Signs Of A Bad Therapist: How To Know When To Move On
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated March 17, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
So, you finally gave in and decided to try going to therapy. It took a lot to convince you to do so, but you finally decided it was in your best interest. You mustered up the courage and headed to see a therapist. Now, you've been going for months, and you aren't making much progress. It leaves you wondering why so many people seem to get so much out of therapy. Or you might be wondering if you're just such a mess that the therapist can't help you. Relax, it's not about you. If you don't see the progress, you might have the wrong therapist. Knowing the signs of a bad therapist will help you figure out if it's time to find someone new.
Signs Of A Bad Therapist
- They Aren't Really Listening
We're all guilty of it – acting like we're listening while our thoughts are somewhere else. It happens because we're human. But, when you're at a therapy session, you need a therapist that is tuned in to what you're saying. If they have that blank stare in their eyes as you're pouring out the details of your feelings, anxieties, and details of a difficult situation, then why would you want to continue sharing? An experienced therapist knows how to listen to you without getting caught up in the details of the words you're choosing. They are looking for the underlying message behind what you're saying. And they should be able to pick up on the unsaid things and ask the right questions to get you to the next level.
- You Leave Feeling Embarrassed Or Ashamed
You should never feel judged by your therapist. If you do, then it's a sign that you might need to find another one right away. During therapy sessions, you are expected to share details of your life and your thoughts that you might not have shared with any other person. It's not the therapist's job to judge the things that you're saying. Instead, they should be looking to understand what you're saying, where it's coming from, and where you need to go from there. If you leave feeling like you've been judged, then consider searching for a new therapist.
- Things Seem To Be Getting Romantic
When you are working with a therapist, you are putting yourself in a very vulnerable position. If you get the first indication that your therapist is starting to take advantage of that position, you need to find yourself a new therapist immediately. You should be able to get help from your therapist without having to worry that they are going to use their position to turn the relationship in a different direction.
- No Progress Is Being Made
It's normal to leave the first therapy session feeling like no progress has been made because it's more of an information session. However, if you've been attending for more than a few sessions and you aren't leaving feeling any different than when you started, it could mean that your therapist is not the right fit for you.
- They Talk About Themselves
When you attend a therapy session, you are paying money to have a professional help you with your situation. If they spend part of the session talking about themselves, that's usually not the professional you want to work with.
- You Think Countertransference Might Be An Issue
In therapy, countertransference is when your therapist is treating you a certain way because they are associating you with another person. It could be that you remind them of their child and leading them to take on a parenting role toward you. Or it could be that you remind them of a friend, so they start to treat you as a friend. The signs of countertransference in therapy depend on what your therapist is experiencing. It could cause them to be extremely critical of you, share too much of their own life, or even uncover awkward feelings during your session.
- They Are Unresponsive
This applies more to online or telephone counseling like texting services. If you aren't getting a timely response from your therapist, then you are likely to grow frustrated. If you find yourself in this situation, consider looking for a different therapist who is more responsive to your communication.
- You Aren't Being Challenged
Good therapy will challenge you. If you never feel like you're being challenged or gently nudged forward, you probably aren't making the progress you could make. An experienced therapist will know how to challenge you without pushing you too far.
- Their Messages Are Full Of Errors
If you are using texting or email counseling option and find that your therapist is sending you messages that are full of typos or grammatically incorrect, then it’s a safe bet that they aren't putting effort into your counseling sessions. You want a therapist whois taking the time to respond to you and paying attention to you. If you aren't getting that, then you are wasting both your time and your money.
- They Give You Any Reason To Believe They Are Breaking Your Trust
Therapist confidentiality means that your therapist should not be sharing any information about you unless they think you are an immediate danger to yourself or someone else. If you have any reason to believe that your therapist is not staying tight-lipped about your sessions, you are unlikely to be comfortable enough to open up the way you need to make the progress you need to make.
How To Break Up With Your Therapist
If you recognize any of these signs in your therapist, then it might be time to break up with them. Remember that an appropriate therapist/patient relationship is professional in nature and that you are paying for help. If your therapist isn’tupholding their end of the professional arrangement, then it's time to find someone who will.
If you aren't comfortable breaking up in person, you can do it over the phone or through email. Don't be afraid to share the reason you are interested in looking for a new therapist. If they didn't realize they were causing a problem or acting unprofessional, it could help open their eyes to what changes they need to make. Remember that they are a person just like you; they aren't perfect.
How To Find A Good Therapist
There are many strategies you can use to find a good therapist. The first thing you can try is asking for a referral. If you know of a friend or family member that has gone to therapy, you can ask if they could make a recommendation. You can also ask your doctor if they have a mental health professional to whom they refer patients.
If you are involved with a church or religious group, consider asking if they anyone can make a counseling recommendation. There might even be a person within the group, such as a priest or minister, who offers counseling sessions. If you have health insurance, you can check with your provider to see if they cover mental health services and if there are counselors to whom they refer their clients.
If you are a college student, there's a good chance that your college or university has a department for mental health or at least a counselor on staff that students can talk to. The same is true if you are in middle school or high school. If you have a child in elementary school, there will also be someone on staff who can make referrals if needed.
Doing an online search and checking reviews is also an effective way to find a good therapist. Make sure you check the credentials of anyone that you are working with. Remember not to believe everything that you see online. Make sure you compare and contrast therapists to see which one is most likely to be a good fit for you.
Get The Help You Need
If you've had a bad experience with a therapist, don't hesitate to call it quits with them. Just because therapy with one person doesn't work does not mean that there is a problem with you. Not every therapist is going to be the right fit for you.
It can be discouraging when you put yourself out there to get help and don't receive what you expected. But there are good therapists out there. Don't let one lousy therapist ruin your opinion of therapy as a whole. Be encouraged to look for another one, and don't give up until you make a great connection with a therapist that can help you improve your life for the better.
You might consider trying online therapy. Research shows that electronically delivered therapy is as effective as traditional face-to-face counseling, which makes it an incredibly convenient option. This study, conducted by Brigham Young University researchers, found that technology-based therapy provides other added benefits too, including, “lower cost, no travel time, easy access, no waitlists, and trackable progress.”
If these perks are attractive to you, consider choosing an online therapy solution such as BetterHelp. The professional, licensed therapist at BetterHelp can provide ongoing daily support via email, chat, or video conferencing, which means you can select the best format for you. The site also offers numerous sources of helpful information about common mental illness disorders and articles discussing how to cope with stress, difficult people, and challenging situations. Here's a look at what others had to say about the assistance they received from the counselors at BetterHelp.
“Liany is the best therapist I have ever had. She makes me feel heard and gives me tangible ways to manage my anxiety, even though we only have 30 minutes together each week. She is so accommodating of my schedule and understanding, not to mention incredibly knowledgeable. Whether it's a book recommendation, a coping mechanism to try, or just affirmation that I am enough and am doing enough, Liany always meets me where I am at. She is a wonderful human who cares about her clients.”
“Cindy is hands down the best therapist I have had out of my 8 years of trying different therapists. I was very fortunate to find someone during the pandemic who was well versed in the issues I was facing. She inspires me and pushes me to do better for myself.”
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