Signs Of A Bad Therapist: How To Know When To Move On
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated June 02, 2020
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. So 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. But, 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 a new one.
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 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 start searching for a new therapist right away.
- 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 right away. 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, then that's not the professional that 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 that leads them to take on a parenting role towards you. Or, it could be that you remind them of a friend, so they start to treat you that way. 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 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 will quickly grow frustrated. If you find yourself in this situation, then you need to look for a different therapist that will be responsive to your communication.
- You Aren't Being Challenged
Good therapy will challenge you. If you never feel like you're being a challenge or gently nudged forward, then you probably aren't making the progress that you could be making. 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 like those offered by BetterHelp and find that your therapist is sending you messages that are full of typos or grammatically incorrect then you know they aren't putting effort into your counseling sessions that you need. You want a therapist that is 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 with anyone else 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, then you won't be comfortable enough to open up the way that you need to to make the progress that 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. It can make it easier to do if you keep the relationship in the right context. The area is professional that you were paying to help you for a certain amount of time. Most people aren't going to need life long therapy. If they aren't upholding their part, then it's time to find someone else that will.
If you aren't comfortable telling them the news in person you can do it over the phone or through email. Don't be afraid to share with them the reason why you are interested in looking for a new therapist. If they didn't realize they were causing a problem, 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.
There's no reason for you to have to feel weird about choosing to work with another professional.
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 that they refer patients to.
If you are involved with a church or religious group, you could ask if they have anyone that they recommend for counseling. There might even be a person within the group such as a priest or minister that offers counseling sessions. Or, if you have health insurance, you can check with your provider to see if they cover mental health services and if there are counselors that they refer their clients to.
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 that will be able to make referrals if you need.
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 the right one 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 try to get help and don't receive what you were expecting. But, there are good therapists out there. Don't let one bad 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.