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Author Topic: A repetitive pattern
silvertabby13
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I've never taken a class in psychology or anything, never been to a psychiatrist myself, so maybe I'm just freaking out for no reason here... but a friend of mine, let's call her Jenna, told me about five months ago about an abusive relationship she had with a neighbor. Rape never occurred, but he attached himself to her and her family because he was helping them remodel their house, and he really crossed a line several times. Because of her experiences (which I won't go into in-depth) she has... episodes of nervousness? I don't know how to describe it. She says she gets really nervous and anxious, sometimes because she is thinking about her neighbor who abused her, and sometimes for no understandable reason. It doesn't help that he still lives RIGHT NEXT DOOR. Her mother won't let her go outside in a bathing suit because he can watch her from his living room window. Sick.
Her abuser was brought up on charges and he goes to court regularly over it and is taking some sort of counseling or whatever, he's forbidden from having any contact with him, blah blah blah. This post isn't really about him. It's about Jenna's psychiatrist... let's call her Anna.
Anna supposedly can "tell things" about people when she sees a picture of them. An example is that Jenna showed a picture of me to Anna to see what she would say and Anna said something like, "She's a very understanding person, and is a loyal friend." Don't know how accurate that is, and to tell the truth I was a little wary of her from the beginning because of that description. Jenna had already told Anna a lot about me, and that I was her best friend, so of course Anna would say something vague and flattering like that. Jenna doesn't seem to have the slightest doubt of Anna's "ability" though, even though I've pointed out her mistakes on several occasions when she looked at pictures of other people we know.
Anyway, what I'm really worried about is how much Jenna depends on her psychiatrist. I understand feeling like you need that person when you've gone through something, but it's been more than a year since Jenna told her mom about what was happening with the neighbor. And I'm not saying that her suffering should just *poof* go away, but I AM saying that I don't think the level of communication between these two is healthy. Jenna and Anna talk almost everyday through email, sometimes about stuff that has to do with their professional relationship, and sometimes not. Jenna's mom also talks frequently with Anna outside of the office, and they recently went to see her speak at some function or other. Jenna is constantly emailing Anna pictures of friends or people she's curious about to see what Anna's "take" on it is. When she mentioned that she was sending a picture of a guy friend of ours to Anna to get information on him, I asked why. Jenna said something about how his behavior reminded her of her abuser, and she wanted to talk about this guy friend in order to help her deal with her feelings towards her abuser? I don't know how valid this is.
I don't think it's right to be doing all this. She sends Anna pictures of people just to get little bits of "gossip" about them--the disturbing thing is Anna seems to encourage it. Isn't this crossing the line?
Also, Jenna has to ask Anna about everything. Every decision she makes is screened by Anna, and this has been bothering me for quite some time. Jenna is sixteen, she's supposed to be gaining independence instead of remaining attached at the hip to a psychiatrist who's supposed to be empowering her. Am I right in thinking this?
Finally is Jenna's mother's involvement in all this. Her mother annoys me anyway because she recently spent a lot of money and landscaping--she built a lovely little fountain in the back yard and planted some trees in the yard. Apparently it didn't occur to her to block the abuser's view of their yard so her daughter could go outside without being watched. Anyway, I also recently found out the mother has been with Jenna throughout every single session. Jenna has never had a session with Anna alone. And I said to Jenna, "What about doctor-patient confidentiality? You should be able to say things without your mom there."
Jenna said something like "I know, but the first time I went to go see Anna I was so nervous to be by myself that I wanted my mom with me. So she stayed for the first time and she's just come in ever since. Anna's said before that I should feel free to ask my mom to leave the room when I want, but I haven't."
After I found all this out things made more sense. Her mom has always used Anna as an excuse--she's always saying stuff like "You should do this because Anna thinks it'll get your mind off your abuser"
"Anna thinks you should read more, it's good for your mind and it'll distract you"
blah blah blah
So now I understood how her mother knew every detail of every session to a T.
Recently something happened--Jenna and I volunteered at a daycare service because we wanted experience working with little kids--we're interested in doing that later in life. We had originally planned to volunteer over the summer for five days a week, three hours a day. Sounds like a lot, right? Us naive teenagers didn't really think so. Bad hours isn't that much, right? Wrong.
You would think that Anna and and Jenna's mother would have considered this block of time a lot. It's a big chunk of time and effort to spend on a job you aren't getting paid for, and aren't getting credit for in school. But they both pat Jenna on the back and said, "Great idea! Go right ahead!"
The first day was grueling. When our supervisor came over and asked what our work schedule would be like, we revised on the fly. We said we planned to work three days a week, two hours each day. She nodded and seemed more than pleased, and I thought everything was fine. Jenna told her mother about the change in plans and her mother flipped out. Her mother is now forcing her to work three hours a day instead of two, and five days a week instead of three. Jenna is putting up a fight though. She said to her mom while I was sitting in the car, "So, mom, why don't you tell Cristy why you're acting this way?"
And her mother said, "You know why Jenna. You know that you agreed with me and your father, and especially Anna, to work the original schedule. And Anna thinks it's better for you to work a lot to keep your mind of your abuser."
Jenna, for three days in a row, has tried to reason with her mother, has tried to talk rationally and calmly (as calmly as Jenna can speak when she's really upset), and it has always resulted in shouting and the slamming of doors. Jenna has emailed Anna explaining this, hoping that Anna would be supportive of her own patient over her patient's mother. Wrong. Jenna sent about a page long email explaining the reasons why she's upset at the turn this has taken, saying that she doesn't like the amount of control Anna has over her life, that she feels she has lost a good deal of independence, and that she should be able to work whatever hours she wants, because this was all her decision to do this in the first place. Anna replied very simply: "I think working the original schedule would be good for you."
Thank you for the input, Anna.
It shouldn't be like this. It shouldn't be a power struggle. The mother and the psychiatrist should not be ganging up on an already victimized sixteen year old, and it makes me want to punch a wall just thinking about the emotional shit this girl endures from person after person. I'm not a perfect friend, but I try my very best. I've talked a lot with my mom about this situation, and she agrees with me a hundred percent. But I don't want to just talk about this. I need advice from someone on here-- advice or suggestions for action.
This is so messed up. I feel like this psychiatrist is controlling my friend and her entire family dynamic--everything has to be OK'd with her. If I was Jenna I would have started screaming matches long before this, but I'm glad she's done so now. I know it's not technically "right" to want a teenager to defy her parents and authority figures, but I feel I am in the right here. Does anyone have anything to say? I need some guidance here, my friend is being controlled AGAIN.

EDIT: It might also be important to know just how much this woman as permeated my friend's home life. It's hard to get this across. She's also got Jenna's two younger siblings as patients as well, she talks to Jenna's mother regularly about "goals" and what she wants Jenna to achieve--but shouldn't she just be talking to Jenna about this stuff, and not her mother? Shouldn't this be her relationship alone? I don't know.

[ 06-24-2010, 03:22 AM: Message edited by: silvertabby13 ]

Posts: 10 | From: Illinois, USA | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
atm1
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What you're describing here is definitely *not* a normal therapist relationship, though you seem to have already figured that one out.

By any chance, is school still in session, or can you call your school to see if any of the counselors are working over the summer?

I'd say that your best bet for a situation like this is to have your friend talk to a school counselor, but then again, you probably just got out of school very recently and it may be a while before she can access one.

What's her father's take on this? If he's at all skeptical, I'd encourage her to leverage her father's support to stop all contact with Anna.

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silvertabby13
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Thank you so much for replying!
You're right, school is already out so going to a school counselor is out. I don't know if I made it clear but I'd just like to clarify that Anna is not at all affiliated with our school, she's supposed to deal with trauma cases or something.
The thing is, her father's opinion doesn't seem to matter that much at all when it comes to family matters and how the family runs. Now that I think of it, the mother makes every decision, the father doesn't seem to have much power here. Anyway, I haven't even heard his opinion on this subject. Jenna told me that she's overheard her mother talking to her father and saying stuff like "I think it's good for her to be doing all this volunteer work," etc. But Jenna didn't mention her father even having a reaction to this, which makes me think he either agrees with the mother or doesn't have an opinion either way.
Also, I don't know how easy or simple it will be for Jenna to come to the conclusion that she needs to stop contact with her. I'm not sure if she's reached that point yet, she's depended on Anna for a long time and is used to turning to her when she doesn't know how to make a decision, it seems to take the pressure of responsibility off her shoulders, which I think a normal therapist would recognize and address.
Anyway, I'll talk to Jenna about severing contact with her, but that will probably be a big thing involving the whole family because Anna is such a big part of their lives due to the fact that she also has Jenna's two younger siblings as patients.
The mother is a stay-at-home, basically her whole life revolves around her three children, she's used to exerting power over them and making decisions for them. But this is really going too far, and I don't know how to help Jenna battle her own parent in this and succeed. Jenna depends on her mom so much too, so if her mom gets mad at her for defying her she has all the leverage in the world. Suddenly Jenna has no phone, no iPod, she's not allowed to contact her friends, she's not allowed to drive anywhere, etc etc.

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atm1
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I'm assume that if Jenna drives, she is at least 16, correct? How many more years of high school does she have left? If it's just a few, she may find it best to play along and try to move out and be independent after high school.

Do you know Anna's full name? If so, I strongly encourage you to contact the state licensing board (we can help you look that up, if you need help), because this situation is absolutely inappropriate. There's the possibility that she could get her license revoked or face charges if she is practicing without a license (which, honestly, wouldn't surprise me).


Finally, I should mention that this topic is a bit outside of our scope here. While we're more than happy to point you in the right direction, but really, this is outside our expertise. If you'd like more guidance, one thing you can do is find a counseling *yourself* and schedule an appointment to talk about this. They should be able to help with reporting if you chose to go that way.

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silvertabby13
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My friend has done a complete 180, and to be honest I guess I kind of expected it. She had a long talk with her mother and now everything's just peachy keen again. Basically there's no talking with her, it's like speaking to a wall. I love her, she's my best friend. But she just isn't listening, and because she's so emotionally involved with Anna she can't see how ludicrous this whole situation is.

I want to report Anna because she's also doing so many things that over the line, but I don't know how it would affect my friend. She wants to keep seeing her. She wants to keep "getting help" and believes this is a perfectly normal relationship. When I talked about professional distance, she said, "How do you know? You're not a psychiatrist."

I don't know what to do. I want to report her but I don't want to kill our friendship. But I think stopping seeing Anna is the best thing for her, despite what she thinks. I don't know. I don't know.

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atm1
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You probably will be able to report Anna in such a way that she (and therefore her patients) will never know who exactly reported her.

This therapist is likely hurting other patients in the same way, and honestly, I do think that her practice needs to stop.

While the transition time will likely be traumatic for your friend and her family, in the long run, reporting is probably the best way to go. Also, you might be able to find a state or national association of therapists'/psychologists'/social workers'/psychiatrists' statement of professional conduct (or ethics) online. Professional associations have these documents and if you can present your friend with a document that states what clear and appropriate boundaries are, that might help.

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silvertabby13
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Ok, thank you so much for your advice, I felt like this was all on my shoulders because no one else is willing to see what's going on or act on it, your advice really helped me not to feel alone.

I've looked at some codes of ethics and taken notes about what exactly she's violating, etc. I've decided to go ahead with this now, and at the moment the problem is getting names down without letting my friend know what I'm doing, like I need to find out Anna's last name. I'll work on that.

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silvertabby13
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Ok, thank you so much for your advice, I felt like this was all on my shoulders because no one else is willing to see what's going on or act on it, your advice really helped me not to feel alone.

I've looked at some codes of ethics and taken notes about what exactly she's violating, etc. I've decided to go ahead with this now, and at the moment the problem is getting names down without letting my friend know what I'm doing, like I need to find out Anna's last name. I'll work on that.

Posts: 10 | From: Illinois, USA | Registered: Jun 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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