Good Intentions & Mentor Damage © Martyn Carruthers
Are you enmeshed with a helping professional or a spiritual guide?
Do you feel entangled with your employees or clients?
CAUTION: As you read this, you may discover some disturbing facts about yourself and people you know. Please discuss with friends how damage or abuse may apply to you … and to them.
Please avoid hasty conclusions or retribution.
We help people solve emotional and relationship problems and we meet many people who have tried other sources of help. We learn from them some consequences of psychological theories, cults and New Age psycho-theologies. This helps us provide mentorship with integrity.
Although most helping professionals and mentors have good intentions, we developed ways to help people manage the consequences of spiritual and therapeutic abuses that comprise therapist damage or mentor damage.
Sometimes mentor damage must be resolved before people can move on with their lives. (Here are some comments about experiences with therapists / counselors that may be stranger than fiction.)
Abusers usually claim good intentions. They may say that they want to help you enjoy perfect mental health or wonderful spiritual experiences. They may say that they want you to avoid hell or prevent further suffering. They may tell you that they want to protect you, or that they will help you by making important decisions for you.
Healthy mentor qualities include maturity, emotional stability and competence; and deficiencies in those areas may result in damaged clients or patients. It is wise to recognize which potential mentors and helping professionals avoid resolving their own emotional baggage or do not heal their own relationship issues.
I have a PhD in psychology … I know many mental health professionals who specialize in their own problems and project their issues onto their clients. Some therapists are notorious for codependent, dysfunctional behavior … don’t give away your power. California
Beware of therapists who only offer intellectual insights or statistical analyses. Beware of mentors who are depressed, arrogant, dissociated or who try to cling to you. Beware of counselors who are irresponsible, overly sympathetic or immature – especially if they want you to like them – or worse, if they want you to be like them!
I was in therapy for 12 years and felt worse coming out than I did going in.
My obsessive compulsive disorder remained unchanged, my socially avoidant behavior was the same, I was still depressed … and I felt worse because I was so angry at the therapists.
Beware of helping professionals who are overly sympathetic. If they stop being curious, instead of listening to you, they only listen to themselves. They may make intuitions (guesses spoken as inspired truths) and commence interventions without checking whether those interventions are appropriate. They may treat you like a child.
My psychiatrist conditioned me with a sort of continuing shock treatment
that was so obnoxious that I pretended to be normal to escape his therapy.
For example, if a coach, counselor or therapist tells you that you must forgive someone who violated your values … forced forgiveness may deny your emotions, prevent your learning and delay your maturity. I see forced forgiveness as a form of abuse (the abuser acts like a bullying parent or a judgmental priest).
Therapists offer varying suggestions because they have adopted beliefs from their mentors and colleagues about what makes people get better. But they usually fail to question these assumptions, regarding them as self-evident truths and applying them to everyone who walks through the door. Sometimes they fit, but sometimes—probably between 30 and 50 percent of the time—they don’t. From Am I Crazy or is it My Shrink?
Lasting happiness seems to require that you make decisions and take responsibility for your choices, including your choice of who you trust, even when the consequences are unpleasant. Were your actions through naivety, misinformation or ignorance? Understanding the consequences can help you make better decisions.
How to Assess a Coach, Therapist or Mentor
Although professional associations will not vouch for the character or stability of their members, you can seek evidence of competence and maturity.
Observe how they mentor people. Talk to people who were mentored by them. Ask for a test session. Read a transcript, if you can. Discover if a potential mentor …
Is this person likely to help you change your beliefs and habits?
Mentor Abuse & Toxic Mentorship
Helping professionals make mistakes. Occasionally I forget an appointment, I lose my notes, I get the time zone wrong – whatever. Although my mistakes can be annoying, inconvenient and embarrassing, they are probably not abusive.
What about someone who tries to bend you to fit a technique, rather than bending a technique to fit you? Few people are identical and what worked last week for another person may be inappropriate for you.
My therapist uses fancy words to explain why his treatments should work,
but avoids the subject of why they don’t work, except to call me resistant. Sydney
Abuse begins when people try to manipulate you, regardless of their motivation. Mentors may use religious words to advance their own agenda, or proclaim social goals to hide their desire for power. Such abuse may entangle your personal integrity with unwanted philosophies, dogma or political agendas.
My husband’s (male) therapist told me that I have to relieve my husband’s sexual frustration or it will be my fault if my husband has an affair. North Carolina
The consequences? You may become increasingly angry, compliant or dependent. You may believe and do things that you would previously avoid. You may feel anxious if you do not follow their intuitions or orders. You may feel depressed that you are violating someone’s rules, or alienating people. These are all signs of abuse.
My counselor told me I must forgive my uncle, who raped me. When I asked him how I should do that, he talked to me with contempt and told me to go to church. Texas
Later, you may not trust any authority. You may be unable to discern who supports you, and who does not. You may dismiss all potential mentors as charlatans; all therapists as con-artists; all counselors as crooks. You may feel victimized, impotent and angry … much like many other victims of abuse.
If you are uncertain about a mental health treatment or a spiritual path, check your perceptions. Independent, external evidence is useful when trying to determine if something is worth doing or believing. Get other opinions if a potential mentor says …
- that your symptoms are sure signs of past events that you have forgotten
- that your objections are sure signs that you need more frequent or more expensive treatment
We help people heal after abuse and incompetence. Do you want to find
healthy ways to live your life, regain your self-esteem and express your love?