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sixtimes

How Binding Are Therapy Contracts?

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How binding are therapy contracts? When I started therapy with my new therapist, he had me sign this contract during the first session. It had basic stuff on it, like "I will try my best to work on my problems" and "I will be open and honest with my therapist." It also had two points on it: "I will give more than 24 hour-notice or be liable for the session" and "I must tell my therapist 5-6 sessions before I plan to end therapy." I felt like I had no choice but to sign it because it was the first 10 minutes of my first session and I heard he is very good and can help me.

My problem now is that I don't feel like my therapist is making an effort to help me in as quick of a manner as I wish. We have been doing the same thing for 3 sessions already. I am also a little strapped for cash and can't spend money on therapy that is not working. My question is if whether I am legally bound by this contract? Do I really have to attend 5-6 more sessions (at $120 a session) of therapy that is not working? Anybody had any similar experience with therapy contracts?

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Hi sixtimes

If you signed a contract it will be legal and legally binding. Also please remember that you will not notice a difference in 3 sessions of therapy. It will take a long time, weeks/months of therapy with hard work on your side as well to notice a difference. Its not a matter of wanting something sorted out quickly. Healing takes time, nothing ever happens quickly. It requires a lot of patience and hard work.

3 sessions will basically only give the therapist something to start working on, unless you know exactly what you want out of therapy. What are your goals for therapy? What do you want out of it?

Trace

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That sounds dodgy to me. It sounds like they are taking advantage. I think you could challenge it, but I would get some backup first by contacting a community legal advice or a consumer affairs hotline, or the association that regulates the psychology / counselling industry in your jurisdiction.

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I've never heard of having to agree to 5-6 more sessions, that really seems like they are taking advantage of people who need help. I think it's normal to have a 24 hour notice if cancelling appointment for a lot of places which is fair enough as it stops them being able to see other people in the time you have cancelled..but making you agree to 5-6 sessions notice is ridiculous and very suspicous! A good therapist should always be in demand and therefore not need that amount of notice period to fill the space. I'm not a lawyer but I think a contract is a contract which unfortunately you felt you had to sign to get help... but I would look into it as you might have a case, as it seems completely taking advantage of people who are desperate for help.

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If you really want to get out of it, consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction that specializes in contract law. Don't go by legal advice from non-lawyers that don't live in your country/province/state.

On the topic itself, I've never in my life heard of a therapist that offers, or tries to bind a patient to, a contract. If one tried to do that, I'd tell him he's nuttier than I am and run the hell out of there. Talk about taking advantage of vulnerable people. Yeesh. Do you have a support group in your area? Meet with them and explain the situation. They may know this guy, or can give you useful advice.

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If you are in the US, many tdocs have contracts such as the one you signed. It is considered a legal document.

I will give more than 24 hour-notice or be liable for the session

This is a standard practice with all the medical profession-including psychologists. It's usually posted in waiting areas of the office or told to you when you register for your appointment.

"I must tell my therapist 5-6 sessions before I plan to end therapy."

Personally, I find this unreasonable. However, if you're not getting anywhere with this therapist, tell him/her that you're dissatified with your treatment nor with the feedback you're receiving. You may be able to stop sooner. If you just stop going, this clause may make you liable for those 5-6 sessions.

I don't feel like my therapist is making an effort to help me in as quick of a manner as I wish.

For therapy to be beneficial, you must put in a lot of effort and self-work. This takes time as change does not happen overnight nor does the therapist give you the answers to your issues. The tdoc only gives you feedback and guidance. You may be covering the same thing because the tdoc is seeing no improvement.

Sheepwoman

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I'm not a lawyer, but I was raised by them, and I know how they think. Still, what I say below is no substitute for an actual lawyer's opinion.

A couple of thoughts:

1. Does the contract specify what happens if you don't give 5-6 sessions notice? Does it specifically say, you will be liable for the charges? If there are no specific consequences, then I'd say it doesn't make a difference.

2. Even if the contract specifies that you are liable for the costs of the 5-6 sessions, it's very hard for me to believe that the therapist would pursue the charges. Maybe he could go to a debt collector, but that'd be pretty darn harsh; and taking you to court would cost much much more in time and money than they'd ever get back.

My gut is that this is a non-issue; but as I said, I'm not actually a lawyer.

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My gut is that this is a non-issue; but as I said, I'm not actually a lawyer.

I agree.

$120 a session??? Do you not have medical coverage? Sorry, but that seems expensive to me.

Sixtimes, you never mentioned what kind of degree this person has, but most professions (social workers, counselors, psychologists) have a code of ethics that would make this sort of thing an actionable offense.

I would suggest asking him/her about it during your next session, and express your concerns. You did say the contract said you will be "open and honest". I'd consider talking about this something you need to do.

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3 sessions will basically only give the therapist something to start working on, unless you know exactly what you want out of therapy. What are your goals for therapy? What do you want out of it?

I have anxiety and depression. I want to learn how to manage my anxiety and get out of this rut that I am in. It's just that the appointments are 40 minutes long and the time seems to fly by. I only seem to start talking about my problem and the session is over. It's been 7 sessions already and he has me constantly listing what makes me anxious and bring it to the session. I don't seem to feel any different or experience less depression or anxiety. I don't know what I should do and what I should be putting into therapy.

I guess my question is whether to stick around longer or if it's time to leave. I don't know how to determine if I am getting better or if I need to switch again.

$120 a session??? Do you not have medical coverage? Sorry, but that seems expensive to me.

No, I've already used up the max number of appointments I can have through insurance for this year.

Thanks to everyone who has replied. Now, all i need to figure out is whether I want to leave and should raise this question with my therapist or if I should stay.

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