Mystery solved! My therapist ran ABA without telling me.

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Aspie1
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09 May 2021, 8:53 am

You may have seen my threads where I try to figure out why my therapist from long time ago did what she did. For example, she would often mock me, pretend not to know what I'm talking about, or gaslight me, or mad-dog me (stare at me in order to intimidate me). That always happened when I told her of the following: (1) Something that went against her personal or political beliefs, (2) Something that wasn't in her training manual, (3) Something that went against her loyalty to my parents, or (4) Something she simply didn't want to help me with.

So, for example, I'd tell her how my parents emotionally abuse me, like scream at me for 45 minutes after I got a C on a math test. Her reaction: "Awww!" in a cooing tone. Or call me a "baby" when I asked if we could go to Disney World at age 12. Her reaction? Rubbing it in my face: "Aw, you felt sad when they insulted you." Or if I told her how a kid who used to pick on me started leaving me alone for the most part, after I read up on famous athletes and told him that. Her reaction? "(laughing) He always liked you the way you are; you just stopped trying to impress him." Lastly, when I told her how my parents let my little niece go through my room looter-style, she'd take their side, and say: "Aww! Tell me: Is your niece cute?"
Lesson learned: Never tell my therapist about getting emotionally abused or otherwise mistreated by my parents, because she's their ally and not mine, and will not go against her loyalty to them.

Conversely. When I told her things I knew she'd want to her, her reaction was always extremely positive. When I toild her I got an A for the semester, she'd sincerely compliment me for doing well in school. Or when I told her how good my high school theatre play was, she'd say "It's nice that you went. Theatre is good for you mind. I'm glad you liked it." Or when I lied to her about going to a mall after school with a few classmates (I was put in therapy because I had trouble making friends, also because I started getting bad grades in school), she said: "That is really nice! I'm so happy for you!" In other words, it was honest-to-god, sincere praise.
Lesson learned: Always have a story ready that makes me look like I'm making progress, because I'm in that therapy to "become a better person" (whatever the hell that was supposed to be :?).

At the time, I could never understand why she was acting so evasive, shifty, and disrespectful. But now it's clear: she was conditioning me like Ivan Pavlov conditioned his dogs. In other words, say the wrong thing = get mocked or gaslighted; say the right thing = get praised. Eventually, the ABA conditioning was supposed to make me the kind of person my parents wanted to be when they put me into that therapy, and the "right" and "wrong" answers were supposed to become automatic. Fair enough. But she'd also refuse to tell me which answers were which, claiming "there are no right or wrong statements". I knew that was a lie, and decided that I'm supposed to figure out the "right" and "wrong" statements myself. Well, after 5 or 6 years of trial and error, I did figure it out. I'd have learned faster she'd just teach me the answers, but there's no money in honesty.

By the end of my stint with her, I was every therapist's dream patient. I had an achievement story ready to rattle off at every session. Either that, or I had an easily solvable fabricated problem ready to "deploy" on her, to look like I'm willingly opening up. I had the "emotion words" memorized like the multiplication table, and rattled them off as a perfect match to every topic. I always put up a happy, enthusiastic, "ready to conquer the world" front, even while making suicide plans in my mind. And the few times I picked her brain, it was always about things I knew she was fully trained on, like the influence of Sigmund Freud's theory on modern psychology. Literally the only expectation I didn't fulfill was cry in front her, as not to make myself look weak and/or give her ammo against me.

And that was my ABA therapy, only the "ABA" part was never disclosed to me.



BeaArthur
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09 May 2021, 9:48 am

Well, you've convinced me. Therapy sucks, and therapists can't be trusted.

/sarcasm


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Aspie1
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09 May 2021, 10:08 am

ABA has some merits to it. It's only problematic when the patient isn't told what behaviors (hence term "applied behavioral analysis") are expected from him. Unless I'm missing something, isn't ABA supposed to have full disclosure? Not unlike it's done with dogs, where the feedback is immediate and unambiguous. For example, a dog comes up to a table and begs for scraps; the owner looks the dog in the eyes, shakes his finger, and firmly says "No food! Wait for your meal!" (emphasizing the words "no" and "wait") Similarly, a proper ABA act would involve full disclosure in an assertive, yet polite tone: "Talking badly about your parents to me is not acceptable, no matter how they treat you! I want to hear about how you helped them vacuum the floors!" This is much better than "aww".

Heck, I would have benefited greatly if my quasi-ABA wasn't bastardized into a game of cat-and-mouse. The kind I was chaotically chasing after praise, or more precisely, lack of mockery. All without even having the slightest guidance of what I supposed to actually do or say, other than the vague description "be good person". Obviously, that meant upmost obedience and straight A's at home, but what about in therapy allegedly meant to help me?



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10 May 2021, 5:22 pm

After reading about that therapist, one thought came to my mind:

Was she married? If so, did she use the same techniques with her spouse?! 8O


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Redd_Kross
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10 May 2021, 5:43 pm

It's not unknown for psychopaths to become therapists. After all, what better way of playing games with people?

What I am surprised by is the fact you went back.

How come you didn't find a better therapist?



Aspie1
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10 May 2021, 7:11 pm

Redd_Kross wrote:
What I am surprised by is the fact you went back.

How come you didn't find a better therapist?
I was a minor at the time. I was 10 or 11 when I started seeing her, and 16 when I stopped. My parents originally put me in therapy because I had trouble making friends, and because I kept getting bad grades. She immediately won them over: my mom was instantly enamored by her, and my dad had a more reserved "she seems nice" reaction. I immediately felt something off about her: namely, why would a woman four times my age be acting like she's my friend? :? But since my parents were so into her, I didn't dare speak out, including about the times she deliberately tried to make me cry. The last things I wanted was for them to pester me with questions what's wrong, if they my red, puffy eyes while picking me up after the session. Equivalently, when I talked about how they emotionally abused me, she mocked me in response, being on their side. I eventually learned not to tell her about anything that happened in my family, and instead kept her busy with achievement stories and fabricated easily solvable issues. Not even about how my grandfather almost died during surgery; knowing her, she'd make cooing noises at me.

"But why didn't you just tell your parents how she treated you?" I was afraid to! They totally fell for her game, so if I complained about her, they probably wouldn't believe me. At best, they'd tell me to quit whining; at worst, they'd punish me for "needlessly complaining". The only reason they pulled me out of therapy 6 years later, is that I got so good at "hacking" therapy, she must have told them I was "cured". Especially after I lied to her about going to the mall with classmates, and actually improving my grades by seeing a tutor at my high school.

What I didn't realize until now, 22 years later, is that the she was running ABA on me the whole time, and I was too naive and stupid to figure that out.



Last edited by Aspie1 on 10 May 2021, 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Redd_Kross
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10 May 2021, 7:15 pm

Aspie1 wrote:
I was a minor at the time. I was 10 or 11 when I started seeing her, and 16 when I stopped. My parents originally put me in therapy because I had trouble making friends, and because I kept getting bad grades. She immediately won them over: my mom was instantly enamored by her, and my dad had a more reserved "she seems nice" reaction. I immediately felt something off about her: namely, why would a woman four times my age be acting like she's my friend? :? But since my parents were so into her, I didn't dare speak out, including about the times she deliberately tried to make me cry. The last things I wanted was for them to pester me with questions what's wrong, if they my red, puffy eyes while picking me up after the session. Equivalently, when I talked about how they emotionally abused me, she mocked me in response, being on their side. I eventually learned not to tell her about anything that happened in my family, and instead kept her busy with achievement stories and fabricated easily solvable issues. Not even about how my grandfather almost died during surgery; knowing her, she'd make cooing noises at me.

"But why didn't you just tell your parents how she treated you?" I was afraid to! They totally fell for her game, so if I complained about her, they probably wouldn't believe me. At best, they'd tell me to quit whining; at worst, they'd punish me for "needlessly complaining". The only reason they pulled me out of therapy 6 years later, is that I got so good at "hacking" therapy, she must have told them I was "cured". Especially after I lied to her about going to the mall with classmates and actually improving my grades by seeing a tutor at my high school.

What I didn't realize until now, 22 years later, is that the she was running ABA on me the whole time, and I was too naive and stupid to figure that out.


It may not have been ABA. She might just have been a s**t therapist. It sounds to me like she took the money, then basically abused you, knowing you wouldn't speak out - or if you did, it wouldn't be believed.



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10 May 2021, 7:26 pm

Aspie1,

Clearly it was mean and unpleasant.

Do you think it worked? Do you think your behavior changed in a way that allowed you to blend in with NTs better?

P.S. Even if it did, it sounds horrible and cruel.


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Aspie1
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10 May 2021, 9:05 pm

Double Retired wrote:
Do you think it worked? Do you think your behavior changed in a way that allowed you to blend in with NTs better?
Sort of. The bastardized ABA taught me the importance of telling people what they want to hear, as well as the importance of not telling people the wrong things. After all, it's what I had to do with that the-rapist for years, to keep her from mocking me or gaslighting me, after learning it the hard way.

As for fitting in with NTs, it was more complicated. While I started going to parties and kissing girls at age 20, I don't think I learned to passably blend in until I was 22, and didn't fully catch up with my peers until I was 27. Today, I can safely say I "outrank" a few people I hang out with in my social groups. Which was totally inconceivable back then.



autisticelders
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11 May 2021, 5:16 am

As a young person I begged for therapy, everybody always told me things were all my fault. I thought there was something wrong with me too.( of course it was autism and nobody knew).
I am sure if I had go that sort of "therapy" as a child I would not be living to tell about it today. I could not have taken that sort of treatment, since that was exactly what surrounded me everywhere in my life anyways. You are a survivor! I think now I am glad I did not get therapy when I asked for it. Horrible, horrible experience for you. This just makes me shudder and want to cry for you as a child. So good that you are gaining insights and finally figuring out what was happening "behind the scenes". What a relief to finally be able to sort it all out. Cheering you on.



Aspie1
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11 May 2021, 7:03 pm

autisticelders wrote:
I am sure if I had go that sort of "therapy" as a child I would not be living to tell about it today. I could not have taken that sort of treatment, since that was exactly what surrounded me everywhere in my life anyways. You are a survivor! I think now I am glad I did not get therapy when I asked for it. Horrible, horrible experience for you. This just makes me shudder and want to cry for you as a child. So good that you are gaining insights and finally figuring out what was happening "behind the scenes". What a relief to finally be able to sort it all out. Cheering you on.
The problem is the misnomer "family therapy". It's not "family" therapy, because minors don't count as "family" in "family" therapy. It's parents' therapy, where the parents are helped reshape their child into a better person. (Which includes, but isn't limited to, helping him make friends, as well as get perfect grades.) A minor in therapy is basically property with many responsibilities and absolutely no rights, and he's never told that.

Of course, I now know it was ABA. She was training me Pavlov-style "not to whine" about being abused by my parents, because a "better person" doesn't whine. After she mocked or gaslighted me enough times, I knew I had to stop. The problem is that being an aspie, I didn't pick up on the hints right away. So took me years to learn that I wasn't supposed to talk about being emotionally abused. Ironically, I made my first group of post-childhood friends shortly after I stopped seeing her.

When I saw a therapist as an adult in 2012 to fix my anxiety, I could navigate past therapy better than a hacker can navigate past a firewall. I picked a male therapist younger than me, so I could have an easier time outsmarting him if I needed to. He used CBT, rather than ABA. Even so, while I found him pleasant and easy to talk to, I didn't benefit much from that therapy, either. I basically hacked through it by giving him "correct" answers, so 5 or 6 sessions later, he said I was ready to "graduate". But unlike the ABA woman, I found some of his insights enlightening, like what he told me about the psychology of travel, after I shared with him the good things that happened to me on my cruise. (That wasn't the reason I came to him for, though; I got a Klonopin prescription for my anxiety instead.)