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SWstudent January 6th, 2005 11:59 PM

How ethical is my therapist?
I am a SW student who sees a therapist. I was wondering how ethical some things that she is doing. Lately she has been canceling my appointments with her. Sometimes it was the night before the session when her office called me to cancel, sometimes it was 20 minutes before the session when I got a phone call stating that my session was cancelled. About 3 times I went to her house (that's where she sees her therapy clients) just to be told by her personal assistant on the steps of the house that my session was cancelled. It's humiliating, first that she cancells my appointments a lot, second that she does it right before the session and third, to come all the way to her house just to be turned away. The reason is always the same - she is sick, she is not feeling well. When I pass by her house about an hour later - her car is gone, so she is well enough to go out but not well enough to see me. I never talked to her about this. I am going to be a therapist one day, so can you tell me is that ok to do things like that to your clients?

Da Friendly Puter Tech January 10th, 2005 01:13 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Yanno, we wouldnt really know enough to comment on how ethical your therapist is. However, if I were in your shoes I would be quite hurt about the behavior. I would also realize that there might be legitimate reasons for the behavior - a sick family member is one reason springing to mind.

Why dont you talk to her about it? You can decide how to handle it depending on her answer....

Da Friendly Puter Tech

SWstudent January 10th, 2005 11:16 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
She does not have any sick family members. She is not married and her kids are in college. I don't know how I can talk to her about this. It's a very legitimate excuse that she is giving. I can't say, well you are sick, so what, see me anyway. You are right, I am hurt by that, considering that I am waiting all week, counting days when I see her. If I wanted to talk to her about this, what should I say?
SWstudent :confused:

Da Friendly Puter Tech January 10th, 2005 09:43 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
What should you say? Well, thats sorta up to you I would think. How you feel maybe. Whats on your mind maybe.

I always say - we hire our mental health professionals and we can fire them. They are employee's of us. That attitude changes what could be a really nasty powerless situation.

Just imagine you had a lot of days out because of sickness on your job. Is there a time when the boss would grouse about it? Ask you for a doctors note maybe?

Good luck.

Da Friendly Puter Tech

jbtmax January 12th, 2005 11:28 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Hi--would you be comfortable asking her if she will be able to see you on a consistent basis? Maybe tell her that is what you need, and if she is not able to provide that, then this is not a relationship that will work for you.... As an aside, I employ lots of therapists, and if this person worked for me, she wouldn't (work for me)...part of the committment is to place the needs of the clients first and it doesnt seem like that's happening. If she does have a legitimate reason, whay can't she talk to you about it? Hmmmmm..

mugwump January 13th, 2005 01:25 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Dear Sw student,

I have been following this thread and wondered if you had considered using the social work code of practice to assess whether your therapist is acting ethically? I also wonder whether the question is also whether you are finding the time with your therapist helpful? Is the relationship helpful to you or is time and energy being focused on the lack of access to your therapist

SWstudent January 13th, 2005 10:01 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
I'll try to reply to everybody in this e-mail. I did not look it up in Social work code of ethics but my thoughts would be that it's unethical - to cancel a session 20 minutes before or when your patient is already there. It shows that she does not care about me, my time or my relationship with her. What am I supposed to think about her professionalism if she does things like that. She is not a social worker, however. She is a psychiatrist. I guess they have kind of similar code of ethics, though. Do I find my relationship with my T helpful? Yes, I do, when she sees me. I am always scared to go see her because I never know till the last second, will she cancel this time or will she see me?
I am not comfortable with talking to her about this issue at all. She might be able to talk to me about it but I am hesitant to bring this topic up. I think she'll come up with another excuse if I ask.

Da Friendly Puter Tech January 13th, 2005 10:27 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
I am unsure what exactly you are looking for from us.

However, if I may summarize the obvious you have some choices.

You can choose to talk to her about it, and see where that takes you, and how she answers.

You can choose ot not talk to her about it. In that case you will have to decide if you want to continue to see her or not. If you decide to continue to see her, but not talk to her about it then - well - I guess you can try to accept the situation as it is. Although, I suspect eventually your emotions will find expression towards her though.

You can of course also choose to just pack your bags and find another therapist. But if thats your choice wouldnt it be worth it to try and let her know why you are considering that option?

Just a thought.

Da Friendly Puter Tech

JustBen January 14th, 2005 04:08 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Forgive me if I'm being too analytical here, but it seems like you're kind of hung up on issues of ethics and professionalism. If somebody here could give you a definitive answer, would that really change anything? For example, if I said, "According to the Code of Ethics of the American Psychiatric Association, psychiatrists must cancel appointments with at least 24 hours notice when possible." Now what? That doesn't make you any more satisfied with your therapy experience, does it?

If you're unhappy with your treatment, confront your therapist with it. You don't need any "official" justification for the way you feel.

SWstudent January 16th, 2005 02:50 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
No, I guess the best of you, therapists, could figure this out, I just needed a place where I could tell what is going on with my T and let the emotions out. I don't care whether she is "ethical" or not, that's no big deal. I know that I need to talk to her about these cancellations. I don't want to find another T, no and it's hard to bring it up. So, I guess, I needed a piece of advice and to conform that what she is doing is not right.

William Reid January 16th, 2005 09:45 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
As someone has already pointed out, this forum is not intended (and shouldn't be used) to comment on or participate in individuals' therapies and relationships with their therapists. Having said that, Da 'Puter, Just Ben, et al., are right. You have three obvious and appropriate options and it seems odd that you are not using them (but rather are chewing the fat with strangers):

(1) Talk to your therapist about it. That's part of therapy and it's probably encouraged by the therapist. I am at a loss to see why you haven't done this or are coming to a forum to wrestle with why you should do it. If you're not doing talking to your therapist about it, you're not doing your part, and you sound plenty competent to do your part. (2) Check with a faculty member or supervisor in your training program. They're probably a lot more convenient, knowledgeable about your situation, and professionally reliable than a Web forum (even ours) with regard to getting a second opinion or reality check. (3) Check the social work ethical guidelines yourself. It's your field, and you're no doubt somewhere near a social work library.

Until you've done at least one or two of the above things yourself, continue to believe something is amiss, and have your "amiss" impression corroborated by someone you can personally talk with, this is a therapy issue, not an ethical one.

Joan Golston February 11th, 2005 02:53 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
It's easy to imagine being upset and even sad in your situation, SWS.

It seems there are several different kinds of conversations you might have with your psychiatrist. I'd wager you'd do better simply talking about how *you* feel emotionally, and about your fantasies about what she's thinking, doing, meaning by her behavior, etc. If on the other hand you ask her to explain herself, to provide a good reason, etc., you'll have a whole different (and maybe less satisfying) conversation and result. If you can muster it, I'd suggest the former approach ... and if not, then perhaps talk about how you are in an unspecified situation where you need to speak up but can't.

Perhaps with some exploration you can find out what has silenced you here, and perhaps elsewhere. And if you can't do either, I'd suggest you consider switching therapists.

By the way, while it doesn't apply to psychiatrists who have their own code, the NASW Code of Ethics talks about the duty of loyalty to clients ... whatever the wording of each code, that's a reasonable expectation for you to have. So maybe she's been really sick, but leaving you in the dark and uncertain is not necessary, in my book.

Good luck!

KounselorK April 7th, 2005 08:47 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Ethics aside as I think that issue has been covered, you did say that you plan to be a therapist? If that is the case, how would you want a client of yours to address this issue with you? Your therapist can't read your mind nor can you read your therapists mind. If you are unable to bring up the issue, what is happening in your sessions to leave you with the impression you aren't in charge?

These are just some questions to ask yourself. Maybe the answers will help you make some choices for yourself.

bflo82 April 24th, 2007 02:12 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Dear patient:

Your therapist is rejecting you.It's that simple.No need to make excuses or to tolerate this behavior.

Quit immediately and do not pay for any of the sessions you have had.

nd then report her to the local or State psychological Association.

Do NOT attempt to 'talk" about this with her(or him.,).

It is unprofessional as well as damaging behavior.

Leave at once!!!!

William Reid April 24th, 2007 07:59 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Although we cannot become involved in individual therapy matters, it seems odd that you would write to strangers on a forum before talking with the therapist or, if that doesn't halp, with someone more directly associated with your situation.


sk8rgrl23 May 30th, 2007 05:30 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
I'm wondering if you are really asking about the ethicality (is that a word?) of her behavior or if you are really asking do you have a legitimate right to be dissatisfied?

William Reid November 23rd, 2007 11:48 AM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
Thanks for reading this thread! The Law, Ethics and Psychotherapy Forum gets a lot of readers, but few new posts. You are invited to contribute statements, comments or questions to keep the forum alive. Pick something you like, or something you don't like, but don't let the threads go stagnant! All I ask is that we avoid personal questions from patients (we can't do clinical work or second-guess therapists here, but we can have professional discussions among clinicians about ethics or forensic scenarios). We also avoid personal attacks.

The possibilities are endless. You can simply reply to a post in an existing thread, or start a new one. Do you have questions or experiences that involve the ethics or legal aspects of training? clinical work? termination? malpractice or malpractice lawsuits? forensic careers? criminal matters related to mental health? boundaries? work with courts or lawyers? work in correctional institutions? work with parolees or probationers? clinician impairment? laws affecting practice?

Choose something you're familiar with or something you want to know more about. If you want suggestions, you're welcome to check out my website at

Bill Reid, Forum Administrator

jdizon February 23rd, 2009 03:21 PM

Re: How ethical is my therapist?
I agree with everyone that it helps the therapist get to know more about you. And it's obviously public so anyone can read it, but I still find it a little creepy. I don't know why, it just seems weird. But it could be that they're just really concerned about helping you, which is great.

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