update: my boss made us all attend a session with his therapist

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose boss made them all attend a session with his therapist? Here’s the update.

I do have an update to this situation, which will probably shock no one: I got a new job. It was pretty clear that Bob’s behavior was part of some personal crisis, and while previously I was content to sit and wait out his ever-rotating business ideas, this one seemed more intense.

Like I said in my original letter, the job had some great perks despite the insanity, so I decided that I would begin to keep an eye out for jobs, but only if they were really spectacular. A few months after I wrote in, I saw a job posting for a position that had less flexibility but was a lot more prestigious and much more stable (it also came with a significant pay raise and better benefits!). I applied and got it, and everyone I’ve spoken with has since told me how lucky I am to have gotten the position. So I feel doubly lucky to have the new job and to have escaped my old one.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bob did not take the news well. After getting emotional when I first told him, he came back with an aggressive counter offer, and once I told him my decision was final, he told me my last day would be in two weeks and then didn’t speak to me again until I called him to say goodbye on my last day. I spoke with some former coworkers, who tell me absolutely nothing has changed, so all in all I feel pretty good about where I ended up!

I know there were a lot of questions in the comments about the therapist specifically. To answer some, the “therapist by training” language was how he described himself, and Bob also emphasized that he was a great therapist and that we should all feel comfortable being open and honest with him. Both of them also referred to their individual sessions frequently throughout the talk and talked about Bob’s growth through them. I have not done any licensing search or reported the therapist because, quite honestly, I was more worried about getting myself out of there.

Thanks to you and the commenters, who all made me feel a lot less crazy for questioning the situation. Hopefully my new job never pushes me to write in again!

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. Ink*

    SO glad you escaped, OP! Now let’s hope your former coworkers will be able to follow soon!

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      And of course Bob, Bob’s Ego, and Bob’s therapist won’t have any clue why no one wants to work there any more.

      1. kendall^2*

        I feel compelled to note that there is a band called Jim’s Big Ego (they’re quite good!).

      2. KTurtle*

        They will totally do the “nobody wants to work anymore” thing. No, boss. It’s not that nobody wants to work *anywhere*. It’s that nobody wants to work *here*.

      3. Anne Bennet*

        I had a double take when I saw the title for this one because I had nearly the exact same thing happen. The only difference was that I was sent for one-on-one. It was called coaching. But it was clearly a form of reeducation camp

        The whole session was bizarre and about how I had to do a better job of supporting my boss emotionally

        I thought about reporting the therapist but he had to stop practicing for unrelated reasons and there didn’t seem to be any point

        That workplace was wild

  2. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I hate often the solution to so many problems is to just leave, but this is one where this was definitely one hundred percent justified. Glad you got out of there, LW.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      100% agree. Often the best solution here is to just use your words, but this is one of those cases where the boss only hears what he wants to hear, so words are entirely useless. LW made the best (and only sane) choice they coudl.

  3. Hlao-roo*

    Thanks for the update! Glad to hear you got out of there and landed in a good spot.

    1. ferrina*

      Woohoo! So glad OP was able to leave to a reasonable place, and was picky about where they ended up.

  4. Ms. Norbury*

    Congrats on escaping the House of Evil Bees, LW! Bob sounds really exhausting.

    1. Bruce*

      Immediately I set that phrase to House of the Rising Sun: “There is… a house… of Evil Beeeees…” don’t have time to do more with it

      1. Mama Llama*

        “that tried….to take….my mind. I searched…so hard….for a great new job…and left….it all…behind.”

      2. whingedrinking*

        There is a house of evil bees
        They call this office job
        And it’s been the ruin of many a poor soul
        I know I’m one such slob

        My boss was big on counselling
        He dragged us workers in
        To a session with a “therapist”
        That never seemed to end.

        Now the only thing a worker wants
        Is decent perks and pay
        And when a boss gets weird like this
        You should be on your way

        Oh, mentors, tell your interns
        Of the things that I have seen
        Not to stay and lose their minds
        At the house of evil bees

        I’ve got one screen on Google Docs
        The other on Indeed
        I hope to find some saner work
        God knows I’m in great need.

        1. JustaTech*

          OH my goodness this is the best thing I’ve seen on the Internet all year!
          You are a genius!

          This is getting saved to the “bad day” file.

  5. Ann O'Nemity*

    I almost feel bad for Bob. He is going through some personal crises and it sounds like his therapist is doing more harm than good.

    But who knows. If he’s historically surrounded himself with yes-people who don’t check his bad ideas, he might have chosen a therapist who goes along too.

    1. Observer*

      it sounds like his therapist is doing more harm than good.

      Absolutely. But that rests as much on Bob as on the therapist.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Mmm, yes and no. Someone in crisis is not always well-positioned to accurately/adequately assess whether their therapist is good at their job. If you’re having a heart attack you’re not going to stop and ask the cardiac surgeon if he went to Harvard or Boise State University*. We trust the relevant licensing board for stuff like that.

        The proof is always in the pudding – whether their suggestions, when implemented as suggested, have intended and/or positive results. I once had a therapist who seemed good, who said all the right things to probe and validate my experiences, but when it came time to deal with my mother (the reason I was in therapy) in-person, all his tips and strategies failed, so I stopped seeing him.

        *I have no idea whether BSU exists, let alone whether it has a medical program or how good that program is. Just pulling a name off the top of my head.

        1. Hermione Danger*

          Boise State does exist. They have a nationally ranked football team. And blue astroturf on the field. They do not have a medical school, though they do have a really strong business program.

            1. Cj*

              if I was actively having a heart attack, I guess I would have to take whatever doctor was available. but for aftercare or something like a bypass or heart surgery of any kind, I would definitely do my research on the doctor first.

        2. RT in DC*

          Yep! It exists. My go-to for a fake university it Bullwinkle’s alma mater, Whatamatta U. :-)

          1. Cj*

            My go to is Okaboji State University, which is a fictional University “located” in North Central Iowa. You can get t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, and all sorts of items with their name and logo on them.

        3. Andromeda*

          I’m not even in a crisis and I have no idea whether my therapist is doing a good or bad job. I’m too busy being confused and overwhelmed by my own feelings, which is why I sought therapy in the first place.

          Bob’s actions in mixing therapy and work were egomaniacal and thoughtless, to say nothing of his defensiveness afterwards, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame him specifically for being taken in by a bad therapist.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This would not surprise me. I’ve known more than one person who avoided real experts because they wouldn’t tell them what the person wanted to hear.

    3. Rainy*

      I think that “therapist by training” could mean one of two things given the context.

      Possibility 1: “I am a therapist by training but I am about to give you a business seminar because Bob is paying me a lot of money and I have enough self-awareness not to claim that I am an organizational psychologist/business consultant/whatever, but not enough to self-awareness to steer Bob to an actual expert.”

      Possibility 2: “I have some education in a counseling program but am wholly unlicensed and serving as Bob’s life/business coach, a professional identification without real requirements or credentials, and I would give a seminar on literally anything if you paid me enough money.”

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        That is interesting the sense that I got was a mix of your 1 & 2.

        “I am a therapist by training but I am about to give you a business seminar because Bob is paying me a lot of money and I have enough self-awareness not to claim/use my professional credentials in this situation, but if Bob wants to pay me a lot of money as a business consultant/life coach, I will take it.”

        As far as I know business consultant/life coach is not a real licensed title, in that my cat could claim to be a business consultant/life coach without ever having run a business (unless you consider cuddles for food a business, in that they are VERY VERY VERY successful.) if someone is willing to pay him for that it is fine.

      2. Jake*

        Yeah, I tell people I’m an engineer by education/training. It simply means that is what I went to school for, therefore I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous, but I am not a professional engineer.

      3. Archi-detect*

        Possibility 3: “Scrubs was on TV in a bar last night. The sound wasn’t on, but I think I got the gist of it.”

          1. Rainy*

            Sorry, I meant The Bob Newhart Show! Newhart would inspire a totally different type of seminar…

      4. lazuli*

        I am a licensed therapist, and the only time I would ever, or have ever heard someone else, introduce my/themself as “a therapist by training” are basically those two scenarios, yes.

        1. Rainy*

          I work with quite a few licensed therapists, and their opinion of these kinds of “coaches” is extremely unprintable. ;)

  6. Falling Diphthong*

    An update to this situation, which will probably shock no one: I got a new job.
    You’ll never be a minor character on a long-running workplace sitcom about a wacky boss and the people trapped with him.

    But as a regular human, it was the way to go.

    1. Vio*

      Not true, the sitcom needs the ex-colleague who the people still trapped in Bobness frequently check in with to get a reality check on whether what’s going on truly is as outside of the norm as everybody else knows it is. And of course for Bob to become convinced they’re poaching all of the employees who are suddenly leaving despite the ‘obvious’ ‘perks’ of having his ‘therapist’, ego and quotation marks joining in on the fun.

  7. Artemesia*

    ‘Therapist by training’ is short for quack. So glad you got out of there. And of course no actual professional therapist would participate in this nonsense.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      I think I may have commented that on the last letter (or at least thought it lol) – “therapist by training” is one way of saying “didn’t finish that training” ;).

      1. Lisa*

        “Didn’t finish the training” or possibly “couldn’t pass the licensing exam”. Or worse I suppose, lost his license.

        1. 1LFTW*

          When I read the first letter, my thoughts were “lost his license” or “decided not to bother with it, because professional ethics would just cramp his style”.

        1. Artemesia*

          Not a class — a ‘seminar’

          Coming from Academia where ‘seminar’ has a meaning, it always annoys me the way this term has been taken over by bogus training programs in which no actual seminars occur.

    2. Jake*

      I don’t think that’s necessarily correct. It can easily mean, in this context, “hey, I’m a therapist that’s been paid to give a business coaching presentation. Keep that in mind when you listen to what I’m saying.”

      1. Artemesia*

        Given the unethical practice described, my bet is on bogus certificate, failed the boards or dropped out of a counseling program.

  8. Observer*

    I’m glad you’re out of there. Offer the people at your old job, whose work you can speak to, to be a reference for their own job search.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Great suggestion – those people also need to get out of this wacky situation.

  9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    You’ve escaped the House of Horrors. Congratulations.

    My advice to you is twofold –

    Enjoy and LIVE your new life to the fullest and, as Satchel Paige once said —
    Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

    Put that old job in the rear view mirror – full throttle ahead and don’t worry about your old boss or your former co-workers. You got out. Congratulations and take in all you can going forward.

    Been there. Done that. A few times.

  10. I'm just here for the cats!*

    Fantastic news OP! I’m not at all surprised by Bob’s reaction
    As far as the therapist goes, I think its completely up to you on if you want to look into him more etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is not a licensed therapist and is instead a “life coach”. I work at a university counseling center as an admin and I’ve heard some of the counselors talk about how students say they’ve seen family therapists or what ever and the things they talk about are wildly in appropriate. and upon further inspection they are not licensed therapists or counselors but life coaches.

    If the person is licensed I wonder if they are new and/or they are trying to branch out into corporate work and went about it the wrong way.

    If you do find out if they are licensed or not please send another update!

    1. 1LFTW*

      When quoted him as saying he’s a “therapist by training”, I assumed he either never had a license, or had one and then lost it.

    2. Cj*

      speaking of Bob’s reaction, since he said “your last day is in 2 weeks”, I’m really curious how much notice the OP gave. Since they had a good job lined up, and I can’t imagine using Bob for a reference, I would have said my last day is right now..

  11. I'm just here for the cats!*

    OP I’m so glad you got out of there and you have a much better job! Not surprised by the reaction Bob gave your.

    On the therapist front I wouldn’t doubt that he is actually a life coach. I work in a university counseling center and I’ve heard from the counselors how they sometimes will have a client who has said they have done therapy, but the things they mention seem out of the norm and not right. They find out that the person is not a licensed counselor or therapist and is just a life coach. That kind of sounds like what might be happening. If he is a licensed counselor or therapist I think it is up to you if you want to report him. It might be a gray area. I don’t think there was anything explicitly wrong that he did, being that he had Bob’s permission. But it was certainly not the right take for a therapist or counselor.

    I actually wonder if he is trying to branch out into corporate work and he is going about it the wrong way. If you find out if the therapist was licensed or not please let us know!

  12. I Have RBF*

    Congrats on the new job and escaping the madness.

    If you are in touch with your former coworkers, buy yourself a biiiig bag of popcorn.

  13. Insert Clever Name Here*

    Congrats on the new job! I like to imagine that when Bob started getting emotional because you were leaving that you told him “this sounds like something you should discuss with your therapist”…but you were probably more professional than I would have been in the moment :)

  14. Zona the Great*

    Is anyone a Kath & Kim fan (original version)? This reminds me so much of Marion, the therapist, life coach, officiant lady. “My credentials aren’t worth the paper they’re written on”. So funny in a sitcom. Scary in real life.

    1. Dawnshadow*

      Am I the only one who initially read “…therapist in training was how he described himself, and Bob also emphasized….” and thought that Bob himself decided that he was a therapist and wanted to counsel everyone?

      At first I thought that was a heck of a twist!

  15. goddessoftransitory*

    Huzzah, LW! I clicked back to refresh myself on this one and MAN. I feel bad for Bob, but the only one who can actually help him is him (and an actual, licensed, professional therapist.)

  16. Never the Twain*

    As an aside, what is it about hearing the word ‘trained’ or ‘training’ in a description of a role that automatically makes me start thinking ‘Not a real one [or at least not yet]’?
    Like, ‘I’m a psychotherapist by training’, ‘I’m a trained first-aider’ etc etc.
    If I heard an announcement at he start of a flight ‘Good morning, this is Captain Reassuring-Name; I’m a trained pilot’ I’d be off there through the locked door, as I would if I was just about to go under before my tricky operation and someone leant over me to say ‘Hi, I trained as a surgeon, and I’m the one who’ll be fiddling around inside you.’
    Odd. Sometimes more is less.

    1. Former Admin Turned PM*

      I will sometimes us “…by training” to indicate that I actually do have background on something and am not just spewing nonsense, particularly if I am in a setting where my background is not evident. I’m actually trained in First Aid and CPR; I’m not just winging it based on what I see on medical shows. I have a credential related to DEIB even though I’m not part of the Equity Office, so I am saying stuff with justification and not just spouting off. That sort of thing.

    2. 1LFTW*

      It does seem incredibly evasive, doesn’t it?

      Like, I guess I *could* say that I “trained as a lifeguard”, because it’s technically true, but it undersells my qualifications and experience. I took the training, and then I passed the test, which meant I was *certified* as a lifeguard, which meant that I could work as one, and then I *actually worked as a lifeguard* for several years.

      And, IIRC, our instructors passed along information about which local pools hired people who “trained as lifeguards” so that we would know where *not* to work.

  17. Bananapants Wrangler*

    As an actual therapist, PLEASE report him to your state licensing board, LW. Even if he is a licensed therapist, what he is doing–a business seminar for the employees of a client–is a serious ethical violation, it’s called a dual relationship. The state licensing board will be required to investigate the claim.

Comments are closed.