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Counseling/Very confused and hurt about being referred after one session


I went to a clinical social worker who has a practice limited to eating disorders. I saw her one time. I don't think there is any doubt that I have an eating disorder. When I was there she and I really hit it off. I shared some other things that are going on in live such as major bereavement/grieving issues and a feeling that I don't want to live anymore. She gave me a card to come back and see her and as I left I said "I am sorry I talked about much more than my eating disorder". She said, "Don't worry about it, that is all part of it". I was surprised when today I received a letter from her saying she did not think she was the right match for me and was referring me to a 4th year psychiatry resident for counseling. She didn't give a reason but I am guessing it is because I presented with more than than an eating disorder. But she did say "that is part of it". I feel angry as though she should have talked to me and said she didn't think we were a good match and why. The 4th year resident in psychiatry will be leaving in June. She is from India. Ideally this is not who I would be choosing. Someone leaving in June and who was born and raised in another country. I left her a voicemail message asking her to call me so I could hear from her what issues were the deal breaker so I know what to bring up to the new person should I decide to see the new person. But I am also feeling like I was treated like a number and not a person. Should she have explained to me in person or by phone why she did not think we were a good match? Should she have given me some choices of who I might see rather than pick someone? What is the protocol? I feel ambushed by being dumped and having someone I never picked out now assigned to me. I went to the clinical social worker deliberately. I feel hurt she didn't have the wherewithal to convey to me why she didn't think we were the right match and what issues were the deal breaker. I am awfully confused and feeling like she didn't like me. I thought we hit it off great. This feels like another loss to me even though I met her just the once. I told her so many personal things only to get what amounted to a form letter after she gave me an appointment card for a follow up visit. Is this how things are done? You don't tell the patient anything, assign them a new therapist who will be leaving town in June and is from another country? Thank you.

Hello Rachel

I know that what you went through can be very painful and confusing, as you very accurately describe. Your frustration is intensified because you have no recourse, no way to get answers to your questions. It is the all-too-familiar feeling of being a helpless victim of circumstances outside your control.

There is nothing wrong with what you feel. You opened up and shared deeply with the social worker, and felt a good connection. That doesn't happen every day, and actually can be pretty rare. So it was no small matter for you. Then, with no explanation you were referred to someone else, and you are not at all pleased with the professional to whom you were referred.

You ask if this is how things are done. I don't know how other professionals make referrals, but I do know that many will meet face to face with their clients before making the referral, although they are under no obligation to do so. So, I'm sure others have been through what you have experienced, as unfortunate as it is.

I'm sure you know that you do not have to see the psychiatry resident to whom you were referred. You are free to choose the professional you work with. Many professionals will allow a free telephone interview prior to scheduling. When you do meet with a new therapist, you can make the specific request that if they refer you to someone else they also give you a full explanation of why they're doing so.

While you can't change what has happened, you can certainly stand up for yourself in this process as you go forward. Tell the therapist you end up working with exactly what you want and expect. Be aware that all professionals are human beings, with their own quirks and foibles (although as professionals we're not supposed to have many), and therefore you must trust yourself, and be very clear about what you want.

If something doesn't feel right in your therapeutic relationship, then it probably isn't--either not right ethically, or not right for you as a person. Counseling and psychotherapy is supposed to help you feel better, and you need to understand and believe in the process that the professional is using.

I hope you find the kind of professional relationship you're looking for, Rachel. Make up your mind to settle for nothing less than exactly what you want. If these feelings continue to bother you, you might find some relief from this journaling process.

My best to you,

Dr. DeFoore  


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William DeFoore, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about depression, anxiety, anger issues, marriage issues, parenting, addiction issues and general life coping problems. I will give a positive perspective, offering encouragement and an action plan about the next best steps for you to take.


I have been in practice as a counselor for over 38 years, working with individuals, couples and families with good results.

I am the author of: *Anger: Deal With It, Heal With It, Stop It From Killing You. Health Communications, Inc. 2004. *Anger Among Angels: Shedding Light On The Darkness Of The Human Soul. Health Communications, Inc. 2000. *Serai: Bringing The Children Home. Wingspan Press, 2007

B.A. in Sociology; M.A. in Clinical Psychology; Ph.D. in Counselor Education; Licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor

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