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How to Tell if You Need a New Therapist
With the spotlight on mental illness these days, lots of people are seeking help from therapists and counselors. There are some very good therapists in the field, but there are also some very bad ones. Ironically, many mentally ill people are drawn to be counselors and therapists. This doesn't mean they'll be bad therapists or counselors, but it doesn't mean they'll be good ones, either. This field is a magnet for narcissists, in particular. A good therapist can be immensely helpful to your family and your situation, but a bad or unqualified therapist can be detrimental or even dangerous.
This checklist is by no means all-encompassing. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and secure with your therapist. If you don't - regardless of the reason - you should find another one.
Signs You Should Think About Finding a New Therapist:
- Your therapist does not have the qualifications or experience to treat your diagnosis
- Your therapist does not remember your name, your diagnosis or what you last talked about
- Your therapist makes judgments or gives opinions about your life or relationships too soon: tells you to leave your marriage during your first session, etc.
- Your therapist does other things during your session, such as read email or eat lunch
- Your therapist takes calls or sends texts during your session
- Your therapist is inappropriately confrontational or aggressive
- Your therapist is inappropriately rude or sarcastic
- Your therapist tries too hard to be a friend rather than a counselor
- Your therapist appears bored or falls asleep (yes, it does happen)
- Your therapist tells you too much personal information or talks about themselves too much
- Your therapist expresses a personal bias (religon, race, sex, gender, etc.)
- Your therapist makes fun of you or makes you feel demeaned
- Your therapist insists that you need more therapy when you feel you're ready to move on
- Your therapist talks about money or payment too much
- Your therapist uses foul language (some people are OK with this, but sometimes it's an indication of a lack of respect - both for you and their job)
- Your therapist blames your family members, spouse, partner, parents, etc. and/or encourages you to do so
- Your therapist makes inappropriate or diagnostic comments about people they have not even met: "She sounds like a jerk!" "He sounds bi-polar!"
- Your therapist dismisses your concerns or does not address them
- Your therapist dismisses your spiritual beliefs, or conversely, pushes their spiritual beliefs on to you
- Your therapist gives you no feedback or feedback that does not relate to your situation
- Your therapist will not discuss your diagnosis with you or your treatment
- Your therapist does not suggest or help you decide on goals or a treatment plan
- Your therapist tries to convince you that things you think are a problem are not a problem
- Your therapist tries to talk you out of your diagnosis, such as saying things like "You aren't really bi-polar," or, "You don't have Borderline Personality Disorder because you're a guy. Only women can have that." Therapists are not doctors. They are not "almost doctors." If they have an issue with your diagnosis, they need to take it up with the doctor.
- Your therapist makes inappropriate gestures, such as initiating any physical contact like a hug
- Your therapist asks for your help with a personal problem
- Your therapist attempts to see or contact you outside of the professional relationship, such as going to a movie
- Your therapist encourages you to be dependent on them
- Your therapist concentrates too much on negative things
- Your therapist pushes you too hard and causes you to withdraw or conversely, does not push hard enough and therapy cannot progress
- Your therapist will not answer questions about their background, experience or education
- Your therapist is not available when you need them, cuts sessions short, cancels a lot or is otherwise unreliable
- Your therapist breaches your privacy: tells people about you, allows interruptions in the sessions, discusses other people's cases with you
- Your therapist attempts to tell you what to do, rather than help you figure it out for yourself
- Your therapist seems too needy or dependent on you
- Your therapist teases you in any way or flirts with you (this is a big no-no)
- Your therapist does not provide a "light at the end of the tunnel" or let you know how therapy will be considered successful
- Your therapist expresses inappropriate feelings for you
- Your therapist insists they have the right answers or that they know everything
- Your therapist focuses on "symptom treatment" only, without finding out or addressing the causes for the symptoms
Any and all of these things are red flags that you might need a new therapist. They don't all bother everybody but some of them (such as inappropriate feelings or physical contact) are absolute deal-breakers whether they bother you or not because if they occur, the therapist-client relationship has been irreparably compromised. Again, the important thing is that you feel comfortable. If you don't, even if your therapist has done none of these things, you should find a new therapist. Sometimes personalities just don't "click" and that's OK. We are all human beings.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that the therapy relationship is not supposed to be a totally one-sided situation where you are going to an absolute authority and you must do whatever they say. It is an active partnership where you are both participating in bettering your health.
Please see Part II of this article: How to Interview Your New Therapist