You have rights!!

           I recently met an individual who felt as though their therapist had taken advantage of them.  The person told me that they initially had a positive experience in counseling and that some of the work they did together was helpful but that later, the therapist became intrusive and did not maintain appropriate boundaries. 

            In addition to being disturbed by this individual’s story, it made me think about how few people have experience with therapy/counseling and that many people may not know where/how to start when finding a therapist. 

            First, you have rights.  Therapeutic services are covered under HIPPA and you have the same rights to privacy (with some notable exceptions that I will address) and care that you do when you go see your primary care physician or seek treatment in the hospital.  The list of rights afforded by HIPPA are available in a lot of places online, this is a link to Texas’ Substance about Client Rights: http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/mhsa-rights/ .

            It may sound silly/annoying/time consuming but I recommend that people ‘therapist shop’; see multiple counselors/therapists and try them out.  When dating, you don’t commit to the very first person you ever go on a date with.  This person is someone that you plan to share some really important things with, it is important that you feel safe, open and comfortable with them.  If you don’t, what’s the point?  If you aren’t going to be able to go in, be open and really work on the things that are bothering you why are you going?

            Don’t worry about the therapist’s/counselor’s feelings.  Trust me, all good therapists are aware that they are not everyone’s cup of tea and that they cannot help each and every person that walks through their door.  If you feel like the bond/connection is off, chances are the therapist notices it as well.  I’m not suggesting you be unkind about it, but being honest will save you some time and awkwardness down the road.  I have been able to offer referrals and resources when I haven’t been the best fit and I have been glad to do so. 

            Listen to your gut!  There are thousands of years of built-in intuition in your psyche that many of us ignore because we want to be polite.  If you think something is off, talk about it, bring it up!  If your therapist wants a hug and that makes you feel weird, say so.  If you feel attracted to your therapist, bring it up (trust me, you will not be the first person to tell your therapist that).  If you think that treatment or a thing that your therapist does/doesn’t do is hindering you in some way, say something.  It is YOUR time in there, use it.  Your therapist may not be able/willing to accommodate your every whim but at least you guys can talk about why/why not.  Think about it this way, if you say a hairdresser and they did not give you the hair cut you ask for/want, you wouldn’t keep going and letting them cut your hair in a style you did not like. 

            Every state in the Union has a state licensing board that you can complain to if you feel that you have been mistreated.  I may be unpopular for bringing it up, but it’s true.  You have the right to file a compliant if you feel that your counselor/therapist mistreated you in some way.

            In short, know your rights, shop around for the right fit, ask for what you need and want and get out if you feel like you aren’t getting what you need.  

 © Nicole Richardson