Sense & Sensitivity

Therapist Plays With Phone During Session

DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been going to a therapist for several years. In the beginning he was helpful, but now I’m beginning to question how serious he is about our time together. In our last session, he answered his phone twice. Though the calls were brief, they occurred in the middle of my paid-for time. In another recent session, he spent at least 15 minutes fidgeting with his smartphone while he was supposed to be listening to me. After a while, I stopped talking until he looked up and put the phone away.

I’m going to him to deal with sensitive issues. At the very least, I think he should pay full attention. Should I say something or stop going? -- Distracted Shrink, Philadelphia

DEAR DISTRACTED SHRINK: By all means, tell your therapist you do not appreciate his distracted behavior during your sessions. Point out all that you can remember, and make sure he is listening and receiving the message when you give it.

Depending on how you feel about working with him now will determine your next steps. If generally you think he does a good job and is still helpful to you, tell him you want to continue working with him, provided he is willing to stay focused on you during the entire session.

If you think it’s best to leave and find a new therapist, tell him you have decided to stop working with him. Thank him for the years he has helped you, and point out that you think it’s unprofessional to do the various things he has done in your sessions. Recommend he not behave that way with anyone else.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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