we have twice-daily mandatory group therapy at work

A reader writes:

I am really uncomfortable with a new development at my office and I feel like quitting is the only option now.

I’m an administrator for a private recovery and mental health center, not a clinical or medical staff member, so I’m not at risk for emotional burn-out. We were notified last year that we now have a mandatory group therapy session as a staff first thing in the morning (8 am) and before we leave (5:30 pm) and that all staff must participate. I’m a salaried employee and I don’t get overtime. I come in at 7 am and leave at 3:30. We’re expected now to stay until the 5:30 session, but I can’t alter the time I come in. I’m essentially working for an extra two hours for free daily. But that’s not all, this new policy is so screwed up for the following reasons:

1. We’re expected to fully “therapize” in the session — it’s not just checking with everyone on how their day was or like a morning meeting. We had to fill out paperwork about our childhood and life trauma that asked if we were sexually abused. I was horrified at the personal things our manager is expecting us to divulge to him.

2. Being forced to go to therapy at work, twice a day, performed by my own boss and in front of my coworkers feels invasive and kind of abusive. In short, it feels batshit. I have no idea where my boss got this idea – it’s not a state or executive board requirement.

3. It impacts my schedule in unfixable ways: each session is an hour so my day is a mad scramble of trying to fit in my important tasks around what I’ve started to call “my daily brow-beatings.” It makes me start my days on edge, and it makes work feel unsafe and weird.

I’ve reported my boss but our executive branch and board of directors are very, very slow to respond on almost anything. I rely on my job because the insurance is amazing but this is insane. I’m usually great at keeping my work life and home life separate but the idea of going to work now makes me nauseous. I actually vomited on the way to work last week just thinking about it all. I actually called in sick today because I just can’t.

I think I need to quit. I don’t think I could come back from this kind of mental warfare — this feels like a power play or some kind of mental game my boss is playing because he can. That being said, I feel like I should report him to the state board — this is an abuse of his license. Am I wrong here? Am I mistaking concern for the health of our staff for something else?

I wrote back and asked: “What do your other coworkers seem to think about this? Is your sense that there are others who would join you in pushing back on this? Also, how strong of a position are you in to quit without something lined up (in terms of finances and other job options)?”

We’re a small team of 15, so we know each other fairly well. We’re kind of split down the middle: half of us hate it and think it’s abusive at worst and a time waster at best, the rest of the staff either aren’t vocal about it or have openly said they think it’s great for team building.

I’m safely in a position where I can leave if I need to and just use my husband’s health insurance. I took this job after getting head-hunted for it and don’t want my resume to look like I’m flighty, but I also don’t feel that staying is healthy.

This is one of the worst things I’ve heard about in years of writing this column, and I really want you to leave.

Daily Twice-daily mandatory group therapy at work? A boss who requires you to fill out paperwork about childhood trauma and sexual abuse? And that’s before we even get into whole “hang around for two extra hours waiting to be violated like this” piece. It makes this office look like a paragon of health.

Some lawyer could make a good argument that this violates the Americans With Disabilities Act’s prohibition on employers asking for disability-related information beyond what’s job-related and consistent with business necessity, and that might be a route you want to explore.

But I’d also strongly consider banding together with the half of your team who hate this, and pushing back in the strongest of terms. You could, as a group, explain that you consider this intrusive and inappropriate, and that you’re not going to participate. And then you could all decline to participate in the meetings themselves, all saying something like, “I’m not comfortable participating in this” when you’re called upon. It’s possible that your numbers are strong enough to get this stopped, or at least to get it significantly weakened (like making it voluntary rather than mandatory).

But if that doesn’t work, or if your coworkers won’t speak up about it, then yes, this is abusive and intrusive enough that I’d seriously consider leaving over it, since you’re in a position where you can do that safely. I hear you on not wanting your resume to look flighty, but as long as you don’t have a pattern of leaving a bunch of jobs after little time, leaving one job without something else lined up isn’t likely to raise flags.

(Also, in just the last year, we’ve had this and this and now this. I hope this is some kind of alien experiment being conducted on us without our knowledge, because I can think of no other explanation for it.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 665 comments… read them below }

  1. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I wonder if the OP and any of her coworkers are hourly employees. It would be a big labor violation to require them to be there for this “therapy” and not pay them.

    Yes, I know that this is ridiculous aside from that, but I wonder if making this tremendous boundary violation more expensive for the employer might be the easiest way to get them to drop it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP says she’s salaried and doesn’t get overtime, which means she’s being treated as exempt. It’s certainly possible that she’s been incorrectly categorized (that’s not uncommon), but I also don’t want us to derail on that. Let’s considered it noted as something she could look into though.

      1. Noah*

        I mean… her job now REQUIRES her to be there at 7:30 and stay till 6:30 every day. She’s almost certainly being misclassified.

        1. Subscribing to all comments*

          Short Term Thought: LW is required to be there for the 2nd meeting. She should leave at her regular leaving time and go take a walk or run errands, then return to the office for the mandatory forced-therapy session.

            1. Lucy*

              She says she’s having two hours stolen by these nonsense sessions, and two hours added by staying late. I’m sure her boss thinks it evens out.

          1. Blunt Bunny*

            I would just go to the morning meeting and say that I can’t attend the afternoon meetings as it doesn’t fit into my family schedule. As most people finish earlier to pick up their children (don’t know if this is the case here but it none of their business anyway). Then email when your leaving that you feel fine and will update them in the morning. But I would be really honest in the meetings about what affect it is having on you, that you hate it feel it is unnecessary and it makes you anxious. I maybe that you would feel a more informal session where you meet maybe once a week for tea and cake to discuss any worries you have.

            1. RUKidding*

              Or… not have to do this massively boundary violating, none of her employer’s, manager’s, or coworker’s business bullshit at all…

          2. Wherehouse Politics*

            If this wasn’t a bs therapy group meeting (totally unacceptable), but another type of meeting that really was essential for the work and the hours couldn’t be adjusted, if the employer was decent they would offer to either change her daily hours to accommodate the meeting or allow her to make it a four day work week as she’s accumulating over 8 hours a week beyond her agreed upon schedule.

          3. annab53*

            The point is that those two “free” hours wouldn’t really be free. They’re two hours that she has to come up with some way to fill when she could be home in her sweats, doing laundry, playing video games, having an early glass of wine, or any number of things you do when you’re finished with work for the day. This whole situation is beyond even the farthest borders of rational thinking. Run, girl, run!

          4. C*

            She should reclaim her stolen time in any way she can. Fresh air breaks, pooing on company time, long lunches. Ignore 1 out of 3 non-urgent emails, the news are more important. Anything you can get away with to get those 2 hours back.

          5. JelloStapler*

            While this makes sense, personally I would rather be HOME with my family not running errands every day.
            The level of disclosure required on these formats violates so many privacy laws, and this whole idea is grossly overstepping.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Not to derail, but also look at hourly exempt. Used mostly on government contracts for professionals (who would be salaried in commercial or non-profit businesses). Could apply in this situation.

    2. JudyInDisguise*

      It’s your employers responsibility to keep your health situation – medical or mental – private. Right? Only you can voluntarily disclose. This doesn’t sound voluntary. It’s not even happening to me and I feel like a need a lawyer!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        HIPAA (which I think you’re thinking of) doesn’t apply to most employers. There are some privacy elements in the ADA, but in general, most people don’t have legal privacy protections in this area.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          This is a mental health clinic – any chance this employer does fall under HIPAA?

          OP’s not a clinician, but the place itself is a clinic.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              It would only apply if the employees had a formal healthcare provider relationship with the boss.

              1. fposte*

                It could apply in this situation given that there’s treatment involved, but it wouldn’t preclude the treatment itself anyway.

              2. Nic*

                If he’s a licensed therapist and he’s running a therapy session for them, then arguably, he does have a healthcare relationship with them.

                (And I’m pretty sure that having other social relationships – either employer or personal – with your therapist is a big ethical no-no in most places…)

            2. Yorick*

              But the boss isn’t sharing the information with others (group therapy is common and not considered a HIPPA violation)

              1. Gravatar is Displayed*

                The ADA forbids employers from requiring medical exams (and cannot otherwise inquire into the nature or severity of a disability) unless the exam or inquiry is shown to be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”

                The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) advises (here) that an exam is permissible where the employer “has a reasonable belief based on objective evidence, that: (1) an employee’s ability to perform essential job functions will be impaired by a medical condition; or (2) an employee will pose a direct threat due to a medical condition.”

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, I think the ADA is the likeliest breach here. While the boss would likely make the argument that this isn’t about disabilities, the fact that it puts pressure on employees to disclose is asking for ADA trouble.

        2. Alli525*

          One could argue, though, that the employees have become (unwilling) patients to the extent that HIPAA might kick in, no?

          1. Lavender Menace*

            HIPAA may cover the employees but that doesn’t mean that what the employer is doing violates HIPAA. HIPAA doesn’t prevent any and all disclosures of health information; disclosures during group therapy are considered ‘treatment disclosures’ and are permitted.

        3. Sunshine Brite*

          There are laws against involuntary mental health treatment that this is likely violating as well.

          1. fposte*

            Can you say more about this? I’m guessing this is a state thing and not federal, right? I don’t know anything about this area and would like to.

          2. Subscribing to all comments*

            I wonder if the boss is filing claims for the group therapy sessions with insurance.

            A call to the insurance company might be helpful.

          3. Jaz*

            It’s also a major violation of the ethics codes of most mental healthcare boards. Treatment without consent, treatment with conflict of interest, and a care provider treating the patient without a formal arrangement are all things that would violate every code of ethics I’ve ever worked under in the mental health field.

            1. Kj*

              Therapist here- I concur. This is an ethical nightmare and the boss should be reported to his board of ethics.

              1. Sunshine Brite*

                Absolutely. As well as any therapist purposefully participating in this seeing it as team building

                1. CK*

                  I figured the other employees who said it was “good for team building” maybe feel more precarious in their employment for whatever reason and they just wanted to shine the boss by saying something so ridiculous.

              2. Emily*

                Yes—strongly agree with this!! Check-ins and case consultation are one thing, but requiring you to disclose private information about subjects like sexual assault is completely unethical. His licensing board should absolutely be told about this. (I am a former LMSW)

            2. Ben*

              This. If they are licensed, this is a garbage nightmare of conflict and boundary violations. If they aren’t, it’s probably a violation of the practice acts. Without knowing the board and the state, impossible to say for sure. But I would be very surprised if the protections here for her as a “patient” werent stronger than protections for her as an employee.

            3. Anna*

              This was my immediate thought. I can’t wait to show this to my friend and watch them go apoplectic about the ethical violations.

            4. Ellen has a submarine*

              Report your boss (as a person) to the healthcare board.
              File a complaint on your company with the ADA & EEOC.
              Create a GlassDoor review for your employer and review this practice.
              Email/call your company insurance carriers (liability & employee health insurance)

              1. AnnaBananna*

                I concur with all of your actions items. My GOD, this guy has made Boss From Hell 2019 and it’s only Feb. Is that some kind of record?

                I’m so sorry OP, none of this is fair or right – but I’m glad you’re trusting your instincts. Maybe share this thread with the colleagues that are supportive of the therapy, in hopes that they’ll come to their senses? Good luck to you. <3

            5. EvaBee*

              Yes! I’m also a therapist, and treatment without informed consent is a huge no! Everything about this letter is just so wrong.

          4. CK*

            I think the boss would say “But this employee can always quit so it’s not involuntary”
            (And yes I know the power dynamic doesn’t work that way when you’re threatening someone’s livelihood/income, but I’m sure someone would try to use that as a legal argument.)

      2. fposte*

        There’s no general requirement for an employer to keep an employee’s health information private, but there are some requirements if the reason for the information is covered by a specific law like HIPAA or FMLA.

        1. Fergus*

          I am not a lawyer, but I would bet the bank this is so illegal in some way, and if it isn’t. It should be.

        2. Gravatar is Displayed*

          But can an employer force the employee to disclosure their medical history to coworkers?
          Can an employer force an employee into treatment? Into treatment that is not medically necessary?

          1. fposte*

            Maybe? It depends. As discussed, there’s a possible breach of the ADA in the compelled disclosure element. Sunshine Brite above says that there’s state law against involuntary treatment where she is; I suspect that most such laws are about involuntary hospitalization and may not stretch to a situation where it’s not hospitalization and it’s not so much involuntary as a deeply compromised consent. I don’t think this is a scenario most legislators anticipated.

            1. RUKidding*

              I say it’s involuntary period. What are the options? Do this, get fired, quit… Consent by coercion is not any kind of consent.

            2. aposiopetic*

              I’m sure you’re right that it’s not something clearly legally anticipated, but indeed the law does cover commitment and consent to treatment separately. Details vary by state, but in general, if a person is involuntarily committed and refuses treatment, their competence has to be determined by hearing according to specific standards and treatment cannot only commence once a court order has been issued declaring the unwilling patient’s incompetence. There are exceptions for emergency treatment, but broadly, the right to refuse treatment in non-emergency circumstances is well established, even if this particular scenario is without specific precedent.

              I agree with commenters elsewhere here that the ADA and boss’s ethics board are probably OP’s best bet, but for sure this whole thing is also massively out of step with the rights and protections everyone has when engaging with therapy and psychiatric services.

    3. nacho*

      I assume that a fair part of the 50% who don’t mind the sessions are hourly and get paid for the sessions. Honestly it sounds like a pretty sweet deal for them, spending hours of work time goofing off and being paid for it.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Being forced to listen to other people’s traumas while sharing your own sounds like torture, not goofing off.

  2. Constanze*

    Not to be glib about it, but it seems that you might definitely need some therapy if the mandatory therapy is making you vomit.

    This is completely crazy. You have my sympathies.

      1. Constanze*

        It… was absolutely sarcastic. I meant to say that their attempt at « caring » was ironically really damaging for their employees.

        I missed the answers and had zero idea people took my answer as literal advice.

    1. Flower*

      Sorry, I couldn’t find the words to expound on that without getting angry.

      Objecting and even being sick about boundary violations is not a sign of poor mental health. I’m actually a big proponent of therapy for everyone who can afford it, even if they don’t have mental health struggles, but even then, it isn’t the boundary violations you get in this scenario. Say OP would do well to talk with a therapist – that just means they shouldn’t be having their hard work in actual therapy sidelined by this boundary-pushing… Boundary-trampling, really.

      1. Ethyl*

        I was a victim of workplace bullying by a relentless misogynistic boundary crosser and I absolutely needed therapy to cope with it.

      2. SavannahMiranda*

        The original comment was a joke. As evidenced by the statement “This is completely crazy.” Followed up with sympathies.

        This person was not attacking the LW.

      3. TootsNYC*

        Objecting and even being sick about boundary violations is not a sign of poor mental health.

        Needing therapy is also not a sign of poor mental health.
        (And poor mental health is not something to be ashamed of, either.)

        I often think of therapy as a form of coaching (there’s a reason the T in CBT stands for “training”). Especially when it’s a short-term thing, or your symptoms are caused by an outside force.

      4. Sunshine*

        If you are vomiting because of work it is a sure sign that something is wrong. Poor mental health is NOT a personal failing and can 100% be the fault of your environment. I think it’s important to signal boost that actually, therapy isn’t about ‘unpacking’. The best therapy bout I had was my therapist guiding me to the realisation that no, I wasn’t a lazy, workshy laybout and that my boss billing appprox 100 hours a week more than I could physically cope with was NOT my fault.

    2. animaniactoo*

      No. I do not need therapy (not the OP here). I have been in therapy. I was actively told I was finished and can contact or go back in any time I feel I need it. But I’m pretty good at managing my life.

      That said, there are things about me and my life that I know from experience would cause my co-workers to look at me differently. These are workplace relationships that are mine to manage and choose how much of my personal life I bring into them. These are not my friends, these are not people I have developed trust with, and they are not people that I necessarily would expect to all be trustworthy in the circumstances described.

      Therefore, it would absolutely make me sick and nauseous to have to thing about putting myself in a position where I am about to hand people the information that I don’t want them to have. Because it will make me vulnerable in ways that I don’t need to be at work. In ways that I would expect to come back to hurt me in future. You know how I keep healthy boundaries? By not bringing that into work. By not creating the opening.

      That doesn’t mean I need therapy. It means I have already had therapy and understand what a truly bad situation this would be for me.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        I think in this situation I would lie. I know OP already filled in the form, but I would say I had no childhood trauma – or choose something innocuous like other kids stealing my candy. I would say I have no serious problems, and keep saying that forever. Protecting my boundaries and getting along at work.
        Until I could get a better job. :p

        1. Jaz*

          That was my first response on reading the letter—they can make me fill out the form, but they can’t make me fill it out honestly!

          1. henrietta*

            THIS. I used to work for a company that was big into est. We had mandatory weekly meetings (unpaid) which were basically est therapy. None of us were allowed to simply observe, we all had to take our turn in the barrel, so to speak. I was absolutely not going to share my life with these folks. I lied in every single meeting. Boring lies, but lies. Do not feel bad even a little.

            1. Kj*

              Est? Wow, that is some serious time warp therapy too. I have to admit to being curious about how that went down. Good for you for lying though. Est is an awful thing to be mandated to do at work.

              1. henrietta*

                Hee! We each got a two minutes (timed on a stopwatch, no less) to “share”, at the end of which everyone applauded and affirmed “Good share!” And then the honcho would tell us whether we ‘got it’ or not. “Not getting it” was a dressing-down indeed. Nobody ever actually explained what the ‘it’ was we were supposed to get. Ah, the 80s.

          2. SusanIvanova*

            I like Archie Goodwin’s take: “A lie is not a lie if it’s in answer to a question that the person had no right to ask.”

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          Oh absolutely. You lie your face off on that form. You lie your fool head off. There’s absolutely no other way to deal with such a form, until you can get another job.

          It’s morally and ethically wrong to require an employee to fill out such a thing (regardless of whether it’s technically illegal) and the moral and ethical response is to prevent such invasion of privacy and peace by refusing to provide truthful information. You lie.

          And then in group sessions, you lie. You lie and if you want to you can push back.

          I have been in group therapy. We had a poor therapist for a short stint. I unwittingly ‘led’ some sort of resistance movement against her when I critiqued her criticisms, returned her questions, and politely but firmly ‘rebelled’ against her in the group. Never my intention, I was just setting personal boundaries.

          Within a day of my doing it, half of the rest of the group was also resisting, some less politely. And two days later was mass mayhem as everyone stopped cooperating with her and several were openly ugly to her. I was honestly horrified, as that was not my intention. I was pushing back for my private, personal reasons. It just turned out to be some kind of catalyst for the others who didn’t like her as well.

          That may not be the outcome for the LW, and it wouldn’t be the point of resisting in the first place. But if I were in her position, I’d feel absolutely no compunction to be truthful, present, honest, forthright, or authentic in any manner whatsoever in this batshit situation.

          When you resist in group therapy, the therapists do stand down. Especially when it’s that or get into a pissing contest in front of the rest of the group. They’re trained not to do that, and if they do, they’re letting themselves be baited, which they well understand. Their authority is only granted by your consent to be in that room.

          Of course LWs consent to be in that room is forced. And that deeply complicates things. My polite resistance to the therapist who rubbed me the wrong way had no effect on my livelihood, health insurance, or resume. So openly resisting for the LW, no matter how politely, may or may not be the best way forward. Regardless, there’s no ethical or moral requirement here to be honest.

          LW, please feel free to lie like your life depends on it. Lie without one whit of guilt or concern.

          1. Maolin*

            Agreed – to bide your time through your aggressive job search, if I were you, I would entertain myself (and my like-minded cohorts) by waaaaaaayyyy oversharing. Obnoxiously, hilariously overshared accountings of…let’s see… For starters, my dreams. Insisting that these sessions are going to *finally* – after all these years and all those therapists – give me access to a PROFESSIONAL who will interpret my dreams and tell me what it all *means*. Then maybe I’d embody a TV/movie character – describe some rom-com or action scene as though it was actually happening in my life. Make mandatory group therapy as ridiculous and uncomfortable (and fun!) as possible, likely through excessive control of the Talking Stick, with excellent attention to detail to the shifting dream scenes, the minutia of Questing (“So my friends and I were on our way to Weathertop when we were jumped by these 5 scary dudes…”, the faux break-up leading to the eventual kiss-and-make-up marriage proposal…in public… So many ideas! The hard part is keeping a straight face, of course. Maybe be in cahoots with another protester, whereby they use their turn with the Talking Stick to offer up wacky corrective suggestions to solve for what the dream/mission/quest/thing was really all about deep down. Rinse. Repeat. BID (twice daily). The objective is Regret for ever thinking this was anything better than a gawd-awful, rotten, terrible, Bad Idea for effective *professional* relationships. The experiment needs to crash and burn in a blaze of Glory.

            This obviously isn’t done in order to mock the mentally ill, but to 1. Make it a little more worth your [free] time, and 2. Demonstrate how out of bounds this is by making the result as absurd as the mandate.

            Be sure to give us an update OP – we have to know how it ends. Good luck!

      2. Artemesia*

        In this situation I would if I decided to accept it, I would simply lie and focus on trivial surface issues — developing more confidence in public speaking (I don’t have this problem but it is common and hence plausible), learning to work less hard and strive for better work life balance. Anything about my childhood would be based on Ozzie and Harriet and totally non true about anything that actually bothered me. i.e. passive aggressive all the way. The situation is grotesque but it is not as uncommon as people may think. I know of people who have been in workplaces where management sought to ‘break people down’ and build them up — very very damaging and demoralizing. The qualities that get people in positions of leadership are sometimes sociopathic.

    3. NOPE*

      Mandatory therapy would be one thing; mandatory therapy with one’s boss an entirely different animal.
      They’re both bad, but your take on this is also bad.

      1. RUKidding*

        Mandatory therapy (some situations excepted of course) should not be a thing at all. This is work. OP is an admin. If she’s doing her job well that is the extent of the boss’s rights IMO.

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      Jokes and sarcasm are really easy to misread over text media. Tone of voice is critical. I don’t do them anymore.

      1. Natalie*

        I mean, they did start their comment with “not to be glib about it”, that could have been a clue. I don’t read it as a joke or sarcasm, just a clunkily worded observation about how bad the mandatory therapy sounds.

    5. Ethyl*

      Yeah same, especially as someone who did need therapy to cope with a workplace bullying situation that made me incredibly mentally unwell.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Me as well. I actually had a similar thought while reading the letter: how awful must that mandatory therapy be if it traumatizes people, i.e., does the opposite of what it should be doing?

      1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

        I read it the same way as well, but maybe that is because I feel like I would need therapy after experiencing this

    6. Perfectly Particular*

      Me too! This is so stress-inducing, and that might not go away even if the boss’s therapy ends or she quits.

    7. Crooked Bird*

      I’m almost positive this was a joke that just wasn’t expressed very well. Especially given the second paragraph. Like “I guess you need therapy to deal with your therapy/a vacation to rest up from your vacation” kind of thing.

    8. Lock*

      I think they mean that the LW may want to do a few sessions to deal with the emotional fallout of this situation, since it’s affecting them so much. Doesn’t mean anything negative about the LW, just that this situation is so far outside the realm of normal that it may need some extra digesting.

    9. cheese please*

      This is how I read it too. Looking at LW’s letter I thought it was so terrible that in whatever crazy effort the manager took to improve the mental health of employees that he made things worse for one or many people

    10. SavannahMiranda*

      I had no issue reading the comment as a joke and I’m honestly confused at the bristling and serious reactions to it.

      1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        I quite confused as well.
        Espically since Constanze ended the post with sympathies to the LW.

    11. I'm in the Wrong Story*

      Heh. We joke that my oldest kid goes to therapy to deal with the crap her school guidance counselor (among others) tells her.

      It’s…not that much of a joke, actually.

    12. Koala dreams*

      To be honest, I also had this reaction. I considered if going to your doctor or other health professional and having them write a note that you can’t participate in these meeting for health reasons could be reasonable in this situation. Of course, that supposes that someone has easy access to health care outside of this organization.

      I think the advice of our host is more practical in the short term. If you feel lasting effects from this workplace stress after you changed into a new job, maybe it’s time to consider therapy or other treatment to get well and recuperate from this horrific workplace. From someone not affiliated with this employer in any way, of course.

      1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

        I would even do it very loud in the office, so that co-workers would know that this is not done. Perhaps they will get the courage to make some noice about it as well.

        And if they still keep the decision, I’d quit on the spot and indeed blast out to everyone why I did that.

      2. dramalama*

        Co-signed. Quit today and when interviewers ask why you left current job without anything lined up say (with pride) “Have I got a story for you!”

    1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

      I would give the board/executives ONE chance to fix this. “This is enormously inappropriate, and is damaging office relationships, morale and trust in the organization. I am not willing to participate. Will this situation be repaired in the next week, or should I submit my resignation?”

      1. My Cabbages!!*

        And by “fixing this” that should mean “firing the hell out of a boss that has so few professional ethics that he thinks this is even on the same planet as okay”.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Co-sign on the ethics of this. How in the world can the BOSS be the therapist? Surely the two would be a conflict of interest.

          That doesn’t even touch on the issues of forcing someone into therapy TWICE A DAY when there is not a MAJOR diagnosis. Let alone making them sit around for 2 hours to wait for the therapy to start.

          This is so bad it is worth walking out over. If anyone ask why you left you simply state “I felt it was inappropriate to force people into therapy with their boss.”

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            How about that previous letter…. that would have been one hell of a script: “I felt it was inappropriate to force me into therapy with my boss…who happens to also be my stepmom”.

          2. boo bot*

            Yeah, twice a day is… kind of extreme for an outpatient setting, as far as I can tell.

            Someone above asked if the boss is billing the insurance company for these sessions, and honestly I’m betting it’s that – the OP said they have great insurance, maybe he’s committing great insurance fraud?

          3. RUKidding*

            A quick google search talks only about forcing treatment via court order or something like an emergency psych hold. Nowhere does it say that in any state one’s boss can do this shit. ***

            *** I didnt search too deeply, but still…

      2. Minocho*

        Yes. This is something that would have to me handled both immediately and definitively, and even then I would be job searching this instant (I am the sole breadwinner, so I wouldn’t be able to quit unilaterally).

      3. Anon for Now*

        This. The board should address this issue immediately. This is not something that can continue, and dragging their heels is simply not appropriate in this case.

        And honestly, I would give the board less than a week. I would give them 3 business days. Because any decent board would be horrified at this and insistent that it be stopped immediately while they do an investigation.

      4. Lana Kane*

        Yes yes yes. This can’t be danced around, it’s an egregious situation on many levels, some perhaps even legally.

      1. PB*

        Yes, and if questioned down the road about leaving without a job lined up, “My supervisor gave me a written survey about past sexual abuse and forced me into twice daily group therapy” would be immediately understandable.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I think I might say ‘gave us’ and ‘forced us’ just to make it clear it was not singling out one employee for some odd reason, but just a totally bizarre across-the-board thing. But otherwise yes.

          1. Artemesia*

            Not ‘me’ but everyone. You don’t want to look like someone who say resisted ‘anger management’ prescribed for a reason — you want to make it clear that this boss required all his subordinates to do therapy with him and disclose highly personal background publicly to co-workers.

    2. EddieSherbert*

      I agree. Alison’s advice is great, if you want to put extra effort into this job – But if you’re stressed to the point of vomiting, please feel free to jump ship and never look back with all of our blessings!

    3. Eric*

      I wouldn’t quit. I’d just stop showing up for them (especially the one that starts 2 hours after my work day ends). I wouldn’t be suprised if they don’t actually fire OP for not going, even if it is “mandatory”.

      1. Observer*

        Any boss who would pull this is perfectly capable of firing someone over this – or of manufacturing other “reasons” to do so.

          1. Observer*

            In a lot of locales, the OP would have an unemployment claim anyway. This could be seen as such an extreme change in working conditions that they would be eligible anyway.

            In any case, the bottom line is that it’s a mistake to assume that the boss won’t fire them. Whatever the OP decides to do should factor that in. Which makes it very fortunate that the OP can afford to walk away.

            1. The Original K.*

              I wonder if she’d be eligible solely because of the extended hours. Extending your work day by three hours is pretty egregious.

                1. Observer*

                  Not true. The issue here is that this level of increase in hours would almost certainly be considered a significant change in her working terms and conditions, which by itself is enough in many jurisdictions. Making a negative change like that without any compensation would qualify in most jurisdictions.

              1. Lucy*

                It would absolutely be illegal in the UK and afaik the rest of the EU to increase fixed hours by that much, and to 50h/w which exceeds maximum permitted required hours*

                OP didn’t mention how well paid she is, but increasing someone’s hours by 25% without increasing remuneration could easily take a person below minimum wage equivalent.

                * yes there are exceptions; no this wouldn’t be excepted

                1. fposte*

                  Administrative exempt employees are exempt from the minimum wage requirement in the US. (It would also take 62 hours weekly at the minimum exempt threshold before you exceeded the federal minimum wage.)

      2. Michaela Westen*

        Yes, but the anxiety wouldn’t go away, at least not for me. What is boss going to do next? This would make me too anxious to be at work, unless there was a big change like boss being fired and replaced by a decent sane person.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Actually, that’s a damn good point. You’re right, any trust in Boss has been permanently destroyed.

          It’s a “he goes or I do” scenario.

          Ideally “he goes or half your team walk out, your call, Boss’s Boss”.

      3. always in email jail*

        This. If your boss ultimately answers to a board, I’d be very interested to see what would happen if you just…. didn’t go. I’d let the board chair know what is happening and then stop going.

    4. Former Retail Manager*

      That sums it up perfectly. And I’d report the boss to the licensing board, even if you think it falls into gray area. (I’m not well versed in this, so I can’t say.) This is the craziest thing I might have ever heard.

      1. RUKidding*

        Yeah OP needs to report him right now. I cant see forcing one’s employees into therapy with you as something most licensing boards would be ok with.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, as someone whose workplace has had multiple people quit with nothing lined up, so I have an idea of why people do it, I feel that this is definitely in the “reasons to quit with nothing lined up” category.

      1. The Original K.*

        A friend once told me about someone he’d worked with who quit with nothing lined up, and her reason was simply “I’ve had enough.” I thought that was so profound, really. (I’m not sure if she said this to HR or her manager – she said it to my friend, who was just a colleague, when he asked her if the rumor was true that she was leaving.)

    6. RUKidding*

      Yeah this was my first reaction. It is also my ongoing reaction.

      OP, if you are able, quit right now. If interviewers ask about the short stint…tell them the truth.

      Decent reasonable people will be appalled. I mean just read the comments here. Pretty solidly on the “are you freaking kidding me(?!)”side.

    7. Is It Performance Art*

      If you get asked at a job interview why you left this job without another lined up, and you just mention your employer required you spend 2 hours in group therapy each day, the overwhelming majority of interviewers will understand why. They might even try to recruit some of your colleagues with the knowledge that a lot of them will probably want to jump ship.

    8. Even Steven*

      And do new hires know this is required? One word – Glassdoor!!! Head to that site and leave a truthful anonymous employer review. That they do this to you and your colleagues is appalling.

  3. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    So much nope. Get out and be absolutely clear about why you are leaving. It would be unacceptably abusive to force an employee to undergo “therapy” of this kind on a one-to -one basis, but to have employees divulge personal issues in front of colleagues is outrageous, not to mention potentially harmful.

    1. Sally*

      I agree. In group therapy, you need to know that you can trust everyone there to be compassionate and not to talk outside the group about what is discussed. Since the coworkers are not there voluntarily, I don’t think that sort of trust can be assumed. I wouldn’t want to talk about anything personal in that situation! Not to mention that your boss is there!

      1. Miss Displaced*

        Also, group therapy usually has a common bond, right? I think of things like cancer, AA/NA and grief sessions where the whole idea is sharing a common experience and getting help from those who’ve also experienced it.
        I can’t imagine that would be the case at work.

        1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

          Co-worker on your left: I was abused as a child by my parents. I turned to drugs to cope with it.
          Co-worker on the right: My parents died in a car-accident two years ago, I still haven’t dealt with it all…

          The only thing you learn from those “therapy sessions” is each others deepest fears and secrets, but you can’t help or learn from each other to cope.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            Co-worker who is actually supportive of the sessions: I’m fine and had a secure upbringing, but I’m quietly making notes for my novel, so thanks for the fodder! *rubs hands gleefully*

            That reminds me that while Boss is “leading” these sessions he presumably isn’t contributing any info of his own… Let me guess there haven’t been any confidentiality contracts so much as lightly waved about….

          2. whingedrinking*

            I think it would be darkly humourous if everybody shared that their biggest problems were from the obligatory meetings.
            “I have a learning disorder and the timing of these ‘therapy’ sessions has made it impossible for me to schedule sessions with my actual life coach.”
            “I’m going through a divorce and if I can’t spend X amount of time with my kids, I’ll lose custody.”
            “My anxiety flares up when I have to talk in front of my coworkers.”

    2. Blue*

      Yeah, I think I would tell them I’ve giving two weeks so as to not to burn bridges, but I would explicitly say that it’s in response to this policy and say that I will not be attending group therapy for my remaining two weeks (and if that’s a problem, I’m happy to move my last day up!) So much yikes.

  4. Anonforthis*

    That’s horrific. I was a victim of abuse as a child and this is wrong on so many levels. No, I wouldn’t be filling in that piece of shit form.

    1. Trek*

      I would fill it out with ‘None of your F#!ing business written all over it. Then I would go to the meeting and sit there and state that very thing every single time something is opened to the group.

      1. t.i.a.s.p.*

        I’m with you. My form would be filled with “I do not feel safe disclosing private health information to my employer” and similar types of statements (I am not prepared to, it is inappropriate for an employer to ask me to . . .).

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Quite. I don’t want people to tell me private info unless they choose to.

          Even if all I do is answer “fine thank you” in response to questions about my own childhood, I’d feel awful hearing someone else’s info and seeing them squirm. That kind of info isn’t forgettable or take backable.

          (And the answer isn’t “fine thank you”, it’s “I have a private, anonymous blog for that, and that’s all the therapy I want thank you”.)

          Honestly what does this boss think they are doing? I guess they just read a book and think they’re now an expert providing some kind of service?!!

          1. Abi*

            No, it’s worse than that; it sounds like the boss is an actual therapist. Though he clearly shouldn’t be, and I hope he’s discredited by his board.

        2. TootsNYC*

          Yeah, not only do I not want to share things with my coworkers, I don’t want to know about theirs!
          That’s intrusive as well, to force me into a situation in which I know things about their mental health, etc.

      2. SavannahMiranda*

        Yep. Absolutely. You can refuse to answer questions in group therapy and generally resist, as politely or un-politely as you wish.

        There’s a range of uncooperative responses available, including polite ones that return the awkwardness to the therapist rather than taking it onto you.

        This entire situation absolutely warrants consistent noncooperation, starting with responses on the questionnaire that refuse to provide information. Or if that’s too risky, then simply lying.

        Obviously GTFO and a job search as well. But in the event someone is caught up in something like this and can’t readily get out without creating a destination to move to first, then options anywhere along the range of noncooperation are valid and necessary.

        I mean, if you want to get fancy you can look to nonviolent resistance. When authority attempts to enforce unjust edicts, then it’s just, fair, moral, and ethical to resist them. You’re not doing anything wrong, you are acting for what is right.

        But even without all that, there’s no other good way to deal with this abhorrent personal situation than to lie, not cooperate, and not feel bad about it one bit.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          THIS. People are not entitled to answers to questions they don’t have a right to ask. If they demand an answer, they are still not entitled to a *truthful* answer.

  5. dragonsnap*

    What a horror show! Sorry, I know that’s not constructive. But this is seriously bizarre. It also makes me worry for the people who are receiving treatment from your boss (aside from you and your poor coworkers) — his judgment and boundaries seem lacking at best.

    1. SavannahMiranda*

      Excellent point as well.

      If this is how he’s treating his employees, how is he treating his paying clientele? Some of whom may have been mandated to attend, sent there by family, or otherwise have even fewer options than free will employees?

      Unfortunately treatment centers can be nests of dysfunction and questionable practices. They can be excellent centers of health and progress too. It’s almost entirely dependent upon the personality and business practices of the founders of the center.

  6. Not Today Satan*

    I would just leave. Even if enough of you banded together to do away with this requirement, you’d still be working for that creep. If his boundaries are this nonexistent for staff, I definitely wouldn’t trust him to run a recover center for vulnerable people either. I’d run far away ASAP and report him to all licensing and oversight boards.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I realize with a sick feeling that you are absolutely right. Reading this letter and then the comments has just been a process of the horror on my face getting more and more pronounced as all of the implications start to hit me, one after another.

      1. That Work from Home Life*

        I wish I had something more to add than this: SAME. I still haven’t picked my jaw up off the floor. I feel skeevy all over just thinking about OP and her coworkers being forced to do twice daily therapy together. The questionnaire portion of this letter made me feel physically ill. No wonder OP vomited!

    2. 1.0*

      God +1, this is SHOCKINGLY bad.

      OP, if you at all feel like you can, please please report this person to licensing boards! I have considered voluntarily checking myself into an inpatient treatment center, and the thought of being dependent on someone who would pull a — I mean, abusive! It’s abusive!! Asking you if you were sexually abused?!? Being dependent on someone who would pull some kind of power tripping abusive move like this is horrifying!

    3. ExcelJedi*

      I came here to say that the licensing board should be notified. If boss has an LPC, LCSW or similar, I’m sure this is an ethical violation.

      1. motherofdragons*

        Yes, at the VERY least. With LMFTs for example (at least in California), it’s considered highly unethical to provide counseling to friends and family. So I cannot IMAGINE what the law/ethics have to say about providing MANDATORY THERAPY to your STAFF. And stepping back for one second…two hours of therapy DAILY is extremely excessive for most people. Let alone those people being YOUR STAFF. The fact that he thinks this is rational is just beyond comprehension. Ohhhh my god the more I think about it my mind is blown, OP please please quit as soon as you can. Report this person to the licensing board(s) if you have the bandwidth.

    4. Working Hypothesis*

      That’s kind of the heart of it, isn’t it? I mean, I guess you can give it one try going to the board with this and seeing if they fire the boss (which they damn well should). But other than successfully — and quickly! — getting rid of the horrible boss, this place is a House of Evil Bees and even getting this policy changed will not alter the fact that LW is working for the kind of power-hungry maniac who thinks he should have access to his employees’ personal lives (as well as arbitrarily large chunks of their off hours). That’s not a place it’s safe to keep working if you’ve got any choice in the matter. (Well, it’s not safe even if you don’t, but then sometimes you have to take your chances.)

    5. Harper the Other One*

      YES. In addition to the employee’s issue, this is a horrifying ethical violation and this person shouldn’t be allowed near ANYONE vulnerable. This problem goes way beyond awful boss in my eyes.

  7. ZSD*

    This is, as the OP says, batshit insane.

    I think this pattern of employers intruding into employees’ mental health might stem from the messages that employers are getting that they need to care about their employees as human beings rather than cogs in the machine, that they need to respect that their employees have lives outside the office, etc. And sometimes people hear that message and just come up with the worst way imaginable to implement the advice.

    1. The sky is falling*

      I had a thought that if you brought in a doctor’s note saying group therapy is not appopriate treatment at this time, could you get out of it?

        1. The sky is falling*

          I was trying to be generous to the boss in hopes his goal really was to help people…in which case he would see this note and not want to damage the OP…but I know I’m probably being too generous about the managers intentions…

    2. Queen of the File*

      I wonder this too. There has been a real push around offices here to destigmatize mental health issues by ‘fostering open discussion’ and I have begun to notice my own boss creeping too close to the therapist line. (But not anywhere remotely close to what is happening with the OP.)

      “Let’s remove the stigma around mental health by mandating inappropriate discussion with all kinds of unpleasant fallout!”

      1. SavannahMiranda*

        Yeah exactly. The stigma is a double-edged sword that can also protect a person from boundary violation. The disappearing “don’t ask, don’t tell” paradigm around mental health is far from ideal. We can and we should do better. But doing better does not look like, “We are asking and you are pressured to answer.”

        1. whingedrinking*

          Michel Foucault would roll over in his grave if he heard this stuff (or just write another volume of Madness and Civilization).

  8. YRH*

    Filing a complaint with your boss’ licensing board seems reasonable. You may even be able to do that confidentially.

    1. Psyche*

      Yes. Especially if she leaves since she wouldn’t have to worry about retribution at that point. Group therapy with coworkers is a terrible, terrible idea.

    2. Lab Spouse*

      Yes, as someone who is a licensed mental health professional I agree with this. File a complaint with the licensing board immediately.

      1. Kuododi*

        I am also a licensed mental health provider and this situation is ridiculous. I have participated in countless supervision groups while training as well as in the context of work requirements. That’s a different situation all together.
        Supervision groups are clinically oriented to discuss client needs/ concerns and how best to address those issues. From what I can see from OP’s post it sounds as if this director is at the very least in violation of the prohibition against dual relationships. I definitely second the recommendation to report this person to their particular licensing board and I would go a bit further and contact their professional agency (i.e. AAMFT, NASW, APA etc) to see if there is something else that could be done to address this issue.

      2. No real name here*

        Fellow mental health clinician here and I made a similar comment (waaaay down there). This boss needs to be reported, such a gross violation of ethics.

    3. WellRed*

      Oh, I missed that the boss is licensed. Report immediately AND report it again to the board and insist on immediate action. I say this because the OP is in a position to quit.

      1. Anna*

        It might be worth reporting to the board again and including something like, “This could be an ethics violation for Boss’ licensing board and if it is, they could lose their license, which would put our program in danger.” Anything (truthful) that can get their attention.

    4. Cathy Gale*

      Chiming in to agree with this. May not only help you, your coworkers but other people he may treat in the future. There are serious ethical challenges here.

    5. Anon Anon Anon*

      I agree. Filing a complaint with his licensing board should be the first course of action. I’m 99% sure this would be prohibited and could result in him losing his license. He should bear the responsibility. His employee shouldn’t be tasked with finding a new job because of this.

      But do some research before reporting it. Find out exactly what rules he’s breaking. Gather as much evidence as you can and store it outside of work, whether that means forwarding things to a personal email account or backing things up on a flash drive. Be ready to submit that stuff as a follow-up to the complaint or as part of the complaint.

      But, as someone with relatives in the mental health field, I can say that this kind of thing is very much frowned upon. There are strict codes of ethics. Consent is a big part of it all. Forcing your employees to participate in therapy would be a big NO because of a) the lack of consent and b) the obvious conflict of interest. Probably among other things too.

  9. Anon for Now*

    This is horrendous, and I believe that it’s abusive. At least I would feel horrendously violated if this was forced upon me.

    I think seeking legal counsel would be appropriate in this situation. Especially, if there is no action by the board (and I think this merits call up the chair/president of the board today and asking for more immediate action).

    1. Trek*

      This is psychological warfare not therapy..he can and will use the information against everyone. I would report him to the state, the board, and tell everyone I am going public. Everyone in town would know how he treats people and no one will come to see him in therapy.

    2. Nora*

      And if he’s okay with crossing THOSE (massive) boundaries, what other boundaries is he capable of crossing?

  10. fposte*

    So many WTFs here. Forcing employees to disclose if they’ve been sexually assaulted? And *twice daily*? That’s an intensity that’s well beyond what’s useful for most people deliberately in therapy.

    This is somebody in the recovery business for the wrong reasons.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah I have to believe the fact that it’s in a mental services sector is the reason the boss is thinking this – maybe they’ve had other staff have terrible burnout or the boss is worried about second hand trauma or PTSD. I don’t work in that kind of field so I have no idea if it’s normal for practitioners to have group therapy to deal with the pressure – but since OP isn’t even front line, there’s clearly no need for her to be involved in two mandatory sessions a day. That’s nuts.

      1. fposte*

        I can’t help but think that this is somebody with a big ol’ savior complex who feeds on pathology in order to make herself feel like she’s improving people, and I wonder about the implications of that for the actual patients.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. This behavior has major implications for the actual patients. Which is why the OP really, really NEEDS to report this. Fortunately, they can afford to quit so the risk is far lower than it would be for others.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          Excellent point on the savior complex. I’m thinking by pushing people to disclose its doing more harm than good.

        3. Pomona Sprout*

          Savior complex sounds right to me. I was thinking power trip until I read this; now I’m thinking it could be sone of both.

          Come to think of it, isn’t a savior complex a power trip of sorts? Just wondering.

      2. Sally*

        I have a close friend who is a retired social worker, and she definitely needed help (from her own therapist) to deal with it sometimes, but that is something individuals can handle as they see fit. It does not excuse a boss forcing people to divulge personal information twice a day to everyone in the office.

        1. Kj*

          Yes. Therapist here, I need my own therapy plus case consult, to serve my clients well. But I can handle that myself. I have had very tough therapy jobs, but none required my being in therapy at work twice a day. And the LW isn’t clinical in any way. This is nuts.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            and i’d bet your therapist is not your employer, nor chosen by them, or even connected to them.

      3. Observer*

        Please. Any competent therapist should realize that this is THE WORST possible way to go about it. There are a number of problems with this approach from a purely therapeutic POV, aside from the obvious boundary crossing. So much so that the fact that it’s a mental health field makes it worse. Because the boss should know better!

      4. ChachkisGalore*

        Yeah – this was my first thought. That it was some sort of (extremely) misguided attempt to provide help for or combat second hand trauma or PTSD.

        I don’t work in this kind of field, but I do volunteer work that involves providing crisis counseling. Self-care and debriefing are heavily emphasized. The work I do is on an on-call basis, and for every “case” we take we are required to do a debrief. The main point is sort of an administrative hand off, but it’s with a licensed clinician and it’s made very clear that if we are experiencing any emotional side effects that it is a time that we can speak about or own needs/feelings/etc. It is particularly relevant in this line of volunteer work because it is pretty common for volunteers to become involved specifically because of their own past experience with the type of trauma that we provide services for. Sounds like this is a clinic that has a substance abuse focus or component and I believe there’s a similar culture in that people who are involved in that line of work sometimes have past experience with it.

        So I’m thinking boss heard something about providing regular support for mental health professionals that might be experiencing secondhand trauma, PTSD or burnout, but instituted it entirely wrong and dialed it up to a level 15 (on a scale of 1-10).

        1. M*

          The boss is an actual licensed therapist. There’s absolutely zero chance that he’s just clumsily implementing peer support for his team because he only vaguely knows what it is – he knows what he’s doing.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Between my ok-but-not-great therapist and the angel I see now, I went to a therapist who had a PhD and a lot of specialized training, and she was a huge disaster. She was more like the stuck-up, judgmental adults I knew growing up than someone who was trying to help. I don’t know how someone who has studied this could be so clueless, but she was.

            1. MM*

              I had one like that too. Referred by my college mental health center. I feel lucky that I’d had one other therapist before and was familiar enough with what therapy is supposed to be through family and friends’ experiences that I could recognize that he was useless and doing me harm. I shudder to think about other people without that kind of information/perspective who got sent to him at a young age.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I’ve had a few like this myself, and yes, as with MM, one was at college. I also have a relative who’s a therapist and she has dealt with a ton of patients who were damaged by really incompetent and terrible practitioners.

        2. SavannahMiranda*

          “I believe there’s a similar culture in that people who are involved in that line of work sometimes have past experience with it.”

          Yes this, absolutely.

          Many recovered addicts and alcoholics go into recovery work for a number of reasons. Because they feel strongly about the cause. Because of their experience they can be some of the most highly effective in helping people not die. And depending on their employment histories, they may have edged themselves out of other careers.

          Unfortunately emotional recovery traits can tag along with them, including poor ability to discern boundaries, and a tendency to lean towards over-involvement. I can imagine recovery specialists who are in recovery themselves being in the camp the LW describes as the half of the staff who “aren’t vocal about it or have openly said they think it’s great for team building.”

          In other words, these can be folks who don’t know this isn’t normal, on an interpersonal level or on a professional career level. Recovering people in the profession of recovery can be taken advantage of.

          The boss may be taking advantage of this lack of perspective and boundaries in a mercenary way. Or he may mean well in a misguided, paternalistic, steamrolling way, and the recovery workers are letting themselves be steamrolled.

          Either way, if the center employs recovery workers who are in themselves in recovery, the histories of the staff may well be playing a part in the fact this has been tolerated, even supported, and is continuing to go on.

      5. Jaydee*

        But, even if that’s all true, it’s a good reason to have generous sick/vacation leave, an EAP or a referral list of mental health providers, debriefings after particularly challenging situations, and maybe a quarterly all-staff presentation about vicarious trauma, mindfulness,and the like. It is NOT AT ALL APPROPRIATE to have twice-daily, mandatory all-staff group therapy led by the employer.

        Imagine if a dermatology clinic was concerned by the lack of screening for skin cancer. It would be appropriate to offer their employees free cancer screenings as a part of their health plan. It would be appropriate to send out a reminder to employees that it’s important to set a good example to patients, so be sure to get your cancer screenings. It would not be appropriate to make all employees strip down in a conference room (together) while one of the doctors checks them over thoroughly for possible malignancies. That’s the analogy here.

        1. emmelemm*

          That totally is the right analogy. You would not make your employees strip the bodies so you could “help” them, and you shouldn’t make them lay them psyches bare either.

    2. Mockingdragon*

      No shit, I go to real therapy twice a MONTH. There is nothing useful about making a person go through that process before they’ve had time (ALONE! Not at work! With focus!) to process the last session.

    3. Jadelyn*

      Twice daily is like…inpatient levels of frequency/intensity. Anyone I’ve known who’s been in outpatient therapy has, at most, done two appointments PER WEEK. What exactly was supposed to come up between 9am and 5pm while you’re at work that requires a whole other therapy session that quickly?

      1. Quackeen*

        This is one of the many parts that is baffling to me. Unless they work with a highly dangerous, volatile client base, I’d expect that my issues at 5pm and almost exactly the same that they were at 9am (and ones that I would choose to discuss with my external supports, not the coworkers).

        It’s like Intensive OP Therapy, but…work. And unpaid, for the LW.

        SO CRAZY.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I used to work a job where I was providing guidance to people and that occasionally involved having conversations about sensitive subjects. There was one time in particular where I got off the phone, got up, and went to find my boss because I needed to process it.

          So, there could potentially be value in having an end of the day thing where people have an opportunity to discuss anything difficult they encountered that day. That does not sound like what is happening here at all.

    4. aebhel*

      Yeah, this sounds a lot more like some weird power trip that the boss is getting off on than anything resembling misaimed concern for their employees’ wellbeing.

    5. Mcgruffthecrimepossum*

      The TIMEis what gets me. Twice daily, 5 days a week? I bet he is filing this for insurance and getting paid. That would be fraud.

  11. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Since you work for a health care provider, I would report your employer immediately to every regulator that has issued your office a license to practice: state and federal (if you take CMS). You can do it anonymously if you like.

    Is your boss a licensed health care professional? Report him to your state’s licensing board too. (From the sounds of it, I doubt it because licensed professionals know better, but you never know.)

    Oh and OP? It feels batshit because it is batshit.

    1. Psyche*

      I wouldn’t assume he isn’t licensed. Licensed professionals do really stupid things all the time, especially if they think they are smarter than the people making the standards.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I almost wonder if it’s some kind of scam, where the boss can report these sessions as billable hours or grant deliverables in some way. Maybe someone in the field can weight in on the possibilities of that, I don’t know how it would work.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*


        A friend of mine had a bad experience working as a school-based special needs interventionist for that reason. The district had a list of children who were Medicaid-eligible, and tried to shoehorn as many of them as possible into speech pathology, occupational therapy, etc., so they could get Medicaid payments for the services.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah something weird like that, maybe. I know there’s perverse incentives sometimes in the medical fields, but I can’t see how this would relate personally.

    3. Umiel*

      Yes, please report him. This is not ok for a licensed professional to require his staff to submit to therapy, especially therapy performed by him.

  12. Amber Rose*

    So I can’t speak for the US, but here in my part of Canada the government is slowly phasing in mental health as part of our now mandatory OH&S legislation regarding safety programs. Thing is, the government is horrible at this stuff. I’ll refer you to last week’s class I took, where I have been given a new list of safety requirements, and I must somehow have a year’s worth of documentation for these requirements by July. Also many of them don’t make sense and asking questions results in a different answer from everyone you ask.

    What i’m sort of interpolating here is that mental health has hit a sort of limelight in recent years, and there’s been a pretty strong push towards getting rid of the stigma around mental illness, and this has leaked into our workplaces in strange and unpredictable ways, likely influenced by all the ways in which nobody has any idea what they’re doing or how to do it.

    Humanity is strange and random. We don’t need aliens for that. xD

    LW, if you like your job then feel free to make this your sticking point and fight it until you’re out of options. If not, and you have that freedom, then get out. This is absurd and invasive.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah I think there is a movement to be more mindful of mental health stuff, but this is the exact opposite way to go about doing it well – your first priority would be to respect people’s confidentiality and make sure they feel safe! Telling them to reveal super intimate and personal information to their supervisor and then all talk about it in a group is the exact wrong thing to do.

      1. Amber Rose*

        That’s the thing though. Some people have decided that “fighting the stigma” is the same thing as “insisting everyone tell everyone everything” which is an idea born from this huge confusion surrounding what to do in order to support mental wellness, and a misunderstanding of what people are doing when they are open about their struggles.

        It’s very unfortunate, but I doubt this is the last we’ll see of letters like this. Hopefully no more that are this awful though.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, there’s a push to throw out the privacy baby with the shame bathwater. I don’t have to feel shame for me to consider it nunya bizness.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I am about as open as you can get about my mental health struggles, including at work. But there are still some situations where I choose not to bring it up, not because I’m ashamed, but because it won’t help the situation, or I don’t have the time or energy to get into the nitty-gritty with someone, or I don’t trust that specific person with this information about myself. Trying to force people to be always-out about their mental health issues is, quite frankly, going to have the opposite effect than they’re intending: people who don’t feel safe talking about it are just going to lie and bury their issues even deeper so they can’t be forced to disclose them.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              Exactly this. I’m okay with talking to my coworkers about my mental health, but I do it on my terms. I get to choose who I bring it up with and how much information I give them. And if my boss told me today that I was going to be required to share all the ins and outs of my mental health struggles with everyone in the office twice every work day, that would be a deal breaker.

            2. authentic eliza*

              or I don’t have the time or energy to get into the nitty-gritty with someone,

              YES. Timing is so important! I might be willing to discuss my child abuse with X person, but not in the middle of a crowded room! Or when I’m socializing! Or… like, doing anything or in any place where suddenly pouring all those feelings on things isn’t a huge annoyance. I’m out here to have fun, don’t be like “so hey, your abusive parents, what’s up with that situation”. (This has happened. People have weird ideas of small talk.)

            3. iglwif*


              I am also very open about my mental health issues, including at work … but that means being open with people at work that I trust and as and when I want to be and about specific things. It doesn’t mean … whatever the hell this is.

              OP, I would suggest you find out what body licenses this dude and report his ass to them.

          2. Jan*

            Exactly. Mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s no one else’s business either unless the individual decides it is.

        2. Observer*

          I still don’t think that this is where this is coming from.

          The problems here go beyond the total violation of privacy, as horrific as that is. There is the issue of a one size fits all model, the presumes lumping of many potential types of needs into a single group therapy with the potential for mutually exclusive needs in one group, the insane level of intensity (twice a DAY?!?!?!?), the fact that we know that mandatory mental health treatment almost never works – certainly NOT in situations like this! and the fact that the group session is being led by the boss. ALL of these are so outside the norms of basic therapeutic behavior that it’s simply not really possible to give the guy the benefit of the doubt here.

          1. Amber Rose*

            I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt. I’m just saying that the reason there’s more than one of this type of letter is probably less “alien experiment” and more “humans defy all prediction when it comes to being absurd and/or horrible.”

            Although it’s possible that this specific boss may be an alien, I suppose.

    2. Koala dreams*

      It’s the same in Sweden when it comes to mental health iniatives, but I see mostly focus on fighting bullying in the workplace and letting people work part-time to easy into coming back after being out because of an (mental) illness. It would be horrible if the situation in the letter is some sort of twisted version of mental health awareness!

  13. The Photographer's Husband*

    Yep, that’s pretty awful. Regarding the ‘trend’ that Alison pointed out, I also hope it is some kind of alien experiment, but the only other stab-in-the-dark explanation I can come up with is that it’s some sort of very heavy-handed and clumsy attempt to address and ‘catch’ mental health issues early.

    The OP mentioned not being at risk for emotional burn-out, so perhaps that’s a reason why it was instituted in this specific case, but I can twist my thinking enough (which is a little scary in and of itself) to imagine some insane boss thinking, “Mental health is becoming a much more visible and problematic issue these days… What can I do to head it off so it doesn’t impact my company? Oh, I know!” and then terrible things happen.

    1. Anonybus*

      Could be. I loathe this particular trend in all its forms, and I’ve begun to suspect that some of it might be boneheaded managerial attempts at demonstrating “emotionally intelligent leadership” or something, in an effort to meet some equally bannana-crackers model or framework for manager development/advancement.

  14. Myrin*

    Goodness gracious. I don’t have any trauma or abuse in my past (I was bullied which affected me badly but it’s been more than half my life ago and I deal with it just fine) and I don’t mind sharing personal stuff even with people I don’t know well and even I would feel so violated and horrified by this. To say nothing of my poor sister who is a rape survivor and was psychologically abused by our father as a child; she gets re-traumatised by the most mundane things, shit like this would probably set her back literal years. I’d honestly love to know what the rationale behind this is but since you probably won’t find out my only advice is to try rebelling exactly once and then, when it doesn’t work, leaving immediately.

  15. BadWolf*

    At twice a day, unless it fizzles out pretty fast, either it’s going to end up being a messed up gossip session about clients or poking at employees to come up with “something” to share. “Fergus, are you sure you don’t have any more childhood trauma to share?”

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Would it be wrong to say “my trauma is these constant therapy sessions”?

      I’m scared the boss thought this up and what ever made him think this is a good idea.

      1. fposte*

        I’d give it a try for sure. But tell it like it’s something that happened elsewhere (“I had this job where they forced me to tell them my most intimate secrets in front of everybody if I wanted to stay”) and see how long it takes the boss to figure it out.

  16. Pretend Scientist*

    What would happen if you just left at 3:30p? I Ordinarily, i would not advocate for blatantly disregarding a workplace requirement, but this is so over the top that I’d be genuinely interested to see how your boss would respond, especially if you’re already (understandably!) willing to quit over this. Bonus points if you can get some coworkers to join you. Not going to the morning session would likely be harder since you’re already on-site at 7a, but I would be strongly considering just leaving st 3:30p (hopefully with another coworker or three who also think this is batshit and abusive) and see what happens. I’d think that your boss might not have a leg to stand on if the board gets wind of discipline and/or firings not due to work performance but due to people not wanting to be forced to do intrusive therapy…for TWO HOURS a day. Seriously—that’s like being in an inpatient program, which would make sense if you actually needed that kind of therapy, but I’m intensely skeptical that there’s any way that your entire workplace needs and/or welcomes this.


    1. Lyonite*

      This was what I was going to suggest. I know the boss said it’s not optional, but what if you treated it like it was? When the morning session comes around, just say you’re too busy and keep working, leave at your normal time, and see what happens. I think you’ll probably still have to leave this job, but at least in the meantime you can refuse to participate in the abuse.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I also think this is an excellent idea, especially for the evening session that starts *two hours* after your work day ends.

    2. GiantPanda*


      For the 8:30 session, can you try to schedule something (External meeting? Coffee run? Huge print job?)
      at 8:25 and be unable to attend?

    3. Sloan Kittering*

      I do think if it were me, I’d at least give that a try. “Unfortunately, my hours don’t allow me to stay till 5 – as you know, I leave at 3:30. I won’t be able to make it.” If they fire you, it’s possible you’d be in a better position than quitting.

    4. dawbs*

      and, in my IANAL opinion, if they fired you for that, you could claim that a change in working hours (both the hours and the additional hours per week) made it a substantial change in work conditions and still qualify for unemployment.

      1. Natalie*

        I think “refused to participate in office group therapy” would be plenty for constructive dismissal in most states.

      2. Noah*

        I don’t think not going to these sessions is the kind of misconduct that disqualifies you for unemployment. Let them fire you. File for unemployment. If they challenge it, you get to put this abusive behavior on the record in a transcribed hearing.

        1. Jaydee*

          There is an unemployment hearing officer or administrative law judge somewhere slogging through hearings about people who made too many personal phone calls at work or accumulated “too many points” in a points-based attendance system just trying to get their decisions out in the DOL mandated processing times whose month would be *made* by this case.

    5. Cucumberzucchini*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. Just don’t attend the sessions. You’re already comfortable quitting, but why not try this first. If they fire you, you can talk to a lawyer. If they don’t, you can look for a new job at your leisure (or not if just not attending this nonsense solves the problem.)

    6. Risha*

      I was thinking the same thing, as long as potentially getting fired wouldn’t significantly hurt your career long term. Worst case scenario, you get fired and you’re out of the situation and have a someday-amusing horrifying anecdote for parties. Best case scenario, the batshit boss realizes they can’t enforce this policy without getting unwelcome scrutiny put on this nightmare they’ve instigated.

    7. hbc*

      Yeah, everyone will have different levels of horrified reactions to each of these awful things, but the 5:30 *daily* *mandatory* anything would have me at absolute refusal. I personally could manage to roll my eyes through the morning therapy with vague answers and/or telling stories from fictional characters’ lives, but I’ve got things to do after 4:00. I’d definitely be willing to quit over it, so I’d call the bluff on “mandatory” while job searching on the side.

    8. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yep, that was my first thought — just, “Nope” and continue on not participating and not filling out invasive paperwork. If confronted by the boss, just say what was written with some slight modifications, ” Being forced to go to therapy at work, twice a day, performed by my own boss and in front of my coworkers is invasive and abusive. It also requires daily 2 hours of unpaid overtime. This is unacceptable to me and I opt not to participate.”

    9. Iris Eyes*

      +1 Yes, someone I love is in a toxic work environment and I give them this advice. There are things you can choose not to tolerate, you have enough of a cushion. There’s a lot of value in standing up for yourself.

    10. Anonymous Poster*

      I don’t see many future employers being put out when you answer their questions of why you left with, “Because my supervisor was forcing us to spend two hours everyday with her in a group therapy session with my coworkers as a condition of my employment.”

      I’d just say, oh ok, and write down you have better judgment than your boss or the coworkers that like this ‘perk.’ And I’d pity your coworkers that are still suck there but job searching.

    11. Kit-Kat*

      I agree. I just wouldn’t go.

      My job tried to institute mindfulness sessions as part of our continued education. I went to one session which felt too much like group therapy so I stopped going. I went to the other educational sessions so it didn’t stand out (we can miss a certain amount per month). Not QUITE as bad because it wasn’t fully required but I think you could try to push back in the same way.

    12. Tisiphone*

      I totally second just not going. Start your work when you get there and do not go to the session, and leave at your normal quitting time.

      This requirement is so over the top, and as others have said, likely illegal.

  17. Celeste*

    I read the title and the first thing that came to mind was, OH NO WE DON’T.

    I work 7-3:30 because I have to pick up my daughter who doesn’t yet have her license, so I could not stick around for this nonsense. But if I could? I would be very tempted to go in and just spout lies.

    GAH. This makes me so mad! I hope you can get out of there ASAP. I mean that.

    1. AnonPerson*

      Whenever I hear about any “team building” activity that involves sharing private things in people’s lives, I wonder how often most just lie…

      1. Jadelyn*

        I’ll just come out and say it: I do. Or I massage actual experiences I’ve had into a shape that I’m willing to share. Or I borrow from favorite books or shows (only the obscure ones, though). I’m a very private person on most topics (ironically, my mental health struggles are one of the issues I’m *not* usually that way about), and I feel like if you’re going to force me to “share”, then I reserve the right to lie to get you off my back about it if I have to.

        1. nonegiven*

          Make it blatant, instead, use popular books, movies and TV.

          Mom poisoned dad, but he isn’t really my dad because my uncle is…

            1. Phrunicus*

              Get your co-workers involved. Set challenges, i.e., see who can get away the longest with “Gilligan’s Island”…

        2. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Since childhood trauma seems to be part of the focus (uuuuuuuuughhhhhhh) I’d be tempted to start retelling Jane Eyre and see how far I got before anyone noticed.

      2. EPLawyer*

        You do not build a team by getting into people’s private lives. Also you can team build without going on “extreme” adventures. I do wish employers would realize this.

      3. authentic eliza*

        Unless it’s something completely trivial (like favorite color), I always, always lie. Because it’s none of their business, for one, and because people have tried to use this stuff to hurt me, for two.

        1. PepperVL*

          Exactly! I’ll happily share trivial things like my favorite color (purple) or whether I prefer cats or dogs (cats) and what side I’m on in the great mayonnaise vs miracle whip debate (mayonnaise all the way). I even have a few mostly inconsequential but slightly more substantial things I don’t mind hauling out for ice breakers. But beyond that, I’m fudging at best.

  18. Zip Silver*

    This is incredibly invasive, but I can see the need to offer staff at a mental health treatment facility free therapy. I have a friend who works with juveniles in a mental health facility (in the child rapist section, as in, kids and teens who assault others), and the staff have a culture of very heavy drinking after their shifts to deal, and aren’t offered therapy for what they’re dealing with every day.

    1. Bee*

      Oh, for sure. Having a therapist on staff who is – this is key – NOT YOUR BOSS can be really helpful in fields like this. But it has to be a) voluntary, b) on your own schedule, and c) confidential.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. This is the opposite of a confidential place to vent about things you find frustrating at work.

        Also, my experience with group therapy is all drawn from fiction, but isn’t daily–much less twice daily–a lot? Like once a day would be normal at an in-patient facility, and once a week more normal for someone who’s trying to go about their normal life with full-time job?

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, I tried to think of an example of a twice-a-day, ten-times-a-week group therapy session, and the only one I can come up with are the ones in One Flew Over A Cuckoo’s Nest movie.

        2. Bee*

          Yeah, a lot of my friends even go every other week if they’re not dealing with major trauma. This is INTENSE. And seriously, what do they expect changed between, say, the end of the day on Monday and first thing in the morning on Tuesday that needs to be dealt with right away?

        3. Sacred Ground*

          Yes, twice a day is excessive by far. In my therapy experience (in treatment for Major Depression), at my worst I was prescribed 2 sessions a week. Daily group would be the norm in an institution where one is there for some severe pathology and the rest of the group are as well. And the therapist is not involved in any way with anyone’s personal lives outside of therapy. No patients in the group are connected to anyone
          else in the group in any context outside the group. They’re not your family, not your friends, not your co-workers, and certainly not your boss.

          Considering that this is way too gross a violation of professional and ethical standards for mental health care, I’m most strongly inclined to think this boss is in fact using this to defraud their insurance company. Somebody’s getting paid for all this session time.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      I think the caveat there is that they should have therapy with people who are not their coworkers.

      1. Daniel*

        …and which is not thrust upon staff who don’t interact directly with patients. Or anyone else, but that makes it so much more egregious.

    3. blink14*

      I would think though it would be a conflict of interest to have free therapy at your own workplace, given by your own co-workers or supervisors.

      Covering the costs to go somewhere else? Definitely more reasonable.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah that would be the RIGHT way to go about this – make confidential therapy somewhere else, affordable and easy to obtain.

      2. Psyche*

        Yep! Make sure that their insurance policy covers therapy and then provide a list of therapists in the area that accept that insurance. After that, it is up to the individual.

      3. Ice and Indigo*

        Especially as the goal of therapy should be to get you up and functioning, not render you a permanent patient. How are you supposed to practice living an independent, healthy existence when most of your waking hours are spent surrounded by co-workers who have been forced to see you as a fellow-patient? It’s like a hospital stay that never ends with no chance to practice working in a normal environment.

        Unbelievably demeaning and infantilizing. And if it was ‘successful’ in the boss’s eyes, actually likely to deskill the poor employees for functioning in a normal workplace.

        Report, report, report. This person is a danger to employees and patients both. They’re like a surgeon who thinks ‘scalpel’ means a rusty cleaver.

    4. My Cabbages!!*

      Sure. But you offer it as an option, not make it mandatory. And you have a third-party therapist you contract with; you don’t put co-workers in a therapeutic relationship.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Although from what I see on TV, companies do sometimes have “mandatory therapy” for like, cops who are acting weird or people in those kinds of jobs. I don’t know if that’s true in real life. And it’s not in a group, with your boss leading the session!

        1. Not Me*

          An employer can have a mandatory referral to an EAP program for an employee they are concerned about. As others have said though, that’s not with your boss or coworkers listening in.

        2. Transit worker*

          Front line employees at many large transit agencies are assaulted somewhat regularly (mostly bus drivers), and they also kill or injure people accidentally often enough that there are procedures in place (mostly train operators, and many of the victims were attempting suicide). They get a certain amount of mandatory time off and have some sort of therapy requirement after an incident – I’m not in operations so I don’t know the details, but I think it’s only one session and it may be more of an evaluation that the person is ready to return to work than actual therapy. But it puts the person in touch with mental health resources after an experience that may have lasting mental health effects, which seems good and appropriate to me.

          But the session isn’t with the boss! And if the person does need ongoing therapy, they’re referred elsewhere.

    5. CA Therapist*

      I see this perspective, but actually in a mental health facility there are more appropriate ways to offer support to staff -such as clinical supervision, which is generally mandatory, allows processing and offers institutional and emotional support. In contrast, therapy at work through a supervisor is not considered to be appropriate due to the need to maintain boundaries between staff members and supervisors. In the case of your friend’s job, her work should absolutely do their best to ensure that the staff have access to mental health care through insurance, etc., but not from a supervisor, and probably not on site either.

      Also, please don’t refer to the kids your friend works with as “child rapists”. It perpetuates the idea that these children (who have often been molested themselves) are monsters rather than people. If they are monsters, why bother to try to change them? If we treat people like monsters we do not allow them to change (and thus decrease or eliminate the possibility of future harm). In reality with effective treatment the recidivism rate is quite low.

      1. Zip Silver*

        I’ve never interacted with any of these kids, so how I phrase it doesn’t really matter. I do know that my friend gets fondled semi-often by patients while she’s at work though.

    6. Akcipitrokulo*

      Absolutely. Available, professional, discreet (and discrete) and PRIVATE. Yes, that is a very good thing that should be offered.

      This shitfest… hell no.

    7. RNL*

      It’s also not a bad idea to provide regular space to debrief as a team when you’re in a job that risks compassion fatigue and related stress.

      This is like someone heard that idea and misunderstood it COMPLETELY.

      This boss is is a maniac and has no idea about power, boundaries, consent, etc, and should be stopped, but IMO OP’s first priority should be to get out of this deeply emotionally unsafe situation.

    8. Observer*

      What this boss is doing is actually WORSE than not offering therapy and support. Because at least your friend and the rest of the staff have the option of finding their own therapists and no one in management is doing something that is actively harmful or that crosses all sorts of ethical and professional boundaries.

      What this boss is doing is NOT in any way shape or form “supportive”. At best it’s a useless waste of time and as worst it is extremely actively harmful to people.

    9. Asenath*

      Yeah, people working in stressful situations may need help, but OP is office staff, not clinical staff. And surely, if she were a clinical worker, her employer should offer independent private counseling through an EAP if needed, not this kind of nonsense! Not to mention the unpaid time. I think I’d have kicked back hard at the survey, and not gotten as far as the therapy sessions – well, unless this was the only job between me and the cats living on the street. In that case, I think I’d lie in response to every question – but I don’t think I could conceal my anger at such an invasion of my privacy and demand for unpaid time. And I rather doubt that the kind of manager who thinks this is a good idea is going to give in easily.

    10. Michaela Westen*

      “aren’t offered therapy for what they’re dealing with every day.”
      If anyone in the world needs a therapist at work, it’s this staff! IMHO it’s negligent that there isn’t one!

  19. My Cabbages!!*

    I am going to state first that I am not a therapist, licensed or otherwise, so I don’t really know the legal ins and outs involved…

    But this sounds like a GROSS violation of professional ethics. One of the major principles behind ethical therapeutic relationships is that you NEVER maintain a dual relationship–if you are someone’s therapist, you can’t also be their client, or their student, or their teacher, or their lover. You absolutely cannot be their BOSS for gods’ sake.

    If your boss is under the purview of an ethical board (state or licensure) PLEASE report him. This is such a blatant and horrible smashing of proper therapeutic boundaries that I really fear what he may be doing with the actual patients, who are likely in an even more vulnerable position than you are.

    1. My Cabbages!!*

      You can tell I am FURIOUS about this because I have been reduced to RANDOM CAPITALIZATION of words which is something I normally HATE with the passion of a THOUSAND SUNS.

      1. irene adler*

        Thank you! I was searching for the correct term- professional ethics.

        Does HIPAA apply in any way here? Co-workers would have access to each other’s private medical info by way of this group therapy. Where’s the uncoerced agreement for that?

        Also wonder about the paperwork employees were required to fill out regarding past abuse. They didn’t ask to be treated, so is this form even legal?

        1. Jiya*

          My understanding is that HIPAA applies to healthcare providers, not people who are in group with you. That said, this totally pings my ADA radar- making this mandatory for people who have preexisting mental health issues should start up alllll kinds of warning sirens.

          1. fposte*

            The institution is likely a covered entity under HIPAA, so this might be the rare situation where it actually has some relevance. However, HIPAA doesn’t preclude mandatory treatment or even mandatory group treatment; it would just require that the records be kept appropriately.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          It might. They are a healthcare provider.

          Example, my employer is an insurance provider and we are all on the employer’s plan. We are all restricted from seeing each other’s data, under HIPAA. I can imagine there’s a good chance that OP’s boss is not allowed to access his employees’ medical information, or force them to disclose it to each other in group sessions, either.

          1. fposte*

            All of this is disclosure by the patient, though, which is legal under HIPAA. You can tell your co-workers anything you want about your insurance, and the OP can tell her co-workers anything about her health. If her boss is treating her, the *boss* is precluded from sharing this information (unless she’s given permission). Maybe one of the therapists posting can give me info into whether there are any additional layers they go through for group therapy to make sure clients are consenting to sharing.

            There’s a question about how much free consent can be involved if it’s a condition of the job, but that’s above my HIPAA skill level.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        My Cabbages!!, not to derail from such an important topic, but yours is MY FAVORITE username EVER!!! <3 :)

    2. Alton*

      This does seem extremely unethical, and if I were a patient at that practice, it would make me think twice. I can’t imagine an ethical mental health practitioner even considering this.

    3. dawbs*

      YES< it seems like there MUST be a overreaching professional organization to report this to

      Like the American psychological assoc or something.

      FWIW, I have tons of experience in educating kids, and kids w/ special needs. I do not attempt to do the occ. therapy or speech therapy to my kid w/ needs (I do the things her therapists say to do and I obviously work w/ her, but I don't attempt to take the therapist role), because I"m to close to it to do it justice.

      There's a reason my awesome shrink cousin would, if I asked her to be my shrink, refer me to someone she knows who is great, rather than take me on as a patient.

      All of this is icky and ethically all sorts of bad, IMO.

      Nami link:

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        My father’s best friends are a couple who, together, have the best internal medicine practice in his major city. He doesn’t use them for his own doctor. I was about thirteen when I asked him why. He said, “Because I need to be able to fire my doctor if necessary, without worrying about it affecting my friendships.”

        I could understand that even at thirteen. The idea that a licensed mental health practitioner cannot understand that people need to be able to fire their therapists without worrying that it might affect their jobs (or, y’know, simply that they don’t want to be FORCED into therapy TWICE A DAY) is just… boggling.

        Well, we have a real good candidate for the Year’s Worst Boss, anyway!

  20. Ladylike*

    Alison, are leaving and/or pushing back as a group really the OP’s only options? I don’t ask this with hostility, but in all honesty. It sounds like a horrific violation of privacy, and I’m sure the repetitive nature of it and the power dynamics qualify this as harassment, don’t they? Plus the fact that it’s illegal for her to be forced to work 2 hours of overtime EVERY day without pay? It just makes me sick that an employee would be forced to give up her paycheck because no one will rein this guy in. There have to be more laws that protect her.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The ADA would be the law most likely to be in play; there’s a part in the post where I explain contacting a lawyer is an option as well.

      It’s not illegal for her to be made to work overtime without pay if she’s exempt. If she’s not exempt (although she indicates that she is), she could absolutely contact her state dept of labor about that piece of this.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Maybe if she’s fired for refusing to reveal confidential medical information (her past history of mental health, for example) that would be a legal violation? – but it doesn’t sound quite that clear cut yet, it’s possible she could just leave the form blank and keep her job.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah I think what Alison says in her answer is the best way to put it. There could be something illegal there, or maybe not.

  21. Troutwaxer*

    Let me be the first to say, “Consult a lawyer.” (IANAL) Assuming that you work in the U.S., some part of this is almost certainly illegal, and if not, it still makes the workplace liable for any problems which occur because of the twice daily mandatory therapy, particularly if your boss is not a licensed therapist. And if your boss is licensed, forcing people into therapy absent a commitment proceeding or court order could cause problems for his licensing (if s/he is licensed, you can contact their licensing board.)

    How do people not know that stuff like this is a bad idea? It makes me so fucking angry!

    1. essess*

      Agreed. LAWYER, LAWYER, LAWYER. I’d make a point to tell them that I couldn’t attend this afternoon’s session because I had an appointment with a lawyer to verify the legality of forced mental health therapy and disclosure in the workplace.

    2. Pomona Sprout*

      I agree. It’s great that the o.p. is a position to just walk the eff out, but….. I can speak only for myself, but it would bother me greatly to do that without taking any other action, knowing that something this grossly and blatantly unethical and abusive was going on, and that others who weren’t in a position to leave because becoming voluntarily unemployed was not a viable option for them. Also, if I had to quit a job I otherwise liked because of b.s. like this, it would piss me off mightily! I’m probably biased, because I once had to leave a job because of a toxic situation about which I was genuinely powerless to do anything, and it left me feeling determined to never take anything like that lying down again if I could possibly help it. The psychopathic grandboss responsible for that situation had abused many people and was bound to continue doing so (because that’s what psychopaths do unless someone MAKES them stop), and not being able to do a damned thing about it really stuck in my craw.

      This o.p. has not fully explored ALL of her options yet, and seeing a lawyer is the only way to do that. She should definitely report the boss to any pertinent licensing boatd (s) and professional association(s), but she should also consult a lawyer to find out if any actual laws are being broken and/or if there is any possible legal way to put a stop to this crap. She and her coworkers should be able to keep their jobs without being aubjected to this abuse AND the boss should be made to experience some consequences for their outrageous behavior. A lawyer can tell her if there is a way to make those things happen, and if so, how.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Coreection to the first paragraph: “it would bother me greatly to do that without KNOWING WHETHER THERE WAS any other action I COULD HAVE TAKEN.”

  22. Kitty*

    This wouldn’t help for the morning meetings, but until you get chance to push back on this/leave, could you start leaving again at 3:30 and not go to the evening sessions, and see what happens? If this gets noted by anyone senior it could be a good opening to speak out about how wildly inappropriate this whole thing is.

    1. Not Australian*

      I’m confused by the requirement for two sessions a day. It may indeed be a stressful workplace, but what on earth do they imagine is going to change between the morning and evening sessions? And what about all the work that everyone *should* be doing when they’re baring their souls in front of their colleagues? Aren’t they all going to fall so far behind due to losing this work time that they end up with real stress problems, as well as time management issues? This is a great example of a boss living in his own little world and neither knowing nor caring about the effect his ridiculous decision is likely to have on his staff.

  23. Audrey Puffins*

    For me, I’d be severely tempted to not do any work after 3:30pm. I would rather sit at my desk and conspicuously read a novel or paint a watercolour or practise the ukulele to make my point. And I’d absolutely want to hijack the 8:30am session to explain in great detail just how much these sessions are ruining my mental and physical health.

    But realistically, I think I’d just report the heck out of the boss and leave as fast as my little legs could carry me.

  24. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Holy shit.

    I could see the value in having daily ‘debriefings’ to discuss anything particularly difficult that may have come up in sessions throughout the day (at least for the actual practitioners), but this makes zero sense. What are they even trying to achieve with this other than boundary stomping?

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I can think of a number of things, all extremely nasty: sexual fantasy material for the boss, the boss is trying to start a cult, the boss is a narcissist trying to collect information to make it easier to psychologically manipulate his employees.

      1. Indie*

        Depressingly this all sounds more far more likely than a licensed therapist suddenly misunderstanding the dos and don’ts of ethical therapy.

  25. Myrin*

    On a more practical level – what exactly is supposed to come of this happening twice a day? A few outstanding exceptions a year notwithstanding, surely nothing substantive is going to come up you’ll have to talk about at half past five you haven’t already talked about at eight in the morning. What on earth.

    (And also, like I said above and in other threads tangential to this one, I don’t have any mental health issues. Apart from the bullying I mentioned, my life has always been very “boring”, for lack of a better word, in that regard. I’d run out of things to say on day 1. What a huge waste of time above everything else.)

      1. Natalie*

        Just start quoting all your favorite emotional movie monologues. You could probably get a whole week out of Girl Interrupted alone.

      2. Psyche*

        Like that episode of the office where everyone describes movies instead of actually sharing stories about people they know who have died!

      3. Sloan Kittering*

        Use the plots of melodramatic books / soap operas / movies perhaps. “Well, I was born in a rural market town in 1870’s Wessex …”

      4. Mockingdragon*

        It would have to be really outlandish stuff though, we wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea that there actually IS enough stuff for this to continue. “I was attacked by a shark while scuba-diving on my lunch break so I need to talk about that trauma…”

        1. Natalie*

          “The year was 1935 and I had just landed on the moon…” and just keep talking forever until the time runs out.

      5. Merci Dee*

        “I still haven’t been able to work through the trauma from that time the merpeople teamed up with the aliens from Mars to abduct me from my bedroom the night that I turned 3 . . . . .”

      6. Totally Minnie*

        At the morning session, launch into a long story about a dream you had where the Queen of England called in sick and you were called to fill in for her, but on your bus ride to the palace the bus started flying in the wrong direction and you ended up in Montana herding cattle instead. You’re very concerned about who ended up filling in for the queen, since you never made it to your shift.

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah, that struck me too. Unless the building caught on fire or something, I just can’t imagine any way I’m going to have some dramatic emotional change after only eight hours of work.
      Or, even better, the over-night ones in the middle of the week. Sorry, but I just don’t have much to tell you about what happened between 5:30 pm Tuesday and 8:00 am Wednesday unless you really want a detailed description of the commute, dinner, TV show I watched for a couple hours, and then 8 hours of sleep.
      I mean, maybe there are some people with super-interesting lives, but on a daily basis, most of my weekdays could be described as Just A Day – not actively bad, not great, just an average day.

      1. Nonny-nonny-non*

        My sister used to work for a clinic providing support to people with drug and alcohol problems, which (for the majority of her clients) tended to be a result of childhood abuse or trauma.
        I know she’s had days (thankfully rare) where she’s been on the phone to a client and was literally trying to persuade them not to kill themselves, while also trying to get enough information about where said client is so that she can get the police and ambulance there in time to help them. By the end of that sort of day my sister’s not in terribly good shape either, not surprisingly.
        I can see that people at OP’s clinic absolutely could have that sort of awful day, and go from fine in the morning, to shredded in the afternoon.
        BUT that doesn’t make the boss’s actions any less awful, unforgivable, or batshit insane. Being given time to talk and decompress with someone you trust – yes. Being forced to share personal stuff with co-workers and boss – NO!.

        1. Observer*

          Also, all that means is that the morning meetings make even less sense than the afternoon ones do. I mean even if you’re in a bad way at the end of the day, what would have happened between closing time and the morning to require some sort of session?

          1. MayLou*

            When I worked in a place where it was theoretically possible for things to happen that might require some kind of emotional debrief (and we did also have regular group clinical supervision – although when I say regular, I mean every two weeks, not TWICE A DAY), we were required to turn our work phones off and not check work emails outside our working hours, precisely so that nothing would happen, or at least we would not know about it, between closing time and morning. We weren’t a crisis team, we weren’t specialist professionals, we were support workers working with low-risk clients. I forgot one night and my phone did ring at 10pm but I didn’t answer and there was no message (client was fine next time I saw her, a couple of days later, and didn’t mention the call). Another time I had a voicemail left at 2am from a client who was drunk and sounded very distressed. The safeguarding process was followed and all was fine. I would not have been able to do anything at 2am if I’d answered her call, other than get very stressed and panicked about what was going to happen. And first thing the next morning I’d have needed to be dealing with making a safeguarding report and welfare check, not having group therapy!

        2. Yorick*

          It would make sense to have a daily debriefing or something, where people could talk about what happened today and how awful it was and kinda get it off their chest. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what’s happening here.

    2. Sadie*

      I’ve been in weekly therapy for four years and am still at the tip of the trauma iceberg of my incredibly traumatic life and honestly I’d struggle to come up with stuff to discuss twice daily.

      I have a standard 50 minute therapy once a week and then a massive amount of the effectiveness of it comes from choosing how to decompress, having a week to mull it over, making connections and room to expand mentally and using the events of the week as prompts, practise and perception.

      The actual session is a spark to light a new pathway. Very very very rarely do I wish I had a second session in a *week* let alone per day. Because not being able to immediately call my therapist or schedule a session helps me process, self soothe, reach coping strategies and actually tackle my severe complex PTSD.

      Too much external stimulus would create a retraumatising loop of trigger and reliving that would make me worse. And I genuinely have enough trauma to process that my therapist and I joke she’ll finish her PhD before I finish therapy.

      This is a terrible idea that is terribly executed so it will harm people without mental health issues and destroy those with them. If you wanted to make your staff ill and unhappy, you’d be hard pushed to think of a better way beyond say arsenic in the wallpaper again…

      1. Parenthetically*

        All of this comment but especially this: “a massive amount of the effectiveness of it comes from choosing how to decompress, having a week to mull it over, making connections and room to expand mentally and using the events of the week as prompts, practise and perception.” YES YES YES. The time between sessions is just as important as the sessions!

    3. darsynia*

      I was thinking this, too. Like, even people who are really in need of therapy (I’m thinking of the main character in As Good As It Gets, here) don’t meet with a therapist twice a day for hours. This is beyond the pale in more than one category.

  26. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Aside from the nature of the therapy sessions being required of you, TEN HOURS A WEEK of unpaid work?


    1. pamela voorhees*

      I think you’ve hit the disconnect on the head — the managers almost certainly see this as some sort of free and amazing perk (and perhaps the part of the team that approves does too), while the other half of the team that hates it sees it as additional work (which it is). You are definitely in the right – putting aside how unacceptably invasive it is, the time issues, and everything else wrong with this – if it is a requirement, it is work, and my guess is that whoever came up with this is too blinded by some kind of absurdly misguided “we need to help with mental health” kick to see that. If your office makes you do an exit interview, just walk in, hand them a prepared essay on why this is a terrible idea and then walk out. (Don’t actually. But… seriously, this is wild.)

      1. Psyche*

        “Burnout is high. What can we do about it?”
        “Let’s add 10 hours to the workweek and force people to share intimate details about their lives!”

        But seriously, it may help to point out how many extra hours they are requiring you to stay and that it is interfering with your ability to have work life balance.

    2. Don't you be that kind of barn owl*

      Unless I’m reading this incorrectly it’s more like 15 hours of unpaid work. 2 hours from 3:30 to 5:30 when the session starts, then another hour for the session itself.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        Wow, maybe you’re right. I read this as the afternoon session was at the end of the day, but now I read again I think it might happen after work hours. Even worse.

      2. Lance*

        LW stated that they usually leave at 3:30, but implied the ‘normal’ time to leave was around 5:30 (thus the ‘before we leave’ part); with or without that extra time added, though, it’s an absurd extra time commitment for any of them to put toward mandated workplace activities.

  27. Tin Cormorant*

    If my boss told me about such a requirement, I’m pretty sure I’d just flat-out refuse to do it at all. Be vocal to my coworkers about how batshit insane this thing is, hope to start a trend of other people not doing it, and basically dare my boss to fire me over something so stupid.

  28. CA Therapist*

    Hi LW, I’m a therapist: I’ve worked with trauma (including sexual abuse), and also do training at my workplace on trauma’s impact on direct-service providers. In other words, I have some expertise on this matter.

    What your work is requiring is absolutely bananas, and incredibly harmful. This is violating on many levels, regardless of your personal experiences, and from a clinical perspective constitutes emotional abuse. I want to emphasize that your reactions are NORMAL. Your body is telling you what your mind already knows: work is psychologically unsafe, meaning physically unsafe. I am so sorry you are going through this. I am glad to hear you are recognizing the impact on your well-being and agree that you should leave. If you need help feeling OK with your decision, consider that emotional abuse has the same psychological impact as physical abuse. In a situation this extreme, it’s literally like you are being physically assaulted at work, twice a day. I hope you are able to leave ASAP, and also seek out support from the people you love. I am rooting for you!

    One other thing, if you want to push back against this even when you no longer work there: Is your boss a clinical professional? If so, you may get traction with reporting to the licensing body in your state (usually differs by licensure, e.g. clinical psychologists, licensed social workers, marriage & family therapists), as this would seem to violate various aspects of the ethical codes of these professions.

  29. CatCat*

    Since you’re in a position where you can leave this job, if I were you, I’d just stop going to the therapy sessions. Draw that line in the sand and if they fire you over it, well, so what. File for unemployment benefits and move on with your life. You are right, this is batsh*t.

    “I am deeply uncomfortable being required to provide personal health information in the work environment and I am not going to attend anymore. This is non-negotiable. Thanks for understanding.” I’d do it in an email and cc my home address. This is in case you’re fired and they fight you on unemployment benefits or contrive a false tale to tell the unemployment office. BANANAS.

    1. a heather*

      This. If you’re in a position where you can quit without horrible ramifications, just stop going to the “mandatory” therapy. And do look for something else, because if they force this on you they’ll probably do other horrible things, too and it’s not worth it.

    2. Future Homesteader*

      This seems like the most practical advice, if you have any desire at all to stay there. That said, RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN RUN.

    3. CA Therapist*

      Excellent back-up option if you’re not able to just leave now. Seconding the suggestion to do this over email as verification for unemployment etc.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      “Also I need to maintain my current hours” – the part where OP has to stay hours after time for this adds to my frustration on her behalf!

    5. Quackeen*

      Yeah, as much as the suggestions to be unavailable at 5:30 are good for a short-term fix, they don’t communicate to the boss that this is objectionable and non-negotiable.

    6. Observer*

      Do this in email. This way, whatever happens you have documentation of the problem and your response.

      Are any of these new requirements in writing? If so, get copies of all of that as well, including a copy of that form you were being required to fill out.

      1. OG Karyn*

        I would add to that, BCC your home email address on any emails about this subject to supervisors, the board, etc. That way, if you’re suddenly fired for refusing to come to sessions, you have access to those emails.

    7. That Work from Home Life*

      I would do this AND cc everyone else who’s required to at the sessions. And I’d probably use even stronger terms like “This is to inform you that I will no longer be attending your obligatory nonconsensual mental health treatment sessions” or something. Because at that point, whether or not she gets fired is really up in the air, and she has all this documented anyway. I just cannot fathom how any of this can possibly be legal. Just reading this letter has left me feeling horrified and gross.

      1. JXB*

        I’m another that agrees with the idea to simply refuse to participate/stay an extra 2 hours.

        Since you have the luxury of leaving the job if you wish – then try balking at this if only to help your co-workers who might be more trapped by circumstances. Plus, if they fire you over this – you may have recourse or there may be repercussions from higher above about the impact this is having.

    8. Indie*

      I would maybe go to one more and talk about how my job is making me physically ill, my boss wants intimate sexual abuse details for funsies and how getting home late every day is affecting my family and causing a great deal of stress.

      But it might be better to just report him to TPTB.

    9. Ladylike*

      Yes, definitely force them to fire you, OP, if it comes to that. You should not be completely without finances because of this stupidity!

  30. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    Questions about childhood abuse is potentially getting into weird legal territory. You never know if someone’s case actually went through the court system, and demanding information about sealed records and orders of protection isn’t kosher. I realize that’s an extreme scenario, but OP’s both is asking extreme questions.

    There’s also the fact that this “therapy” might be a mismatch with someone’s legitimate therapist-ordered plan.

  31. Anon29*

    Personally, I would just go to work, skip the 8:00 am therapy session and leave at the end of my shift at 3:30. If someone asked why I wasn’t in “therapy,” I would respond shocked that anything like that would be required in the work place. I would then say any therapy I may or may not attend is between my doctor and I and no business of my employer.

  32. constantly_amused_sometimes_horrified*

    I agree that this is a sign of a very toxic workplace. OP, it’s great that you have a safety net and can quit if necessary; however others might not be in that position and may be afraid to speak up. Even if you decide to quit on the spot, I’d see if it’s possible to a) explicitly state in an exit interview that this is why, b) make a formal complaint to the board of directors, c) report your boss to any and all ethics boards, licensing boards, and monitoring authorities.

    If I had to guess, either your boss wants to put on his resume that he implemented this “great new idea”, or your company wants to market themselves as an employer that goes above and beyond to take care of their employees mental health needs. Somebody really didn’t think this all the way through. My guess is that if you go far enough up the chain, someone will be horrified and put a stop to it.

    Good luck!

    1. Lana Kane*

      Agreed. OP, if you have the ability to leave this job I think you should, but it would be a kindness to escalate this somehow for the benefit of those coworkers who can’t afford to leave or are scared that escalating could lead them losing a much-needed job.

  33. Genny*

    The part about this that makes me even angrier is the co-workers who think it’s a good team-building exercise. Talk about being privileged. I’m glad they’ve experienced so little trauma that to them this is just a glorified ice breaker. That they can’t step out of their own privilege for two seconds and think about how difficult this type of “therapy” would be for someone who has experienced trauma is mind boggling to me.

    LW, I don’t have any background in health, but I would seriously consider reporting this to the board. I can’t imagine any licensing institution in the medical world would be okay with this kind of “therapy”.

    1. Daniel*

      I don’t know if I would say “privledged” since it’s possible that they have extremely loose boundaries themselves. Not that it makes it right; those coworkers…are not insightful. To put it kindly.

      1. fposte*

        Right, these might be people who are longing to tell their stories. It’s still not the place for them to do that.

      2. Signe*

        Yeah, my mother would have loved this kind of thing when she was still working, but she is a person who has shared her personal history of childhood sexual abuse with the person behind the truck rental counter at Home Depot. It’s not that she doesn’t understand the concept of boundaries, it’s just that she thinks they apply only to other people.

    2. Autumnheart*

      I think it’s pretty messed up to claim that someone has “privilege” because they haven’t been traumatized. People aren’t typically in control of whether or not they experience harm. Not that there’s any way to know whether these people have been traumatized or not, they very well may have been and just feel differently about the whole thing.

      1. Fuzzyfuzz*

        Well…typically people aren’t in control of things through which they have privilege (or through which they don’t). I’m white–I didn’t do anything to cause that. I also had cancer and have the experience of being a sick person and losing my ‘health privilege’–didn’t do anything to cause that either.

        I agree that it is quite an assumption that the people who like the therapy sessions are the ones who haven’t experienced trauma–we can’t know that from the info provided.

      2. RNL*

        I don’t want to derail, but people typically don’t have any control over their sources of privilege (such as race, gender, class, socio-economic status during upbringing, access to education as a child, etc). That’s one of the difficult things about unpacking privilege.

      3. aebhel*

        People mostly aren’t in control of their privilege. I’m not in control of my race or gender, either, but those are still axes of privilege.

        I mean, I agree that LW’s coworkers may have their own mental health/trauma issues, too, because people deal with these things very differently, but ‘privilege’ isn’t an insult.

    3. Cathy Gale*

      I did once, at the beginning of my career, work with a very young 22 year old camp counselor who resembled your comment, but she was the exception.

      I think it’s fair to assume that some of the people who think it’s good team-building might have boundary issues, or more likely never processed traumas they’ve experienced in an ethical and safe manner.

    4. Jennifer Juniper*

      Genny, I’m guessing that half of the team is practicing the ancient art of ass-kissing. In other words, they’re lying to the boss.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Hmmm, I think you’re right – this is a more likely scenario than them actually enjoying the sessions!

    5. Ice and Indigo*

      Speaking as a trauma-haver … I get the anger that comes when you feel how unfair it is that other people don’t have to deal with this sh*t. Trauma can be a wall between those who’ve experienced it and those who haven’t, and that’s upsetting and aliennating.

      That said, I’m also more likely to make incorrect guesses about what’s going on in other people’s hearts and minds when I’m in that angry place. So, from a place of fellow-feeling, I’d say that there might be all sorts of stuff other than good fortune going on with the co-workers. The only definite villain is the boss.

      I agree they would ideally be showing some solidarity with the people who are uncomfortable, but maybe if OP makes a point of how serious it is, they’ll get it.

  34. Lab Spouse*

    As a licensed mental health professional, I am telling you that this is completely out of bounds. Quit and report him immediately to your state’s board of mental health practice. I am wondering what other unethical/harmful things this place is doing with clients if the boss is like this.

    1. CA Therapist*

      Excellent point, I would be worried about the apparent lack of adequate clinical judgment. Not to mention, if the staff are themselves pre-licensed they are learning that pressuring people into sharing is how you do therapy. UGH.

    2. Observer*

      Yes. The problem is not just the boss, but an oversight apparatus that is CLEARLY not working. Something like this should have had an immediate response from the board. What else are they ignoring?

    3. Let's Bagel*

      I mean, this is the craziest part to me. To be clear, this would be crazy at any workplace. But in a mental health facility, you’d think you’d have people here who knew MORE, not LESS, about proper mental health care! There is literally no excuse for this–truly, just blowing my mind here. This is supposed to be this guy’s area of expertise!

  35. Akcipitrokulo*

    You were headhunted… which, on the surface suggests they really want you. Can you speak to whoever brought you onboard and explain that you appreciate their assistance, and don’t want them to think that the job isn’t everything they promised, but unfortunately due to a newly instituted invasive and abusive policy, you will have to leave?

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      (I am thinking of the guy who was wooed only to find the timekeeping memo… it may be time for you to raise an elegant eyebrow…)

        1. Airy*

          From memory: The company spent a great deal of time and effort headhunting a guy who was regarded with awe as an amazing asset for the business. This was in a workplace where, officially, you could arrive and leave at times of your choosing as long as you fulfilled all your responsibilities, but in practice, the boss was a morning person who was fulminating over all these lazy slug-abeds rolling in at 10.30 like the world was their oyster. The night before the amazing guy’s official first day, the boss entered some sort of managerial fugue state, wrote a memo putting everyone on blast about timekeeping, and actually printed it out and put a copy on each employee’s chair. The next day Mr Amazing arrived at a time of his choosing, as he’d been told he could do, read the memo on his chair, “raised an elegant eyebrow,” murmured words to the effect “I can’t be doing with this” and left, never to return, having never even sat down. It entered folklore.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Yup. And given that OP may be TheAmazingGuy here – talking to people who went out of their way to headhunt them may give them extra leverage to get this nonsense canned.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        The elegant eyebrow raise is my go-to. Sometimes I do it when I’m on the phone, then realize they can’t see me. I agree with the comments urging OP to report this to the licensing entity. Other than that I’m pretty much speechless.

  36. nnn*

    The devil on my shoulder suggests that everyone use every therapy session to talk exclusively about how stressful and harmful to their mental health it is to have these twice daily therapy sessions and to have their schedule messed up by the mandatory attendance, by having to fit their work in around the therapy, etc.

    1. essess*

      That was my thought too! Fill out the reports that you feel abused and under assault by your employer forcing you to work 10 extra hours per week (a 25% increase in work time) and forcing you to share personal confidential information against your will.

    2. AKchic*

      I’d also be making worried comments about how you’re so stressed out about how this is probably a violation of ethics (both state and federal) and that what will happen when the governing boards and the certifying and credentialing agencies get wind of this and would it be safer to self report and be protected as a whistleblower, or shut up and pretend like you don’t know it’s not unethical and just let the ones who approved the whole cockamamie charade get in trouble while you just stand around looking shocked when the feces hits the fan?
      Of course, with my acting skills, I would ensure I say all of that in a very fast, concerned, anxious tone, almost manically, with my eyes alternating between darting knowingly from person to person and down at my own lap. Don’t forget the hand-wringing. Really ham it up.

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    File the complaint with the licensing board and your grand bosses (again) and do everything you can to get this to stop. This could be extremely triggering to someone who actually does have trauma in their past! Not all experiences are appropriate for group therapy.
    At this point I would no-show the 8am and leave at your normal time. Let them fire you and collect unemployment while suing for wrongful termination on grounds that mandatory group therapy is batshit.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      I should clarify mandatory group therapy at work in this circumstance. I can absolutely see how something like this *could* benefit some direct patient care workers but it should be an optional thing and NOT TWICE DAILY.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Well and it would be like, how was everybody’s session today, does anybody want to talk about something they encountered that is giving them concern, not like tell us about your past sexual abuse.

        1. VioletDaffodil*

          Exactly this. Group supervision is very often a normal part of life in places like this, but it is usually a weekly thing to discuss cases and the work, not therapy!

    2. Is Today Friday?*

      “At this point I would no-show the 8am and leave at your normal time. Let them fire you and collect unemployment while suing for wrongful termination on grounds that mandatory group therapy is batshit.”

      Yup….. THIS!

      Although I love the idea of going to the morning session and talking endlessly about how this mandatory therapy is affecting your mental health and throwing it all back in their faces…. it also feels like you would be somehow playing into their hand and maybe giving it a tiny bit of credibility.

      Go in, do your job, go home. If they fire you (or take any kind of punitive action) I would refer the conversation to my lawyer.

      And paper trail the hell out everything!

      1. Queen of the File*

        I agree that attending the sessions and lying/trolling sounds sort of satisfying at first but I also really don’t think it’s a great course of action. Some people might be taking it seriously and I think this would be a pretty awful way to respond (no matter how inappropriate the circumstances).

        If you can afford to lose the job, just don’t go to the sessions.

  38. prismo*

    I also just want to note that twice-daily therapy is a LOT and generally reserved for people who are in serious mental health crises. I used to work at a psych center for kids/adolescents and we had a step-down program for patients coming out of psych hospitals, and they came in once a day for a few hours in the evening. That was for kids who had been seriously ill enough to be recently hospitalized. Outpatient therapy for adults is generally once, maybe twice, a week if you are not in crisis. Putting your healthy-enough-to-work employees through a protocol normally used for seriously ill people is extremely weird. You would think mental health professionals would know this.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I had a family member go through a significant mental health crisis which required going on leave from work, and even then he was only going to therapy once a week. Twice daily is ridiculous.

  39. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    You office is dysfunctional. Your boss is batshit crazy.
    Quit. Give two weeks and walk out and never go back.
    If you feel emotionally strong enough in a couple weeks report this loon to every licensing agency you can.
    But, what would happen if you said that you had to leave at 3:30?
    “I took this job with the understanding that my hours were 7:00 to 3:30. I’ve managed to reschedule for the past weeks, but this is not sustainable for me. Is this something we can discuss? If not, I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue my employment.”
    And that’s the reason you give the next job. The hours changed by a two hour margin. There you go.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Three, if the session is starting at 5:30 and an hour long….


      Seriously, OP, I am SO GLAD you have the option to leave. Because yeah, this is batshit, and you need to either leave or push back and not comply (whichever suits you better personally!) – and you’re able to, which is awesome.

      1. Anon and on and on*

        I didn’t even think of that. it STARTS at 5:30? And even if it is a tight schedule, 15 people? An hour at LEAST.
        No freaking way.

      2. Lucy*

        OP says it adds two hours to her day, and that they have the hour before leaving at 5.30.

        Two extra hours is already outrageous!

        1. Kyrielle*

          I missed that part – good to know. And yes, two hours is already too many. (As additional daily work hours. As far as the group therapy, 1 minute is too many.)

  40. jb*

    The “stay 2 extra hours for no reason” is the worst part.

    You can make up some bullshit nonsense to get through the sessions, but “we’re unilaterally tearing up your work hours agreement, pray we don’t alter it further” is simply unmanageable for anyone with a life.

    1. Pebbles*

      OP, use that extra 2 hours a day to aggressively search for a new job, phone interviews, etc. until you can GET OUT. Until then, stonewall during these mandatory sessions and don’t give even one “childhood story” for the boss to dissect.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        Oh, there’s lots of sources for childhood stories! Like that time that Jan really needed glasses but didn’t wear them until she didn’t stop her bike in time and the front wheel tore right thru the gift portrait. Or the time the furnace just gave up the ghost and your father moved you all out of the big city and into the countryside. Or how about when your Pa was hired to be timekeeper on the railroad being built, and he carried everyone’s pay in cash! So exciting! (Three stories from the fiction of my childhood. Oh, here’s another: the boy next door named Eddie, his mother was dead and his father dated a lot but never remarried.)

          1. Airy*

            Or the time your best friend’s mother forbid her to see you after you accidentally got her drunk on redcurrant wine that you thought was raspberry cordial!

        1. AKchic*

          Honestly, I think I could give a new Supernatural episode for each day, and delve into the psychological problems of each character just for grins to annoy people.

          Or treat the entire thing as an ongoing Star Trek serial. Or Doctor Who.

  41. UsuallyIJustLurk*

    The most positive spin I can put on this is to give those who do work with clients a time and space to debrief and unload what they’re hearing from clients. But that doesn’t explain twice a day, the questionnaire, and including all. I’d be tempted to go in twice a day to talk about how much these sessions are impacting my life.

  42. Akcipitrokulo*

    Also report to every regularory body you can think of. If you’re in a union, call your rep. If the health professionals you work with are licenced, call their licencing board. If your place of work itself is licenced, call its licencing authority. Call your political representative of choice. Call the papers.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      Note that while you might not be unionized, other people caught up in this might be. Don’t be afraid to contact their reps.

  43. Liane*

    I think I’d fill out that form with something like:
    Past trauma: None (unwritten “…that concerns you”)
    Current mental health: Severely traumatized by boss’s batshit mandatory therapy directive.

    1. Free now (and forever)*

      I read that as “pasta trauma.” It conjured up so many visions: inability to properly twirl spaghetti; discovering that people think Chef Boyardee is actually pasta; the trauma of gluten-free pasta. Sounds like you could fill a session with this.

  44. Sleepytime Tea*

    Because of the potential violation of the disability act, amongst other ridiculousness, I would even file for unemployment, saying that you were forced into doing something that was NOT a part of your job description, or anyone’s job description, you were forced to leave if you didn’t comply and attend these sessions. So walk into the bosses office, say “I won’t be participating in this” and if he says “participate or be fired” then clean out your desk and leave. Unemployment laws vary by state, but in my state, I’m pretty sure you’d at least get unemployment out of this.

    Also, this is FUCKING INSANE. Get out. And if you ever got questioned about your short stay in an interview, don’t feel bad trying to hold back a chuckle and saying “they started implementing mandatory group therapy sessions for staff, and while I saw the potential value in that for clinical staff, it was not something I was comfortable with nor did I feel it was appropriate for my position. Unfortunately it ended up not being a good fit.” No one in their right mind would hold this against you.

    1. Daniel*

      I would also mention that they increased her hours by two hours PER DAY without additional pay. That’s something anyone can understand.

      1. AKchic*

        By 3 hours per day. She has to wait 2 hours for this ridiculous “therapy” session to start, then an hour for the “group therapy”.

    2. Honoria Glossop*

      TWICE DAILY mandatory group therapy sessions WITH THE BOSS!!!!!

      Not only would no one reasonably hold it against you, but it may make some interviewers reconsider how they view the manager/organization in a way that may create industry pressure on this rogue manager.

  45. Dan R*

    Obviously the best thing for your mental health would be to quit this job, but in the meantime, I’d explore passive resistance first. If you attend the session, when called upon just say that you have nothing to report. If they insist you share something, share with the group just how damaging the sessions are. If everyone opens up about how bad the session is for their mental health, they’ll end pretty quick.

    1. Michelle*

      Yes, I agree. I would say how these mandatory sessions are making me ill and that I resented being required to work 2 additional hours per day without pay. If he really wants to know about your feelings then tell them. (I only say this because OP said she could quite without any repercussions.)

  46. LadeeDa*

    This is one of the worst things I have ever heard happening at work! I would also feel sick about going into work if I was forced into therapy, forced into staying late (I actually just wouldn’t, I’d just walk out), and being forced to hear about coworkers’ mental health issues. It isn’t my business, and WORK isn’t where we deal with that sort of thing!!

    I rarely advocate for pursuing a bad situation legally, or through HR, or in your cause through your executive board- but if you can afford to lose your job or leave your job at a moments notice, this is something I might just fight. It is so invasive and so inappropriate, I would like to see this guy reprimanded.

    In your letter, it wasn’t clear or maybe I missed it- but is he a licensed therapist? If he is, then surely his certification board would like to know he is FORCING people into therapy. When you are in therapy you sign a patient/ therapist agreement- so both parties have to be willing participants.

    And if he is NOT a licensed therapist, then wouldn’t the licensing board want to know someone is practicing without a license?

    This whole thing is disgusting. Please post an update and let us know what happens!

    1. Moonbeam Malone*

      Forcing people into therapy, and conducting therapy sessions for people he DIRECTLY SUPERVISES. That, to me, seems like a pretty huge ethics breach as a manager, and as a therapist!

  47. Mockingdragon*


    I literally choked reading that headline. And it’s so much worse than it even sounded. Holy shit. No. Mandatory INDIVIDUAL therapy would be over the line! There is so much shit that SHOULD not be shared with coworkers even if everyone involved was comfortable!

    “It’s great for team-building” is what someone would say if they’ve never (known they) known someone with mental illness and never experienced it for themselves. Yeah, if your whole life is pretty rosy and fits the norm you could “bond” over basic life stuff. Anyone who’s ever had anything go wrong in that field should know better.

  48. Jiya*

    Everyone else has already covered the ‘get out quick’ options, but while you’re still there? First, I’d feel free to lie constantly at these sessions – your boss is not entitled to any of your mental health information, let alone childhood traumas. Alternatively, you can just answer everything with ‘n/a’ and stay mum at the sessions. Nothing to report here!

    Second, maybe get a doctor’s note saying that the office therapy is interfering with an already-existing course of therapy? (Again, I’d feel free to lie or stretch the truth here. One appointment counts as outside therapy!) I get if you don’t want to bother with that, though. Good luck, and be well.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Each day choose a different superhero origin story as your trauma to speak about. Or watch your overly-dramatic cases crime series of choice the night before and be the main victim the next day.

      I think I’d start with when both my parents were shot in an alley…

      1. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Some days I feel like I’m from another planet, although my years growing up in rural Kansas were really quite idyllic.

  49. Falling Diphthong*

    Oh hells no.

    I took this job after getting head-hunted for it and don’t want my resume to look like I’m flighty.

    “The job started requiring two hours of mandatory group therapy on top of our regular work, with no compensation” is a textbook example of a situation where people will nod and get it. This a crazy story the new interviewer can dine out on. As with “the job didn’t turn out to be what had been described”–it’s a problem if your resume shows a long list of this happening over and over (common factor is you) or one short stay (anyone can take a job that turns out crazy).

    1. The Original K.*

      Right. It’s like the person whose company required her to sleep on the floor in the office when she traveled there. “Why did you leave your last job?” “They made me do this bonkers thing” is fine. No employer worth working for is going to think this is reasonable.

  50. A person*

    Agree with many others. Stop going to the sessions. Leave on time. Let your like minded colleagues know what you’re doing and see if you can collectively push back, but stop going to the sessions- they are making you physically ill! What’s the worst they’ll do, fire you for not going? Then you can take this to an employment lawyer.

    Also agree you should report this guy to his licensing board ASAP (like while everyone else is in morning therapy) and contact the exec board to tell them if they haven’t resolved the situation by x date you will resign.

    1. Manchmal*

      Yeah, I like this advice more than the “quit immediately” advice. If the OP isn’t so concerned about not having this job, why not just “decline to participate.” Go in and leave at your regular time. Work on your work. If boss asks where you are, just say “I’ve decided the group therapy isn’t for me. I’m declining to participate. Also, I’m not able to stay two hours past my normal working hours.” Leave it on the boss to make a stink. Would the boss straight up fire you?? If they recruited you and need you, I seriously doubt it.

  51. HereKittyKitty*

    I can’t believe “Don’t commit psychological warfare on your employees” is something that needs to be spelled out. Please quit today.

    As a side note, if this was happening at my work and I was totes okay with quitting at some point, I’d attend the sessions and provide such graphic and uncomfortable personal information until they voluntarily suspended it all together- but that’s just my imagination :)

  52. mreasy*

    I have been institutionalized for mental health issues, and we only had group therapy ONCE a day! This is…beyond.

    1. beckysuz*

      Yes, same. I spent 4 months in an intensive in-patient program for my eating disorder years ago. Even we did not have this much therapy. This is so unbelievably egregious and unprofessional!! Who in their right mind could ever think it was appropriate to ask people to divulge and discuss childhood sexual trauma with colleagues?!? My brain hurts just thinking about it. What’s next? No bathroom doors so you can watch Bob from accounting poop? Live streaming to the office as Kathy from llama herding gives birth ? Better yet let’s just invite the whole gang in the room and Bob can hold her leg while she pushes! Yeah I know that sounds extreme, but to me that’s exactly how invasive and unprofessional this “therapy” is.

  53. animaniactoo*

    “Therapy is an intensely personal process which requires extreme vulnerability to be effective. I strongly believe that such a level of vulnerability would be counterproductive to maintaining productive working relationships with my co-workers. I am unwilling to damage my relationships with my co-workers – not only do I deserve to be able to never tell anyone that I wet the bed for 4 years as a kid; you deserve not to have me know such details about you if you don’t have the trust, confidence, and comfort to tell me that and have to wait until we’ve both worked to get past any judgment on either of our side and stop being awkward about it. P.S. No, I did not actually wet the bed for 4 years… but did thinking I did create any positive benefit in how you viewed me for the past minute and a half?”

    You want me to show up for mandatory group therapy and therapize – this is the statement you’re going to get from me when I “share”.

  54. Sunshine Brite*

    I didn’t even get to the bottom of the letter. As a clinical social worker, my response is a vocal WTF. Please report your boss to whatever mental health practice board they’re subject to as this is highly unethical. There are significant boundary violations, dual relationships, lack of informed consent, lack of voluntary treatment, etc.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      This is so out there. I can’t emphasize enough to report this.

      Also, mandatory treatment can only occur through court order. I’ve had to monitor people in significant distress while waiting for them to meet statutory requirements to obtain said court orders. This is also breaking laws in addition to practice standards.

  55. MuseumChick*

    This is very much a non-serious answer to your problem. Do not actually do this.

    Make every session VERY uncomfortable:

    “Well, I’ve been more stressed than normal due to these mandatory meetings. I’m being forced to stay two hours past when I normally leave, without pay, because of them.”

    “IBS is really acting up, I was on the toilet for like 30 minuets this morning.”

    “Sarah saying X remind me of (insert long, drawn out story, with lots of irrelevant details). Watch as people’s eyes glaze over.”

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Actually I was going to give something similar as a serious answer. It sounds to me like the OP is willing and able to walk over this. If and only if that is the case… would this approach work.

      OP can spend her time talking about all the stress that these mandatory sessions have caused in her life. Make up stories about how the extra hours are causing irreparable friction in her marriage. How she feels guilt over being away from her child for these extra hours in a day.

      Along with that the OP can dredge up some interpersonal things that she wants to discuss with the person who organized this. How resentful she is because of the missed time with her family. How she feels violated by the person who wants her private information and details.

      Then I’d get a couple of accomplices*, stage some sort of conflict that starts in the group session, then carries out into the workplace to demonstrate what a spectacularly bad idea it is for people who work together to be in a group therapy session together.

      In other words, I think I’d find a way to subversively kill this idea from the inside… or have fun with it until my last day… whichever came first.

      *Obviously this may affect their jobs, so they would need to be willing.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      I think if OP wanted to, she could start fixating on how upset these sessions are making her. “I threw up this morning because of how much I dread these sessions” is at least an interesting thing to share if the group is out of material. (unlikely to budget the boss though – probably they’d just dig down even deeper)

        1. Natalie*

          Oo, I like this plan. And if you can’t time it that well, get some old school air sickness bags and bring it, for your boss. Hi Boss, let’s analyze my vomit. For therapy!

          (Don’t actually do this.)

      1. JSPA*

        And if already ready to quit, perhaps follow up with a classic and timely group empowerment saying.

        “So in response to the damage being forced upon me, i say to you: ‘It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.’ ” etc.

        Because this is practically a Milgram experiment. Except you’re all expected to both administer and receive shocks. And the shocks are real.

    3. MuseumChick*

      @ Randomusername and Sloan, I think you guys have convinced this could be a viable response to what the OP is going through.

  56. AnonyMouse*

    I agree, I think this isn’t worth trying to stay over. However, my selfish ask is if you’re able to stay in touch with someone there for the sake of the AAM update. I’m really curious to see how this one plays out, because this is crazy!

    As Alison pointed out the trend of these things, and I wonder if these managers are taking the “employees want to be treated like human beings/respected” advice to far. Yes, I want to be treated like a human being and treated with respect, but I also still have boundaries. Luckily I’m not in an office that’s doing crap like this, but I also have a manager who I think is one LinkedIn think piece away from implementing something like this. He already doesn’t respect boundaries on an individual basis. For example, my job search was outed to him without my consent (don’t want to dwell on how that wasn’t cool. It’s already said and done, and now this is the reality that I’m in). I’ve had numerous conversations with him where I’ve stated that under normal circumstances, I would not have shared with him that I’m searching. He still CONSTANTLY asks for updates on my search. It’s a frustrating situation because I need him as a reference, so I feel obligated to share but I really don’t want to discuss it with him.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      “treated like human beings /respected” and “forced into horrific boundary-violating emotional exposure” have exactly nothing in common with each other…

      1. AnonyMouse*

        This is what I was trying to communicate, but probably didn’t do an excellent job of. What I was trying to say was that I wonder if managers (based on the trend of some type of forced feelings/mental health sharing in the work place related letters AAM received) are over correcting their behavior. Like their hearing this messaging in articles that says very rational things, like “treat your employees with respect,” etc and somehow they’re misinterpreting it to mean “this mandatory feelings chart would be a great way to show my employees I respect them” when in reality it’s a terrible, boundary violating idea.

  57. Liz T*

    Do not attend even once. I agree with above commenters who say to give the org one chance– perhaps an email to the supervisor with high authorities copied to the tune of, “I will not be participating as this is an egregious violation of my privacy. If participation is a condition of my continued employment, I will tender my resignation shortly.”

    1. Liz T*

      Though thinking about it, I don’t know what they could do to make me still want to work with them after this.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        That’s my take, too. I would NEVER be able to work for a boss who thought that was a good idea again.

  58. lindsay*

    None of what I’m about to say makes this at all okay and the way they are approaching this is just wrong and makes me concerned about how they practice their clinical work.

    That said, I think I maybe know a bit about where they are coming from. First of all, in a clinical/social services environment everyone, including non-patient care staff, is impacted by what they see and hear. It’s important that when talking about self care in these environments everyone is included. And, I literally just got out of a discussion about how Adverse Childhood Experiences impact the physical health of adults. It’s fascinating.

    Anyway, it sounds to me like this employer has taken to heart this ACEs study work and wants their staff to be able to manage their clients and the stress of their jobs while still taking time to care for themselves. They are going about this in 1000% the wrong way, but just throwing out there that it may be coming from a good place.

    OP- have you discussed with your manager how this makes you feel? Does your employer have an EAP plan? If this is indeed coming from a good place, suggesting they replace this current plan with an EAP which would allow staff to get therapy sessions SOMEWHERE ELSE for free might be a good plan. Also, have you tried simply refusing? If you’re going to quit anyway, I might try simply saying “I appreciate the intention (even if you don’t) but these sessions are extremely uncomfortable for me so I won’t be attending any more.” Then see what happens. Worst case you get fired and you were going to leave anyway.

    And just to throw this out there to everyone reading: therapy can be good and helpful and is not shameful and you should feel empowered to find a therapist that works for you if you are interested in trying it. Go forth and process issues so you can be a better friend/parent/spouse/etc. Also you’ll live longer.

    1. Cathy Gale*

      No, no, even in a clinical environment where you see horrendous things like children dying, your ACE score is no one’s business but your own. A residency director once told me and a group of others that you don’t *want* residents to unload their personal experiences to this degree on their preceptors (think of a mentor who helps you learn to work in a clinical setting: that’s your preceptor). Your boss is not your therapist. Your preceptor is not your therapist. Your teacher, professor, coworker, and Neelix, the morale officer on the starship Voyager – none of them are your therapist. And this person is licensed, they not only know this but are certainly subject to reaffirming these ethical standards.

      You can offer wellness programs, you can offer EAP, you can have people come in and talk about mental health issues like PTSD and suicide prevention, all of which I have been happy to see at former employers, but there is just no excuse for this person to push employees into mandatory therapy. This guy needs his license taken away.

        1. animaniactoo*

          The thing is – it doesn’t actually matter if the intention is good because the plan is so harmful. And a licensed mental health care professional – particularly at the director level can’t tell that? Has lost the plot so firmly somewhere? They need to at a minimum head back for some re-education. Yanking the license is probably the correct move.

          Out of curiosity, I sent this post to my godmother who is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in early childhood trauma and PTSD… and got back the response I was more or less expecting: “OH YUCK”.

    2. Observer*

      Nope. If the boss is in any way competent, he HAS to know that what he is doing cannot be useful for all of the reasons outlined by numerous comments. And if there are licenses in play, as the OP implies, it’s really, really hard to believe that he’s not aware of at least SOME of the issues. Which means he DOES NOT CARE. That doesn’t come from a good place.

  59. Anonymouse*

    You’d think that a mental health professional would understand that no one is entitled to making you share your feelings. I feel horrible for you OP. I agree with many of the other comments, if the board doesn’t fix this, quit TODAY. It is really beyond intrusive and inexcusable.

  60. ChemistryChick*

    I…what…how…oh dear.

    This is so beyond bat-ish. This is…this is full blown pterodactyl-ish. OP, run like the wind. I agree with those saying to report your boss, as well. This is beyond the pale.

  61. ShwaMan*

    Allison is right, this may be the worst thing I ever heard of.

    I’d be tempted to just stop going to the sessions, and keep working your previous hours. If the manager wants to write you up and eventually fire you, tell him fine, but prepare for a lawsuit (both the org and personally). This *is* a hill to die on.

    1. HJC*

      Came to leave this exact comment. I’d do all the other things (demand the board deal with this, complain against boss’s license), but I’d also refuse to participate going forward with a “No, thanks, this is stressful and invasive and I do not find it helpful so I won’t be participating in the future”. Perhaps it will give OP’s coworkers some inspiration to also opt-out.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Agree. This is a boundary setting situation. If the OP is already in a place to walk away from then I would just say no. See what they do.

  62. tink*

    I want to vomit reading this because the idea of being forced into “mandatory work therapy” with my coworkers is such a disturbing idea. (Heck, I even raise my eyebrows at things that get sent around like “mindfulness to reduce diagnosed or regular anxiety” because that’s not really my job’s place, imo.)

  63. Stuff*

    I wouldn’t necessarily quit as a first option. First I’d tell my manager I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of the therapy sessions and respectfully decline. If they continue with the ‘mandatory ‘ crap ask them if they’re willing to lose you as an employee. And as Allison said if you can get the ones who agree with you to say the same thing all the better.

  64. Minny's Chocolate Pie*

    Like everyone else, I agree this is ridiculous, likely not legal. I hope you quit.

    I think I would attend the sessions for 1 week and make up the craziest graphic stories (probably just regurgitate story lines from Criminal Minds) to make a mockery of these sessions, then give my 2 week notice, file complaints everywhere I could, and hire a lawyer.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Off topic but I love your user name. And the idea of making a mockery of these sessions is great. Plus all the rest of your post.

  65. Noah*

    Don’t quit. Just refuse to go to these things and make them fire you. You’ll deserve (and probably get) unemployment.

  66. jhjh*

    Three hours a day extra, fifteen extra hours a week! You can’t leave until therapy is done at 6:30, right?

    Either quitting now or just leaving at 3:30 and refusing to engage for the 8 am one (do you think they won’t fire you as you were head-hunted and are presumably hard to replace?), as well as reporting this everywhere you possibly can, are reasonable. I’m so sorry, this sucks.

  67. Baska*

    If you CAN get out, then you definitely should. But if you couldn’t… what if you just made up zany, completely over-the-top stories when you went? Like, obviously impossible stories. “Childhood trauma? Oh, yeah, I was staying at my uncle’s place once and discovered a door to Narnia in the back of a closet. Had to fight my way through an army of centaurs before they let me come home. Wild times, I tells ya!” or “What were my parents like? Well, Mom was an auror and Dad worked for the Ministry of Magic collecting contraband muggle artifacts. You should’ve seen the enchanted toaster he brought home this one time!”

    Make a game of it to see how long you can keep it going. They’re making you do something ridiculous, so toss the ridiculousness right back in their faces. If they tell you to take it seriously, you could either double-down (“I AM serious! That toaster was inhabited by a Decepticon!”) or else tell them exactly what you think (“If I need therapy, I’ll see a therapist, one who’s not my boss. This is insaned and I’m going to treat it with exactly as much seriousness as it deserves.”)

    You don’t owe your boss and coworkers detailed “should-be-saved-for-therapy” levels of personal information. Don’t give in to this.

  68. Ann O'Nemity*

    Is it worth it to try to have a direct conversation with the boss?

    Doing so may result in (1) the boss relenting and allowing the OP to skip the sessions, or (2) mutually agreeing that this workplace isn’t a fit for the OP and planning a longer notice period so the OP can find another job and the employer can find a replacement.

  69. Observer*

    I want to reiterate something. Whatever else you do, PLEASE DEFINITELY report this to the licensing board! Because even if you never have to work for him again, and he is forced to stop this madness (and that’s really the only way to describe it, although I might add a few other adjectives if this weren’t a work-safe blog) he is STILL someone who should NOT be dealing with vulnerable people, especially in a therapeutic capacity.

  70. Lumen*

    This is horrifying, traumatic, and has the potentially to seriously harm and endanger the people involved. Makes me wonder if the clinician facilitating the sessions can be reported somehow to their licensing board. This is unethical.

  71. Quackeen*

    I am flabbergasted. This is absolutely batshit insane.

    A group therapy session weekly would be crazy and inappropriate. Ten sessions per week is freaking nuts. It’s just…nuts. And I used to work with some of the most boundary-challenged mental health providers I’d ever met. Even none of them would do this! Who even has time for this? Who has 10 hours worth of content for this? This is insane!

    I guess I’m not offering much value here, just adding to the chorus of “These people are crazy. It’s not you.”

  72. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I once worked for a mental health provider to a vulnerable population and it was made clear at the annual meeting that, unless you were recovering from abuse or an addiction AND officially shared the story with all coworkers company wide, you would never get a promotion, and even holding a support position may not be allowed. Crazy stuff. I was gone one month after my first annual meeting.

  73. That's a big fat negative, Skipper*

    I admire your commitment, OP. I once quit a job on the spot for much less. Still pretty inappropriate, but nothing close to the lunacy you’ve described here.

  74. Cookienay*

    Am I the only one who thought that OP and co-workers should have traumatic experiences based on movies?
    “Well, I discovered I was a wizard at age 12, and the most dangerous dark wizard in the world wanted me dead, so that’s pretty stressful”
    No? Just me?

    Sorry you’re going through this OP. Hope this is resolved soon. (Not trying to trivialize what is happening, just a bizarre response to a bizarre demand).

  75. Jennifer*

    I think this would be great if this was voluntary and private and done by a professional. Some people in these professions experience burnout. But making it mandatory and telling people to share their horrible sad stories. Just awful.

  76. TheSnarkyB*

    Hey y’all – please excuse me if this has been said before. I have a quick thought and can’t scroll through the comments at the moment, but I think this is important enough that it’s worth being said.

    Licensed mental health worker here — the administrator (OP) in this case may actually have an easier time if they do not band together with other staff. Any other staff with a license in mental health is bound to a set of ethics related to that profession, and most social work/therapy/counseling ethics have a process built into them for escalation of a complaint. For instance, the other staff may feel bound by their ethical guidelines to go to the director first, have a conversation, give it time + then go to the board, have a conversation, give it time (rinse/repeat).

    The administrator in this case is absolutely right that this is a violation of the person’s license – this director is engaging in a dual relationship in a way that is ethically prohibited on a couple different levels. They wuold have standing to call the state board and report the dual relationship, abuse of power, and violation of the ADA (even if it’s legally only arguable, you can report it as a civilian and be wrong later, but it would at least get the issue flagged).

    OP, I encourage you to check out the licensure board for your state – it may be called something like the Office of Professions, might be Board of Education, or might be something like State Office of Mental Health. There should be a hotline or a number you can call, and hopefully they would at least put a stop to this immediately, while they begin an investigation.

    Good luck!

    1. fposte*

      Oh, that’s an interesting detail that I wouldn’t have guessed–thanks for the info. (And hi, Snarky!)

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        Hi fposte! I missed you while I was away! Glad you’re still here :D

        P.S. – OP, of course there’s a lot of value in banding together with colleagues if you’re talking to the boss himself or to the board, but I just wanted to make you and Alison aware of this ethics quirk that gives you quite a bit more leeway when it comes to the state regulators, and cutting right to the chase.

  77. T*

    I am just stunned at this, I’m speechless. Not only is asking about prior abuse grossly inappropriate, it’s grooming behavior for predators. I think the only way you can salvage this job is band together and demand an immediate response from the higher ups. Having multiple people threaten to quit would hopefully get their attention. I’m so sorry you’re going through this OP.

  78. That guy*

    I’m a psychologist. This raises some serious ethical red flags from a professional perspective. Mental health professionals are forbidden from having what is called a “multiple relationship” with the person they are treating. That means they cannot have a personal relationship outside of being the client’s therapist. It’s particularly ethically problematic for the therapist to also be in a position of authority, such as being the client’s boss. Therapy also requires informed consent and should never be coerced.

    There are situations where an employer might ethically require an employee to participate in therapy, such as if the employee has a drug or alcohol problem that is affecting their work and the therapy is required to ensure that the employee can perform their work safely. However, that doesn’t seem to apply here. And, in that situation the therapist needs to be an independent therapist not affiliated with the employer in order to avoid a multiple relationship situation.

    If the situation is really as described, the employer is committing a serious breach of ethics that should be reported to their licensing agencies. OP may want to wait to make the report until after they are safely employed at a new company.

    1. OG Karyn*

      Yeah, I had that same thought about “multiple relationships.” I’m not a psychologist/psychiatrist, but I work in the legal community with mental health professionals, and I have my own therapist as well, so I’ve read up on ethical practices – my own therapist actually goes to my synagogue, and when we first started sessions, he told me, “I can’t ethically approach you or let on that I know who you are, and we can’t have a personal relationship, but if you want to engage me in conversation socially if we see each other at temple, that is entirely your choice.” One would think that that’s what this boss is doing – trying to play therapist AND boss at the same time.

      Personally I have no issue if people know I’m in therapy, but I am glad to know there are these defined lines for those who are uncomfortable with it. I’m actually more weirded out when Facebook suggests him as a friend…

  79. Ugh*

    the asking about childhood abuse is… I don’t want to say “more common” but has been popping up more frequently than I’ve expected in both interviews and workplace forms. In fact, someone wrote into another workplace podcast who went through an interview that asked the interviewee about any past childhood trauma or abuse in order to suss out if they were a healthy candidate. The guest, a job coach, said this is becoming increasingly normal? Idk. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it at all and doesn’t seem relevant to your job duties, LW.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      I’m guessing there are lots of perverts asking people this question to get future masturbation material. Yes, I am being serious.

      1. Ugh*

        Ew. You know, nowadays, that wouldn’t surprise me. That or people are WAY off base in how they interview and find a good candidate.

      2. aebhel*

        Or just this weird voyeuristic thing of treating other peoples’ lives as free entertainment, which I see a lot in certain social media circles. Like, hi, sorry, my childhood trauma is not a f***ing TV show, thanks, go watch Supernatural if you need your angst-fix.

        1. authentic eliza*

          Someone I had just met was pushing me to tell him all my trauma, because he “likes knowing people’s backgrounds”.

          So fricking common. Still disgusting.

      3. Airy*

        I’m reminded of the Kiefer Sutherland character in “Freeway” who coaxes the Reese Witherspoon character into telling him about a time her mother’s boyfriend molested her and how degrading it was in order to savour humiliating her before trying to kill her.

    2. Airy*

      Well, it absolutely shouldn’t be considered normal because it’s extremely intrusive and it amounts to discrimination against anyone who has been abused – writing them off as damaged goods and not a “healthy candidate.” Abuse in the past is no indicator of what someone will be like as an employee and to deny people the chance to earn a living because they’ve already suffered harm over which they had no control is evil.

  80. I Work on a Hellmouth*


    I mean, I would totally quit–but I also kind of hope you organize the reasonable half of your office into pushing the hell back on that, because OMFG NO WAY. Heck, I’d tip off local media to the practice if there is a hotline to call, just because NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

  81. T*

    Sorry one more comment, what helped me cope when I was in a bat sh!t crazy job was having a conversation with my husband, reviewing our finances and having a plan in place in case you need to get up and walk out. I had it planned down to what I would say and cleaned my desk out discreetly when things got crazy. I was able to give notice (two hellish weeks) but having my husband on board with a plan in place reduced my stress quite a bit. In the end do what’s best for you, screw ‘me.

    1. The Original K.*

      I think this is a very good idea. Sit down and run the numbers – how long could you live on just your spouse’s income, what would adding you to your husband’s insurance do to his paycheck, what do you have in savings, could you tighten your budget anywhere, etc. That way you know definitively that you a) have your husband’s support, and b) what your household finances will look like in case you have to quit and you have no income for a while. Seeing it mapped out may assuage any “but what about the benefits?” nerves you might feel about leaving. (This would work for me. I tend to be nervous about money due to a period of unemployment where things got very tight, so I tend to keep a close watch over my finances.)

    2. Natalie*

      Excellent point. Knowing where the emergency hatch is can help avoid that trapped feeling that leads to panic which leads to poor decision making. Both my spouse and I have made those kinds of plans before.

  82. Notasecurityguard*

    If this were my workplace (and I was leaving anyway) I’d make up some crazy super-uncomfortable stuff to “share” during “therapy.”
    Just whatever you can think of that you would never want to hear from someone else on purpose.

    I think your boss would pretty quickly realize the benefits of keeping therapy private.

    Bonus game: try and get your coworkers to break character and crack up

    1. Jennifer*

      Like the grief therapy episode of The Office where people started giving plots of movies where people died as their “stories.”

  83. Episkey*

    I agree with a lot of the above — if you can afford to quit, just leave at your normal time, 3:30 pm, don’t worry about going to the PM session. For the AM sessions, leave for a coffee run at 8:25 AM every morning so you aren’t in the office and don’t go to that session either. If they fire you, file for unemployment. You will most likely get it, even if they try to contest it. Make this as difficult & uncomfortable for them as possible.

  84. Paloma Pigeon*

    I just recently left a toxic job, and one of the factors was that working with folks in the mental health profession was really, really difficult. Everything was about feelings – not about getting needed tasks done. I think this may be coming from a complete misunderstanding of what it means to effectively manage a team. Speaking from my experience, these folks tended to pathologize any thinking that was purely business-oriented, and it’s possible that your manager is holding these sessions because they are concerned you’re not sharing your feelings about how things are going. Oh, I don’t know, I’m just throwing spaghetti against the wall here because this is wackadoodle. Get out get out get out.

  85. Perfectly Particular*

    OP – this situation is so bad that you just have to take care of yourself & worry about everyone else once you’re safe! If you can afford to quit, do it right now. Give 2 weeks notice, but decline the mandatory therapy for the rest of the time, indicating that you need to focus on your wrap-up activities. Let any colleagues that are on the “this is batshit crazy” side know why you are leaving, and that you will report Boss once you are gone. They will make good references, since your boss clearly cannot be trusted. So sorry you are dealing with this. Vomit-inducing stress at work, through no fault of your own, is just not okay.

  86. Jennifer*

    And making people stay until the 5:30 session is just plain inconsiderate. No one wants to go to any sort of meeting that time of day.

  87. Jennifer Juniper*

    EW. Ew. Ew. Ew. Ew.

    Who does she work for, some kind of therapy cult a la Synanon? Yikes! GTFO NOW! This office is full of evil bees.

  88. Steph*

    Does the boss belong to a professional association or regulatory college that deals with professional conduct? If so, OP could also report him to that body. Any mental health professional is expected to understand that consent to therapy must be freely given, and by threatening job action, he’s coercing his staff. I think any regulatory body would be very concerned about his clear lack of understanding in this very foundational area of professional ethics.

  89. OG Karyn*

    Part of me wants to tell you to start griping about the boss in your therapy sessions and noting that as trauma. Let them fire you for it, then go after unemployment.

    BUT. I think the more prudent option is just quitting and going on your husband’s insurance, since you are in a position to do so. I’ve worked for places like this (not quite THIS crazy, but I worked for a lawyer who required me to be on call 24/7 for a salary of $35k and another one who made it mandatory that the staff come to a party at her house where we were forced to take mambo lessons as ‘team building’) and I quit both of them because my mental and physical health were spiraling out of control.

    And I would also recommend getting some actual therapy after this experience – bad jobs can give us PTSD.

  90. OlympiasEpiriot*

    And here we thought there were bosses in January in the running for Worst Of The Year.

    Nope, not anymore. This one, however, yup, they’re in the race.

  91. Delphine*

    What everyone else said, but also–how do they expect employees to be functional after an AM and PM therapy session? If employees actually chose to go all in and use the group therapy time as the higher-ups want them to, there are going to be a bunch of emotionally exhausted people walking around the office on a daily basis.

  92. aebhel*

    OH MY GOD.

    LW, if you can possibly get out of there, do so. And I would report them to whatever regulatory body is relevant; this place is a nest of evil bees, and if they’re providing mental health care then that adds a whole other layer of awful to this.

  93. n*

    Just want to add to what everyone else has already said: this is insanity.

    And it actually reminds me of mind control techniques that cults/mind-control organizations use to control members. “Public confession of sins” is a tactic many of these groups use. There’s no way this is anything except an abuse of power.

    Listen to your body’s physiological response and get out now.

  94. Hallowflame*

    Everyone else has pretty much covered the actionable advice above; Stop going to the ABUSIVE, HIGHLY UNETHICAL group therapy meetings, go back to your normal work hours, report your boss and workplace to any and all licensing authorities to whom they’re subject, and consult a lawyer about possible ADA violations or other avenues for a lawsuit.
    As far as your coworkers go, I want to point out that the ones that seem to be enjoying these forces psychological torture sessions may take some voyeuristic pleasure in other people’s pain and misfortune. These are the same people that gossip together about so-and-so’s ugly divorce and get giddy over a reality tv star getting humiliated on front of millions of viewers. These therapy sessions are giving them a front row seat to their preferred form of entertainment.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Hallowflame, your interpretation makes a lot of sense. I, on the other hand, naively read it as those people playing kiss-ass.

      1. Perpal*

        Could be any and all of the above; could even be that for those this falls within normal work hours, they see this as 2 hrs a day they get to dodge work.

        1. fposte*

          And then there are those who really want to tell people their own stories and may need actual therapy that isn’t this. There will be all kinds of people in the “pro” group but it doesn’t matter–these still aren’t sessions that should be happening.

  95. Cactus, MA, LPCC*

    I’m a therapist and this reads as grossly unethical to me. We have specific ethical codes around avoiding duel relationships etc. You should report him to the board that licenses him

  96. Perpal*

    Wow OP glad you are in a position to walk away!
    Seems to me the best options are 1) quit now or 2) refuse to participate and see if the person behind this is fired soon. And of course, report to everyone, encourage others to do the same.

  97. MaureenC*

    I only have one thing to add: Save all the receipts you can. Talk to an attorney about the best way of doing so. This sounds like the kind of organization that would “accidentally” delete the email archives when they get notice from the state board.

  98. Miss Displaced*

    These are all horrible and intrusive. There is no way I would “participate” in divulging such personal things (marriage, health, traumas, mental state, etc., etc.) to my boss or coworkers, and likewise, nor would I want to hear about their personal issues. ICK! That’s what private therapists and AA are for! And worse, TWICE a day group shares?!

    I hope you can all push back on this intrusive and invasive idea. I would never have filled out the questionnaire (or left them all blank), because there are many, many things in my life I would never share at work because it is simply not their business.

    If it were me, I would continue to work my normal hours, and if pressed use Alison’s script. “I’m not comfortable participating in this intrusive and inappropriate activity.” Unfortunately, it’s hard to be a boat-rocker, and you may end up being fired and/or having to leave. But it may also get this nutball to stop what they’re doing before it does turn into a lawsuit.

  99. Jennifer*

    Lease, please, please report this To the state agency that licensesvthis clinic. As an LCSW this is INSANE. I have never commented on any blog before but this makes my blood boil. Your boss is so far out of line. I also encourage you, if he is licensed, to report him, personally, to his state licensing board. You can do this anonymously. Good Luck!

  100. Amy*

    One thing to consider: this is a legal and ethical problem on a number of levels. If your board of directors is okay with that, run. But first, it might be worthwhile to have a lawyer send the board a letter describing the issues and liability. A clinic or law school might even be able to assist for no or minimal cost (if you were local, I’d do it for entertainment value and contingency, so asking around might turn up other assistance). Best case scenario, your boss is shown the door instead.

    Also, good grief, but report your boss for ethical violations and stop attending. Don’t even attempt to justify it. Just resume normal activities and ignore the crazy until it stops or you get fired.

  101. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    things like this piss me off and sicken me, and I’m an over sharer of my personal information. Another spot to look for legal violations is Privacy laws (in Canada, that’s where things like sick notes or other health related information is usually handled), in addition to work safety laws, or human rights.

  102. osrapla*

    I have no unique advice beyond what’s already been said, but I do want to add some empathy for your situation. I’m currently part of a clinical education program that requires some unstructured “group therapy” or “inter-personal relationship” time with our colleagues and I’ve found it really harmful and damaging – and it’s just once a week!! I can’t imagine doing it twice a day, every day.

  103. NotSharingToday*

    OP, I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this. In all of the horrible workplace situations covered on this site, this might be the worst. I feel actively sick just reading about it, so I can’t even imagine what you’re going through. I hope you are able to escape very soon.

    If this isn’t the “worst boss” contest winner for 2019, I dread to see what the rest of the year will bring.

    1. L.T.*

      Yeah I think we have one of the most obvious candidates for “Worst Boss 2019” here. This is definitely one we’ll want an update on by the end of the year!

  104. Fergus*

    I have been reading AAM for years.I think this might be the worst story, only other one I can think of is the boss who was requiring his employees to test if they were a match for a kidney. Wonder if it’s the same boss.

  105. Common Welsh Green*

    It’s official. You have the most batshit crazy manager I have ever heard of, including the guy who wanted my dad to strip down to his skivvies and wade into a sludge tank full of petroleum waste. If you can afford to quit, run like a bunny. And if you decide you have to participate for a while, invent a background for yourself and stick to it like glue: orphaned at a young age, sent to relatives who begrudgingly took you in but made your needy status clear to everyone, frequently locked in your room and denied food and exercise, offered an escape to private school only to discover that your teacher hated your father and wanted to take it out on you, surrounded on all sides by people who blamed you for circumstances beyond your control. (Yeah, it’s Harry Potter. See how long it takes him to catch on.)

  106. J.E.*

    Leave yesterday. Don’t worry about looking flighty. Any sane potential workplace would agree with you once you explained your reason for leaving. If you just stopped showing up for the sessions what would they do, fire you? That doesn’t sound so bad in this case. Is the irony lost on this organization that they provide services to those with mental health and trauma needs, yet the imposed “therapy” sessions may actually be causing trauma to people?
    To others in horrible work situations like this, get out right away if you can. Don’t think you have to stay for a year or some other minimum amount of time. If you can leave, do it!

  107. Personcommentingonthis*

    OP, do you have an opportunity to consult a lawyer? It may be illegal for your employer not to pay you overtime, and make you sit through mandatory therapy. I think only courts can mandate folks go into therapy, but an employer certainly can’t, I feel like. If it’s all illegal, I wonder if you’re eligible for compensation, etc.

    1. fposte*

      If she’s an exempt employee, she’s not entitled to overtime. Federally speaking, it looks like it can indeed be legal to require your employee to attend counseling. However, it should be when the employer has “a genuine reason to doubt whether that employee can perform job-related functions” absent treatment. (Link in followup.) I doubt they’re meeting that bar, so they’re asking for ADA trouble.

  108. TootsNYC*

    if the boss is a clinician, and is attempting to act as a therapist, I wonder if there’s some licensing or ethics board that this could be flagged for.

    because it’s not really ethical to be someone’s manager AND their health professional.

  109. Lobsterman*

    OP, whether or not you quit, call a lawyer, and report to relevant agencies! This is awful and needs to be stopped. :(

    Also, obviously, please consider quitting. With no notice.

  110. Oranges*

    No. Nope. Nooooooope! Report that sucker to all the places. I’m alarmed at his utter lack of boundaries and my skin is crawling about all the boundaries he’s (not) putting in place during his sessions with clients.

    Find some bad (non-sex) fan-fic that makes no logical sense. Congrats! You now have a “history” you can talk about. Bonus points if it’s bad fantasy fan-fic because logic fails so hard in them.

  111. Todd*

    If you are willing to quit over it, I would just say “sorry, I have my own personal counselor, I’m not sharing my issues with coworkers”, and then simply don’t attend the meetings. If you are willing to quit, are they willing to fire you over it.

  112. Nesprin*

    I would do everything in my power to contact the chairman of the board. This is a extraordinarily bad practice, deeply unethical and a huge exposure to liability for the company.

    1. Agent Diane*

      Also, flag to the chairperson that this is 150 hours a week of staff time. What mission-important work is being done in a hurry, or not actually done at all, as a result of this? If you are in an admin role, you may even be able to quantify that (x fewer reports filed, x appointments with vulnerable service users postponed). If you carry on sticking around for the evening session, use that time to indetifying how this idea is putting the entire service at risk of failure.

      But walk, whistle-blowing as you go…

  113. TheRealDeal*

    To me, the most telling part of this issue is that the boss is involving the staff who are administrative. Having staff who deal with stressful patient interactions have a place to vent them sounds reasonable on the surface (without factoring in who is conducting it and how), but when you are including staff who have no possibility of that happening? You clearly have another agenda.

    I like the suggestion to simply refuse to attend, stating your reasons (invasion of privacy, increasing your working hours, it being unnecessary). OP, no one can make you walk into that room. Their choices are let you abstain or fire you, and if they fire you, I’d bet you’ve got a doozy of a lawsuit.

    1. TootsNYC*

      also–they should really only be dealing with stress issues that come up because of WORK, not any sexual abuse you may have suffered in the past.

  114. That One Person*

    No. Just no.

    This should NOT be mandantory, purely voluntary. There is no “one size fits all” option when it comes to helping people – mental health included. The fact that it’s done with the employer privy to everything will alienate people. The fact that it’s always as a group will alienate people. The fact that it’s done I. Work premises, during work time, or out of work time will alienate people. There are so many ways that this will turn at least one person off so I’m not surprised about half or so don’t like this.

    If we had this at my old retail job then sure we might’ve liked the extra break (though not the rush to get everything done before or after) and we likely would’ve used it to complain about things…but I would not have shared a single “deep, dark secret” with any of them. They’re my work colleagues and and I was on friendly terms with a lot of them, but would only consider a few as “actual” friends. I would hesitate even more if I thought my team leads might find out what was said.

    The person who decided this NEEDS to understand that this is NOT going to work for everyone and that they’re going to cause more issues than they intended. Whether it’s by people voicing their concerns, finding they have a lot of spots to fill, or that their employees are becoming more n more withdrawn remains to be seen.

  115. Michaela Westen*

    It took a while to process this, and I think I have something coherent to say now.
    In a normal situation IME it’s usually best to give authority the benefit of doubt. Do the people above the boundary-stomping boss know what he’s doing? If not and if you feel up to it, it would be worth letting them know and see if they take care of it. If they do (by firing him and getting a decent person in his place), you won’t have to leave the job. I want to stress *do this only if you feel up to it*.
    While you wait to see what happens, you could stop going to the therapy sessions. If you don’t want to do that, go to them and say you have no problems. Lie to enforce your boundaries. It’s necessary for your health. Maybe go only to the one that’s during your work hours?
    If upper management doesn’t get rid of your boss, report to everyone and everything – all the licensing boards, state boards, industry boards, everyone who’s the slightest bit pertinent should get a report. And quit the job whenever you want.
    Good luck!

  116. Lana Kane*

    A lot of things make me mad about this situation, but I have to say that part of my anger is around the larger issue of how vulnerable the typical American employee is (I’m sure other places are/could be worse, but I don’t live there so I will address what I know).

    This kind of BS has a chance of succeeding because our workforce is afraid. For one, salaries are no longer commensurate to cost of living in many areas, and jobs can be scarce. Starting over in a new company, if you find new employment, can set you back significantly in terms of benefits, seniority, time off accumulated, etc. Also, we went through a horrible recession not that long ago, and I really believe that the tension around it is still lingering. My own husband was laid off during the recession and was unemployed for 2 years. His return to the workforce, in a supposedly professional environment, was awful precisely because employers thought they could prey on people’s fears. Even now, with a wonderful, stable position, we are both extremely skittish and I know that whenever he gets called unexpectedly to his boss’s office, he cringes. This is the kind of environment where bad management thrives. Whether you’re a sociopath who charmed their way to the top, or just a Peter Principle mediocre manager, it all thrives because people are afraid. And it’s a real possibility that OP won’t find enough people who are willing to stick their necks out and push back.

    I’d ask the OP, since they are in a place where they can leave this job, to stick their own neck out a bit and try to help out any coworkers who may be in this situation. And yes, OP, if you have the ability to do so, run like the wind!

    1. Southern Yankee*

      This! I work at a great company and have for a long time. I’ve had a bad boss or two, but short and mild compared to some of the horror I’ve read at AAM. A few years ago, a new employee stopped by my office to tell me how refreshing it was to hear the grand-boss laugh at work. I was really taken aback but soon realized what a terrible toxic place she had escaped from in her last job.
      Reading letters like this makes me even more appreciative of my situation, but it is also very sad. OP, definitely get out! But please report this asshat to everyone and anyone you can (board, state license agency, etc) – do it for your coworkers who may not have the ability to quit.

    2. Jennifer*

      See, this is a problem for me. I am really worried about entering the US job market. My husband is an American and I am a Canadian.
      After living in Canada for 8 years we (I) decided we would move to California where he spent some years growing up because, Canada is cold and Huntington Beach is wonderful.
      Why am I worried?
      When he was re-entering the job market in the US, the employers wanted his tax returns in lieu of job history for the time he couldn’t work in Canada (immigration used to suck more). He had no tax returns with income for that time. I had tax returns with income. His employer (to be) would accept my tax returns for the two year period.
      This is wildly unethical and 100% illegal in Canada. And, I seriously can’t believe that I agreed to it. We very nearly broke up over it. I’m obviously cool with my husband seeing my tax returns. But, his employer? No. I feel violated.
      I’m extremely private about my credit and my income. People get the wrong idea. Ok, the taxman in Canada gets the wrong idea but, that’s a story for another day…
      Will I ever be able to get a job in the US without sharing this personal information? I have no criminal record or anything I’m trying to hide. In fact, I once had a government issued aviation security clearance. I just don’t need people knowing my business. Like, how much spousal support I receive from a previous marriage and the disability credits I claim for my kid.

  117. LD'S Mom*

    Does anyone actually share at these meetings?? Good grief, two hours a day, five days a week? It seems like at some point, people would run out of things to talk about. (Not dismissing serious mental health issues in any way, it’s just that this seems so excessive!)

  118. No real name here*

    I have a license that would allow me to work as a therapist if I wanted, and I find this HORRIFIC. I’d strongly consider reporting this to the licensing board for the type of license your supervisor holds. I can’t speak for all therapist-type licenses, but this would be a no-go for mine. Usually these types of licenses have very specific requirements on boundaries, mine particularly emphasizes that dual relationships are not okay (in this case, both boss and therapist relationships).

    Might also be good to report to the relevant party (EEOC?) for the gray area this causes for the ADA.

  119. Eternal Admin*

    My husband is on a state licensing board. He says the OP needs to report her boss to the board. You can’t force someone into therapy. If he wants to provide leadership and education, fine. But not group therapy.

    Myself? I’d be inclined to start making up bizarre stuff just to toy with the boss. What a loon.

  120. Liz*

    Stay. But at the next “session”, explain that the worst trauma you’ve ever experienced was from a boss who insisted on twice-daily therapy sessions with your co-workers. Ask – very seriously – how you’re supposed to trust that a coworker won’t divulge this information, or that your boss won’t use it in a future reference, or how you are supposed to work on your mental health if you’re stuck at work for an additional 2+ hours. Mention that you’d like to discuss – in therapy – how the anxiety of being forced to attend and participate in mandatory therapy sessions can be detrimental to someone’s health. What if they’re already in therapy, and what if the “advice” given in these “sessions” contradicts their (main) therapist’s advice? What if they have to get home to take care of their young child or aging parent OR THEIR PET FISH NEMO????????

    Because, let’s be honest, we can’t let Nemo die just for therapy.

  121. Observer*

    I had another thought, OP. IN ADDITION to reporting this, perhaps as you walk out the door you could let the board know that if this is not dealt with NOW all of this is going to the press. Then send copies of this to every outlet you can think of, especially local outlets. Also, to every government office that has ANY relationship to mental health, and maybe even insurance companies.

    Because even if you deal with a relatively indigent population, Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance make up a significant income stream for any mental health center. And, if the place is ONLY for private pay clients, they REALLY need to avoid the bad publicity. Because private pay clients have options! And thy WILL exercise those options.

    1. TootsNYC*

      come to think of it, this is using up worker hours for non-paying therapy, no?
      So it’s a form of time theft.

  122. Beth*

    Any way you can say “My therapist and I have an agreement that I will not attempt therapy with anyone else, unless they are formally trained and licensed as [ insert kind of therapist that your boss is not ]” ?

  123. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    Until you leave try using the plot of a Dickens novel for your life stories. They are very convoluted and perfect for something this batsh*t crazy.

  124. LiveAndLetDie*

    What the everlasting unholy hell. Do not fill out any of that paperwork, do not participate, start looking for a new job, and OP, you said you have a cushion and can go on your husband’s insurance — I would quit. Immediately. This is such a violation. SUCH a violation.

  125. GrandBargain*

    I just don’t think this is quite as bad as most commenters are making it out to be (I have only read the first 20% or so of the posts). The big question for me is: just how stressful and exhausting and traumatizing is the work that the clinical folks are doing? Depending on the work, it could be incredibly triggering to staff. And, it might be so incredibly important to know if someone has a traumatizing experience in one’s background that could be triggered. Self-care for staff might be a huge part of the job. While OP is in an admin role, she would undoubtedly be exposed to some of the same stresses just through her interaction with clients and staff.

    Having said that, there are clearly other interventions besides group therapy and ridiculously exhaustive disclosure that might make sense. Mindfulness exercises, yoga, group talk, workshops on managing stress, free passes to a local spa, whatever. Group therapy might be a once or twice a week event, with other things planned on other days. And, don’t have the ED do it. She’s the boss. If it is that important, bring in an outside resource to do the therapy or workshops.

    1. aebhel*

      And, it might be so incredibly important to know if someone has a traumatizing experience in one’s background that could be triggered.

      No, no, nope, not even slightly. Triggers don’t work like that, not everyone who’s been abused has triggers, not everyone who has triggers has the same triggers, nonconsensual group therapy is not an appropriate way to deal with triggers from childhood abuse. Group therapy should not be a mandatory work event, period, full stop. Not once or twice a week. Not once or twice a month. Never.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      It is that bad. And worse. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how bad this is.

      Yes, traumatic work experiences can require a debrief. On a much lower level, I experienced this when I was a breastfeeding counsellor – we had supervision sessions on a monthly basis, where you *COULD* share issues that had come up during the month, or you could call your supervisor for 1-1 if there was something you needed to talk about. Like when I had a mother who needed information about how to stop feeding immediately because of her chemotherapy. So yes, that kind of thing can be useful.

      This isn’t that.

      This is grossly intrusive – even giving boss the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t some kind of pervert getting off on this – this is as bad as people are thinking for a number of reasons.

      – its level on intrusive questioning – requiring detail of childhood abuse or trauma is not required for a debriefing session
      – its being mandatory – that is a level of no
      – the boss being the one to run the sessions
      – being forced into a level of trust with other co-workers
      – giving boss and co-workers information which could be used in malicious or voyeuristic ways

      and that’s before you get onto the damage that this could do to someone’s mental health

      AND they are requiring extra time (the 15 hours/day sudden jump in unpaid hours is the LEAST of the problems here, and it’s ridiculously bad on its own).

    3. GrandBargain*

      aeb and Akc…
      I hear you and you’re certainly right (including about all that ridiculous unpaid time). My concern would be that staff is not always going to be consciously aware that they are ‘triggered’ or internalizing huge amounts of stress/emotion. Some will and some won’t. Even the most self-aware might sometimes need help. And, the signs of that are not always going to be visible. If this work is as stressful as I am assuming it is (or for those organizations like rape crisis centers or domestic violence shelters that do incredibly difficult work), I believe that the organization has to try to stay out in front of that a little. Would group therapy in any form truly not be an option? What else would you try?

      1. No real name here*

        Lots of other ways! A good benefits package that includes: excellent mental health coverage, a robust EAP, plenty of vacation time, enough sick time with a culture that allows for people to call in, and a comfortable salary that allows staff not to be worried about their basic needs. Also, clinical supervision that allows for employees to process clinical issues and provides the space for a supervisor to suggest EAP or therapy.

        Sometimes a staff debrief is appropriate depending on a situation – but it should always be voluntary and is almost always just a one-time, situational thing. A supervisor providing therapy is so inappropriate and probably egregious enough to report to the supervisor’s licensing board.

        If a staff member is truly triggered by the work and is not dealing with it appropriately, then it would be appropriate to put them on a PIP and they may need to find another job.

    4. Observer*

      Nope to the nth degree.

      No matter how stressful the job is, this is incredibly damaging and inappropriate. Yes, a regular debrief and procedures for handling individual high stress incidents are probably a good idea, but that’s IT!

      Among the major issues are a major violation of people’s privacy. In addition (this is a repeat of a post upthread that you probably didn’t read) The problems here go beyond the total violation of privacy, as horrific as that is. There is the issue of
      a one size fits all model,
      the presumable lumping of many potential types of needs into a single group therapy with the potential for mutually exclusive needs in one group,
      the insane level of intensity (twice a DAY?!?!?!?),
      the fact that we know that mandatory mental health treatment almost never works – certainly NOT in situations like this!
      and the fact that the group session is being led by the boss.

  126. Mrs. Smith*

    Good grief, how could ANYONE be good at her job all day after starting it with an hour of this and looking forward to another hour of it at the end of the day? This, in addition to being its own kind of human rights violation, seems like it would torpedo productivity for everyone, all day long. I never ever have a counseling session right before teaching a class, for example, for a good reason – too raw to be fully present for my students. This is terrible. Get out of there, report them, and don’t look back.

  127. This Daydreamer*

    I think I’m going to vomit and I don’t even work there. Get the hell out and report this everywhere. Your boss has no business dealing with anyone in a vulnerable to and needs to find a new line of work. Now.

  128. Justin*

    The explanation for all this weird touchy feelings stuff lately is that employers have overstepped and feel like they own you inside and out, before you get hired and even after you get hired.

  129. Bookslinger*

    There is no way I would ever want to bare my soul to a bunch of admins and co-workers I might not even *like!* OP start job hunting if you aren’t already. Do what others have advised and report this. Protect yourself. Lie or simply refuse to take part and dare him to fire you (the latter would be my choice). This can’t be legal. Keep yourself safe and, please, let us know how this works out for you.

  130. Thathat*

    I think this definitely needs to be reported, even if you leave (and you should if you can. This sounds like a nightmare and no job should make you vomit from anxiety).

    The person making this call is also the person in charge of offering mental healthcare services to vulnerable people reaching out for help. I cannot think they’re running their actual therapy well if they think this is a good idea. If there’s an ethics board or any and everything at all, they should be reported so they can be investigated. See if you can get the other folks who hate this to also report them. Good luck.

  131. Inanebabble*

    So, therapists need to be very careful about not having a dual relationship with their clients. He’s op’s boss and trying to be their therapist which feels like an automatic dual situation. I might lie, actually, and say “thanks, but I’m already being treated by someone and we’ve concluded this doesn’t meet my health needs”.

  132. LisaP*

    Go to the group therapy and talk the entire time about how stressful your life is now because of the forced therapy. Jk, but seriously I would quit a job like that without a second thought, even without anything lined up. How are you even supposed to find another job with the whole forcing you to stay several hours later for therapy?

  133. jcarnall*

    I can think of a couple of ways of pushing back against this, but honestly, LW, I think you should max out your sick leave (where I live, if you were vomiting with anxiety at having to go into work, a GP would write you a sick line for two weeks leave of absence) and use that time for intensive job hunting.

    But, here are ways to push back in case you have to spend even a day in this toxic environment again.

    1. As others have suggested: refuse to attend the evening session. You leave at 3:30pm just as you always used to, which means you’re not going to be there in the evening. If asked about it, note that your regular schedule is to get in at this hour, leave at that hour, and since you’re not being paid for time after 3:30pm, you won’t be staying for it.

    2. As others have suggested: find other commitments by which you can miss the morning sessions. You have an important phone call. You have work which absolutely has to get done. You’ve been asked to meet so-and-so. You need to finish writing a time-important report.

    3. Attend the session. All you say, ever, is “I don’t feel comfortable participating in this.” Get the half of the team who agrees with you to say something similiar. Do not, within the confines of the mandatory therapy, feel you have to explain yourself. Just keep repeating “I don’t feel comfortable participating in this.” That’s all you write on the paperwork, too.

    4. Attend the session. Recite Leonard Cohen lyrics. (Or any other poet who is meaningful / easy to memorise.)

    5. If your manager objects to any of steps 1, 2, 3, or 4, let it be HIS problem how he writes you up, and take that write-up to HR.

    Also, leave.

    1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

      I love #4. Leonard Cohen would be great for this.

      #3 could be interesting…and I could also see someone (who already seems to be on a weird therapist power-trip) getting all sorts of “concerned” about how you’re “resistant to therapy.” In which case, yeah, make it boring. No explanations. The explanations go to the board and to the credentialing/licensing boards that are in charge of both the clinic, and of your managers license, cause this is all sorts of so much unethical.

      1. thathat*

        Personally, I’d pick Tom Waits.

        Possibly just his whole “I performed a tracheotomy with a ball point pen” monologue from Coffee and Cigarettes.

  134. AKchic*

    OP, everyone has given you great advice, and I am only stepping on toes and repeating what they have said if I try to give you any.

    I really want to reiterate this: You are not “crazy”. This is a toxic situation and you have every right to think it is absurd and wrong.

    If I were in your shoes (and I’m not), I would email the board again and tell them they have 24 hours to get back to me with an action or I am reporting the issue to NAMI, the credentialing board (state and federal) that the clinic goes through, the licensing and accreditation services that the manager/clinician deals with, your state’s Dept. of Health and Social Services (which I assume would handle behavioral/mental health licensing, and you may even have funding through them), and any additional ethics boards you can find.

    I am also going to echo everyone else and say find an attorney and really consider quitting. This won’t be the last time someone crosses major boundaries, and you may find serious backlash for reporting this. I wouldn’t doubt that you all are required to have clinical notes because your group therapy is being billed somehow, somewhere.

  135. Statler von Waldorf*

    There is one point I’d like to make here. I’m going to wager that few of the people commenting here have ended up confined in a mental institution for their own protection. I have. In my country, a certified psychiatrist can have you confined against your will for up to 72 hours if they believe that you are a danger to yourself, which is a very low bar to reach.

    So while I believe that one would be 100% morally clear to lie through your teeth if you are unable to quit this hell job, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING IN GROUP THERAPY THAT COULD EVEN HINT THAT YOU ARE THINKING ABOUT SELF-HARM. Not even as a joke or a Harry Potter reference. Because as much as this sucks, your boss has already show extremely poor judgement, and I would hate for the LW to end up involuntarily confined because he doubled down on that poor judgement.

    1. Observer*

      The good news is that in the US it’s not easy for even a certified psychiatrist to get you confined against your will.

      That said, it’s still a REALLY good idea to avoid jokes about self harm OR about blowing ANYTHING up. (The latter could get you arrested.)

  136. RecentAAMfan*

    Totally toxic situation. Agree with all that you must get out.
    But until you can, I would think the best way to deal with the sessions is just to MAKE STUFF UP.
    The trauma of being picked last for a team? (When you were actually a pretty decent athlete).
    Your brother with the history of alcohol abuse? (Nope. No brother. Didn’t exist)
    That period after university when you were unemployed and couch surfing (never happened).
    You get the idea. Still a totally f***ed up activity, but a lot less likely to wound you emotionally.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      If you do that (although I agree with others to just not go), then don’t bother trying to keep your stories consistent either. Make up whatever sounds interesting to you at the time, and if today you have a brother and tomorrow you are a single child and the next day you have two sisters – don’t stress it. That’s their problem.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Tell them about the time you saw a chicken killed. Then break down in the middle of the session with the realisation it was a baby.

  137. Susa*

    Have none of you heard of the NO word? Say it firmly and quickly. Also tell them this incident will be reported to the proper authorities.

  138. Anonforthis*

    OK – before I get into this, this is a suggestion ONLY if you are VERY comfortable with it – it’s something else to consider, but you are only responsible for your wellbeing here.

    But if you are in a position to do so – you could be really, really helping other people in your office by taking a stand that they may not be in a practical, financial or emotional place to take.

    Where I am now, I think I’m at a stage I could tell them where to stick it. At other times? The insistence on sharing with people I don’t know or have that level of trust in intimate details about my childhood trauma?

    I wouldn’t have been able to cope and would have ghosted the job. Would have completely and utterly screwed myself financially, but that would have had me unable to go back.

    So if you are in a position to raise merry hell about this – but on the understanding that there is ZERO obligation to do so – go get ’em.

  139. LeRainDrop*

    I am absolutely horrified by this manager’s new practice. I personally would refuse to complete the paperwork and/or attend the sessions, regardless of the consequences. Alison’s advice is great. OP, I am so sorry this is getting forced upon you and your colleagues!

  140. scmill*

    I just wouldn’t do it. He could find me at my desk every morning busy Doing My Job, and I would be too busy to participate. If pressed, I would decline. If terminated, I would hit send on the draft email that I had already prepared describing the situation and cc’ing him, myself, HR, upper management, the board members and any regulatory agency that was applicable. And perhaps the local newspaper or TV station.

  141. Zipzap*

    Just had to jump on the “This is OUTRAGEOUS” train and give you my absolute sympathy. Your boss is insane, or a complete jerk, or more likely both. I’m all in favor of you leaving now since you can, but you might also consider reporting your employer to your state’s employment board and let them investigate the laundry list of laws this guy is breaking. Take care of yourself. I’m sure you see it here by now that you have a ton of people on your side.

  142. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I was shocked at some of the coworkers’ take on this. Group therapy is NOT for team building. There are other ways to do that.

  143. AnonyNurse*

    I searched the post and didn’t find a mention of FMLA. Use it. It is resonable to have a medical provider document that you have a temporary disability necessitating you to be away from work for a period. Then you can keep your health insurance while determine next steps. If you have short term disability, even better. And workers compensation would be more challenging, but with the right team … it could happen. What you describe — both emotional and physical responses (symptoms) to your work environment that has recently changed are all qualifying factors. And they can’t fire you because they can’t justufy these sessions as essential job duties.

    If you do quit, please announce it at the top of one of the “counseling” sessions. And take your colleagues with you. Good luck!!

  144. Wonko the Sane*

    So, I don’t know how relevant this is? But I don’t love some of the language here that is being used to describe the situation.

    Using language like insane, batshit etc to describe situations where someone is being cruel or abusive isn’t great as is, but to use it in a context where mental health is literally part of the job doesn’t sit well with me. This is language that has been used to stigmatized mentally ill people, and although I understand that a lot of it is (unfortunately) very commonly used, but in this situation it seems inappropriate to me.

    Sorry if this is too off topic, or isn’t worded well. I’m not great with words! I live with a few of these highly stigmatized illnesses, and they can make my brain a little swoogly.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      As someone who grew up literally surrounded by people with serious mental health issues (including EVERY member of my immediate family of origin) and who lives with chronic depression myself, I have no problem with these words. Hyperbole can be a valid coping mechanism when one is in a horrible situation, and it’s one I frequently resort to. Calling this situation “batshit” is a hyperbolic way of saying that it is completely out of the realm of reasonableness and makes absolutely no freaking sense, and imo, it perfectly expresses my reaction to it.

      I realize someone else’s mmv, but that’s honestly how I feel about it. When someone like this boss is doing something thus totally irrational, it dies not, imo, harm or stigmatize me, my family members, or anyone else to call it what is. I’m genuinely sorry it makes you feel that way, and regret any pain you may feel because of it. But imo, “outrageous” (the best alternative I can think of to “batshit”) just doesn’t pack enough of a punch in this particular instance.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Yeah, I’m with you. I don’t like when insane and synonyms for insane are used instead of cruel or abusive. It reinforces stigma around mental health problems, and at the same time it seems to downplay the cruelty of the abuse. As if being ill is on the same level as being cruel towards others.

  145. KatieHR*

    I agree with all of the above. What I don’t understand is that in OP letter she stated that half of the office is ok with this?! Seriously! What kind of people are working at this place? If they are licensed professionals they should be against this the most. It is mind blowing to me!

  146. Nikki*

    Lots of people have given good advice about reporting your boss to the licensing authorities.

    I run a non-profit, and I want to point out that non-profits have authorities too! Most are regulated at the state level by the attorney general or the department of justice. If the board refuses to take action, it might be worth reaching out to the non-profit authorities in your state and explaining the situation. In my experience (NH) they’ve been understanding. And since they’re a part of the state’s legal system, it may help trigger some action to stop your boss.

    This situation sucks and is wildly inappropriate. One way or another, I hope things improve for you soon!!!

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      Oh, good point! I hope you will add this to your “to do” list, o.p.

      And whatever you decide to do. good luck and may the force be with you and the odds ever in your favor. I mean that most sincerely.

  147. Fish girl*

    There’s already a lot of great advice in here, so I won’t repeat any of that. I’d fully support you quitting on the spot with 0 days notice or with the two weeks notice, but refusing to attend another therapy session. However, if you do end up attending another one of these sessions, for whatever reason, here are some ideas to play with. (You might not do any of these things, but thinking about doing them could cheer you up):

    -Bring everything back to work. When asked how you are feeling: “professional”. Any concerns or troubles to share? “my workload when I spend 2 hrs a day in these sessions”. Personal traumas? “Boundary crossers who can’t separate their personal lives from work”
    -Play oblivious and ask probing questions: “Surely you don’t expect us to share our medical history with our coworkers?” “I certainly hope this isn’t an ethics violation” “As a trained clinician, is mandatory twice-daily therapy sessions actually effective? Can you provide any sources?” “What would the board think of all this, I wonder?”
    -Refuse to engage. Do not answer any questions. Don’t respond. Stare into space for the entire hour.
    -Lie. Lie. Lie. Either really bland things like “Once I lost my mom at the mall for 20 min when I was young.” or oversharing “Let me give you the play-by-play for the time I had to pop an enormous cyst on my husband’s butt” or just plain ridiculous “I think the pigeons are planning something. They keep giving my the shifty eyes.”
    -Read a book during the session. Maybe a book about job-hunting or about setting boundaries.
    -Bring coloring books or knitting and declare that art therapy is much more effective for you
    -Ditto with music and dancing
    -Offer to run a session and spend the entire time going over interview techniques and good resumes
    -Revolt. Take the floor and refuse to cede it for the entire meeting. Tell everyone how inappropriate and harmful this is and you won’t stand for this abuse.

  148. Anita Brayke*

    Alison-when you write articles and posts for the various magazines and websites that you do (“I answer this question at ___ today, click here to read it”), maybe you could write an article – or 10 – on appropriate ways employers can safely and ethically support good mental health for their employees. The three instances you mention in the past year sound like they each could have been genuinely well-meaning attempts to help people maintain good mental health (I didn’t say they were effective or appropriate, just that they might have been well-meaning!) in the workplace. I’ve been hearing a general outcry for de-stigmatizing mental health on various social media platforms; heck, maybe they just need good ideas!

  149. Big Biscuit*

    What’s also interesting is that this “boss from hell” surely knows the OP’s typical work schedule yet does not have the courtesy to discuss this schedule change that is going to add another two hours to her work day face to face? I wish OP would stay just long enough to use those two extra hours to pursue whatever employment law or ADA violations are out there and then get the hell out of that mess soon after!

  150. CristinaMariaCalabrese (do the mambo like-a crazy)*

    This is batshit, you are so correct. I used to work for a non-profit that provided mental health services to homeless individuals. The work was HARD and it definitely took its toll on anyone in a client-facing role. We had a company “responder” team that everyone knew about; they were mentioned in every newsletter, in a monthly email, and if something particularly traumatic happened, the company would offer the services of the responders, so that staff could speak to a licensed mental health professional. NOT ONCE was this service ever advertised as anything other than completely voluntary. They were there, they let everyone know they were available, but it was NEVER a requirement, because everyone knows that would be 100% unethical and a violation of professional norms.

  151. Licensed Ethical Psychologist*

    I’m a therapist. Which board licenses your boss as a mental health professional? This is WILDLY UNETHICAL and should be reported to your boss’s licensing board immediately. Reasons: 1) you did not provide voluntary informed consent 2) you are not allowed to refuse to participate 3) no therapist should be providing mental health services for someone they have a personal or collegial relationship with, because it’s what’s called a ‘dual relationship.’ Your therapist must be impartial and not part of your real life to be able to give you decent advice, and 4) confidentiality is likely to be an issue.

    1. Dr. K*

      Also a licensed, ethical psychologist here. I absolutely second this. The first, most important, and most effective step is to report this abuse of power to your boss’s licensing board. He may get his license suspended, which may make him ineligible to continue in his position, killing all birds with one stone. But even if that doesn’t happen, and he just gets a sternly worded warning letter or a fine, licensing boards are in place to protect the public from unethical and harmful practices, and this is one that is clearly both, no interpretation required. The licensing board will put a stop to this immediately.

  152. Is this the real thing? Is this just fantasy?*

    I realise I’m late to the party but I just had to raise one point here:

    OP, are you sure this ‘licensed therapist’ boss actually has a genuine license/training/qualifications at all?

    If your boss has been in the business for some time, it’s possible they were hired way back when it was a lot easier to fake your way into a job, and have somehow managed to keep on faking it for all this time.

    Aside from all the points and problems others have raised, MH* does tend to attract a higher than average number of predators, fakers, scammers, cultish true believers, liars and fantasists who are attracted by the combination of respect, power, authority, wealth, and a vulnerable group to prey on. And, sadly, there are several cases of people pretending to be a therapist.

    (Hashtag *NotAllMH-sector workers, obviously. Most are skilled professionals who help a lot of people.)

  153. Jennifer*

    I’m having trouble keeping my mouth closed on account of my jaw sitting on the floor.
    What fresh hell is this?
    What fresh hell is with the commentary suggesting ways to “cope” with this utter insanity? People, you can’t be serious in suggesting that this is something the LW should accept? Just because?
    LW, call a lawyer. Immediately.

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