Insensitive email from therapist before DH's cancer surgery

posted 1 year ago in Wellness
Post # 32
617 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: September 2018 - City, State

I’m so sorry this is happening to you and your husband. It sounds like, now more than ever, you can benefit from an open, empathic therapist on your side.

Personally, I don’t find the email unprofessional or unkind at all, just matter-of-fact. When I was last in therapy, it was made very clear to me that three cancellations in a six-month period are grounds for terminating me as a client. I’m not sure if this is standard or not, but I can udnerstand why a therapist would want to put these kinds of rules in place – loss of income, wasted time, etc. Maybe it’s worth talking about these policies with your therapist? I can especially see how they’d be concerned if you are pre-emptively missing two in a row, one for packing reasons. Can you have that conversation with this person?

Post # 33
3677 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: November 2019 - City, State

The email read pretty cold to me and to be honest, I would look for a new therapist after considering all the other drawbacks you’d mentioned. A simple “hope everything goes well” would have gone a long way. A little compassion from a therapist is usually a good thing. However, you said she’s pretty direct in general, which you like, so this could just be a symptom of that and you could also be a little oversensitive. 

Post # 34
101 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: October 2018

I don’t think there was a problem with the e-mail, only a problem with the timing of the e-mail. I think it would have made more sense for them to discuss it with you in your next session following your husband’s surgery rather than adding more to your plate at the moment.  

Also, I think they should have encouraged you to still come in because this is a time where you can surely use support.  They could have also added a note of encouragement and well wishes to show they are on your side.  

It sounds like overall they are a good fit for you, but with the sessions you’ve missed on your end and the several vacations they have scheduled, it sounds like you may not be getting a truly therapeutic number of sessions in.  

Good luck to you and your husband.  I hope he has a speedy recovery and kicks cancer’s butt!

Post # 35
10453 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

rusticchic212 :  

You are so right about that!  It’s so odd, we moved from a well heeled community in SoCal to a medium size city in East Tennessee.  And we are just floored at the quality of medical care available here.  The university med school is here, I imagine that has a lot to do with it.  I mean, I loved my primary in California and all, but the 2-3 waits were a bit much.  Nothing like that here. Everyone makes good use of NPs and PAs, which I think is helpful.

Since you are in a big city, I would imagine your hubby will have access to the most current treatments. When Dh had his bout, he read everything about prostate cancer.  He needed to do that.  

One thing that his oncologist’s office did do was refer him to a support group for patients dealing with a prostate cancer diagnosis.  Dh would never jump on something like that under his own power, I had to push him a little.  He found it very helpful.  Is anything like that available to your husband?

Post # 36
1117 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2018

I don’t think I would have worded it that way, but then again I know that therapists have to work harder than most to maintain distance in peripheral communications. 

You have missed a lot of appointments in a short time frame, and not all of them were for emergencies. I can see how they are annoyed that other patients aren’t able to use a slot that would keep them from missing work when that slot isn’t even being used. 

None of that changes how difficult it is to deal with a cancer diagnosis. ☹️

Post # 38
10453 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: City, State

rusticchic212 :  

Check with his oncologist’s office about support groups.  It can really help.

Post # 39
33 posts

First, I’m so sorry to hear about your husband’s cancer. I hope the surgery is successful, he heals quickly and he is cancer-free soon!

Regarding the email — I’m a therapist myself so maybe can give you my initial reaction as someone in the profession. My personal email style is a bit gentler, but I don’t find her email particularly harsh. If your therapist’s style is just generally more direct, then this seems to be in character as she is just simply stating the office policies. It makes sense to me that she would bring up the amount of times you cancelled and explore your interest in therapy… but I’d probably wait to have that conversation in person at the next appointment (or the one after that depending on your presentation after the surgery). 

I think mostly this is about evening slots — they are so very much in demand. I doubt it’s that your therapist cares so much about her bottom line, like another pp said, but instead that there are other clients who are in distress who wish they had your appointment slot. It’s not always easy to fill an appointment within 24 hours, and it’s disheartening when you have another client in crisis who can’t come in to see you because your regular client cancelled for a non-crisis. It’s a tough balance — it makes sense you assumed a more casual attendance policy due to your therapist casually sharing that she’ll be taking time off for vacations, etc. But then when she acts more formally (and some may perceive as professionally), as with this email, it shakes up the therapeutic relationship. 

And just my last bit of opinion as a client and not necessarily as a therapist, I’d try to find another therapist that’s more convenient for you. Therapy can be hard work and I know it’s tough to find someone you click with, but I think it’d be worth it so you don’t have to wait around for 2 hours and can go straight to your appointment without any additional frustration. 

Post # 40
11812 posts
Sugar Beekeeper

I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s unexpected cancer diagnosis and wish the best for him. I’m glad to hear that what he has was caught early. 

As for the letter, I absolutely do see the therapist’s point, but the timing was awful. You say this person is direct? Guess what? You can be too. I would not hesitate to say what you did here, that you are sorry, did not fully understand, and will be much more conscious of non emergency cancellations going forward, but were taken aback by the decision to mail that letter this of all weeks. 

And yes that you felt s/he could have at the very least wished you well. 

Post # 41
9138 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

I’m so sorry about your husband, I hope the surgery goes well. 

I personally don’t see the email the same way you do. I think the therapist actually sounded like she was trying to put things as gently as she could (but hey, I’m a lawyer, so compared to the emails I usually see, most things seem gentle in comparison). As for timing, sure, it wasn’t good, but maybe she thought it was better to get the message across now rather than later (in case, heaven forbid, the surgery didn’t go as well as expected and you were in an even worse situation later). I guess I’d just try to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Post # 42
1012 posts
Bumble bee

If I were the therapist, I would have waited to send that last paragraph until after the surgery was over.  I understand where he/she is coming from, and the message would be better received once you’re on the other side of a scary surgery.

That said, if I were the patient, I don’t know that I’d cut ties over this.  I would, however, push back and tell them that you’ve complied with their policies by giving 24 hour notice each time that you’ve had to cancel.  If they need more than a 24 hour notice or have a limit on cancellations, then that needs to be laid out clearly.  Otherwise you’ve acted in accordance with their policies.

Post # 43
161 posts
Blushing bee

I’m sorry for what you and Darling Husband are going through.

I didn’t see anything wrong with the email. It sounds like you may not attend regularly, at least on a weekly basis (you say that you canceled other appointments with more than 24 hour notice) It is probably a coveted time slot, but it may be difficult to find a client who sporadically wants that time slot after cancelations. It is also typically in the best interest of the client to make and maintain regular appointments for treatment purposes (which she mentioned). This is important both for you and other clients. Maybe every other week would be a better fit.

I am a counselor and I probably would have addressed this over the phone or in session. However, I can also say that over email I prefer to be less detailed and more brief due to confidentiality issues (email is not regarded as secure). This may explain why this was written the way that it was. 

Post # 44
7733 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2010

I think the email was fine. I’ve been seeing my therapist for 2 years and I have cancelled exactly once- when I was literally in labor and knew I wouldn’t make my appointment the next evening. I think one thing to remember is that almost all people in therapy are going through tough times and may feel more inclined to cancel than if things were peachy. If you are cancelling this often, extrapolate that times the number of clients and the therapist could be having many missed visits! I really think that you should find a more convenient therapist though. Therapy is tough enough- don’t make it harder on yourself than it needs to be. Good luck to you and your husband!

Post # 45
201 posts
Helper bee

I’m sorry to hear about your husband.  It sounds like surgical options are available which is great, and I hope they can give you more concrete news soon.

I’m also going to take your side and say, that was a shit email.  I don’t mean this to one up anyone, but my husband was diagnosed 8 weeks ago with brain cancer.  Bam.  Out of the blue.  He had migranes for 3 days before and that was it.  So I’m going to guess I am much more in the thought space that you are in.  If someone had emailed me that right now, I would have said, go f yourself.  

A therapist should be able to communicate clearly but also with emotions in mind.  If you are in therapy because you are a total flake and you need to resolve that issue, it may make sense to draw a hard line.  But, if it is for more general issues, it was not what you need. She could have said, “Thank you for letting me know you are cancelling.  I believe continued sessions are important for you, and I want to ensure that we are able to speak the times we need to.  If you cannot make appointments, we need to create a new schedule that meets your needs but also allows others access”  Or something like that.  

Cancer sucks.  There are therpaists that specialize in patients going through it so I recommend finding one that understand.  

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