12-Step Emotional Extortion and Abuse at Samaritan Counseling Center


I had reached out to my therapist and expressed to her that I had been doing very well for a couple of months until being unexpectedly terminated, and needed to process it better. They refused to talk to me unless I went to an ‘addictions specialist’. I had already voluntarily been through that outpatient rehab and sessions with him for the past six months and told them I didn’t find it necessary and had decided not to continue. After all, I had gone to therapy to find a different kind of help than I was getting in daily AA meetings. They would not listen to me. I became extremely depressed over the course of a month of this and finally called her for another session even though I hadn’t met with the addiction counselor. She thought I had fulfilled the requirement, so she scheduled the appointment with me. But during the session I told her again that I didn’t like the requirement and really just wanted to talk to her. She terminated me much more solidly.

Shortly thereafter, I ended up in a psychiatric ward (over Christmas). My doctor recommended it as a way to get a detox without going through the whole ‘rehab’ thing. My doctor told me to make sure I tell them exactly how depressed I was so that they wouldn’t turn me down. I enjoyed interacting with the patients and staff and having regular meals.

The last day of the psychiatric ward stay, though, I was worried about what to do when I got out. The therapy situation was still on my mind constantly and I was still confused about it. They hadn’t really helped me process it. I just wanted to talk to my therapist as I had done for about 8 months, which was a nearby and convenient session for me which I enjoyed. Without the AA meetings, I no longer had many people to talk to. Samaritan refused to answer my requests.

My sister was able to get a session somehow. In the session, I repeatedly told them that I didn’t think this needed to be about alcohol, and had written a detailed letter about my understanding of transference and attachment and closure issues saying little or nothing about any alcohol problem except that I had appreciated the fact that therapy allowed me to consider and explore alternatives to AA (such getting myself insurance and getting to a doctor, for example).

David Olsen would not acknowledge any of this, and just said that I needed to agree to go to a rehab. I negotiated to do this if I could explore the transference issues with my therapist. She told me that I would be able to resume ‘non-addictions’ therapy with her if I went to rehab and she could be in contact with the addiction treatment providers. It seemed like she was going to work with me as I went through this process again.

Initially, it did seem like it was going to happen. She would start talking to me, and then say she had to check with David Olsen, and then would come back with another requirement before she could meet with me.

After rejecting the $17,000 30-day inpatient rehab that James Garrett (the 12-step counselor I was referred to) recommended, we also considered a less expensive one, but when I found out that the inpatient rehabs were 12-step based, I refused. I ended up agreeing to go back to Saint Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center (SPARC), an outpatient rehab where I spent no more than 1.5 hours per week but was paying out of pocket for a group session, a private talk with an individual counselor (which took place at the same time as the group meeting), and a drug test. After a few weeks of this I was practically suicidal again after paying for 12-step indoctrination, worksheets about powerlessness over alcohol and selfishness being the root of all my problems.

I left messages repeatedly telling her about what I had been learning about SMART and the history of problems with AA. They still would not return my calls or schedule a session to discuss what the SPARC counselor called a ‘frustrating session’ and my termination from rehab. It had been 3 months and still I wasn’t able to connect the providers with my therapist in any meaningful way to be relieved of what was becoming very expensive and depressing for me. I decided to try one more time to fulfill the requirement to be in sessions with Jim Garrett. Instead of having sessions in parallel with therapy, an unknown amount of this ‘treatment’ became necessary. First it was ‘weekly for at least two months’ (records show that David Olsen intended to drag it out 6-8 months) and I asked why should I have to pay $440/month for who knows how long to talk to an AA member to get back into therapy. After demanding that he approve me to speak with my therapist in a session, he told me I could call her for an appointment. She again refused to see me saying I didn’t ‘follow the suggestions’ and hadn’t done enough treatment (treatment that I was literally crying out to be stopped).

The addiction specialist told me that my drinking had damaged the relationship and I may never get any closure on it. This made no sense to me, and just made me feel like shit. That was the serious consequence that I’d have to come to terms with in sessions with him. I told him I wanted to complain about this, and I wanted to have an opportunity to tell her how mad I was at this and hopefully move on from the addiction treatment altogether and be treated like a normal person again. He suggested I write out my complaint and not send it (like a ‘burn your resentments’ kind of thing).

I complained to Samaritan Counseling about religious discrimination, and Executive Director of David Olsen told me ‘A therapist has the right to her preferred mode of treatment’, and I told him, no, this is not legal.

I told Jim Garrett that these ‘trust building’ sessions and being jerked around for 5 months had destroyed all my trust in every one of them. He said ‘Maybe you can trust your higher power?’ with a smile. I immediately became even more depressed. Had he not heard a word I said about being done with AA?

Jenness Clairmont then sat with me to give me my records informed me that I had been accused of harassment way back in December (nobody had ever told me that before, and the therapist’s behavior toward me when it seemed we’d resume work didn’t seem to indicate she was afraid of me) and that I would never get another session with the therapist. She said she’d follow up with me, though. I read through my records and realized I wasn’t crazy. They had been forcing me into AA, quite shamelessly, and had no intention of acknowledging my experience.

I repeatedly asked for a follow up session with the Clinical Director to process my termination, and they again didn’t follow up as I wrote out my interpretation of the records in detail, except with a termination letter telling me under no circumstances was I to have any further contact with anyone at the Center or its affiliates.

I was furious and devastated, and checked back into the psychiatric ward where I apparently belonged. The team on my case was much bigger this time and they told me I’m an alcoholic and that I had violated boundaries with my therapist. I told them I’m not an alcoholic and I don’t need treatment. I was obsessing about the 12-step coercion. They gave me anti-psychotic drugs to ‘help me stop obsessing’. They didn’t explain what boundaries I violated.

Since then, I’ve been traumatized and unable to think about much else other than “Why is this allowed to happen? Is this happening to other people?” and “What really did happen?” There was never any chance to come to an understanding. I was never given a good reason for why nobody at Samaritan could talk to me, with more and more solid barriers the more I directed my complaint at 12-step coercion.

I tried to explain to them in detail what I saw as the pattern and a problem (12-step coercion), and they didn’t seem to appreciate my insight, as I would have expected, as it would help avoid a scenario like this in the future.

Very disturbing and more and more I think it’s not just idiotic, it was cruel and criminal. They do seem intent on reserving the right to do this again.

Initially I just tried to give them a Yelp review. They complained and had my reviews removed for various flimsy reasons.