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10 Things your Therapist should NOT do!

Updated on March 6, 2012

Toxic Therapy? Time to find another therapist.

1. SHHHH! No Blabbing! Your privacy and confidentiality is key. Unless you sign a paper allowing your counselor or therapist to talk about you to someone, they cannot! A release of information is legally required even to acknowledge working with you.

  • Home. Your counselor also needs to be aware about keeping your privacy when contacting your home. For example, they should check with you about which phone number is ok to call, or just how you prefer to be contacted to avoid embarrassment or concern for YOU.
  • Chance encounters. They should also avoid blowing your privacy if they run into you outside of the office. You might be embarrassed if you were with a friend who doesn't know you are in counseling, if you must explain running into your therapist.
  • Exceptions. There are legal exceptions to this --for example if you give the impression you're going to seriously harm yourself or someone else.

6. Pushing meds. Medications might be offered as an option or a choice in most situations (maybe exceptions would be severe situations.) However, this is entirely up to you. The choice about taking medications is personal and feeling pressured by anyone can make matters worse.

7. My therapist talks about him/herself, a lot. Really? Your therapist spends your time in session sharing too much about their own life, problems, stories? You're not paying for them to barf on you. A small amout of personal stuff can be ok, but in small amounts.

8. Make you sign things you don't understand. Ok, that's basic. If you don't get it, insist that you get a better explanation.

9. Talk to your spouse or family behind your back. Back to confidentiality, unless you put that in writing, they cannot even mention that they work with you. There are a few exceptions, like if you are planning to seriously harm yourself or someone else.

2. NO SEX. NO intimate touch. Ever. Ok, so movies are horrible about this. You CANNOT date or have sex with or kiss or exchange intimate love letters with someone providing you with therapy/counseling. It's illegal, wrong, an abuse of power. A hug is often even avoided for most counselors and might be replaced with a hand shake. Now, it's not unusual to feel strong feelings towards your therapist, even attraction. But acting on those feelings is not ok. If the therapist returns these gestures they risk losing their license and can be sued. Various occupations have written ethical codes which state how many years must pass before a professional relationship ends and a personal one may start.

3. Making you feel small, less than, not important. It doesn't matter what level of education the professional has had, your empowerment is key. Do you feel they talk too much about their own selves, interests, demands, things you should do? Run.

4. Friendships or Meeting outside of therapy. A counselor or therapist should have one relationship with you, and that is in an office as a counselor. They cannot be your friend, because they would be confusing their needs with yours --and yours are what's key. That's why often the "pastoral counseling" role where they are a counselor and a church official can get confusing. Additionally, they should not be asking you to do them favors or tasks that benefit them personally.

5. Shoulding all over you. The role of a therapist or counselor is not to tell you WHAT you should do or how you should feel, but to listen to you. Sure, there are lots of counseling styles, and some of them are really direct, and might even provide instructions or steps for doing things. The point here is that your therapist doesn't get the joy of walking out the door and into your life to take responsibility for what happens. Your therapist needs to help you find your own way.

10. GIFTS?? You shouldn't be accepting gifts or giving things to your therapist. They have ethical codes that prevent them from this. Sure, there might be minor exceptions like a holiday card but overall this is an area to avoid.


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