15 Signs You Should Fire Your Therapist
When it comes to your mental health, don't settle for less.
With the stigma surrounding mental health treatment waning by the minute, more Americans are seeking therapy than ever. In fact, in a poll conducted by the American Psychological Association 48 percent of respondents revealed that at least one member of their household visited a mental health professional within the past year. When you’re dealing with mental health issues, finding the right therapist can make all the difference.
However, just because a therapist comes highly-recommended doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll provide the right treatment for you—and in many cases, seeing someone who’s a bad fit can do more harm than good. So, before you spend another hour with a clinician who doesn’t meet your needs, discover the signs you're working with a bad therapist.
They can’t remember basic details about your life.
Therapists are only human, and as such, may not remember every single detail about your life you provide them, especially if you’ve only been seeing them for a short time. However, if your therapist can’t remember important details that pertain to your therapeutic relationship—the nature of a specific trauma you’re seeing them about, the name of your partner if you’ve mentioned it, or basic details about your family structure, for example—it’s time to seek treatment from someone new.
You always feel like holding back.
While it can often feel awkward or embarrassing to start divulging the intimate details of your life to a complete stranger, doing so is the only way to make therapy work in the long run. “A strong rapport is the most important thing that a therapist and client can have. The strength of the relationship will determine how comfortable the client feels in opening up to the therapist and how safe they feel being honest about situations,” says Dr. Jaime Kulaga, Ph.D., LMHC.
“The more comfortable the client feels in opening up, the better the therapist can treat [them]," she says. "So, if you don't feel comfortable opening up to a therapist, it's time to look for one you can be open and honest with.”
Seeing them stresses you out.
While seeing a therapist should be a net positive in a patient’s life, that doesn’t mean sessions will always be stress-free, especially when you’re exploring trauma. That said, if every single session is stressful to the point where you dread going, it’s time to find someone new. Feeling overwhelmingly negative and stressed out about your therapist—and therapy itself—only makes it harder to open up and work toward the goals you’re trying to accomplish.
They open up too much to you.
Though having a mostly one-sided conversation can be strange to those new to therapy, it’s important that your treatment remains a one-way street. If your therapist is revealing intimate details about their personal life, complaining about things that happened to them, or talking to you like a friend rather than a client, it’s time to reconsider your relationship.
“While it is okay for a therapist to share a little about themselves, in order to build rapport or give guidance, this is okay only in small doses,” says Kulaga. “If you feel that you're becoming the therapist and doing the listening in-session, it's time to find a new therapist.”
You feel like you’re being misdiagnosed.
Your therapist is a professional, but they’re not omniscient. Much like any other clinician, therapists can make mistakes in their diagnoses. That said, if you’ve raised an objection to your therapist’s diagnosis and you feel like you’re not being heard, it’s time to move on.
“You know you best. Whether in mental health counseling or in the medical field, if you have a feeling you're being misdiagnosed, don’t keep second-guessing yourself,” says Kulaga. "Get a second opinion right away." In other words, no, it's not all in your head.
Their scope of practice doesn’t align with your needs.
Therapy is anything but a one-size-fits-all relationship. If you’re looking for a strict Freudian, a Gestalt therapist probably won’t suit your needs, and vice versa. “No one counselor can be an expert in each of the hundreds of sectors within counseling," says Kulaga. "When searching for a counselor, be sure to do research on them and find out if they specialize with the needs you are presenting. If you're already seeing a counselor, and you feel that they do not have the scope of experience needed to help you with an issue, it's time to find a new one.”
They seem disinterested.
If they’re being adequately professional, your therapist will never share the same kind of interest in your personal problems that a friend would. But that doesn’t mean an air of disinterest is ever appropriate, either. If your therapist seems like they’re not invested—even in a professional capacity—in what you’re discussing with them, it’s time to move on.
They don't provide any actionable guidance whatsoever.
While no good therapist won’t ever try to dictate your behavior, a complete lack of guidance is a major red flag. “A therapist is not supposed to tell you what to do, but they are supposed to guide you based on the information and experiences that you present them,” says Kulaga. “If you feel that every time you leave a session you have gained no insight, guidance, or direction from the therapist, it might be time to seek out a new therapist.”
They constantly reschedule.
Life happens, even to therapists. They get sick, they go on vacation, and their kids break bones in gym class from time to time, just like anybody else. That said, if your therapist is constantly rescheduling your sessions—especially if they’re not providing ample notice—you should weigh your options. “If you find that a medical professional is always rescheduling on you and that you're stressed as a result, it is time to find someone more professional and respectful of your time,” says Kulaga. And if you need more “me time,” it’s time to practice The 50 Top Secrets of a Perfect Work-Life Balance.
They cross boundaries you’re not comfortable with.
“There is a lot to be said about ethics and rules of a counseling relationship," says Kulaga. "Point blank, if a therapist makes you feel uncomfortable due to crossing boundaries in any way, you should seek help from another therapist. Staying in a situation with a therapist who has crossed boundaries can hinder your mental health treatment significantly and even has the ability to do more harm.”
Some signs your therapist isn’t adhering to appropriate boundaries? They try to see you or members of your social circle outside of your sessions, they initiate contact with you in public, they ask you to help them with their problems, or they act flirtatious or sexual toward you.
You don’t get along.
Your therapist needn’t—and shouldn’t—be your best friend, but experiencing genuine animosity toward one another is hardly better. If you spend the bulk of your therapy sessions thinking about how much you dislike the person you’re talking to, that will inevitably get in the way of your process and keep you from achieving your therapeutic goals.
They back up your bad decisions.
Your therapist is supposed to provide appropriate guidance to you. So, if your therapist seems to be guiding you in a harmful or dangerous direction, or is offering unwavering support for choices that are measurably making your life worse—perhaps by affirming any substance use issues, or encouraging to stick with toxic relationships—it’s time to start looking for someone new.
They’re dismissive of your issues.
It’s not your therapist’s job to unconditionally support your choices. That said, if you feel like your therapist is dismissive of your experiences, it’s time to find someone new. A good therapist won’t compare your personal struggles with those of other patients, nor will they suggest you simply look on the bright side when it comes to the issues you’re trying to work through.
You have concerns about confidentiality.
Confidentiality is essential in any patient-doctor one, and that goes doubly for a therapeutic relationship. If you have a therapist who runs up and starts discussing your treatment when they see you at the grocery store—or who ends your session by calling, “We can keep talking about those fantasies about your personal trainer next week!” into the waiting room—it’s time to move on. If you can’t trust your therapist to keep the details of your sessions and your relationship private, there’s no healthy or safe way to continue working together.
They fall asleep.
As absurd as it may sound, therapists do fall asleep in sessions from time to time. And when they do, there's only one course of action. “Fire them now," says Kulaga. "And ask for a refund for that session!” And if you’re practically nodding off at work, it’s time to address these 23 Reasons You’re Tired All the Time.
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