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.