I assume that anyone who has worked as a therapist for awhile is pretty hard to shock – people are people, and honestly, I think we have more in common than most of us realize.
These 15 therapists would probably agree – which is why these sessions in which they needed a moment to get their bearings, are lodged in their memory.
15. Too much stimulation.
Once had a client with a child who did nothing but scream at the parent for about 20-30 minutes straight.
As soon as they left , I cried for 20 minutes due to how emotionally charged the words/accusations.
I tried to defuse it at times, but it continued to rebound quickly.
14. She really took advantage of those 5 minutes.
More of a funny story but I arrived at a client’s house for a session (I was doing in home therapy for adolescents at the time) with a 13 year old kid. He was a little late getting home from school so he wasn’t there yet.
His mother has me sit down to wait for him and says that while he’s not home she wanted to ask me something. I’m assuming it’s about her son since that’s why I’m there.
She proceeds to ask me why I think her boyfriend won’t perform oral s^x on her and if I have any suggestions to change that.
Really didn’t see that one coming.
13. Big trauma.
I would say my therapist moment was when a 10 year old child described to me in vivid detail how his moms boyfriend locked him in a dog kennel and brutally stabbed his mom to death right in front of him took her body to the woods and threatened to kill him if he told someone.
I still see this client and I work on helping him work through the grief and emotion processing, as well as building coping skills. He’s still super young, but I worry that he’s going to get some unhealthy coping skills to cope with this trauma.
12. Sometimes it just hits.
First internship on my path to counselor and I was working in funeral home under the grief counselor there (grief and trauma is my focus).
We were taught to be strong and supportive to those grieving of course and if we needed to cry, go in the back or to the bathroom.
I escorted a elderly lady to view her husband before the service. I helped sit her in the chair in front of the casket and was standing behind her when she stood up and laid on the casket, bawling her eyes out declaring how much she loved him, missed him, and begging him not to leave her, come back.
That totally destroyed me. I immediately started crying behind her. She stood up and i sucked it up to help her walk back into the hall to start greeting guest. I thought I had did a good job collecting myself, but my mentor took one look at me and softly said, “go to the back room”, which I did.
I completely lost it for a few minutes, cleaned up and went back to help with the service. I definitely needed that minute.
11. Just to get your head around it.
I’m a trauma therapist for foster kids so sometimes I need to take a walk about a session where they talk about severe physical or sexual abuse.
10. I’m sure they did their best.
Not a therapist but volunteered on a suicide hotline for a number of years.
Took a call from a young woman who was hysterical on the phone, was difficult to make out what she was saying amongst her sobs but I could make out she was outside.
I asked her where she was and she replied that she was on the top floor of a multi-story car park and was contemplating jumping off. I talked with her, tried to calm her (meanwhile I was shaking like a leaf). But to no avail. She jumped and the line went dead.
It was in the local paper not soon after and it’s stayed with me for years
9. I am big mad.
I worked in child/adolescent crisis before my current job. I could tell a lot of stories. But the one that still really sticks with me is this.
If you’re not familiar with crisis units in the hospital, they have CCTV so security guards can watch multiple patients simultaneously to monitor behavior for safety. I’m working a crisis case of a 12-y.o. male after a few years at the same hospital. The child had been aggressive toward staff (broke a crisis worker’s nose) so he’d been put in 4-point restraints (don’t even get me started on that human rights violation).
One of the guards comes to me and says, “I think you need to see this.” He pulls up a screen recording and there’s a video of mom putting her hand down the child’s pants, gesticulating her hand inside his pants, then pulling her hand back out after a few–uh–strokes. And then, a few minutes later, the same thing.
I call CPS, they come down, watch the videos. I call his long-term mental health therapist and say, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but we saw [mom] molesting [child] on video.” Therapist screams “I knew it! I knew she was molesting him!” We call dad down, who hasn’t been in the kid’s life much. He says he got chased away by mom for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that he got creeped out by things mom would say and do. For instance, mom allegedly told him she was attracted to girlish-looking boys with long hair, which just about summed up the child.
Mom is asked about the incidents and says that she wasn’t molesting the child, says that the child has a “tic” and needs his balls moved sometimes to stop the “tic.” He couldn’t get the “tic” himself because of being in restraints, so she just did it for him. Twice. CPS found that an acceptable excuse and ruled the case unfounded. I don’t know what was worse: watching the videos or hearing that CPS watched the same videos as me and said “yeah that’s okay.”
8. A lot to take in.
I usually need a breather after working with my victims of sexual assault. The pain and tears in my room are always so heavy and raw.
As an intern, I saw a client for a few weeks. Extremely suicidal. Stopped coming out of the blue. Literally my first client ever. Wife came to be seen as a patient a few weeks later and the receptionist hurried back and warned me her husband, my client, had died by suicide and now she wanted to be seen.
Her description of the event and how her daughters found out was absolutely horrific. It was a lot to take in as a new therapist.
7. More than a moment.
The time I had to clean a bloody bathroom scene where an incredibly disturbed girl had self harmed herself throughout our rec complex. A local gr 4 class from a neighbouring school used our pool so it had to get cleaned that night.
I needed a f**kin month actually.
6. A lot for anyone.
I am not a therapist, but I was in a therapy program years ago, and we got a new patient. Within the span of a week, her mother died of cancer, and her house caught on fire and her dad and sister died in the accident. The sister died slipping from the girl’s hands and falling into flames.
I felt so bad for her and I couldn’t comprehend it at first.
5. Heartbreaking for sure.
Its my work with kids that has always affected me most.
Had one kid that was in foster care and had been pushed from house to house. He had apparently had a very rough upbringing before that. He was very quiet and didn’t talk much.
We always gave every child a box that they could decorate and fill with things they made in sessions. At the end of their sessions they could then take it home if they wanted to.
What did this kid do when I first gave him his box? He started making it into a house. Gave it a door, windows, a roof etc. and then wrote a message to his mum (who he couldn’t see anymore) on the side to say that he loved her.
In the sessions he spent the majority of the time playing with the doll house where it always went the same way. He arranged all the furniture and people perfectly. He was very specific about what went where and what people had which rooms.
And then he would destroy it all. Saying that ‘the new people are coming’.
I have a lot of stories but remembering his pain and his simple desire for a home always breaks my heart.
4. A stark reality.
I worked as a therapist at a substance use agency before going into private practice.
One of my biggest “I need a moment” times happened there. I was working with a young individual (and I myself was around their age) who was addicted to meth. They were bright, intelligent, and deeply empathetic to the world but so so sick. Had to have not just one open heart surgeries due to cardiomyopathy, but two. Prior to ever turning 30. Just kept relapsing despite trying so hard.
This client never missed treatment. Didn’t show for an appointment so I called. Didn’t answer. They called back and asked to speak to me. I will never forget the voice when I answered. They were so broken. They had just relapsed before calling and injected meth into their PICC line that was treating another heart infection.
They were so afraid and disappointed. I remember thinking that their addiction was going to kill them and it weighed so heavily on me. I will never forget this client. After that call I sat there awash in the realization that my client would likely die from this and they were my age.
Addiction can turn people all out of character but they were so sweet and kind. Would give you the shirt off their back. I truly believe they were just too kind for this harsh world.
BUT: This was awhile ago. Client went to a higher level of care and I found out over a year later they were sober and doing well and had moved states. I remember crying when I found out they made it all that time later.
3. They can’t look away.
Therapist here. I specialize in working with first responders and medical professionals (nurses, physicians, etc). The child death cases are always hard for me.
I am an expert at keeping a good poker face during those sessions but daaaamn if there aren’t days I’ve gone home and just held my kids and cried with gratitude that it wasn’t them.
First responders experience so.much.trauma.
2. This hurts my heart, too.
When I was a kid I went to therapy, I asked my therapist if she felt like I deserved what happened to me.
She stepped out of the room, came back in a few minutes later clearly having had cried. She then said, no, you did not deserve it.
I’ll never forget it. I felt terribly sorry for upsetting her. But now I better understand. I hope she is well.
1. That must have been a shock.
Not a therapist but a massage therapist. Was my first few weeks of treating and a lady who I had never seen before had clinic notes saying she had gone through an intense family issue. I just asked if she was okay as a kind gesture.
She proceeded to tell me her niece was being sexually assaulted/raped by her brother in law and they had no idea until the niece started dating a boy and she had just brought it up in conversation. The nieces boyfriend told his own parents and they called the police. Poor girl had been assaulted for so long she just thought it was a normal occurrence.
This was only 20 minutes into a 60 min massage. It was kind of hard to regather myself after that.
I can see how one might need to just take a minute before responding to any of this.
Are you a therapist? Have you shocked your therapist? Tell us your best story in the comments!