Therapy Induced Trauma
What is therapy induced trauma, you might wonder? Many toxic relationship survivors have experienced it. Somehow they managed to cajole their character disturbed partner into going to a counseling session. Their partner was on their best behavior. They said all the right things; did all the right things. They had on their best face. And in their gift for making positive impressions, they charmed. If they’re really good at charming, they may have even seduced! Now the aggrieved party looks bad, while their oppressor looks great. And there you have it: therapy induced trauma. It happens when you go for help with hope in your heart, only to feel worse for the effort.
It can happen another way, too. You drag your cheating spouse into a session. You caught him or her red-handed. The text messages on the phone told the whole story. Trust has been destroyed – the very foundation of a sound relationship. But somehow it becomes your fault. How? Your partner laments you can’t let things go. It’s been weeks since he/she has corresponded with that other person! Yet you still harp on what he/she did. You always do that! Now, he/she looks like the victim. You’re so unreasonable! The counselor asks if you have trouble letting go of things. They muse about what that might mean going forward. Little focus is given the perpetrator’s tactics, let alone his/her responsibility to repair all the damage. And there you have it again: therapy induced trauma! And covertly-engineered gaslighting by proxy, to boot!
Where and How Real Change Occurs
There are a few things I stress strongly and repeatedly in professional training workshops. The most important principle is that real change always occurs in the here-and-now. People will say anything…promise anything. But you can’t base a relationship or its repair on promises. Right there, right then, in the therapy room, if he/she is doing the same manipulative things, you know no change is coming. And if the therapist doesn’t call such behavior out and reinforce only its correction, you know you’re wasting your time. That’s how you avoid therapy induced trauma. The counselor’s office is a great place to “rehearse” doing things differently. And if it isn’t happening there, you can bet it probably won’t happen elsewhere.
I talk about therapy induced trauma a lot in training workshops, too. I explain how it happens, even inadvertently, and the damage it does an already wounded party. How wish I could say awareness is high about it and that it doesn’t happen much anymore. But sadly, that’s not the case.
Character Matters and Other Matters
Catch the latest Character Matters podcast by following this YouTube link. I talk a bit more on the program about therapy induced trauma. And check out the page for the Spanish Language Edition of In Sheep’s Clothing. And look for an announcement next week about my upcoming book.