A good therapist can make a world of difference in a person’s life. They offer valuable advice and feedback, provide a safe environment to talk about negative emotions, and teach individuals healthy ways to cope with their feelings. But just like in any profession, there are good therapists that you’ll benefit from and bad therapists that may discourage you. If you’re worried that your therapist might be doing more harm than good, look out for these signs.
Do You Dread Your Appointments?
It can be nerve-wracking when you first start seeing a therapist, and you may feel uncomfortable during the first session or two, and this is normal. After your therapist gets to know you, you should feel more comfortable with being open and honest, and your session should become a highlight of your week. However, if you dread future appointments because they leave you feeling bored or unmotivated, you would benefit from seeing a different therapist.
Clinical psychologist Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D, has noticed that many people prematurely decide therapy isn’t right for them after only seeing one therapist, but she encourages others to keep seeking treatment despite the disappointment they might experience at first. She says, “It’s hard enough to get yourself to therapy when you need it, but to have to then ‘shop around’ for the right therapist can make many people either quit or settle for the first one they find, even if it’s not a right fit.”
Is Your Therapist a Good Listener?
You would think that all therapists are good listeners, but unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. People have told stories of their therapists answering phone calls, texting, or even falling asleep during sessions! Even if your therapist doesn’t seem noticeably distracted during sessions, it might be reasonable to find a new counselor if your therapist doesn’t seem interested or engaged or doesn’t remember major details about you. Ros Johnson, LICSW, says there are a few ways therapy clients can tell if their therapist isn’t listening:
Are You Making Progress?
There are countless reasons why a person might decide to try therapy, whether it’s for a mental illness, addiction, relationship troubles, or a big life change. Your therapist should be helping you to address specific areas of your life where you can begin implementing change. According to Linda Esposito, LCSW, says that, “You cannot fix a problem without having a goal.”
As you discuss your issues with your therapist, you should work together to create goals for yourself. If you feel like each session is the same routine, you don’t have a specific goal, and your therapist doesn’t give you something to “work on” in between sessions, you should express this to them. Explain that you’re at a loss for what to do, and that you’d like help with determining a goal for yourself. If nothing changes, find a different provider.
Do You Feel Judged or Invalidated?
One woman recalled her therapist saying that if she lost weight, her depression would likely get better. This occurred after the woman had opened up about her struggles with body dysmorphic disorder. Needless to say, she left the session feeling defeated, upset, and insecure.
Another therapy patient recounts this statement from their therapist: “You seem to be doing fine. I’m not convinced that you really have anxiety.” If your therapist makes a comment that hurts you, you should speak up about it. Notice if other harmful comments are made, or if any of these things occur during your sessions:
Does Your Therapist Break Confidentiality?
There are only three reasons a therapist should break confidentiality: if the patient is a danger to themselves, has a plan to harm others, or if a child is being abused. Other than these, a therapist should never disclose any patient information to others. You should be confident that whatever you tell your therapist will be kept private. Loren Soeiro, Ph.D., writes that if your therapist doesn’t keep your sessions confidential, you can report him or her to the state licensing board for psychology.
Finding a great therapist can be challenging, which is why Oakville Wellness Center allows you to review therapist profiles and find the perfect fit for your needs.