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Teen Boy's Mom Refuses To Let Him Switch Therapists After His Current One Proves That She Doesn't Know How To Treat Male Eating Disorders

A teenage male, 15, had a female therapist who was not qualified to discuss his eating order, and he felt his sessions were not showing any progress.

But when Redditor "TheGreatNutmeg" requested to switch therapists, his mother strongly disapproved.


The Original Poster (OP) knew right away his therapist was going to be ineffective when she admitted that his "disorder" was not her area of experitse.

But he stuck it out "for a few months" and recently came to the conclusion that "mental stuff" was hard.

"My therapist (F30-40ish) has been...interesting...when it came to be known that I needed help, my parents were given the name of this therapist."
"However, after the end of my first session, she says to me 'Ok, well I don't usually treat eating disorders, especially not with males, but I want to try.' Well, I was new to this whole therapy thing, so I was like 'uhh, sure!'"

Cut to a few months later, the OP shared the disappointing news that she hasn't made progress with him.

"I know, that's a tough thing for a redditor to figure out without much context - but she has only tried this one method of treatment with me."

The young patient assessed that eating disorders can have gender-specific concerns.

"Problem is, it seems as if it is specifically designed for females, and the difference between male and female treatment is pretty different- enough that there isn't really a one-treatment-fits-all."

The therapist's frustration showed as she attempted treatment through uncharted territory.

"On top of that, she's become increasingly aggressive...I haven't done anything to piss her off. I go to therapy, listen to her, go home, and try to apply her advice... which doesn't work, so I've literally been attempting to treat myself."
"She got pissed that she wasn't getting anywhere, even calling my dad in anger after sessions- WTF? Finally, I reached my tipping point."
"It was a video chat, because of the world issues right now. She's talking to me, it's nearing the end of the session. She asked me why I wasn't getting anywhere (to my face)."

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He replied graciously and with full transparency.

"So I politely responded 'because while I appreciate the treatment I'm getting, this method isn't quite working.'"
"FYI, she asked a month before this and I said the same thing (she didn't change). At this point, I was pissed of her being manipulative- although I didn't say anything. Session ends. She doesn't say much."

The OP's father got to experience the therapist's impropriety, firsthand.

"And then my dad gets a call. She FLIPS out on him, saying that I'm getting nowhere and I need to go to a hospital RIGHT NOW or I might die....my dad is clearly confused."
"So we head to my doctor the next day (who I'm supposed to see every once in a while from this condition). My doctor, after examination, says that the therapist is full of BS- that I'm fine, and I don't meet any criteria to go into the hospital."

Unfortunately, not everyone was on board over the prospect of switching therapists.

"Here's the issue: My dad, doctor, and I all agree that I need to switch therapists. But my mom is INSISTENT on staying with the therapist. She won't budge on this opinion, calling me 'ungrateful' and 'lying."
"She says I need to give her another try (it's been three months...). On top of that, the therapist keeps calling my dad. He doesn't pick up. So reddit, AITA for wanting to switch?"

Redditors cautioned the OP about the damaging effects of unsuitable and unprofessional therapists.

"NTA- A bad therapist can make problems worse and make you more closed off in future therapy. One of the most important parts of therapy is being comfortable with and trusting your therapist." – erinb197
"THIS. My husband had bad experiences with an incompetent therapist as a teenager that has made him completely uncomfortable with seeking therapy as an adult, and I genuinely think it's set his mental health back considerably."
"OP's mom is not behaving in a reasonable or supportive manner here. She needs to listen to her son's discomfort."
"And, frankly, it's deeply alarming that the therapist is contacting your father to share details of your session and complain about you to him. It's very unprofessional and raises a lot of red flags." – MaryMaryConsigliere
"NTA. Your therapist is quite awful, does not know what she's doing, and clearly does not have the patience that is suited for her job as she is being aggressive towards you and your dad."
"She confirmed herself that she's not used to providing males with eating disorders, and you are not a test subject."
"You need to switch to a therapist who's capable of providing good therapy that works for you. Your mother is wrong for trying to keep you with a therapist with anger problems, and doesn't help you whatsoever." – _fairyy

Someone seemed to forget for whom the sessions were intended.

"NTA your mom isn't the one dealing with these issues and honestly, should have no say if YOU are not happy with the services."
"Also, the RESPONSIBLE thing to do as a therapist who has no experience in a particular field is telling a client that it isn't their area of expertise, and referring them to a therapist who has ACTUAL experience/success in said field."
"Not, 'Oh I dunno... but I'll try!' You definitely need to file a complaint with your state's Board of Psychology, the way that therapist is behaving is reprehensible." – Withamoomoohere

A mental health professional weighed in with their expertise and affirmed that "therapists are not one size fits all."

"Not only that but she is acting in a way that is incredibly unprofessional and, honestly, unethical."

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The expert went on to list the reasons why this therapist's conduct was unacceptable.

"She admitted in the beginning that she doesn't have any experience working with males with eating disorders and has limited experience with eating disorders in general."
"Because of the heavy medical and physiological component of eating disorders, that's not one a therapist should be learning as she goes."
"She should NEVER be getting aggressive or angry with a patient. Beneficiance and non maelfiance is the first of the code of ethics. It essentially means do good and do no harm. Clearly this isnt helping."
"She should've changed tactics once she knew that. But instead she isn't changing and has become irritable and aggressive, which arguably does harm."
"A good therapist knows when to refer out. If I'm working with something I have no experience with and am not equipped to work with, I'm going to be honest about that and refer out."
"Even if we started treatment already, if it became clear what I was able to provide wasn't going to be beneficial, I'd have a discussion with my patient and refer out at that point."
"Calling your dad in anger after the sessions is NEVER okay. Those should be confidential (unless you are a harm to yourself or others) and even if you were, she should not be expressing her anger and frustration to your father."
"Do I get frustrated with my patients? Absolutely. However, I try my best to maintain a nonjudgmental stance and if I am frustrated I take a break after and allow myself to chill out before practicing empathy and reminding myself that my patients are allowed to struggle and have bad days. Progress isn't linear."
"OP, you ABSOLUTELY should find a new therapist and, quite frankly, should report this one. This is not okay." – nixibeaver

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In an update, the OP wanted to make one thing clear.

"I should also add that I respect health professionals, i hope this does not come across as disrespectful."

When his mother continued to schedule future appointments with the same therapist, he showed her all the positive comments from Redditors siding with the OP.

"It's not the biggest post on this subreddit, but I think it showed her something."
"She's finally considering having me switch. In the meantime, I'm on the ACA's website to go over the reporting criteria."

Adolescents go through enough emotional trauma already, and the last thing the OP needs during the current pandemic crisis is to be berated by an unqualified and belligerent health care specialist.

Hopefully he is getting the help he needs with a more qualified professional.

The book 131 Connecting Conversations for Parents and Teens: How to build a lifelong bond with your teen! is available here.