care about our well-being.  I hope that the reason that they have chosen to heal others as a profession is because they actually care, even a little, about those people.  Every time she reminded me of her prices, I felt like I didn't matter.  And, by the way, I already deeply felt that I didn't matter.  Without Max - my life made no sense.  She made it clear over and over what a "great deal" I was getting.  Only thing was that in reality, I had pretty much just gotten the worst deal life could have dealt. I don't have the words to exactly articulate this feeling but there was a GIGANTIC disconnect.

2) I felt VERY vulnerable.  She had connected me to my son (whether real or imagined - it didn't really matter).  I suddenly felt completely dependent on her.  It was clear that she was ready for me to be done with this "discount" package of sessions she'd sold me.  I knew that she knew how vulnerable I was and wondered if she was just hoping that I had lost track of our sessions.  When I look back now, I really believe that she had just lost track.   But, I don't think that I was important to her at all and it hurt my feelings that she simply didn't remember that she'd only seen me once.

I wrote her back and said something like, "I am very deep in grief but I am still keeping track of appointments and payments."  Then, I sent her the dates of the first appointment and the one that had been cancelled.  I also sent her a bank statement (or a cashed check or credit card statement - I can't remember) showing her that I had, in fact, paid for six sessions (or, as the case actually was - I paid for five and she used to give the sixth one free).  I wish I'd saved her response to that.  She told me that she felt my tone was aggressive and I was not invited to come back to see her and that she would not be refunding my money.  Just like that.

This experience has stayed with me for many reasons.  It was incredibly hurtful.  I felt taken advantage of, ashamed, and vulnerable.  I wished that I hadn't felt so anxious to prove to her that she was wrong.  If I had been in my right mind, I would have simply thought that is was kind of annoying that she kept reminding me of her prices and then chosen my words better in reminding her that we had only met once.  But, I wasn't in my right mind.  When she decided not to see me anymore, I felt like my only hope for connecting with Max had just been taken from me.  To her, it was a business decision...but for me, it was as if she was taking Max away from me again.  If I am really honest with you, I have to say that it made me really contemplate taking my own life.  It was a thought that kept coming to me anyway and this split had nearly put me over the edge.  I hated myself for getting angry with her and I hated her more for not caring enough to put the business aside and show me compassion - woman to woman, human to human.  In the weeks following this incident, friends started disappearing and I felt like I couldn't even pay someone to care. It was an extremely isolating and traumatizing experience on top of everything else.

There are many kinds of healers out there. Some have licenses, some have certification, some have neither.  Sometimes skilled healers develop a little bit of a god complex - because we put them on a pedestal. We put them there because we believe that they have the keys to save our lives.  They are then in a position of power over us that can be very very scary.  Since this initial experience, I have had many disappointing experiences with "healers" - people who probably were prepared to work with someone with boyfriend or body image issues but not with someone who was in extreme grief and experiencing PTSD.  I have made sure not to give that power to anyone along the way.  I have also worked with people who have made a huge difference in my life. Ted and I saw a grief counselor once a week for about a year who was wonderful, compassionate beyond words. She left her ego at the door and just listened to us. I believe that she helped us to reframe so much initial hurt and also helped to protect and keep our marriage feeling safe. She even let me express anger, sometimes at her, however irrational. Like I said, the ego was checked.  I am so grateful for her presence in my life.

I tell you this story to encourage you to beware. When your life hangs in the balance, the healers you choose have more impact on your well being than you know. Do your best to find someone that specializes in your needs. Many many many unsuccessful healers have felt that they could help me but I believe that their desire to "help" me was more for their needs than mine - for their business, their experience of "working with people in grief", or their egos. The only ones who have been able to help at all are the ones who have put healing me ahead of their own needs. I hope that you find the right healers on your path and that you manage to avoid the other ones as best as you can.


Anonymous said...

She's pretty rude. I don't think she can take your money but refuse to see you and not refund the money back to you. How can she do that? It's not legal.

Taryn said...

I'm still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor. I CANNOT believe you were treated like that! AND that she took your money!!! That is disgusting. I know nothing holds a candle to the horrors you have experienced with loosing Max, but that was a pretty low point as far as humanity goes. Who does that to a person who is learning to live without her baby?! That is just so wrong. So selfish. So repulsive. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??!!!

Love and compassion is all that should have been poured out on you. I'm glad you finally found someone who was willing and able to offer both as she walked beside you through your early heartbreak.

Anonymous said...

As a Reiki practitioner I am shocked and completely appalled in reading this. Yes money is a factor, but compassionate care trumps all. I am so so sorry this happened to you. Once you have been in the healing field for a number of years you quickly realize that there are two types of people who do this work:
People who were called to this work and prioritize compassionate care
People who are essentially charletans and sell false promises for profit.
If you feel you would benefit from distance Reiki, please accept it as my gift to you. Big hugs.

Abby Leviss said...

Thank you. The more I think about it, the more selfish I realize she is.

Anonymous said...

all of the above and unethical, Abs. I'd like to see an attorney send her a letter stating that she stole your money and if it is not returned within x amount of time, we'll see you in court.

Ice appears to run in her blood.


Anonymous said...

p.s. Why not use her name and out her on social media - and include that in the letter from the attorney. What does your friend who also has seen her think? cs

Abby Leviss said...

My friend stayed out of it. I think doing anything about it would have caused me more pain and anguish than I am up for. I don't want revenge and I am over getting back the money (around $700). I am just wanting to put all of my demons to rest. This is one of the big ones.

Anonymous said...

I am a therapist, and this is a horrifying story. I am so sorry this happened to you. This is the type of behavior that a licensing board would absolutely hold the therapist accountable for. There are unstable people in every profession, but in therapy it is especially dangerous to not have insight into your own behavior and how your actions may impact others. Good for you for attempting to address things with her, and shame on her for her behavior.

mark seltman said...

If money is the priority or if your counselor is a clock watcher, run the other way and don't look back.

Anonymous said...

this makes me SO angry. How dare she? I was raised by two very compassionate people so I just cannot fathom how this woman could treat you this way. I especially cannot understand how anyone could be so hurtful to someone who has experienced the worst possible pain (the loss of a child) that one could go through. I am so very sorry that you were treated this way.

Anonymous said...

Even if it IS just business, just a service provider/client relationship, this woman was completely in the wrong. As somebody else said, this is illegal. I totally get not wanting to fight it, but what a disgusting person to take advantage of you in the state you were/are in. This makes me incredibly angry and I am SO sorry that this happened to you on top of the worst possible pain.