Dear Margo: Oh, and Did He Mention the Brooklyn Bridge?

What if my former therapist is a con artist? Margo Howard’s advice

Oh, and Did He Mention the Brooklyn Bridge?

Dear Margo: I began seeing a therapist because of my weight, plus family problems. He charged $250 an hour. At the first session, he wanted me to take diet pills. Since this guy was a Ph.D., not an MD, I asked if they were prescription. He said yes, but his father was a doctor and could get them. I said, “Sorry, I don’t take any drugs unless I clear it with my physician.” Then he handed me a box of nutritional supplements and said to take them as part of the therapy. They were non-prescription, and he charged me $25. At the next session, he insisted I buy (from him) what he called “pharmaceutical grade supplements” for which he charged me $200. Eventually, I stopped taking them, saying my doctor advised against it.

He then told me he had a client who wanted me to do a voiceover in a big-budget sequel and was offering me $200,000. He just needed a recorded sample of my voice. I gave him one and heard nothing back. Next he told me he had a client who wanted my T-shirt designs to sell in his store and asked me to give him a sample of my portfolio. Over the next few months, I heard “He’s interested” or “He wants to think it over.”

Then he told me he was starting an arms export company and wanted to send me to South Africa as his representative. At this I said, “Are you insane? I could get killed dealing weapons in South Africa. It’s not even legal!” He told me not to worry; he’d hire a Navy SEAL to go with me. This therapist told me that he has top security clearance. I soon discontinued therapy.

Here’s the problem: I suspect he made this stuff up to keep me coming back for more sessions. I saw him for several months and spent more than $12,000. Would I have grounds to sue him and have his license revoked? I feel he might’ve crossed some boundaries. –Swindled?

Dear Swin: Might have crossed some boundaries? It wouldn’t surprise me if the guy had no license to yank and got the Ph.D. from a Cracker Jack box. This quack is clearly a con man, but do check with the licensing board, just in case, and by all means feel free to sue him for misrepresentation, malpractice (if applicable) and whatever the charge is for con-mannery. You might want to see an actual therapist about your extreme gullibility. –Margo, amazedly

Closing Down Ms. Busybody

Dear Margo: I’m 25, and many of my peers are getting married and starting families. I’ve been in a solid relationship for six years, but I’m not yet engaged because neither of us is financially ready, though someday I see it happening. I’m fairly content with this for the time being, but I am bothered by a co-worker who enjoys pushing my buttons.

Anytime there’s an opportunity, she brings it up, asking why I’m not engaged, why aren’t I getting married yet, don’t I want to start having babies? This woman in particular is the worst because she sets a pretty bad example: She got pregnant as a teenager and is now heading toward her second divorce. I’m also not about to propose and buy myself a ring, so getting engaged is kind of out of my control. Do you have any suggestions for a snappy comeback that isn’t rude enough to get myself in trouble? –Perfectly Happy for Now

Dear Per: Your co-worker, the one with amnesia, sounds a bit on the dim side, socially speaking. The next time she starts in, you might answer, “Life is really very nice now the way it is, and we really want to be sure. Don’t you think that’s a good idea?” –Margo, dismissively

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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76 Responses so far.

  1. avatar David Bolton says:

    LW1: You’re a fool, and you don’t deserve the opportunity to sue.

    LW2: My favorite comeback of all time comes courtesy of “The Kids In The Hall.”
    It goes something like this…

    Cathy: It’s so good to see you Mrs. Flanagan! What have you been busy doing?
    Mrs. Flanagan: Mostly minding my own business. And you?

    Trust me, it’s easily adaptable to just about any situation. I use it on Facebook all the time.

    • avatar Mimsy says:

      Wow, I’m glad you’ve never had the misfortune to be taken advantage of by anyone, ever, and are therefor qualified to pass judgment on others! Thank you so much for this service.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Oh COME ON. The letter is either fake or written by a moron. Don’t try to shame me with your faux outrage.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          And besides, they’d just be writing a letter in 3 months describing how they got screwed by a lawyer for $300/hr.

  2. avatar Constance Plank says:

    #1 Yes, get a grip, sweetheart. What’ll you believe next? That if you pay him enough, that you’ll join the next regularly scheduled Rapture? It must be a joke.

    #2 A response to the bad example. Hmmm…Well, I’ve finished my college degree, and am working on a career. The next step is marriage, and my husband and I will figure out if we want children. Oh, and why do you ask? Because this is really between my future husband and me….


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA

  3. avatar RL says:

    Re: LW #1: I’m thinking the letter is actually a prank. If on the off chance it’s not, so very sad.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      And I’m thinking I’m not the only one who seems to attract  psychos and this one is a psycho. Psychologist? He seems to have little time for patients given the amout of time he spends on other things.  Including arms dealing.  I do agree with Margo that it is possible he doesn’t have a PhD. Or even a BA.  And $250 an hour?  You can probably find a pyschiatrist for $250 and hour. A real one. With an MD after the name.  I know about these things. And I learned early on the difference bertween a psychiatrist and a psychologist. A reputable psychiatrist doeesn’t pull out the prescription pad on the first visit. And sometimes never does. And a reputable psychiatrist doesn’t sign the prescription pads for the psychologists. I’m nuts but not in the psychiatric sense. But only because from time to time I will ask a psychiatrist “what do you think?” and invariably they tell me I’m nuts but not really. I spent $10,000 years ago to have a psychiatrist tell me that regardless of what was really going on psychologically with him, the bottom line was the man stalking me was just not a very nice person. Looking back, that was worth the $10,000.   

      Not sure it was worth $12,000 but if I were “Swindled” I would at least take note of the obvious. If somethign doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t. And you need to move on. And I would definitely follow Margo’s advice and contact the licensing board about the matter.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      It could indeed be a prank—after all, if this person could afford therapy at $250 a pop, plus another doctor, plus supplements, etc, they could afford health insurance that would have paid towards a mental health benefit with a networked counselor. However, if this is real after all, I’d really like to know how this person came into contact with “the doctor.”

      My bet is on one of three guesses: 1) Craigslist, 2) telephone pole flyer, 3) yard sign.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Oh, you’d be surprised at how many “legitimate” psychologists there are who are in far more need of a psychiatrist than their patients.  

      • avatar flyonthewall says:

        Could be from word of mouth from someone as gullible as she.

      • avatar John Lee says:

        I’m thinking a fourth possibility – bathroom stall door.

  4. avatar RL says:

    Re: LW #2: Just tell them to stop asking and if they don’t, you will mention it to their supervisor. What’s wrong with that? If your work is so dysfunctional that that it is considered so wrong then try to find a different job.

    • avatar Mo Mo says:

      Re: LW #2 – I would think it might be more of either not wanting to get a woman in trouble for being nosy (and/or coming across as ‘overly sensitive’), or the coworker is higher up the food chain than the LW and it could prove awkward.

      I’m a fan of just smiling at the woman and saying that the LW is happy she’s (the coworker) so interested in the LW’s welfare, but last the LW checked, her love life wasn’t a worthwhile work discussion. Something like that.

      • avatar RL says:

        It’s simple assertion is what I am suggesting. The letter writer didn’t mention she couldn’t say anything b/c the woman is higher up on the food chain, but so what if she is? What she is doing is too obnoxious to let it go and I think it could be construed as sexual harassment. I doubt the woman would get more than a warning and I think a warning is all what it would take to get to close her mouth. I suggest to the letter writer to start keeping track and after 4 or 5 instances, go to HR with it if nothing else.

  5. avatar EsteeTee says:

    LW #1  I’d check with an attorney, too.  It’s easy to say what I would do in the situation, but she probably kept visiting this guy because it’s so hard to seek help when you’re going through something.  She probably really hoped that she would feel better at some point.  There’s a lot of information out there, however, about the therapeutic process, so when things started to get fishy, she could have gone to a psychology-oriented website.  With very little searching, you’ll find the American Psychological Association.

    LW #2  Margo’s reply is very friendly and to-the-point.  It’ll keep her quiet without being offensive.  I would be careful about sharing information in the future with her, though.  It’s hard to tell whether she’s just being nosy in general, or if she knows about your boyfriend and your situation, and asks specific questions regarding that. 

  6. avatar M L says:

    LW2. I can’t help but think there are worse things. Some people can’t even get married. And its not because they don’t have money to put on a circus or impress their family and friends. I know that’s not the point. But that’s all I keep coming back to when a problem surrounds getting married or not.

    But seriously, people who are this bold, nosy, and rude don’t deserve a cordial reply. You need to be firm and direct when you tell her the comments have to stop.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Um…your “therapist” is a quack and a nut. *HE* needs therapy. If you haven’t already stopped seeing him, do so now! Did you need to be told all this? Honestly?

    L #2: Just flat out tell her: “Sorry you’re so miserable. Mind your own business.” And repeat that word for word until Little Miss Miserable (who’d like to see YOU miserable too) finally shuts up.

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      L #2 again: You could also ask “Why concern yourself with me? Don’t you have your own children and failed marriages to worry about?”

  8. avatar Grace OMalley says:

    LW#2 – To quote Garrison Keilor, “I urge you to attend to your own shortcomings and I will attend to mine”. 

    Love him.

  9. avatar Susan JH says:

    LW#2, I’m with Cindy, only my phrasing would be something like, “Oh, I guess misery loves company, huh?”

  10. avatar Jamie Allison says:

    LWw#2 For years my response to this question from nosy people has been “If that were any of your business, you would already know the answer”. Or you could smile in a sickeningly sweet way and ask “why do you want to know” This is what my friends and I call being nice/nasty. You get your point across without being really ugly about it 🙂

  11. avatar Elizabeth L says:

    Margo I think letter #1 may be from Yale ! As for letter # 2 I think she should tell her co-worker in her sweetest voice ” it’s better to wait and get it right rather than get married and divorced ” and than change the subject.

  12. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW2: One way to shut her down is to say you & guy have decided that you wan to be married at 28. That gives you a few years. I sense you do want to get married because you write it’s out of your control. That is why she is tormenting you. Not being financially ready to me indicates you are both living with your parents. I understand you want this gal to bug off, but you might also want to explore why it bothers you & discuss it with your guy. I had the same situation & it drove me crazy mostly because I wanted to get married & have kids & I wasn’t getting any younger. My guy finally(!) proposed (I even tried to propose to him once). I was 27. 28 when married. The funny thing is later when I asked him why the delay he couldn’t come up with anything. 🙂
    There is something to be said for waiting to get married & have kids. Remember this gal missed her prime & is likely jealous. By waiting to have kids. you get the fun & travel, etc done up front. There is also something to be said for not going through infertility and being really old when your children have grandkids. Both have pros & cons. My hub & I will be 55 when baby graduates & almost 60 when she finishes college. I have classmates who already have college graduates & grandchildren. Both are fine, but amazing how different.

  13. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    On Letter #1 Find out the name and location of the state licensing board to to see if this character is indeed a licensed therapist. You would be doing yourself and others a huge favor to have him investigated for fraud. Offering pills without being a physician is not only illegal but possibly a way to control your actions and those of others for his own illegal activities. If something goes wrong he can blame it on his patients. Do not go back to him under any circumstances.

    • avatar kchick28 says:

      I am LW2. I can’t just tell her off or go to management because this is a small office of women where we all know eachother’s business, and work in close quarters. I need to maintain a civil relationship with everyone, I just need to tell her that this isn’t a topic I enjoy being teased about. Isn’t everyone entitled to that? Push my buttons all you want. Just don’t push that one.

      Yes, I live at home- boyfriend does not. Not being financially prepared doesn’t mean we aren’t getting married because we can’t afford a giant circus wedding, it means we aren’t prepared to begin a life together in the financial state we’re in. Financial issues are often a great source of stress and failure in young marriages, so I’m hoping to give us the biggest leg up in at as I can. I live at home because I have student loans, and I’ve also been building a significant savings account which will someday be a down payment on our house. I have always planned to skip renting an apartment, and buy a house when I move out. I also don’t want to live together before we are at least engaged. Again, this situation suits me fine- I just don’t enjoy being teased about it. Yes, I do want to get married, but I know that today is not the right day for it. Boyfriend knows this, we have talked about it, and he’s heard it from people in his life. A couple in their mid-to-late 20s that’s been together for 6 years hears about it a lot.

      • avatar 137lbs says:

        I once had a friend who, after she had her second baby, kept pestering me that I SHOULD have another baby like NOW,and tried to insinuate that there was something wrong with me for having only one child. It got so bad that I stopped coming over. Once I had to drop by to deliver a birthday party invite for her first kid (to my kid’s bday), and she wasn’t there – her husband answered the door and said that they missed us and wondered why we never came over anymore. I told him the truth, that I really care about them and would like to visit more, but every time I show up all his wife wants to do is pressure me to have a second child and it was very unpleasant. I explained that I’ve asked her to stop but she won’t. He nodded with understanding, and apologized about her “enthusiasm” and said he would talk to her. Anyway… she still didn’t change. But eventually I moved to another state and didnt’ stay in touch.

        You don’t need to explain anything to anyone. In fact, you shouldn’t, because it would only lead to getting more in your business. Next time this lady starts pestering, which should be soon, just stare at her blankly for a couple of beats and then say (with a smile): “I’m not going to discuss my personal life at work.” And then walk away. Do this every single time. Don’t give an inch. You might have to do this several times, depending on how persistent she is. But just stick to your guns. Give it a couple weeks, or a couple of months (again, depdning on her persistence).

        This phrasing emphasizes what YOU are (not) willing to do, not what you’d prefer or feel comfortable with, or what you’d like her or anyone else to do or think or consider. So you control your own actions and don’t worry about controlling other people’s behavior, and that’s that.  

        • avatar LaurieF says:

          Did you read what the letter writer just said??  She works in a small office and needs to maintain a cordial atmosphere.  This doesn’t mean snapping at the woman, it means guiding her into acting appropriately.  Margo’s response was perfect, as were a few others here – give her a calm, kind blow off. 

          I work in a small office and I know how frosty things can get if you don’t have some decent diplomacy.  You folks who are advising her to bite into the woman, or even more ridiculous, quit her job over this small problem… what’s the deal?  Do you not work outside the home?  Do you quit every job you get?  If you haven’t noticed, it’s not easy to find a good job at the moment.

          Well Margo, I can say this: you don’t have to worry about having your job taken away from you.  Some of these people have zero ability to give advice!

          I say to the young lady, do exactly what Margo suggests.  Say it twice if necessary.  Or three times.  Ms. Dense will eventually get the message. 

          • avatar crystalclear says:

            LaurieF said:   
            Well Margo, I can say this: you don’t have to worry about having your job taken away from you.  Some of these people have zero ability to give advice!

            Priceless!   You are a hoot!

      • avatar 137lbs says:

        Another option is to just tell this lady next time that “You know, I’m sorry but I find it really unpleasant (or uncomfortable) to talk about stuff like this with co-workers.” If she has any decency, she will apologize and then you can tell her, “No problem; just don’t ask me about this sort of stuff anymore okay?” And then forgive her (in your mind/heart) and shake on it.

        If on the other hand she balks at your discomfort, the onus is now on her to maintain good relations between you and her.

      • avatar marpesia says:

        i like to smile and say “because life is not a race.” and leave it at that.  say it every time.  make it a mantra. 

      • avatar K Coldiron says:

        I kind of like Lym BO’s response – pick some arbitrary deadline, incorporate it into an answer, and repeat yourself with the same phrasing over and over. I’m not generally a fan of the broken record technique, because I’ve found that I get a lot more tired of repeating my canned answer than the idiot questioners get of hearing it, but just for some peace of mind, having something you automatically say might help.

      • avatar Sweet Dream says:

        kchick28, say this in the sweetest of voices: “Well I like not being married better. Why we are intimate almost every night, which I don’t think is the case with married people. And as for kids, I can borrow my sisters’/girlsfriends’ kids and when I’m done I can give them back. Life is sweet with my sweetie”

      • avatar EmmaS says:

        Glad you weighed in here. I’m amazed at the people who think anyone can just tell a coworker off or complain to their management. Life in the office world just isn’t like that. Realistically, there is nothing you can do to make this woman stop asking b/c her questions about about her needs, not yours. Margo has a good answer. Another good, all purpose answer to nosy questions (from Miss Manners) is “It’s so thoughtful of you to be interested!” These and a tight smile will be your best come backs.

        • avatar crystalclear says:

          Emma, I disagreed with your comments on another thread but this one I agree 100%!  Fantastic response!

  14. avatar Kathy says:

    LW1 –  Dealing arms in South Africa?  This letter is bogus.
    LW2 – The best way to deal with a nosy, inappropriate person is to drop what you are doing, look them deep in the eyes, and ask intently and earnestly: “Why do you care so much?”  And then just be silent and never break eye contact while they fumble around for an answer.  Once you turn the tables and make it about them, they shut up.

  15. avatar Drew Smith says:


    You could simply respond “Why do you keep asking?” Then smile as sweetly as you can. Anyone observing will get the message about what is going on.

    If she pursues the line of questioning, “I’m quite certain we’ve had this conversation before.”

    Repeat as indicated.

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      As long as the LW incorporates the phrase: “…but of course, it’s too late for YOU,” in her response I’ll be happy.

  16. avatar crystalclear says:

    Letter One:   OMG!  This has to be the dumbest woman on earth!   I agree that the letter sounds like it is bogus but then again there really are people “out there” not tightly wrapped!   All the letter writer had to do is join WW or JC and start a daily walking program!   Poof!!   The weight would be gone before long at the low cost of joining and buying the food (On JC).   WW works and you buy your own food!    Oh me I feel faint!

    Letter Two:  Back to the dreaded co-workers again!   Margo, your response to the co-worker was downright perfect.   That same line should be used over and over again to all inappropriate personal questions asked by co-workers.    I could never work in an office again because of the dregs you have to endure from 9 to 5.   And, they are in most offices!

    I’m still reeling over Letter One.

  17. avatar Mjit RaindancerStahl says:

    LW #1: My sincere sympathies on your broken Balderdash Detector. I hope you’re feeling well enough to think more clearly now and have found a therapist with a genuine desire to help people instead of a scam artist.

    LW #2: I think your line is: “I’ve decided to learn from your mistakes and wait a while to have a family.”
    or maybe, when you’re out having drinks after work, shoot back with “when are you going to stop being such a bitch about it?”

    And thanks for filling us in — it sounds like you have your own life in order and on track.

  18. avatar Maizie James says:

    Dear Margo,

    After reading letter #1, the expression, ‘stranger than fiction’, came to my mind. Who in their right mind could concoct such a story.

  19. avatar flyonthewall says:

    I love reading all of the responses to L#1. Believe it or not, I used to go to school with a girl who was as gullible as this lw. She got into all sorts of trouble because it never dawned upon her to question anything that anyone told her. What this lw should have done is checked into the therapist’s credentials before first going to a session. If credentials check out ok and things are still off meaning that he’s saying crazy things to her in the first session, she should not see him again and report him to the APA. Do not go back to him and give him any more money, for gosh sakes! Now, how hard can that be?

  20. avatar K Coldiron says:

    I am tempted to call shenanigans on LW1. Margo has said before that she has a solid gold BS detector, though, so I’m willing to treat it as serious since she did. (Although that would be kind of meta – Margo pretending to be gullible re: this fake letter about an unfathomably gullible person.)

  21. avatar BeanCounter says:

    LW#1:  A fool and his money are soon parted.

  22. avatar D C says:

    For LW#2 – It’s nobody’s business when you and your love decided to marry and/or have children.  However… when did it become mandatory to present a ring upon proposing marriage?  I know, I know… everybody’s doing it.  But back in MY day (ouch)… my sweetheart proposed marriage, and then we shopped for a ring, and bought it when we could (about 3 months later).  When he picked up the ring and brought it to me, it was that same OMG! moment — I was thrilled to finally have the ring we had picked (which had to be ordered, made, engraved). 

    Anyway, I suggest you spend some time in front of the mirror and work on your icy stare of death.  When the busybody asks personal questions, just give her that.  She’ll get the message eventually and you don’t have to spend any more time trying to come up with snappy comebacks. 

    • avatar crystalclear says:

      I love your response, D C!    And your engagement story.   Yes, that’s the way it was back in the day….the couple shopped for the ring together.  

      • avatar kchick28 says:

        Exactly what day are we talking here? My parents got engaged almost 40 years ago, and I don’t think that’s the way it was in their time…

        • avatar crystalclear says:

          kchick28, I’m thinking the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.   Not all couples did that, however, so I’m not surprised your parents didn’t shop for the ring together.   LOL in the 70’s women were  burning their bras, having casual sex and putting knotches on their belts, smoking pot, letting their hair and makeup go to hell and the last thing they wanted was a man putting a ring on their finger thinking he owned them in some way!!   LaughoutLoud!!!!

          Ahem….some of us did get married in the 70’s…..with our bras on, makeup and hair perfecto…..and threw that damn belt away!

        • avatar K Coldiron says:

          Yeah, a lot of couples in the current day shop for rings together…

  23. avatar Dani Smith says:

    Anybody who thinks letter #1 is for real, and is criticizing the woman for being gullible, is just as stupid.   If you didn’t catch on by this paragraph:

    “Then he told me he was starting an arms export company and wanted to send me to South Africa as his representative. At this I said, “Are you insane? I could get killed dealing weapons in South Africa. It’s not even legal!” He told me not to worry; he’d hire a Navy SEAL to go with me. This therapist told me that he has top security clearance. I soon discontinued therapy.”

    …then really, what can I even say.   The way that horribly obvious crank letters work is that they start out sounding reasonable, and then get progressively crazier and crazier as they go along.   I don’t know why they do that, because if somebody is hoping to pull one over on somebody and see their letter in print you’d think they’d just try to keep the entire thing reasonable, to ensure that it makes it to publication.  Instead they veer off into Crazy Land, and (usually) give themselves away.  I’m surprised Margo fell for this one.   Oh well, I’m still a fan!  😀  And if it were a true letter than I do like her blunt, no frills and humorous response.   

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Hmmm, Dani, I knew one fellow who had quite a few people convinced that he had spent two years in Honduras as a mercenary working Black Ops for the CIA. Problem was, I knew his daddy, who said the fallacious fellow hadn’t ever been away from home for more than a month, at Space Camp, at the age of 13, and that he nearly had a nervous breakdown then. I also knew another extreme fantasist who had his story down pat regarding his time as a Rhodesian Mercenary. You’d probably be shocked at the number of credulous morons who believed his blatherings…even though he was only 22, and there had been no such activity (or an actual Rhodesia) for a long, long time prior to his birth.

      The reason that the Nigerian Internet Banking schemes work is because people are incredibly gullible. People lose everything to con-artists and utterly implausible grifts every day. Some of us seem to be born cynics and skeptics…but I’m afraid the vast majority are not.

      As for LW1, I can believe that the story is genuine. After all, people believe TV celebutards over their medical professionals, and actors over research scientists with decades in their respective fields (I won’t even mention religious fundamentalist experts…oops, I did, golly gee…and demamgogic, narcissistic, puling media talking heads over almost anyone). Why not someone representing himself as a psychologist (always check the credentials to make certain the person is board certified and licensed…and that doesn’t mean that he is qualified, decent, reputable or ethical…or even a good fit) who was recommended by a co-worker, or friend, or a commercial, billboard, cable ad, or Craig’s List?

      The key is charisma, flattery, and knowing how to manipulate the mark. LW1 only mentions all of the negatives…but he or she kept returning despite “doubts” about supplements and such. There must have been something positive to keep her (not being gender specific, just detest the PC “him/her” thing) coming back, something that stroked the ego, gave reinforcement, or was of benefit. Maybe that promise of $200,000 for a voice over in a Big Sequel (Fame and Riches, right?), or selling his designs (again, exposure, Fame, Money). That is ego stroking, flattery: Your designs are fantastic! O, your voice is so special! A certain type of person will fall every single time for that sort of thing, without fail. Why else be milked by an obvious poser for $12,000 before getting a clue?

      O, and the South African arms dealing offer? I suspect that someone who is a bit in love with himself, and therefore quite vulnerable to flattery and being told how wonderful he is would be horrified at the prospect of potentially risking bodily harm or a clash with The Law. Which is why the idea was proposed. To get rid of the mark after his usefulness was over. You know, $12,000 is a lot of money. And I wouldn’t bother trying to sue Mr. Faux Psychologist. My hunch is he’s closed up shop and long gone, and that he doesn’t exist on any lists anywhere under the name he was using. LW1 has been had.

      • avatar Susan G says:

        Margo started a long parade of snarking at LW1’s “gullibility.” Well, I’m another dupe. My therapist didn’t exploit me financially. He merely was verbally abusive, while about 8 others in group therapy stayed mute and returned for more punishment as I went through it.

        Many clients are abused by licensed and unlicensed mental health professionals, from sexual abuse, financial abuse and other dual relationships, bullying, or the folie au deux of gratifying the therapist’s ego needs as some kind of shaman or rescuer. And this is perpetrated by licensed health “professionals,” who, when you scratch the subject, are no healthier than anyone else.

        A larger percentage of consumers simply are led down the garden path by therapy that accomplishes nothing, becomes an end in itself, or only serves to make the client more dependent and self obsessed.

        It’s an understandable set-up, operating like any other cult recruitment. Where someone feels (or made to feel) defective and vulnerable, she’s easy prey to a con artist pretending to have the answers. Therapists frequently create a fantasy parent-child dynamic, a fallacy accepted by many professionals. Add a few diplomas to the wall, and presto, you’ll find an otherwise sane person suspending all judgment to follow the con artist. The accounts of this I’ve read and heard, including the book, “Therapist,” by Ellen Plasil, seem to be from insightful, smart people.

        You think you’re too savvy to let this happen to you? Don’t be so sure.

        Web resources for those exploited in therapy include TELL: Therapy
        Exploitation Link Line and Advocateweb..

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          Susan G, I wasn’t being snarky, and I am well aware that there are many licensed but extremely unethical therapists, MD’s psychiatrists, lawyers, chiropractors, realtors…why, you name the profession, there will be someone using it for their own advantage. However, for someone to buy into a scenario such as is presented in L#1, it would take an excessive degree of gullibility, or a high vulnerability to flattery (the therapist in question seemed to focus heavily on the LW’s “talents”, voice, designs, to further the relationship, plus promises of profit, ie: $200,000 for a voice-over in a film and a paycheck related to t-shirts featuring LW1’s designs), or both. There wasn’t any negative reinforcement at work…just a lot of praise for the LW’s talents, vague promises of wish fulfillment and fairly spectacular monetary gain, and an excellent example of playing out the string u to the tune of $12,000 (probably to the point at which the LW’s reserves began to run dry) and then carefully setting up a scenario that she was absolutely certain to refuse to engage in because it was too risky to her (you notice that LW1 didn’t say, “That’s ludicrous, you’re making this crap up”, but, “That’s ridiculous! I could get killed!”. Big difference. Big fantasy life.

          You left out the therapists who convince those anxious to have some tangible “reason” for their problems that they’ve suffered some hideous abuse at the hands of a relative or friend (usually during very early childhood…when memories are formed based on vague, intangible impressions and can be easily manipulated by someone who is clever and adept at this highly unethical practice). Not only has this caused the dissolution of many families, but innocent people have served jail time until the “therapist” (who has gained praise for exposing dangerous “pedophiles” and probably earned a small fortune) has been exposed as a fraud. The damage is almost inconceivable.

          I’ve been through a few very dubious therapists, MD’s, and at least one psychiatrist. If I get a bad feeling, I dump them, ASAP. I’ve never fallen for a con yet, on the Internet or otherwise, and I’m a very hard sell. I’ve had one car company try to pull a fast one one an alleged warranty…but I had wisely kept the paperwork, and all it took was that and a threat of legal action to get a reimbursement check in the mail. Maybe it was working with salesmen as a retail manager, or being a bill collector…or maybe I I was just born skeptical, cynical and generally suspicious of my beloved, but o-so-fallible fellow homo sapiens.

          There are some excellent psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists in this fair world, by the way, people. Don’t condemn the lot of them.

          • avatar Susan G says:

            Brian, I actually didn’t see you as one of the snark-ers and pinned under your post because it was it as one of the thoughtful ones.

            It’s commendable you don’t leave your skepticism at the door in treatment, but many clients, unfortunately, completely put themselves in the therapist’s hands. I’ve seen strenuous role-playing in therapist that cast the client as the dependent child, thus more vulnerable to exploitation. The women I’ve met who were conned into some kind of exploitation by a therapist were by no means weak or dumb, but at the time, needed to believe the wizard. The doctor says “this is good for you,” and they follow.

            By the way, I lost the grievance I filed after the doctor –who admitted his behavior–said he was doing it for my benefit. So apparently his colleagues were ready to buy this story. It’s been a very long process to peel the conflict layers that enwrap exploitative therapy.

            But the cartoonishly-bad therapists were other practitioners who convinced me they were helpful, but left more feeling more dependent and disempowered. For myself, I question the entire theoretical basis on much that goes on in therapy. In my singular experience, they all turned out to be the little man from Oz.

          • avatar Susan G says:

            Part II, and yes, Brian, yes, I did omit the important example of False Memory Syndrome as another exploitation. And in a different case, one of my cyber friends was convinced by her doctor that she had multiple personalities. When one is a powerful authority figure, the other is the vulnerable disciple, this is situation is fraught with traps.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Susan…I find it deplorable that so many people have been duped by such a plethora of different so-called professionals. Part of the problem may lie in something you said, that these women were, “…ready to believe the wizard…”. No doctor of any sort, from oncologist to therapist, can perform magic, or miracles. Even those most desperately seeking a solution to their problems should know this…but then, far too many intelligent, educated people lose all reason when it comes to “faith”.

            Role-playing can be a very valuable tool for some people in therapy. So can age regression. Both can also be very easily used for exploitation. I’ve never experience either. Neither of the therapists (one was my psychiatrist as well, and she was not given to these tactics) used this methodology. I’ve been in one form of therapy or another for a long time, but it’s all been centered around finding coping strategies for the symptoms of my mental illnesses as they appear…and my for my other very real, but also manageable problems. Neither has ever told me what to do, blamed my past, made wild suggestions, or attempted anything outre. It has always been about discovery, assessment, coping, moving past, and moving forward on my own initiative with their guidance. My current therapist has the goal of eventually releasing me from therapy except for quarterly sessions.I will see my psychiatrist for life. I want to stay mentally healthy.

            I assure you, it isn’t just women who suffer at the hands of frauds. I have a feeling that LW1 may be a man, based on the whole business of the South African arms dealing offer and the alleged Navy Seal. No, I am not being sexist…it sounds like the sort of offer that would be too suspicious for even the most gullible woman…she would call bullshit. But a vulnerable man just might be slightly flattered at being considered “macho” enough to do the job…but far, far too terrified to consider it, and too conflicted to see through the ruse. Men get taken in just as easily as women, if not more so in certain instances.

            Susan, I am not a strong person. And, and I do say this with a smile, my name is “Briana”. I am female, with a darling husband of 17 years, very male, and two sons. You’re not the first one to err, and it’s truly all right. I had the kind of upbringing that highly encouraged wariness. This has been a two-edged sword throughout my life…but it has kept me from being swindled. If you are still in need, I hope you will not give up on the psychology/therapist profession altogether. There are a great many truly dedicated, decent people working to help others out there. No, I’m not one of them…but they’ve helped me actually learn to live, not just exist. I wish you, and your wounded friends, healing.

          • avatar Susan G says:

            Briana, profuse apologies for my late-night reading of your name. It sounds like your skepticism served you well and enabled you to size up a so-called authority. That impresses me as a strength, because you might be shocked if you met some of the people who fell into a trap you didn’t. If you’re not a writer–my first guess-you have both the prose and analytic powers of one.

            Yes, you’re right. Men are conned too. Of the examples I know, all have been women, hence the pronounce bias.

            My blatantly bad therapy spurred me to review other treatment and it fell apart under scrutiny. It led me endlessly to dwell on my imperfections and weaknesses, to feel like a “patient,” to see the therapist as more powerful and knowing than I was. I (and a few in the field) severely question this role-playing re-parenting technique It drew me backward and encouraged me to feel incompetent and weakened. . I feel terribly conned by all of it.

            I’ve believe I’ve made changes over the years, Time and experience–plus some yoga- have been my best therapy. I better accept life with its pain, and my deficiencies. I see all this imperfection is no more imperfect than anyone else and regret going to therapy at all.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      People who have become dysnfunctional on some level and reach out to a professional sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees so to speak and that probably is what happened in this case. Many women end up being sexually assaulted by their therapists because they see the forest and missed the red flags waving from the trees.

      People don’t normally see a psychologist over a weight problem so I suspect the real dysfunction is tied into the family situation. And she should have seen an MD about the weight problem who probably would have referred her to a reputable psychologist if not a psychiatrist.   Psychologists are fine for the “irritations of life” but dysnfuction is a matter that really should be addressed by a psychiatrist because often they will pick up on something going on physiologically rather the psychologically that even an internist might miss.  I had two friends, both psychologistst, who recommended I take anti-anxiety medication for panic attacks five years ago. I couldn’t get in to see a psychiatrist so I saw my internist. Who looked at my blood pressure readings and listened carefully to my description of the panic attacks and realized they were malignant hypertensive attacks.  A psychiatrist I talked to later explained labile hypertension to me and how in some cases a panic attack can become a malignant hypertensive attack. I wouldn’t have known this had I just gone to one of my friends or another psychologist and gotten a prescription for anti-anxiety medication. Which might have helped with the panic attacks. But not necessarily with the labile hypertension.

  24. avatar jennymew says:

    LW2: You said it best yourself in your comment: “Yes, I do want to get married, but I know that today is not the right day for it.” The co-worker will get the hint that you are not discussing this further, you are still polite, and hopefully this will not push your buttons anymore because you know the line is true too.

  25. avatar Mandy McNalis says:

    LW#2 — I was right there with you. My sweetie and I had more important things to worry about money-wise than a wedding, but we also wanted to be able to have a small party when the time came, so we just put it off until the time was right for us. We were together for 6 years before we were married. I, too, had that annoying multi-divorced, former teen mom person in my life. The answer I gave?

    When that hint wasn’t taken I just got annoyed, honest, and direct:
    “I like to do things right the first time. Saves a lot of headache that way, really. Divorce is so messy and I don’t want to bring any kids we’re not ready for into the picture because it’s just not fair to the kids that way. You know what I mean?”

    Never heard another word about it after that. She’s on baby #4 and headed for divorce #3; winning like Charlie Sheen.

  26. avatar DonnaH says:

    LW#2…I worked for many years where I was one of only a few single people. For some reason, co-workers were curious about my single state, When they asked, I usually replied, “Why? Do you sell wedding rings?”

  27. avatar Grace Malat says:

    I know up front that I will get a lot of flack for what I’m going to write, and I really don’t care as this is America and as such I can say almost anything I want.

    This has to do with the woman who’s been living with her boyfriend for 6yrs and they’re still not engaged or married but they see themselves eventually moving towards that goal. But they’re not yet financially ready.

    What does she mean by this? I hear it all the time, we live together but we’re just not financially ready to be married. But you are financially ready to live together? And the difference would be what? And you want to make sure the relationship is going to last, that s/he’s ‘the one’.

    I am so tired of hearing this stuff. Here it is, life is life, and it is rare for people to be financially ready for marriage or children, something always comes up, something always happens. If you’re waiting until you have enough to have that big huge wedding that will cost several thousand dollars, and that one day means more to you than the rest of your life, then your priority’s are mixed up. After 6yrs if you don’t know, then when are you going to know? How long do you have to live together before you know? If you haven’t saved up enough money for the wedding of your dreams in 6yrs then your dreams are too big for your budget and you need to be more realistic.

    I love it (sarcasm) when people say they are living together before marriage to see if it will work, if it’s the right choice. Well I have news for all of you, living together is very different than marriage, that ceremony actually means something, that piece of paper means something. It all means that you are willing to or should be willing to fight for the relationship. When you’re living together no matter how committed you are to each other, either one can walk out more easily, it’s a break up, you divide your possessions and go on with life eventually. But if you’re married it takes a lot more to end the relationship, a lot more work, a lot more thought.
    Also when you’re just living together you think you’re seeing them warts and all, but you’re not. And there will be people who will argue that their living together arrangement is just as committed as if they were married, nope, if it were you’d be married, end of story.

    If you love someone enough to live with them then you should love them enough to marry them. And if you don’t love them enough to marry them, then why are you living with them? And living with someone before marriage has not been proven to create longer lasting marriages, in fact the opposite is true. And if after six years you still don’t know, then realize that it’s probably not going to happen and you should cut your losses now.

    I can see people maybe living together for maybe a year before marriage, after that if you don’t know, then you’re not committed enough to the person or the relationship.

    • avatar kchick28 says:

      I am LW2. And as I write this, I am sitting at the childhood desk I had when I was in third grade, next to the single bed I have had my entire life, because I STILL LIVE AT HOME WITH MY PARENTS! Boyfriend has an apartment, I do not. I live at home! WE DONT LIVE TOGETHER and if you read through everything, I said I DON’T believe in living together before at least engagement. Don’t you tell me I’m not committed. And i can say that because this is America.
      In case you didn’t notice, I said I was 25. (I’m actually 26 now since I submitted the letter.) We’ve been together for six years, since I was 19 and a college student. Jeezum crow.

      • avatar kchick28 says:

        And don’t you tell me about affording a wedding. We’ve been TOGETHER for six years, not living together. That means its been six (and a half) years since the third date when we decided we were a couple. And I do know. We will get married someday, when things, as you put it, can come up, and we will be ready to handle them, like kids. Should we have gotten married just because someone decided it’s been long enough? You’re just as bad as my co-worker, except she’s just dim and you’re being judgmental, telling me what’s right for my life…

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          kchick28, all I can say is…you do what you need to do, in your own time, when you are ready. My little sister (she will always be my “Little Sister”, even though I’m 51 and she’s 46…and she doesn’t mind a bit), lived with her significant other for seven years. They got married on the beach, in Hawaii, last July…just them and a 76 year old Hawaiian Justice-of-the-Peace presiding. She was ready. He was ready. They did it for all of the right reasons…not because of pressures, or demands, or conventions. Neither had ever been married before. And Grace M. can just besa mi culo…because I think they’re in for the very long count. They’re deliriously happy.

          As for “never being ready for children”, in a sense that’s true, because the critters do change your life…but why rush? Is there a timetable? I had mine at 32 and 38, and let me just say, in many ways the last one was a breeze because he barely disturbed our existence…just fit in like a sweet little puzzle piece (of course, now he’s a hulking, sullen teenager…a dramatic, hyperbolic, smelly, emo teenager. I think it might actually be a pod person. Time will tell…).

          kchick, you sound like a mature, discerning young woman. You’re actually thinking about your life. How nice. How rare. It’s a pity that people are so judgmental and that they cannot read.

        • avatar David Bolton says:

          “I can see people maybe living together for maybe a year before marriage, after that if you don’t know, then you’re not committed enough to the person or the relationship.”

          Funny, I look at it in the opposite way—it’s actually more of a commitment to stay with someone in a relationship when the door is open and you could easily leave and detach yourself, but the only thing keeping you is your love for the other person.

          That, to me, is a marriage.

    • avatar K Coldiron says:

      Grace, I’m sure you’re a perfectly nice person, but you’re wrong. Not everyone is the same; not everyone can live happily via the same rules of engagement. Living together is different than marriage for some people, and for others it feels exactly the same.

      And, just to put a totally secretarial spin on it: in some states, dissolving a marriage is a serious hassle, where dissolving a live-in arrangement is only difficult emotionally. Not everyone is willing to go through both during a breakup.

  28. avatar Jon T says:

    A random client that the LW had never met wanted her to do a voice-over in a big budget sequel??? As someone who works in voice-overs, that one jumped right out at me. Not that most people wouldn’t see right through that one, but just in case, let me clarify that casting directors don’t generally hire actors by asking their “therapist” to record a voice sample of a patient they’ve neither heard or even met. Now the arms export company story? Totally plausible. 😉

  29. avatar LCMom says:

    LW1 – Not only do what Margo suggested, but ALSO the fact that “other people” even knew about you is grounds for malpractice and breach of confidentiality – if in fact he was a “real” therapist. Interesting. Get a lawyer.

    LW2 – If this person is at the point where you’ve asked her to stop, given her hints, and told her in clear plain English that you have no desire to talk about this with her, and she persists, take it to HR.

  30. avatar Rapunzel says:

    When your co-worker once again asks about the status of your relationship you should look at her with concern in your eyes and ask her if she is okay because you are concerned about the fact that she has repeatedly asked you the same questions as though she doesn’t know the answer and perhaps she should speak with her doctor about her forgetfulness and repeating herself. That will shut her down permanetly.

    If my comment above somehow wouldn’t work in your situation (too bad) then tell her there is no hurry to marry as you are secure in your relationship and want to be able to enjoy being financially secure before having children as you hear too often about couples divorcing because of the stresses of having children when they are too young or before the couple achieved financial security.

  31. avatar krista griffin says:

    LW1-Aye carrumba!!! OK. Firstly, I’m not sure I believe this letter is real. If so, I’m frightened by the possibility of someone that, um…naive, being allowed out on their own. More for their safety than anything else!! Secondly, IF you were going to have any kind of case. It would be a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality. How are any of these “friends” of Dr. Wackadoo going to know about you unless he’s talking to them about you. (That is, of course, if any of this is true, which I highly doubt) Lord have mercy.

    LW2-After reading many of the comments regarding this letter, I just wanted to share a bit of my grandmother’s wisdom. “Tact is telling someone to go to hell in such a way, that they can’t wait to get there.”

  32. avatar darlean washington says:

    My favorite reply to anyone who asks personal information from me that is sensitive or not appropriate is simply “Why do you ask?”

    It works wonders.