Most of us have sort-of interesting things that we deal with at our jobs, but therapists really see and hear some wild stuff.
And us non-therapists never really get a peek into that world…until now!
Therapists got real on AskReddit about the unusual things they’ve seen and heard on the job. Let’s take a look.
“The one thing I’ve judged is the situations that people survive and continue to live their lives.
I’ve worked with torture survivors, survivors of genocide and famine. I’ve worked with people whose entire villages were wiped out because a war lord wanted the water well that was sitting in the town.
It always gives me pause in terms of the anguish some people face and their resilience. So if I have one message, it would be in the words of RJ Palacio, “Be kind for everyone is fighting a hard battle.””
“I’m a psychotherapist on an adult inpatient unit, so things rarely phase me. I purposely do inpatient because the thought of seeing people for years at a time bores me.
I’ve been kicked, spit on, seen a lot of nude people, but I help pull people back from their darkest points. It’s pretty awesome. My theory is everyone has a story of how they got there. Even a pedophile.
That being said, I had a patient that was having consensual s*x with her uncle. Very wealthy, society type people. She went very in-depth about the relationship. That one weirded me out.”
3. Are you serious?
“I currently have a young female client that is struggling with homelessness, a history of trauma, s*xual abuse, etc.
She’s not handling these things well, as can be expected. Grandmother, who is her only support, keeps kicking the ten year old out of her house (making her homeless at ten) for acting out, and told me she can’t understand why client won’t just “act right.”
Lady. Are you serious?”
4. Hearing voices.
“There was a client a young teenager that was hearing voices to hurt himself.
He had multiple crisis calls and was admitted several times to crisis centers for observation until he got prescribed meds and was starting to show improvement.
He was starting to disclose that he may have been Gay and was stressed out because his father was old school religious and a pillar of the community.
The young man was recommended to go to treatment abs start in a facility to keep him acclimate to he meds and just to give him some coping skills and all that.
His father pulled him out AMA and refused to allow him to continue medication. He also discontinued his therapy for a more religious approach.
3 months later he completed his suicide.
I see that father around and I want to f*ck him up. I wish I could.”
“In working with a young elementary aged student, he would start mast*rbating when explaining how he wanted to k**l his teacher and classmates in gruesome detail.
Thankfully we were able to transfer him to a more appropriate day school setting where he could receive special services.”
6. Couples counseling.
“Couples counseling; parents of a baby (4 or 5 months old).
We are halfway in our session when I ask them about their baby. Mom: she is in bed right now. Me: ah, grandparents babysitting? Dad: no, she is at home alone. Nothing can happen to her. We bought a special mattress, one where she (baby) cannot suffocate
Me: mouth open… staring at them for a couple of seconds. Then: how long did it take you to get here? Mom: 15 mins or so. Me: alright, the session is over.
I want you guys to go home immediately and call me when you arrive. Please hurry. And Never ever leave your baby alone!”
7. So bad.
“I’ve worked with some really sh*tty parents in my career. Probably one of the worst was the mom who kept sneaking the stepfather back into the house who was being investigated for molesting her daughter.
Hard not to judge someone who puts her own daughter at risk so she could get laid.”
“It is highly unlikely for me to have moments where I judge my clients.
It happens sometimes, but I’m able to shut down those thoughts quickly in my head and return to being present for the people I see. People are so incredibly complex that my judgment wouldn’t have any meaning anyway and it doesn’t have a place in our work together.
I will admit though, something that does get me feeling a little salty is when I have a client’s parent that attempts to sabotage the therapeutic relationship I have with their child.
Or pulling them out of therapy entirely when some of the things we talk about challenges some potentially unhealthy family dynamics. I don’t feel anger toward the parents, mostly I feel bad for the kid.”
“Parents of a “troubled” child, which turn out to be the problem themselves.
Total refusal to do any kind of introspection, try to convince everybody (cps, police, psychologist, doctor) the kid was the problem, complain the kid was… A kid (a teenager a that point) by growing too fast and costing money to feed and clothe.
He had smashed their t.v. with an axe. Turns out they hadn’t speak or pay any attention to him in several years and they spent 99% of their free time watching t.v. Kid had no other behavior problem, great in school, very calm. He just reach a point where he couldn’t stand being ignore any longer so he had what she called a “Fried Green Tomatoes” moment.
Parents dismissed their responsibility, only problem they saw was the wacked t.v. Kid got emancipated at 16 and moved to f*ck out of there.
She had a private practice and the only times she expressed any judgment was when someone seeks therapy but refused to do any work or partake in the process. Paying a therapist is not paying someone to agree with you.
You need to show up, you need to -at least- try.”
“I now work in the jail and there are quite a few s*x offenders in my program.
I struggle with the ones who honestly believe their victims (as young as 8) were in mutual loving relationships with them.
It’s super difficult at times not to just say “dude, WTF!””
11. Give yourself some credit.
“Some of my clients are SHOCKINGLY BAD at giving themselves credit.
They might get a nearly straight A GPA in a brutal major while battling depression, or overcome years of phobia and get behind the wheel again, or write a literal novel, or raise a kid as a single parent with low income
Rr build new relationships after being burned, or cope with OCD well enough to hold down a job. And they’ll talk about themselves as if everyone on earth is better than them, as if their accomplishments are worthless.
And I know it’s because of depression or anxiety or another condition, but I’m often stunned by how differently I see them compared to how they see themselves.”
“Had a patient apologise for crying during a consultation, saying ‘I know I shouldn’t be sad, I’ve got so many great things going for me’
Three months ago you had to move back to your parents after an unexpected breakup.
Back to the environment which contributed to your official diagnosis.
The same place where your sister was living- before she died, one month after your return to that house, of the same diagnosis you have.
And because she died during a pandemic, not only could you not visit her in hospital before she died, you had difficulty organising her funeral.
In addition to all that he felt financially responsible for both his parents as they’d both lost their benefits- a loss which they couldn’t appeal as their mental health was so poor the concept of fighting that decision was making them suicidal.
I want to hug a lot of my patients, but this one made my heart ache.”
“I was counseling a 13 year old girl for anxiety and she reported s*xual abuse from her step dad. I called her mom and told her mother I needed to call child protective services. Turns out that CPS was already aware and the abuse was first report around the patients age 7.
Mom was aware of the abuse and stayed with her husband anyway. It was a complicated situation, and it wasn’t. How could she not do more to protect her daughter?!
Sorry lady… I’m judging.”
14. People are sick.
“My professor once shared what a patient said that made her quit her job: “I didn’t r*pe my daughter, she liked it.” The daughter was six.
She couldn’t take it anymore. She worked in a rehabilitation centre for people who have been sentenced for serious crimes and were forced to get mental help.
Really difficult job and this pushed her over the edge.”
15. Good Lord…
“Once had a patient whose wife shook their baby to death. He wanted help reconnecting with his wife.
At the time I was a young father of a newborn myself, and he triggered a lot of fear in me for my own child, a deep loathing of his spouse, and pity (the “how pathetic” kind) for the patient.
I tried for 3 sessions, met his spouse and everything before handing the case over to my supervisor (who knew about my initial reactions, and tried to help me through it).
Unfortunately, it ended up being more about my feelings than his, and I was new to the profession at the time. These things are expected to crop up from time to time, but I was still taken aback by my own reactions.”
“I work at a group home.
We had a kid who we had admitted four months prior, when in a family session they mentioned they had parasites. Mom said, “yeah, our whole family has them, we don’t get rid of them since they’re part of our biological ecosystem.”
I was dumbstruck.
We spent three weeks afterwards convincing this family it was an infectious disease concerns as other residents have fecal eating behaviors and various other unsanitary issues that could cause a unit spread.
Three weeks of education, planning, and worse of all convincing this kid and mother that their IQ wouldn’t drop because they had agreed to irradiate the parasites!!!
Lots of CBT work, but Jesus it took way longer than any of my team expected!”
“I work with kids who have experienced some kind of abuse/trauma (90% of my clients have been s*xually abused). I have a lot of holy sh*t moments but not from judgment of my clients but from what happened to them.
I’ve had clients whose father made them help him dismember mom’s body after dad murdered her in front of them. I’ve had clients under the age of 8 who have been s*x trafficked.
I’ve had clients who have been forced to film torture p*rn. I have holy sh*t moments all the time.”
“I feel like a lot of the comments saying that they NEVER judge their clients might be working in voluntary services or they’ve been very fortunate in their client base. Judgement isn’t an inherently bad thing. It’s how we know that murdering people is wrong.
So when a convicted pedophile client told me, “nothing gets me going like a pair of little girl’s worn panties”, you better believe I judged the f*ck out of him. I continued to work with him and I treated him with compassion and respect because he’s a human being worthy of both; I did my job because I’m a professional.
But I can’t honestly say that I didn’t judge him. I judged that he should never be around children. I judged that he is not yet ready for change. I judged that his access to his own daughter should be closely supervised. That’s a lot of judgements.
Understanding your own inherent biases and how they influence your work is a very important part of training and practice.”
19. Not a good move.
“As the pandemic worsened here in the US and more lock downs are on their way, one of my most extroverted clients and I brainstormed ways to meet her social needs while remaining safe.
The following week she canceled her session and told me that she’s positive for COVID after attending an orgy, which definitely wasn’t one of our ideas.
I let out the deepest most defeated sigh after I hung up the phone.”
20. Anger management.
“I ran a men’s anger management group though, and some of those men had done some terrible things to women. Most of them I found ways to like and admire for their positive aspects, but there were two guys in that group I just could never find “unconditional positive regard” for.
One guy basically never spoke in group. He would give one word answers and occasionally just discuss how unfair the “system” was to him. I worked really hard to open him up and find things to connect over but he never opened up to me or the group. He left the group after he strangled his girlfriend and went to jail. She survived thankfully.
The other left group early routinely, showed up late, participated minimally and similarly never wanted to open up honestly. He left early one group after we had discussed him staying to the end and threatened me when I told him he wasn’t going to get credit for attendance (something the court required).
Oddly, I eventually moved into the apartment below him (completely without knowledge) and listened to him scream at his girlfriend and break sh*t while I called the cops.
I judge these men. They’re sh*tty. Maybe they’re redeemable, but redemption requires self-exploration and they both refused to do so. It’s worth noting how differently I felt about them than so many others in the group; men I found ways to help and admire and respect even in spite of their awful behavior in the past.”
21. Youth issues.
“I work with youth and adolescents who have anxiety, trauma, and/or depression. Some of the kids I worked with had some pretty severe attachment issues. Regardless of this, I never thought I’d have to seriously explain:
“You can’t just buy a straitjacket for your kid.”
“Feeding your kid ultra Spicy Ramen each night instead of the meal everyone else is eating isn’t specifically defined as abuse, but you have to understand the emotional abuse that this causes.”
“Your kid isn’t trying to k**l you because they stand in your doorway at night crying. Thats likely because they’re scared of their traumatic nightmares, but feel like you will just yell at them if they wake you up.”
22. This is terrible.
“A woman who deliberately kept getting pregnant because she enjoyed the attention, and then would immediately afterwards dump her kids with the foster system or with a willing relative.
She had six kids at the time I met her…”
23. Drug lord.
“It’s not often I get to talk about my profession, but here goes: I was working at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center and had a client come in who was a self proclaimed “drug lord”.
As we worked together, he told me about his history. Included in this history was how he got to where he was currently at.
During the conversation, this man admitted to selling his sister into s*x slavery, forcibly injecting her with several sedatives and narcotics, and having several people “teach her a lesson” (what this meant, he never shared). He told this story with a blank face, smiling only when he recalled the “good times”, which he referred to as times when he had enough heroin to get through the day.
I’m not sure where he is at now, but this man inspired me to work with victims of s*x trafficking, because not only do they deal with the stigma of “selling their bodies”, they often manage drug addictions.
People would honestly be floored of they realized how many people were addicted to chemicals that they were forcibly given.”
24. The straight story.
“I work in mental health and have worked in acute and crisis settings for the majority of my career.
The most notable event I experienced was when a young person had presented with significant ongoing suicidal ideation who was dealing with a lot of sh*t. I spent a lot of time with them mostly deescalation and working out what the plan should be moving forward.
One of their parents came in a little while later and I had the opportunity to speak to them about where their child was and what had been going on, with their consent of course. Midway through me trying to explain some of the psychological constructs and ways the parent could help they said to me, “is this going to take much longer I have a show to go and watch”.
All I can say is, I never judge my patients, I have never walked their path or viewed the world through their eyes. But the people around them who perpetuate the suffering of the people I work with through ignorance, malice and selfishness, I judge them.”
Have you ever had any major “oh sh*t” moments at your job?
If so, tell us your stories in the comments.
We’d love to hear ’em!