Dysfunctional Relationship with Mental Health Providers


I am pleased and excited to have guest blogger Susan Kingsley-Smith sharing about dysfunctional relationships within the mental health system while I am away on vacation.  Susan is my friend and fellow truth seeker, as well as the author of  “A Journey” and I’m also blessed to have her as a frequent commenter here on Emerging from Broken. As always, please contribute by adding your own comments and feedback ~ Darlene Ouimet

Dysfunctional Relationship with Mental Health Providers by Susan Kingsley-Smith

I’d have never imagined that in my healing journey I would find myself healing from not only the original trauma’s of my childhood but that I would also be faced with mourning the life I lost to a second trauma; that of becoming victim to those I’d turned to for help.

I’d been conditioned from an early age to not question authority. To do as I was told; and especially to view my doctors and other health care professionals as the authority over my health. In hindsight though, what I discovered, is that my early life experiences of abuse had set me up to become a victim to any relationship or system that was based on my sacrificing myself in order to appease those in authority. Continued..

At first I didn’t think anything of it when the psychiatrists would tell me, and the therapists would reinforce this message, that there was something “wrong” with me. That I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, that there was no cure. In hindsight though, this was just the beginning of a fifteen-year journey into, through and finally out of the mental health system.  This was a journey that would change me forever.

The mental health “professionals” had successfully stripped me of any hope when they informed me that my brain was broken. They had laid the groundwork for my lifetime dependence on them; telling me that they, and only they, knew the answers and in order for me to “get better” I needed to submit myself to their care.

My power was taken from me in the numerous drugs I was prescribed as the doses were adjusted and more drugs were added. Slowly, like a toad in pot of water coming to a boil, the drugs overtook my mind and destroyed my health. I found that I could no longer think or communicate coherently. I gained enormous amounts of weight on one drug; then lost it rapidly on the next. I had no energy, I was constantly fatigued yet I suffered from insomnia and couldn’t sleep. I developed irrational fears and began to isolate myself.

I felt even more ashamed of myself. The professionals were validating what I’d been convinced of all along. That I was defective, something was “wrong” with me and I felt powerless to understand or change it.

The side effects I was experiencing were legitimate side effects of the drugs yet it was made clear to me that any negative effects were caused by a defect in my character and motivation.  I was told to eat better and exercise more.

Fear was used to coerce my compliance. The threat was always there that if I stopped taking the drugs that I would “get worse”. What I forgot was that before the drugs, I’d never been “sick”.

I had been conditioned to believe from the beginning of my entry into the world of mental health that when the “therapy” was failing that it was my fault; that something was wrong with ME not that the therapy or “treatments” were not effective or in fact abusive and oppressive – but that I had done something wrong to have cause this failure.

There was a fear that was always present that I would be rejected or that I might be “fired” by my providers if I was not compliant and cooperative. This often unspoken threat was often the thing that kept me in line. I saw these relationships as my only hope. This I’ve since learned is another way abusers control their victims in many different relationships; threatening the loss of the relationship if there is a lack of compliance.

Shame was never far away. In my time in the mental heath system I at first resisted. I insisted that something was wrong, I reported that the drugs I was being given were not working, that I felt worse. But instead of listening to me, my complaints were dismissed. I was told that I was being resistant to the therapeutic process, I was non compliant and difficult. In other words, these therapeutic relationships were telling me the same thing I’d learned in the original trauma and abuse: that whatever the problem was in this relationship, it was stemmed from me.

And when the biological approach did not prove to be effective is when I was told that I had “personality disorders”. Now, besides this chemical imbalance in my brain my personality was also defective, that I was broken through and through to the core of my being. There was no hope offered and because of my “defects” it was justified to treat me as “less than”. 

One of the most crippling things I was told was that one of the “symptoms” of this “disease” is an inability to see it for oneself. In other words – if I could see and admit my “problem” then I was a compliant patient. If I did not agree with the way others were defining me I was non-compliant, difficult and resistant and this was further evidence of this mysterious “illness” that even my own psychiatrist admitted there were no tests or true scientific evidence of. I was broken simply because she said so. In her own words; psychiatry is more an art than a science.

In hindsight after I’d escaped the drugs and left psychiatry behind me, I realized that what I had experienced was exactly like the other abusive relationships in my life; and that I was a perfect victim for being defined in this system because I had not yet learned how to define myself.

Thankfully, like Darlene, I had the good fortune to connect with a therapist trained in trauma who supported my hidden belief that it was possible to live beyond diagnosis. This was someone who was willing to show me a different way and offer true hope. Over the next 2.5 years I was shown a healthier therapeutic relationship defined by clear boundaries vs. control and compliance. Here is where I came to understand that by learning to recognize the original lies that said I was not good enough and changing the core beliefs that told me I was powerless over my own life this – is where I began to learn that I could learn to live far beyond that place of broken.

Susan Kingsley-Smith

**Note and disclaimer from Susan: It is very dangerous to discontinue these or any other drugs without a clear understanding of the process and what happens when we go into the withdrawal process. I discontinued them because I was forced into it and I had an understanding that I was dealing with a physical withdrawal. But anyone who doesn’t understand that process could be at risk for suicide. 

Doctors do not know how to go off these drugs safely and will use the withdrawal symptoms to say “see. You’re mentally ill”. 

There’s plenty of research and evidence on this issue but there will always be those who can’t get past this part of their belief system. 

Susan’s Bio: I am a trauma survivor…but I no longer live only to survive. In 1992 after a lifetime of trauma’s ranging from physical, sexual, emotional abuse and neglect as a child to two violent marriages, I entered the mental health system seeking help where my lifelong history of trauma was dismissed. For over 15 years I was given a variety of “diagnosis”, numerous mind altering psychotropic drugs and a routine of weekly “talk” therapy. In the fall of 2007 I was abruptly taken off of the drugs I’d been prescribed all those years and began to reclaim both my mind and my life.

Today, I no longer accept any labels for myself and live the life of my choosing, following my dream and passion to share a message of healing and hope as I write and speak about this journey that has been my life.

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing


258 response to "Dysfunctional Relationship with Mental Health Providers"

  1. By: Robert Olcott Posted: 16th April

    Susan, In the preface of the book: “Caregiver, Caretaker: From Dysfunctional to Authentic Nursing Service”, it notes a survey done of the Bachelor degreed members of the California Nurses Association. 85% of those who responded, admitted to growing up in Alcoholic Households. Perhaps a similar survey needs to be done nationally, of all those professionals in the “Mental Health” field.

  2. By: carol Posted: 25th February

    Edit correction: The ruling was made public by NY state sometime the week of February 10, 2014, not the week of February 17, 2014.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 25th February

      Hi Carol!
      Thanks for the update!! That is awesome. I love to hear when the truth emerges and is validated! That is such amazing encouragement! Thank you so much for sharing! I am going to read the link you sent later!
      hugs, Darlene

  3. By: carol Posted: 25th February

    Back in August, 2011, I posted some comments responding to this piece, “Dysfunctional Relationship with Mental Health Therapist.”

    For anyone who might be interested, this follow-up comment is an update regarding my ex-therapist on whom I had filed an official complaint at the end of September/early October, 2010.

    In January, 2014, over three years from filing the complaint, the state made its ruling: the therapist was found guilty and his license was revoked.

    Brief recap with some details:
    In July, 2008, I hired a licensed mental health professional, John M. Knapp, who specialized in cult-recovery.

    After about 1-1/2 years, the counseling relationship took a few odd turns. And in October, 2010, I ended up filing a formal complaint with Knapps’s licensing board in NY State. That was one of the most agonizing decisions I’ve ever made. (Note: The relationship did not involve sexual boundary violations, but rather verbal/emotional/mental abuse and professional boundary violations. Later, in August, 2011, Knapp tried to assassinate my character with online public defamatory false statements, including an outlandish sex fable. Those smears came almost one year after filing my complaint so were not included in my complaint.)

    In November, 2012, a hearing was held in New York state before Knapp’s Licensing Board. I was a witness for the state. Knapp did not show, nor did he have representation, at the hearing.

    On January 14, 2014, the Board made its ruling. This ruling was made public last week. John M. Knapp was found guilty of professional misconduct; including negligence, incompetence, on more than one occasion, and unprofessional conduct. His license was revoked. From my understanding, revocation of a license seldom happens in New York state (and perhaps elsewhere).

    Here is a link to a post on my blog regarding the ruling: http://tossandripple.blogspot.com/2014/02/licensing-board-ruling.html

    Added note: Over one year after filing my complaint, another ex-client came forward privately; they had been deeply harmed by Knapp. In the past six months, another ex-client also shared they were harmed by Knapp. Past colleagues and one past employee of Knapp also came forward privately regarding Knapp’s harmful treatment toward them. Sometime in 2012(?) Knapp adopted a stage name, Johnny Profane. To my knowledge no longer offers psychotherapy.

  4. By: cinderella Posted: 11th September

    I just need to shout from the cybernet rooftop about the abuse right now. so I’m not afraid, no longer silenced, it’s validating to ME!
    they think because I’ve again gone no contact and have no contact with any of the extended family that they are once again safe… that all their secrets are once again safe… tucked under their disgustingly filthy old dirty blanket of denial!!
    that I once again am out of sight out of mind… not to be seen or heard.

    NO MORE!!!!!
    NO MORE LIES!!!!


  5. By: sahitha Posted: 22nd July

    My experience of mental health professionals was that they were useless in guiding me when I found deep emotional pain inside me and I was bed ridden because of it. They did not have a clue!

    Yet they have huge chips on their shoulders. The doctor was helpful in his own way by being supportive but the counselors were useless. Each of them had atleast 20 years of experience but they could not point out the reason for such deep emotional pain. It was a holistic therapist who finally said something about childhood abuse.

    Recovery has been long and still ongoing but atleast I know the cause now and can work on it. I did not have any conscious memories so it made it more difficult to pin point the cause.

  6. By: Denise Posted: 25th March

    I am experiencing something of what is being said here with mental health professionals. They gave me a diagnosis and some pills and put me on a waiting list to receive any kind of counselling. In the meantime, I’m told to hang in there while I can feel myself unraveling day by day. I have since been discharged from a program because I have not been diligent with going every once a week. Like most, I am fatigued all the time, have no fire in me. I feel worn out. I even went as far as writing a letter to our mayor for help with getting me onto the psych floor as soon as possible instead of being put out into the hospital emergency hallway waiting for a bed for a day or two on the mental health floor. I need my meds relooked at because I feel they aren’t working anymore. Most of the time I can contain myself but sometimes it becomes too much and I’m just right furious with the world and then I do something stupid, like self-harm. I feel that no one understands me. My family especially don’t. I’m something for them to talk or discuss with others about. I know what I need but no one will help me get it and if they can, it takes years to see anyone. An example of that is this. I have been waiting for three years now to get into a program that deals with “border-line personality disorders” and I feel that when it becomes my time, it will be too late for me. I mean, I’ll be to far gone into myself that there is no coming back. Sure I can attend this and that but what I really need is this extensive program that I am waiting for. I’m tired of taking all the meds and I believe some I don’t need and should be weaned off of them but no one listens. I truly feel that I don’t belong anywhere and that includes here. Like one writer wrote, “she feels stuck” and that’s how I feel to. Don’t know how to become unstuck. I have two daughters, 14 and 20 years old and they themselves are being bullied by family members because I’m not well. I became very sick eight years ago when my mom died and after a couple of years I had to give my children to Children Services to take care for me because I just couldn’t do it anymore. Not one of any family member on both sides of the family offer any assistance. They let the kids go into government care. Both girls are doing ok and I’m still very much involved in their lives but they know and have seen what I have gone through and gone through alone. I tell them we are the three musketeers. I tell them to be there for each other no matter what. True, if it wasn’t for them I don’t think I would be here today writing this. I try very hard not to drag them into my world and I hope that one day they appreciate it. My one sister says, “if you need someone to talk to, talk to your kids”. I tell her I don’t talk to the kids about my issues and she says, “why not, mom did it”. That’s her mentality. My sister’s mentality of things. The only support I have is what I give to me. I just need to figure out a way to get into this program more quicker. The very first time I was sexually assaulted I was only seven years old and this carried on for years and even into my marriage with my children’s father. I think they call it “martial rape”. I had once talked to his mom about it and she told me that it is a wife’s duty. I told her no it’s not. I’m a person and he doesn’t own me and I don’t own him and ever since then my relationship with her is very strained. Other kinds of abuse have been done to me for which my poetry writing stems from. I to hope to write a book and the title will be called “Just Me”. Anyway, this is my rant and rave for the day. Thank you for listening or in this case reading.

  7. By: broken Posted: 25th March

    i read this and wow–been there–got the same stuff–and sadly enough happened again through a spiritual healing–all causes further hurt and confusing–could go into it–but cant either–still there–once seem stuck in a “system” so to speak–mental health, spiritual, etc–there seems to be no way out–so sad when people abuse their power and further traumatize and hurt the hurting

  8. By: Faith Posted: 2nd March

    Wanted to post one other thing in regards to some mental health professionals who overstep their boundaries with a patient, one of the social workers who I have recently been seeing told me one thing during our meeting in regards to obtaining a restraining order on another individual, then in the last team meeting I had the Psychologist in charge of the whole department brought up the fact about filing a restraining order and the social worker then said that I didn’t need to file for a restraining order. I had found out before this team meeting that my social worker also knew the individual that I was considering filing a restraining order on. I have since been discharged from the program by my own request; but how does one heal from something like this? I kept going to this program hoping against all hope that I would glean some helpful information; but almost at every turn there was something being said to me to help tear me down. How can I hold my head up and have hope that I will be able to overcome yet another form of abuse? It scares me; but I believe that somehow I will survive even what has recently happened.

    I can’t file another complaint because another social worker told me that if I complain that “no one will help you”. So some people wonder why others with mental health symptoms do not like seeking help – maybe they have heard some horror stories and do not want to have to try out different therapies just to find one that “might” work.

    It isn’t my intent to badger any type of mental health system because there are several that are pretty good; but what bothers me is that the group of individuals that I was seeing took it upon themselves to a female who happened to be raped and/or molested more than once in her lifetime. I wasn’t seeking sympathy. I just wanted to get better and lead a more productive life if at all possible.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd March

      This story is a good example of how it all works; if you file a complaint, no one will help you and that is how “they” control you. It is very devaluing and very difficult, and only you can decide if you want to fight that or not. Not all systems are bad, it is the bad manipulative and controlling people misusing their power in some of the systems that is the problem. I am really sorry that this happened to you. Healing comes from self validation. You were right, and they don’t have to admit they were wrong in order for you to overcome this. healing does not depend on resolution, it is all about your relationship with you… now having said that I do not mean to make light of it! I know that your situation is not easy!
      Hugs, Darlene

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