Therapists Describe The Patient They Had Who Was A Genuinely Bad Person
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*The following article contains discussion of sexual assault.

Patients are comforted in knowing when they seek a mental health specialist, they are in a safe space to ensure they can open up about the issues weighing on them without judgment.

Patient confidentiality is protected under state law, but that doesn't mean therapists don't silently judge a client's moral character if they are seriously flawed individuals.


Curious to hear from professionals, Redditor godslayingdruglord asked:

"Therapists of Reddit, when is a time you’ve believed someone one of your patients was just a bad person?"

Some people are not fit to be parents.

Calling Child Protection Services​

"Client told me about cornering their daughter, whose claims of sexual abuse the client didn’t believe... The client stopped coming after I called child services. I won’t give hard numbers, but client had more kids than you can count on one hand, all of whom were taken by child services at different points. I was the third person this client had seen and none of us could get the client to acknowledge any degree of responsibility."

"Childhood abuse is horrible, wrong, and can mess a person up for a long time, but that does not make it okay to do the same to your kids."

"Edit: I feel obligated to add a line that I've worked with people who have done some pretty horrendous things and still not considered them bad people. Even this client was redeemable in my eyes until they decided they'd rather allow the kid to be hurt than to pursue more therapy. Fingers crossed that they just went to someone else."

– bda-goat

History Of Abuse

"A client told me that whenever he sees his 4 year old son struggling to get something done or trying to learn something, he makes fun of him and tells him he's stupid and will never succeed. He later told me his mother used to be an absolute unpredictable tyrant around the house and as a child he was put in a barn in the garden with no food for days. Even though I felt for him, I couldn't help but feel anger towards him."

– Sifraar

Under Assessment For Personality Disorder

"I'm relatively new at it (2nd year practising after 6 years of studying), and there's one client that just bugs me?"

"I know she is a product of abuse and mental illness, but she has inflicted so much harm on everyone around her, including her own kids, which she just does not care about. It's all about her and how much she has been hurt."

"Her kids are older now and have protective orders against her, which is her main complaint right now. She doesn't understand why they don't just deal with it so she's happy, when she would never do the same for them."

"I show empathy and am totally committed to helping her, but there's still a bit of me that can't stop getting, I don't know, annoyed by her? Something just doesn't sit right with me."

"Assessing her for personality disorders at the moment. Maybe that will help me understand her better so I can see her side more. It's a complicated job sometimes!"

– 13Amy13

Advice From An Experienced Professional

"Long term project there. I have a relative who also can't see how she hurts other people (and herself honestly). Her youngest kid got taken away by CPS, and she still doesn't relate this at all to her own behavior and choices."

"Don't lose sleep over it. Do what you can and recognize that you will not save them all!"

– I_want_to_choose

Parents Who Don't Qualify As "Protective Adults"

"Been practicing for about 10 years now. As a previous redditer said, we treat clients with unconditional positive regard, respect and non-judgement. If we can't do this, then it is probably not a safe space for the client (referring on is recommended). While some clients may be challenging, our training helps us understand the underlying causes of the behaviour (trauma hx, attachment style, personality, brain functioning etc). So, I wouldn't consider my clients bad. But clients with limited insight or motivation is hard work!"

"I have however, come across very harmful parents, carers, trusted adults and/or systems in my work that I consider as bad people. When working with children, one of the hardest things is working with parents who are not able/willing to be protective adults. Worse still is when systems meant to protect children (child protection, family court) end up putting them in further harm."

– chickie_bickie

The "Irredeemable" Kind

"There were a few times, yes, but I'd rather not go into it. Some people, especially those who hurt kids, are irredeemable."

– EspressoBooksCats

These clients are examples of people who are narcissistic and lack self-awareness.

The Flirtatious Husband

"I had one client that just didn’t care about cheating on his wife. He got married really young (not sure why, they didn’t have kids) but by the time I met him he was in his 30s."

"He only came in because his wife threatened to leave him if he didn’t. He also thought he 'might' be a narcissist. He calmly discussed how he cheated on his wife constantly during their 20s together, and showed little if any remorse about this. He seemed to be proud of his ability to sleep with women."

"It seemed his remorse was that she wanted to leave him and he got some benefit from her being around. But he didn’t really care about hurting her. Still, he came in for his first few sessions saying the right things and claiming to want to be a better husband."

"Then he came in after a family party. He told a story about how he was 'just talking' to a 19 year old woman there. Of course, as the story went on, it became clear he was obviously flirting, and getting progressively drunker and bolder throughout the party. This was also in front of his wife’s whole family. He began hitting on this girl badly, touching her, and came close to kissing her before his wife literally had to drag him away, while crying."

"Again, he showed very little if any remorse. He 'didn’t do anything' and 'didn’t see why this was a big deal.' I tried to help him make connections, but it wasn’t getting through. Right before the end of this session, I informed him the office would begin enforcing a mask mandate (start of Covid)."

"He didn’t show to his next appointment, and when I called him to tell him I would apply the missed session fee, he claimed he never actually confirmed this appointment and had never 'fully committed' to coming back the next week, even though we agreed to it."

"I knew he would be a problem, so I just waived it and took him off the schedule. Never heard from him again. And I was glad that was the case. I don’t think he was a monster, but man, he was such an a**hole."

metastar13

You Can't Help Those Who Don't Want Help

"I don't think any clients are bad people but I would say those that have certain personality disorders with no insight can cause a lot of pain to others and not ever realize/acknowledge the destruction they've caused. They also tend to live incredibly lonely painful lives as again they don't see their part in their problems and just feel that horrible things happen to them and place blame externally. They are also less likely to seek therapy because of this lack of awareness and are more difficult to treat."

– nictme

For Social Media

"When they discreetly recorded a session for tiktok views."

– squatwaddle

Some therapists questioned about what makes a "bad person."

Not Defined By Bad Actions

"I’ve had plenty of clients who have done bad things. A lot of them may not recognize the severity of their actions or how badly they affect others, but I never see them as a 'bad person.' I just see them as people who have done bad things who are working on improving themselves."

– Samara1010

Powerful Insight

"I'm a therapist, and I've seen a few therapists or people in caring professions who have held this perspective about Clients, and its quite dangerous. Being non-judgemental is basically page one of the therapists handbook."

"I won't give any specific details, but I've had a Client receive an off-hand diagnosis from another professional, which was totally inaccurate, because they thought he was a bad person."

"It turned out, after advocating for an assessment, that the Client had an intellectual disability and his processing of information and consequential thinking was impaired."

"I think any good therapist should never seriously believe that a Client is a bad person. Not only is it a useless/irrelevant 'diagnosis/opinion', it's therapeutically harmful to hold them in that light, and it creates projections onto the Client."

"Not to mention, it goes against all the good science we have on psychological development, systems theory, etc. that while there is good and bad behaviour, people are not 'good' and 'bad'. Its far more complicated than that."

– BobbyByrde

It's Subjective

"Lack of empathy and narcissistic qualities can point you in that direction but 'bad' is subjective. I’d have to have a pretty solid definition of bad bc it could be a lot or it could be just a handful. I’ve had clients I knew weren’t going to progress any further, and someone who isn’t going to change at all can be seen as 'bad'. Honestly most MH professionals aren’t going to answer questions like this."

– mooncricket18

While each case is different, overall, many therapists generally believed that no one is fundamentally a "bad" person, and perceiving a client as such impairs their ability to properly assess how to approach a session.

If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault, help is out there. You can reach the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 1-800-656-4673, use their Live Chat tool: https://www.rainn.org/get-help, or visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.

In Canada, help is available through the Ending Violence Association of Canada website.

International resources can be found through the Rape Crisis Network Europe website.

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