Therapists Open up About Patients That Genuinely Scared Them

I have a feeling that these responses are going to sound like something out of a horror movie…so it should be kind of exciting! And creepy…

We’re about to hear from therapists who admitted that they have had patients that genuinely scared the hell out of them.

Are you ready to get creeped out?

Here’s what therapists said on AskReddit.

1. Threatening.

“I worked with a student who used to threaten us.

He’d stand directly behind me with a pencil and threaten to stab me with it. I’d remind him what would happen if he did, but otherwise didn’t flinch or try and look at him.

He’d get mad then and throw the pencil across the room. It turns out me and one other lady were able to sit stone faced when he was like that an she never did anything. He’d get way worse if he thought anyone was scared of him.

I was the lucky one, he’d threaten to stab her in the eye. I’d always joked that I’d rather not see it coming.”

2. Scary.

“I was genuinely scared of a 17 yr old client I had. They were adopted and then “given back” to child protective services.

They told me in session they had an entire plan to burn their house down. Down to the date and the time.

I was terrified.”

3. Take it seriously.

“In one of my first clinical placements I had a psychiatrist supervising me who would toss me cases without any meaningful review. One afternoon I went into a room to meet someone for the first time and was told they were “anxious.”

The individual was floridly psychotic and informed me shortly after I walked in that he was scared for himself and others because he was a werewolf and would be transforming that evening.

Apparently I did not respond quickly or meaningfully enough, because in almost the next breath he informed me that I was not taking him seriously enough, picked up the office lamp, and threatened to beat me to death with it.”

4.  Nice to me.

“The only client who scared me was one that was nice to me.

He was awful to everyone else on the treatment team and would never comply with services until I came along. He always greeted me with a smile and wanted to know what I did in my spare time. Asked personal questions. I lied about my entire life.

He would call me to chat about nothing sometimes. I could tell that it was all superficial, however. I would have to text my boss when I arrived at his home and when I was back at my car with the doors locked.

When I got pregnant I begged to be removed from the case.”

5. A tense situation.

“I was doing in home work during my first internship. I was working with a 16 year old male diagnosed with schizophrenia.

This kid was huge, like 6’9 and was jacked. He had assaulted three police officers that responded to a call about my client choking his mom. He threatened to r*pe his sister and pulled a knife on her as well. He had threatened to r*pe several other women.

He also assaulted a worker at an inpatient facility, he broke the dude’s nose. So my agency sends my *ss to work with the kid (I’m 5’1 and weigh like 95 lbs). While working with him he was pretty heavily sedated from all his meds when I met with him, so this made him slightly less scary.

He got up several times during our session and would start pacing. Every time he got up my heart was racing.

He was admitted to a group home so I only ended up meeting with him twice but this kid terrified me.”

6. “I don’t do therapy anymore.”

“I had recently graduated and was working with kids with an array of developmental disabilities.

There was one kid who was about 13, and he was a pretty big kid for his age. After a few sessions, it seemed like it wasn’t too bad. Common behaviors while more frequent, were no different than any other kid with a similar diagnosis. That was until I had to wear my knee brace one day.

I have a bad knee, and sometimes a brace helps. The next session after, he kicked my bad knee and then tried to choke me. If he tried escaping or aggressing, he always remembered to go for my knee. We continued therapy for a few months, until I had to leave for health (knee) reasons.

Apparently I handled it well and the company I was with continued to pair me with known aggressive kiddos. I had to go the doctor for an unrelated reason, and I had so many cuts and bruises the nurse asked if my husband attacked me.

I don’t do therapy anymore.”

7. Wow…

“When I worked with family court there was this super smart, super troubled kid who was in hot water for beating up a random guy on the street with a baseball bat.

Open and shut, surveillance camera caught everything. Apparently he didn’t know his victim, just a random act.

Anyways, he was being tried as an adult (he REALLY beat this dude up) and was being held in adult jail pre-trial. He was assigned a therapist and had a few sessions per week.

Long story short, one session the kid gets mad, grabs the chair he was sitting on, and beats his therapist within an inch of his life. I think the poor guy was on a ventilator for like a week.

Yeah, kid had some issues…”

8. Not worth it for you.

“My 1st job as a therapist in community mental health we had no “close time” & were expected to accommodate any & all late session requests from clients with no security, it was insane.

We had an incident occur with a coworker-her client exposed himself during session. At the next staff meeting we were berated & gas lit about safety “you should park closer” yet we would also get in trouble for parking closer & told those spots were for clients.

Needless to say I only stayed there about 7 months, daily crying & intense anxiety weren’t working out for me.”

9. Close call.

“I got this patient who witnessed his mom get stabbed by his father.

After that happened he only started talking about gore and threatening people. I worked with him for a month and he started getting way better. I started to get comfortable in front of him and so did he.

Then one day he comes into my office, he comes up to me and from his back he pulls out a knife. I barely have time to dodge the knife. The guard runs in to the office and grabs the kid.

He got sent to juvie and I quit after a week.”

10. She only get a year?!

“She told me she’d kill me for trying to shrink her and pulled out a knife and sat there looked her in the eyes trying to assert dominance I got out of that situation with a hole in my hand

She got 1 year in prison with a possibility of parole.

I quit my job 2 months later, my boss understood.”

11. Having an episode.

“My first ever client was having a psychotic episode, was homeless and had all of her belongings with her (a backpack filled with items and a duffle)

She proceeded to pull out a pair of kiddie scissors and cut off all of her dreadlocks and lay them on the table in front of me while talking about needing to get rid of the voices she was hearing.

This was all before I got her to even sign the paperwork 😅 she and I talked enough to get the formalities finished and she decided to take to locks and put them in her bag like nothing abnormal was happening. I was just glad the scissors went away too .

After that intake, she fell off the face of the earth. Never heard from her again. I was fully prepared to ask her to hand over the sharps and put them somewhere out of reach until she was ready to leave but I didn’t have to.”

12. Good thing Tom was there…

“Before I was a therapist, I worked for a brief time at a residential facility for youth with severe neurodevelopmental disabilities (eg, autism, intellectual disability) and behavioral problems.

All of our youth had a history of violence, most had experienced trauma, and 2/3 were in state custody. Also, this was a for-profit institution that was horribly managed and woefully understaffed.

I was on the older boys’ wing trying to get my group ready to transition to the next activity. Now, one of the boys in my group, let’s call him Jay, was pretty high functioning but had significant attachment issues. When new staff (like myself) would come in, he would quickly develop a favorite (unsurprisingly, it tended to be one of the few who would actually treat the residents as fellow humans worthy of respect).

Jay was funny and likeable and would generally do what you asked, with only a lil bit of sass, which honestly just added to his charming rapscallion persona. However, he’d gradually start to push boundaries, INSISTING that he be in that staff’s group (groups changed each shift for this exact reason), constantly demanding attention, acting out to try to get a reaction (one time he told me I would never get a boyfriend because I had a mustache 😂), etc.

If he didn’t get his way, he’d get incredibly angry and upset. And then the next time you saw him, he’d be sweet as pie. Oh, and he’d also stabbed a previous “favorite” staff member in the face with a pencil…

So anyway, I’m trying to get my group ready to go, and Jay has been continuously saying my name for like 5 minutes. In order to reinforce boundaries and NOT reinforce his tantrums, I told him that I would be happy to talk when we were all ready to go and then started ignoring him.

I go into the room of a resident with more significant needs (eg, largely nonverbal, intellectually disabled), to get his shoes on, and I close the bedroom door so Jay’s yelling would be less upsetting to the resident. All of a sudden, Jay LAUNCHES himself at the door.

He’s spitting mad and he’s trying to get into the room with me. I don’t know what he had planned, but I knew it wasn’t a calm heart-to-heart conversation. So I put my whole weight on the door, fighting to keep it closed. Unfortunately, at 15, Jay is much bigger than larger than I am (which isn’t saying much as I’m 5’0″), and none of the doors have locks on them. It is not going my way.

He’s able to get the door open a crack, and I can see he’s smiling, like this has turned into a game to him. But he’s not less threatening or any more in control of his rage. I am freaking out and yelling for backup, but I can’t reach my walkie without letting go of the door.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jay gets full-body tackled and hits the ground with a thud. I take advantage of the opportunity to SLAM the door closed and send out a frantic emergency call on the walkie.

When I finally walk shaking out of the room, I see Jay, still spitting mad, is being physically restrained by staff members and sporting a brand new bloody lip. To my surprise, staff members are restraining another resident, Tom, who is sitting their calmly just waiting to be released.

Apparently, Tom had a history of witnessing domestic violence, and seeing someone try to hurt women was a huge trigger for him. So he had sprinted from his room, tackled Jay, and put him in a hold. (Tom’s parents thought that karate would help their oppositional, angry son more than therapy, so he knew what he was doing.)

Tom had to face the standard consequences for violence (eg, physical restraint until no longer a threat, loss of privileges for that day), but I made sure to thank him. I really don’t know what would’ve happened if Tom hadn’t intervened…”

13. 6’6”, 250 lbs

“I was a therapist for several years. I worked with a variety of patients of ages and diagnoses.

I worked in the community with violent offenders and s*x offenders. I worked with adolescents after suicide or homicide attempts. I worked with developmentally and intellectually disabled adults in rehab. I’ve seen quite the gamut. I had been in plenty of scary situations, but most of the time knew the patient themselves were never a concern.

The only time I was scared was when I had a couple come into my outpatient practice, my last of the day. The man was very large, about 6’6”, 250 lbs. They were having relationship troubles and it became evident he was abusive in about 5 minutes.

He was talking over her, interrupting her, and told her to shut up in a raised voice right in front of me. At one point he slammed the table and that knocked off a trinket. I think we had probably half of the session done at that point, but I ended things because I was scared. I saw the woman individually after that and worked to get her to a better situation.

I looked online after and he had several DV charges.”

Are you a therapist?

Have you ever had a patient that actually scared you?

If so, please talk to us in the comments. Thanks.