Asking for a Friend: My therapist forgot my story — what do I do now?

Is it time to break up with your therapist? Here's what you should ask yourself and your therapist.
"How do I say 'wtf?' to a therapist? Or do I just say this isn't working and find someone else?"
"How do I say 'wtf?' to a therapist? Or do I just say this isn't working and find someone else?"TODAY Illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TMRW

Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast "Gee Thanks, Just Bought It," which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, "Asking for a Friend," she's helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, email us at tmrwadvice@nbcuni.com.

Hi Caroline,

I started seeing a new therapist via telehealth (because of the pandemic). Last week I gave her a bit of a rundown of my history, including some traumatic experiences that I believe help define how I interact with the world around me.

This week, I mentioned that I had done something I normally find traumatizing due to what I had already disclosed to her the week prior. Her response indicated she had forgotten that conversation entirely.

It was as if she and I had never had that conversation. She was asking me all of these questions that we had already gone over, forcing me to have a very difficult conversation twice. I was totally caught off-guard.

How do I say "wtf?" to a therapist? Or do I just say this isn't working and find someone else?

Signed,

Therapist Troubles

Dear Therapist Troubles,

Oh wow. First of all, I am sorry that this is something you experienced. That probably felt really disorienting in the moment, and a little off-putting after you had time to process it. If I were you, I would be feeling a host of emotions: confusion, anger and peeved, for sure. Especially since therapy is not cheap! I understand why you feel badly about this encounter and why you are considering throwing in the towel on this particular professional.

Ideally, your therapist would never forget the important details (or not even details, more like life-altering experiences) of your life. Your therapist is also human and telehealth can make that one-on-one relationship feel, at times, fraught. That being said, your feelings are reasonable and valid.

I have a few unanswered questions, which I know I won’t be able to get from you, and so my advice will be to take these questions into consideration. I wonder how you had been feeling about this therapist prior to that appointment. Did you like her? Did you feel like she was helping you or that she had the potential to help you? Had you tried talking to other therapists before deciding she was a good fit?

Either way, I would suggest having a conversation with her during your next session. You can say, “on X date we had a conversation about this, and then on X date it seemed like you didn’t remember. I was wondering if you had maybe misunderstood me or if you truly did not remember our conversation, as the latter understandably concerns me about moving forward as your patient.”

I know that might feel a little harsh to say, but time is money and you’re the one paying. I fear that letting this roll off your back will only create a weird barrier between the two of you and prevent you from really feeling as though you can open up to this person and trust her. You may start to also feel (reasonable) resentment. Like any relationship that needs to be maintained, it is important that you are able to truly share how this situation made you feel. Perhaps there is a good or reasonable explanation for her forgetting your conversation or perhaps you will learn that there is no explanation that would make you feel any better. Either way, having a frank conversation will either allow you to move forward or move on, and allow her to understand where she went wrong in this situation.

I truly wish you all the best and remember that you can always find a new therapist if this one isn't the right fit.

Do you have a question for Caroline? Email us at tmrwadvice@nbcuni.com.