January 11, 2024 | Scott Mazza

Real-Life Therapy Nightmares

Most of the time, our therapists are distant by necessity. They are looming presences that help us through some of our toughest times, or just let us know that everything is going to be okay. But what about when that professional veneer cracks? 

1. Not There When It Counts

I'm a child social worker. I once helped a minor whose mom had Munchhausen-by-proxy Syndrome. This means the mother makes up illnesses her kid doesn't have, looking for sympathy and attention from others. In the worst cases, she would even harm her own child to create a reason to seek medical assistance.

The girl's mom was absolutely dreadful, continuing her behavior even after her daughter was taken away. Somehow, the authorities never revoked her custodial rights, giving her a chance to meddle in her daughter's life from a distance. She'd constantly reassure her daughter of her love and presence, but was absent when it truly mattered. This led to a deeply moving incident.

One time, the daughter became pregnant, but sadly, the fetus wasn't viable. An operation was necessary, requiring her mother's email consent. Despite my numerous calls to her, and her promises to send the approval, it never arrived. 

Unfortunately, the young girl had to suffer for three torturous days waiting for the operation she urgently needed, because of her mother's inaction. In the end, we sought help from Child Protective Services (CPS) to get the necessary consent. 

However, the damage to the girl was extensive and she never truly got over it. Witnessing this was my first, "I need to take a moment" experience.

You Are Not The FatherShutterstock

2. Let It Go

I was in a small room with a familiar patient of mine. She was a really lovely lady who abruptly rose from her chair, politely excused herself, then walked to the other side of the compact room and let out the loudest, most high-pitched toot I've ever heard. 

Afterward, she walked the short distance back to her chair and sat down with a smile, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.

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3. Home Alone

Working with children has always had the most profound effect on me. There was this one child in foster care who had been bounced from place to place and had a pretty turbulent past. He was seriously shy and didn't say much. We used to give each child a box they could customize and fill with items crafted during our sessions. 

They could take it home when the sessions finished, if they chose to. His reaction to this box was heart-wrenching. What was this kid's first move when handed his box? He began transforming it into a house. Adding a door, windows, a roof, and more. 

He even inscribed a message of love to his mom (who he no longer had contact with) on its side. Throughout the sessions, he'd spend most of the time engaged with the dollhouse, and his interaction with it was notably repetitive. He meticulously positioned the miniature furniture and dolls. 

He was particular about where every item went and who occupied each room. But then, he'd wreck it all, declaring that "the new people are coming". I have a plethora of stories, but recalling his anguish and his pure longing for a permanent home never fails to stir my emotions. I hope wherever he is now, that he's faring well.

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4. Don’t Carry It All

My client shared with me that his family doesn't really understand his fascination with firearms. He went on to say he's always armed, and to prove his point, he placed his piece on the table. He was curious to know if this made me uncomfortable. To be honest, it did. 

Still, we veered the discussion back to why he was so interested in my reaction and its relation to his family's views. After that encounter, I made certain to always be within close proximity to an exit and keep it clear between me and the client, just for precaution.

Nobody Believes My Crazy StoryPexels


5. Sharing The Burden

I work as a coordinator at a local mental health facility. One day, I found myself in a face-to-face meeting with a woman seeking our services. She was in dire straits, hoarding possessions across several properties and spending her nights in her car parked at a fast food joint. 

Her kids were desperate to help, but she struggled to let go of her wares. It wasn't easy, but I managed to overlook the unpleasant smell wafting from her. As she detailed her past, she explained that this downward spiral was largely due to her battle with cancer a decade ago. This revelation tugged tightly at my heartstrings. 

You see, my mother had very recently passed, taken swiftly by the same type of illness after enjoying five cancer-free years. I couldn't help but well up while listening to her story. However, she appreciated my empathy and dedication in assisting her.

Following our meeting, I let my emotions flow freely and I cried. The colleagues in my office were moved by my display of compassion and professionalism, comforting me with some heartfelt hugs. I drove to my car to reflect on the encounter.

However, beneath it all, there was a bitter truth: My tears weren't just for her, but more due to a lingering resentment that she'd survived her battle with cancer while my mom hadn't. That she was managing to live her life, albeit badly, while my mom’s life, at its happiest and most stable phase, was abruptly cut short.

I shared these sentiments with my therapist. So, to avoid such emotional triggers in the future, it's been arranged in my department that I won't be dealing with cases linked to cancer. That duty now falls to my colleague.

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock

6. A Bridge Too Far

I once worked as a community support worker for individuals with severe, ongoing health conditions. A client, who was battling intense paranoia, was attempting to prove to my colleague and me that the local hospital had caused them harm during a recent hospital stay. They presented my co-worker with a Ziploc bag filled with slim, grey-yellow, slick shapes.

When they revealed it was skin they had peeled from their feet and legs as supposed “proof" of exposure to harmful substances, I nearly lost my lunch. The sight of the bag filled with their skin was too much even for me, someone who can usually handle almost anything. We decided that we wanted nothing more to do with that bag.

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7. Not Now, Brain!

During my time in grief counseling, I had a client who used the phrase "skid-marks" while talking about a car accident he and his family experienced. For some reason, at that moment, the term took me by surprise. I connected the dots and slowly but inevitably, a smirk started to form. 

It may have been brief, but it felt like minutes were passing. All along, I was hurting myself biting the inner part of my cheeks. I felt like I was the most awful person in the world.

Awkward Moments FactsShutterstock

8. Happy And Unhealthy

I'm employed at a community living facility. We'd welcomed a child into our care about four months ago. During a family meeting, they revealed something shocking—that they were infested with parasites. I was immediately thrown off. 

The mother casually stated, "Yeah, all of us have them. We choose not to get treated since we see them as part of our natural biological system." I was floored by this revelation.

The following three weeks were spent educating this family about the potential risk of spreading these infectious parasites to our other residents. These weeks were filled with extensive planning and even harder, persuading the young resident and their mother that eliminating these parasites wouldn't cause a decline in their intelligence quotient (IQ)!

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9. You Can Do This

Before I switched to private practice, I served as a therapist at a center dealing with substance use issues. It was there that I experienced one of my most poignant "take a breath" moments. I was treating a young patient, the same age as me, who was battling addiction. 

A bright, intelligent, and extraordinarily compassionate person, they were suffering greatly from their illness. They had not just one, but two open-heart surgeries due to cardiomyopathy, all before hitting 30. Despite their efforts, this person kept relapsing. They were diligent with their treatment, but one day they missed an appointment. 

I reached out, only to receive a heartbreaking call back. The sound of their voice still rings in my ears. They'd just relapsed again and sounded utterly shattered, full of fear and disappointment. I remember feeling a heavy weight at the thought that their addiction could end their life prematurely. 

That patient will forever be in my memories. After the call, I sat there, washed over with the sobering conclusion that this person might not survive their addiction, and they were no older than me. Yes, addictions can drastically change people, but this individual was genuinely kind and generous.

They were the kind of person who'd give you the shirt off their back. I truly believe they were too gentle for this tough world. But then, there was a glimmer of hope. This happened a while back, and the patient was moved to a more intensive care facility. 

More than a year later, I learned they were doing well, and had relocated to a different state. I was moved to tears when I learned they'd managed to overcome their addiction so much later.

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10. Sticks And Stones

I'm a school counselor, now in my second year. I became really close with one of my students. As we spent more time together, she opened up to me about her deep depression, impulsive actions, and eating disorder. She'd already gone through a lot of therapy and was gradually improving. Her parents and I remained in touch regularly.

One day, she turned up in my office in tears. Without saying anything, she held out her hand, offering me a thumbtack she'd been using to harm herself. I asked, "What's wrong?" Her response almost brought me to tears. She told me that one of her closest friends had decided to end their friendship, saying that she had too much "baggage".

Later, in my office, she called her parents. She cried as she told her mom, "I wish you and dad didn't care about me so much. Then I could just end it all". For the first time, I broke down. I couldn't hold back the tears. I found another counselor to take over and stepped out of the room to cry. 

It was a harsh reminder of how little we truly understand about what others are going through, and how words can cause such profound pain.

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11. A Few Eggs Short Of A Basket

I once had a client who was experiencing psychosis and mistakenly believed that their ex-partner was harming their child, even though this wasn't the case. They even described the irrational "tests" they were performing on their child. I found myself having to stand at the door of my office, telling them to leave or I'd have to call security. 

It's important to note that I never prompted them to share these disturbing details, despite already knowing about their situation from their crisis evaluation. As an activity therapist, my job is to understand my clients' daily routines, tasks, and activities. Yet, suddenly, they just started sharing this disturbing information. 

In the end, officials intervened and the child was taken into their care. Over time, the client managed to recover from their psychosis and withdrew their accusations against their ex-partner, admitting that they were not hurting their child.

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock

12. Just A Moment

I'm no counselor, but this stirred up some deep emotions for me. Oddly, during the loss of my baby girl in the hospital, I remained unusually calm, all things considered. We all were filled with waves of normal emotions. But it wasn't until a few days later, when I took a ferry ride to finalize her birth and death certificate, that things really hit me. 

They handed me a box containing all the paperwork and a few personal items, like her hospital bracelet. On the return ferry trip, I just remained seated, the box resting on my lap. Even when everyone else left, I stayed put. One of the ferry's staff members approached me to let me know I could go. That's when I seemed to come back to reality. 

I must've looked pretty emotional, my face probably showed it and my eyes were red. She kindly asked, "Do you need a minute?" in a genuinely understanding tone. I simply nodded, taking a moment to collect myself. After a while, she moved on. I took some strong, calming breaths before leaving, giving her a gentle, appreciative nod and a smile. 

She smiled back. I guess I really did need that moment.

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13. No Consequences, No Manners

I used to work at a camp designed for kids with a range of mental health disorders, many with behavioral issues. I was partnered with a girl known for her aggressive, often violent, behavior. We got through the entire day without a hitch until the end when we had a group physical activity to help the kids relax and focus before heading home.

She was upset about having to stop playing with a certain toy, so she took off her shoe and threw it at a young boy, who has autism, in front of her. Immediately, he burst into tears and started screaming. While another person attended to him, I turned to the girl to let her know that her actions were inappropriate. 

Before I could say more, she lashed out at me, punching me flat on the face and grabbed my hair, yanking out a substantial amount of it. Despite me being only about 5'1", this nine-year-old girl was nearly my height and outweighed me by about 20 pounds. 

Trying to safely restrain her was both challenging and somewhat ridiculous. Eventually, other staff members stepped in and we managed to pacify her after about a quarter of an hour. 

Adding insult to injury, when we informed her mother, she laughed it off, which was incredibly aggravating because it seemed like her daughter's behavior was being endorsed at home due to lack of consequences. The girl then started to hit her mother, who took hold of her arms to restrain her. 

Smiling, the girl turned towards us and said, "A bit of help would be nice! Are you just going to let her do this to me? She's hurting my arm". Once I got home, I alternated between laughing out loud and crying for a good few hours. Fortunately, you quickly learn not to take things to heart and I was able to bounce back by the very next day. 

That day's chain of events, however, does rear its head now and then, leaving me amazed by how swiftly things spiraled out of control.

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock

14. Believe In Yourself

When I started as a Child Protective Services (CPS) social worker in a foreign country, my first case was a pregnant addict. She slept with men for money and was living on the streets, isolated from her family. Her baby, fathered by an older client, was due any day. 

Our immediate plan was to place the newborn in foster care, with the mother having supervised visits. The first time we met, it felt like her sadness was oozing out of her. Instead of judging her, I did my best to express understanding and compassion. I explained that it was crucial to prioritize her baby's safety. 

She got that, and she seemed ready to cooperate in order to ensure her child's well-being. She questioned if she'd ever be able to be a "real" mom to a kid of her own. I assured her that, while it wouldn't be easy and required dedication and determination, she could definitely achieve it—especially with my help.

Later, I heard from her when she ended up in the hospital giving birth. Seeing her alone, having endured labor all by herself, was heart-rending. I then had to take the baby and put it in foster care, which really hit me hard. That mother was a lovely woman who had just gone down the wrong path.

However, things started to turn around. Over the course of two years, through supervised visits, rehab, reconnecting with her family, securing stable housing, therapy, and significant mental health support, she transformed her life. 

Everywhere I looked, I saw her determination and hard work: from her tears and struggles to the medications she obediently took. As I prepared to return to my home country during the final week, I had the joy of helping her start the transition to move her baby into her mother's house for joint care. 

Though the baby would remain under CPS observation for some time, they were starting to rebuild their family. The mother was literally renewed, with a radiant smile thanks to dental surgery for the removal of her damaged teeth and provision of dentures.

This was a new woman, undoubtedly. Each time I remember her, I get emotional, but if she was the only person I was able to help in my career, then all the struggle was more than worth it.

Rude guestsPexels

15. Personal Hygiene Is Not Public Hygiene

Clearly, I've seen quite a range of things in my role as a therapist. However, there's this one incident that's seared into my memory. It's not what I could have ever predicted. Once, a client of mine walked in, settled into a chair, took off his shoes, and started to clip his toenails, all the while chatting nonchalantly about his recent happenings. 

Believe me, it was a herculean task for me to keep myself from bursting into laughter, or shrieking out loud, or even worse, doing both at the same time.

Cheap Buy That Worked Out Well factsPixabay

16. I DO See Color

I work at a hospital where we once had a sweet, elderly woman who genuinely believed she resembled Whoopi Goldberg. She also had this strange notion that everyone would turn Black by week's end, a message she said she received directly from above. 

So far, I've seen no signs of her prediction. It was quite a challenge keeping a serious expression while she was talking about this. I mean, I needed a breather afterward. It was all so incredibly ridiculous.

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17. You Reap What You Sow

I'm not the therapist here—I'm the client. So, one day, I'm chilling, watching the news, and bam, there's my therapist's face across the screen. Yes, you heard it right, it was a mugshot. Apparently, he'd been taken in for having an affair with one of his clients, which, by the way, is totally against the rules. But, here's the kicker.

He was our marriage counselor, and he was married. So was the client. Talk about irony.

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18. Not Music To My Ears

I'm a music therapist. In one of my sessions, a client unexpectedly started getting way too stimulated and started banging their head really hard. I was playing the piano at the time, and they started hitting their head on it. In an attempt to protect them, I put my hands in the way. 

Both my hands ended up getting smashed against the piano, and pretty quickly I could see the bruises and swelling. All of this craziness happened within the first five minutes of our session. The rest of the time—about 30 minutes—I spent trying to keep the client calm. By the end, they seemed completely fine, but I walked away in tears.

I’ve been unable to work for the past two weeks. Even though the bruises are healing, I'm still dealing with nerve pain every day (thank goodness, though, no bones were broken). I really miss what I do and I love it, but it's not always as simple or joyful as just singing “You Are My Sunshine” to my clients.

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19. Here Today…

I had my initial meeting with a client, got along really well, and set up a follow-up appointment to go over her treatment plan the next week. However, when the day of our meeting came around, I couldn't get in touch with her for a bit. When I finally learned what happened, I was completely shocked.

I ended up speaking to the client's sister, who told me she'd lost her battle with cancer. The client had shared her history with me a week earlier but said she'd been cancer-free for some time. This news was like a punch to the gut. 

As a new mental health professional, I'm always hyper-aware of mental health-related tragedies and the risk management involved. But this... I didn't see it coming. It was a stark reminder that life can end for reasons beyond mental health issues.

Since then, it's stayed with me, and it took some time to manage the anxiety I'd feel when clients wouldn't pick up the phone after the first ring.

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20. Clean As A Whistle

I'm not a therapist, but I work in mental health. Once, while serving as a nurse in a surgical department, one patient was behaving rather unusually, insisting that his curtains be constantly drawn closed. After some peculiar sounds reached my ears, I decided to check on him. I was greeted with an unexpected sight.

The man had completely doused himself in hand sanitizer, from his forehead to his feet, using two entire bottles. He seemed quite satisfied, seemingly convinced that he had successfully eliminated all germs. I had to leave the room to prevent myself from bursting into laughter right at him.

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21. It’s Coming From Inside The Center

I used to be a Support Coordinator at a network of centers for people with serious disabilities, mental health issues, and behavioral problems. One morning, while my team and I were getting ready for the day, someone rushed us over to the window. What I saw left me stunned...

One of our elder team members was up in the trees, imitating a monkey, right outside our building. Our center was on a typical residential street, so we had a fair share of onlookers. But it's even more awkward than that. The worst part was her big, uncontrollable German Shepherd was below her, barking at the spectators. 

The whole thing escalated when our teammate ended up on the building's roof, howling incessantly. Eventually, my boss had to call the fire department. She then flirted with one of the firefighters on the roof. In the end, we had to call animal control for the dog, while our mental health team looked after our coworker. 

And all this happened before our clients even got to the center.

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22. You Are Not Alone

I'm no counselor, but a couple of years ago, I was hospitalized due to mental wellness concerns. During that process, I had to establish a safety plan, including identifying three people I could rely on. I was barely 17 at the time and when they said friends could be listed, I realized the only person I had was my mother. 

The nurse even allowed me to check my phone contacts, but there was no one. In a state of shock, the nurse had to step away, saying she needed a moment. Another nurse stepped in to take over and apologized to me, guiding me to complete the rest of the plan. 

Later, the first nurse approached me with an apology, sharing that she had a child my age, and found it difficult to witness someone in the same age group experiencing such distress. I often look back on this experience.

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23. Foot In Mouth

I work at a home for adults who have mental health conditions. While many of them are quite capable and independent, there's this one 27-year-old woman who consistently behaves irresponsibly, seemingly to elicit sympathy. 

Within her first week here, she injured herself by tripping while getting out of bed, breaking some small bones in her foot. Following standard procedure, I accompanied her to get a cast. The doctor gave her the usual advice: keep the cast dry, use crutches, elevate the foot, and so on. 

Given her room was upstairs, safety protocols required that she stay at her mother's place for a few weeks, since she wouldn't be able to leave promptly in an emergency. A few days later, when the protective boot for her cast arrived, we rang her up to let her know we'd bring it over.

Her startling response: "It won't fit". "Why not?" we asked. She revealed: "I cut off my cast as it got wet and was feeling too tight". To our disbelief, she didn't get a replacement cast, and refused to use her crutches because she claimed they were unstable and would cause her to fall. 

As heartbreaking as it was, the worst part was still to come—her foot didn't heal correctly and two months later, she fell and broke it again. In a bewilderingly tragic twist, she's now repeated her desire for amputation, stating it would lead to less pain. An astounding reasoning, really. 

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24. You’re A Strange Animal

Once, I worked helping kids with autism and Down syndrome using play therapy. There was this one time when I was playing with a kid—we were practicing naming animal cards and their sounds, and he was sitting on my lap. Well, things went south when I made a funny noise that cracked him up so much, he laughed until he peed on me.

And guess what? That night was supposed to be my date night.

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25. Gotta Stay Hydrated

I didn't experience this insanity firsthand, but it's a story from a therapist I was guiding. She was out in the community providing counseling services for a client with severe mental health issues. During car ride interaction, her client retrieved money from her intimate areas, immersed it in her water bottle, and proceeded to shake it before taking a sip. 

She then offered the shaken, money-infused water to the dumbfounded therapist. The whole situation was surreal, leaving the therapist at a loss for an appropriate reaction.

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26. Mistaken Identity

One day, right as my 3 pm client arrived, I received a call from a colleague. I stopped dead in my tracks as she said, "Dan's gone". Initially, I thought she was referring to another colleague Dan we both knew. As she continued with the conversation about needing to "check the records," I understood she meant my client, Dan.

The shock turned my sorrow into panic and concern. Not believing he was no longer with us, especially as he was so young. I started questioning myself, wondering if it was his dark ideations that I had overlooked or a failing from my side. Realizing that he had several friends among my other clients, it was all too distressing to fathom.

Finishing the call, my sadness overwhelmed me and I started crying, right in front of my 3 pm client. I had no choice but to tell them I'd have to cancel our meeting due to some devastating news. I needed more than just a moment. It remained unclear whether his passing was accidental. 

My company offered me no support, merely going over Dan's records and assuring me "this looks fine".

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27. One Bad Day

I work as a school counselor. I once had a student who unfortunately passed in an accident overnight. I learned about this tragedy the next morning after the school day had started. I was quickly asked to help manage the grief that many students were experiencing, including several kids I regularly counseled, including the boy who we lost.

Despite my sorrow, I tried my best to remain calm and provide support, although we had more than 100 students in the library, just finding out, and visibly upset. At one point, I had to momentarily retreat behind a bookcase to gather myself. The entire day was a blur of sadness and raw emotions. 

On top of everything else, I needed to leave the school grounds to look for the boy's closest friends who had rushed off in their car. Seeing their grief was a real heartbreaker. It was the most challenging time I've ever experienced as a counselor, and it took me quite a few weeks to bounce back emotionally. I continue to reflect on it, even now.

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28. The Truth Is Out

I'm not a professional counselor, but my husband and I saw one after experiencing the tragic loss of our daughter to trisomy 18. Honestly, it was tough. Our whole family struggled deeply during and even before this period. One session, my husband had just started really opening up and sharing his thoughts. Then, out of nowhere, he threw us a curveball.

He let out a hilariously loud, 30-second fart. All three of us—him, me, and the therapist—shared a genuine and much-needed laugh. After a bit, we regained our composure and carried on with our meeting.

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29. Too Young To Lose

I used to work as a crisis counselor. I remember working with a 13-year-old boy who, tragically, had lost both his older brothers. The first loss occurred several years prior, and the second, just a few months ago. From what I gathered, he and his mom were only just beginning to navigate their grief from losing the eldest son when they experienced the second heartbreaking loss.

Following this, the boy slipped into a serious depression. I've worked with numerous young people, yet his level of sadness was unlike anything I've witnessed. It almost felt like waves of sorrow emanating from him. Even though it was difficult, I kept my composure during the consultation and provided his family with contacts for therapy and grief support groups. 

However, I couldn't hold back my tears on the drive back from the office—I had a really good cry.

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30. Boy Meets Real World

So, there was this young kid I was seeing who needed some help. He was pretty impulsive and tended to keep to himself a lot. On our fourth meet-up, he tells me he's bought these pills to help calm his nerves. Now, as he's telling me he got 'em on the cheap, he pulls out what seems like a ton of pretty potent... antipsychotics.

I mean, these things are POWERFUL. They're the kind you can't just walk into a store and buy, and they're typically about $100 a piece. He had no idea about that though, or that his "friend" who gave it to him was expecting some serious payback. 

He didn't want to sell them and he had no clue about the risks tied to dealing with folks who would. At some point, I had to cut him off and lay it all out—tell him just how serious this all was. It was a good thing I work in the public sector, because I could get him and his family a lawyer, and even some additional support from the city, in case they were faced with payback threats. 

They didn’t hesitate to hand over the pills to the authorities. For a while, he felt like I'd turned on him. But he kept on showing up for our sessions and finally got that sometimes, the law's on your side. He's doing a whole lot better now. But, man, there were times when I was just shocked at how oblivious he was.

Therapy Nightmares FactsPexels

31. Let It All Out

I'd been assisting a teenager for roughly a year, and she was finally starting to open up about her intense issues regarding her mom. She had separated herself from her birth mother and was facing challenges with her stepmom. In tears, she looked at me, asking, "Why can't a mom love me? What did I do wrong?" 

Her raw honesty in that moment reminded me of a little child. She's been improving considerably since then. That particular session was filled with a surge of emotions.

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32. Not In The Job Description

This is a bit of a throwback for me. My (awful) therapist gave me a pause for thought this time. She interrupted our session to suggest that my real issue was self-centering everything. It could've been a valid point, had she not proceeded further.

Still going on she said, "You're constantly, week after week, talking about just you, and your life. You're aware that I recently had a baby, yet you never inquire about how that's progressing. You don't ask after my life, or my friends, or my relationship with my spouse. If this is how you are with all people in your life, it's not hard to see why they might not enjoy your company".

I left feeling deeply embarrassed and never returned.

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33. Too Much Of A Good Thing

For a few years, I was overusing Xanax and subsequently lost my license. To get it back, I had to see a counselor. Her office was a peculiar converted shed in a backyard, so I was quite uneasy about going there for therapy. My first session confirmed my suspicions.

As soon as I explained my past experiences, she immediately proposed getting me a Xanax prescription. Luckily, by then, I had already stopped using and had decided to maintain my sobriety. I was shocked by her offer and needed a moment to process it. 

I'm thankful I didn't meet her when I was vulnerable—I might have accepted the offer. That therapist really disappoints me.

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34. Child’s Play

When I was 39, I found out about my wife's affair just a week earlier. I was simply a broken and devastated wreck. Well, my therapist's idea of healing was awful. He kept trying to "make a man out of me". He told me in our meetings that video games were "just for kids". He was a good 70-something years old. 

Needless to say, I let him go. Now I'm remarried, and yes, I still enjoy my video games.

School Genius FactsPixabay

35. A Cruel Joke

I'm not a therapist, but years ago, I was part of a therapy group when we received a new member. In just one week, she experienced the most devastating losses imaginable. She lost her mom to cancer and her house was tragically set ablaze. During the fire, her dad and sister were fatally caught in the disaster. 

The sister's fate was particularly heartbreaking as she slipped from the girl's grasp and fell into the flames. I remember feeling such deep sympathy for her and initially, the entire situation was hard for me to fully grasp.

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36. Pop A Wheelie

A customer humorously called a wheelchair a "wheely boi". We were chatting on the phone and the unexpected comedy had me crying from laughter. I can't explain why, but this humor really tickled me. More information: the customer couldn't confirm their personal safety, so I had been trying to convince them to visit the hospital. 

They said, "I'll only agree to go if they provide a wheelchair, or as they called it, a 'wheely boi'".

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37. At Attention

One night, I was doing surveillance at a mental health facility, closely monitoring a patient with mental health issues. Right before my shift, they told me that the patient had started biting into a lightbulb and lunged at a nurse. Around 5 am, he woke and noticed me at the foot of his bed. I offered a polite "good morning," but he didn't respond.

We shared a quiet 15 minutes before he got up and gazed out the window. Then, he uttered the strangest comment: "A person is most vulnerable when they're using the bathroom". I stayed standing for the rest of my shift after that.

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock

38. Hard Work

I'm not a counselor, but I do visit one regularly. We often discuss my mom, who has a pretty big narcissistic streak. My therapist mentioned how resilient I must be to handle my mother's behavior, because even she needs a solid hour break after meeting a narcissist for an hour-long session.

Knowing even my therapist finds dealing with such situations challenging is somewhat reassuring.


39. Take A Bow

As a novice therapist, I once had a notably challenging client pull a bold stunt, straight out of Fight Club, in an attempt to land me in hot water. Thankfully, the presence of a security camera in the room prevented any actual issues. But, it was such a shocker that I told him, "I need a moment to just sit here and breathe," and indeed I did. 

This was the single occasion where I had to pause during a session. It was quite unnerving.

Therapy Nightmares FactsPexels

40. Let A Little Too Loose

Once, I worked with a client whose kid spent a solid 20-30 minutes yelling at the parent non-stop. The moment they left, I was so touched by the intensity of their words and blame that I had a 20-minute cry session. I tried my best to calm things down periodically but it just kept ramping up so fast that all I could do was sit and witness it unfolding before me.


41. See You Never

I had a scheduled meeting with my counselor but found the door locked when I arrived. After waiting for a quarter of an hour, I gave him a call but got no answer. Shortly after, he sent me a message saying he had the flu, was in bed, and had forgotten to call me to cancel. So I decided to go to the supermarket instead. 

Surprisingly, I bumped into him shopping there. He quickly hid when he spotted me. After that episode, I decided not to return to see him anymore.

Legal Drama FactsShutterstock

42. Good On You

I've been collaborating with this client for some time now, helping them boost their confidence and lessen their depression. As the session closed, they said that it was me who gave them the courage to keep moving forward that day. Although we started the meeting on shaky grounds, it finished on a really strong, positive note. 

Hearing that from them felt amazing. I took a pause between consultations to truly value the progress they've made, aside from the kind words they said.

Memorable Teachers FactsShutterstock

43. Observing All The Niceties

Last December, I had a chat with the pretty upset dad of a child I was working with. He ended our call by loudly saying, "And a very merry Christmas to you!" It was so odd and amusing, I needed a moment to collect myself before carrying on with my day.

Worst Guests factsShutterstock

44. Use Your Eyes

A customer was headed to inheritance court and decided to get fancy by using a grip-sock as a necktie. In a bid to cheer him on, I said, "Nice tie". He retorted, "It's not a tie, it's a sock, dummy". Yeah, that nearly had me in stitches from laughing.

Workplace Suck-Ups FactsShutterstock

45. We Don’t Deserve Them

Whenever someone shares with me that their pet has passed, I always need a moment. I may not know your cat personally. But, I still hold a deep affection for your cat.

Nightmare neighborsPexels

46. Rope-A-Dope Diagnosis

As a counseling intake coordinator, I once had this interaction. 

Me: "What's the reason for your visit today?" 

The guy: "I'm dealing with an addiction. I watch too much adult content". 

Not the weirdest confession I've come across, so alright, let's discuss it. 

Me: "Can you give more details?" 

The guy: "I watch videos about three times a week, each for around 15 minutes. My girlfriend insists that I'm addicted and made me get help".

Given my experience with severe cases, this one seemed rather mild. It made me pause. Instead, I guided them towards couples' therapy.

Therapists revealShutterstock

47. One Heck Of A Curveball

One day, I went to a client's home for an in-home therapy session with a teenager. I was working with a 13-year-old kid at the time who was running a bit late from school, so he hadn't arrived yet. While waiting, his mom invited me to sit and chat. She mentioned she wanted to ask me something, but I could never have predicted what was coming next.

I naturally assumed it would be about her son since that was the reason for my visit. However, I was completely taken aback when she unfolded her personal issue instead. She asked me why I thought her boyfriend was having trouble pleasing her intimately and if I could give her any advice to improve the situation. 

That was definitely something I hadn't anticipated.

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock

48. The Ones Who Got Away

During my first internship on my journey to becoming a counselor, I was placed at a funeral home under a grief counselor, specializing in grief and trauma. We were trained to stay strong and be a supportive pillar for the grieving, escaping to a private space when we needed to shed a tear ourselves. 

There's one occasion that still stands out in my memory. It involved assisting an elderly lady in viewing her husband before the ceremony. I led her to a seat facing the casket, and then stood by, heartbroken, as she crumbled with grief. The poor lady collapsed onto the casket, sobbing uncontrollably, voicing her undying love and longing for him. 

She pleaded with him to not leave her and to return. Her pain hit me remarkably hard. I found myself crying quietly behind her. When she eventually stood, I pulled myself together enough to help her back into the hall to welcome guests. I believed I had composed myself well, but my mentor could tell otherwise. 

She gently directed me to the back room, and there, I let my own tears flow freely for a few moments before cleaning up and returning to assist with the service. That brief privacy was truly needed.

Therapy Nightmares FactsUnsplash

49. You Never Know What Can Happen

When I was beginning my career as a therapist, I was stationed at the satellite office of a community mental health clinic, incongruously nestled in the basement of a local community center. Looking back, I realize it was far from safe. 

I was the only staff member working there. Locked in a room built of cinderblocks, I served individuals with a variety of mental health problems, all on my own. One day, things took a turn for the scarier.

One of my clients was a woman diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder. Her erratic speech and disjointed thoughts were usually pronounced. Despite her unusual demeanor, she was genuinely kind-hearted. However, one particular day, she turned up at my office carrying a massive stone, clearly disturbed. 

She felt threatened by people she claimed were there to "mess with her," and kept the stone as her defense. Thankfully, our rapport helped me defuse the situation without any terrifying outcomes. Once she left, I was trembling and needed some time to regain my calm for the next client. 

It was then that I started voicing my concerns about the worrisome safety aspects of my work setting (though, unfortunately, it made no difference).

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock

50. There’s Someone For Everyone

Once, I had an unusual situation where the person reaching out was not a client per se, but someone looking for therapy. He was having an affair with his mom while still being married. Needless to say, it shocked me to my core. 

But after a moment to collect myself, I put my professional hat on and referred him to a colleague who has expertise in dealing with infidelity. At the end of it all? You put your personal feelings aside, get the work done, then process your emotions later.

That's why even after obtaining a full license, keeping up with clinical supervision is considered a good habit.

Therapy Nightmares FactsShutterstock


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