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Bad Therapy: 10 Signs That You Need a New Therapist

stop sign

If you are in counseling now or consider seeking a therapist in the future, it is important to choose a counselor who is the right fit for you. I am always saddened to hear of an individual or couple giving up on counseling after one bad experience. Therapists are each unique in their specific approaches and you deserve one who is qualified to meet your needs. Here are a few signs that you may need a new therapist.

#1 Connection is Missing

aloneIt is well researched that the therapeutic alliance, or relationship, with the therapist and client is likely the single biggest predictor of success in therapy (Martin, Garske, & Davis, 2000). If you do not feel a connection or trust starting to build between you and your therapist, it might be time to consider a change.

#2 No Improvement

You see a therapist for several months and do not feel that any progress has been made. You might even feel worse after every session. Some issues take longer to solve or learn to manage than others, but if there is no hope for change…you might need a new therapist.

#3 Lack of Boundaries

Your counselor seems to forget that you are a client. They talk to you in depth about their own personal life or problems with no apparent therapeutic purpose. Maybe they seem a bit too interested in the details of your sex life. They want to be buddies outside of the therapy room while you are still a client. It sounds like they have boundary issues.

#4 Distractions

woman on phoneYour therapist seems to have trouble paying attention. They take calls or text during sessions. They seem to be thinking about something else. Maybe they even fall asleep.  Not only is this rude, but you are paying them for a service. This is your time.

#5 Focus is on the Therapist

It is not a good sign if your counselor monopolizes your therapy hour by talking about him or herself. A certain amount of self-disclosure is probably therapeutic, but the therapist should not do the overwhelming majority of the talking. If you cannot seem to get a word in during your session, you need a new therapist.

#6 Never Neutral

Your therapist clearly always aligns with you or with your spouse on every issue. Yes, there are times when a therapist might agree with one person on a concern, but this should not be a constant taking of sides. It makes me think that the therapist has a personal issue that is appearing in the therapy office.

#7 Feeling Shamed and Judged

saddnessFeeling guilt because you are doing something or have done something that conflicts with your belief system might be a very appropriate response to a situation. A therapist can explore this without shaming a client and making him or her feel bad about who they are. If you feel constantly judged by your therapist, you need a new one.

#8 Violating Your Belief System

Every therapist has his or her own set of personal values. We cannot “not” have them. As counselors, we are not allowed to push our beliefs on others. This does not mean we cannot explore issues like spirituality, but simply that we cannot force our own values on you.

#9 Not Qualified or a Specialist

Some therapists claim to be able to treat a wide variety of issues. Many therapists truly are generalists, but I recommend that you seek a therapist that specializes in your presenting issue. They may have specialty certifications or degrees in that area. I have heard horrible stories about a therapist blaming a spouse for a client’s addiction, and the therapist was simply not trained properly in addiction. This can be very damaging.

#10 Cancelling or Showing Up Late

lateThis happens to all of us from time to time. If they are consistently late or cancelling often, it shows that they are not respectful of you or your time. Your counselor expects you to show up for appointments and they owe you the same courtesy.

In the end, you need to trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about a therapist, I would find a new one. If you have a bad feeling about ten therapists, then something might be off with your gut feeling. Do you agree with these red flags? Please share below.


References

  1. Martin, D. J., Garske, J. P., & Davis, M. K. (2000). Relation of the therapeutic alliance with outcome and other variables: a meta-analytic review. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 68(3), 438.
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About Courtney Stivers, PhD (25 Articles)
Courtney Stivers, PhD, LMFT, LPC is a subject matter expert in Marriage and Family Therapy. Her professional experience includes residential adolescent addiction, school-based therapy, community mental health, teaching, research, public speaking, professional consultation, missionary fieldwork, youth ministry, and administrative positions in a juvenile drug court, marriage and family therapy clinic, and a residential treatment center. She has a passion for teaching family systems theory and professional issues.

14 Comments on Bad Therapy: 10 Signs That You Need a New Therapist

  1. Really awesome that Dr.. J. violated 9 out of 10. I really could have stopped at the fist or second session. He was an oddball too. He went over the appointment scedule for my therapy we had on the third rid session and said “Your mine.” Ew, ew ew and uckyyy.

    Like

  2. My therapist seems to get annoyed that I refuse her suggestions..for example going to group therapy four days a week. I’m not interested in that nor do I have the time. She says I have an excuse for all of her suggestions. On my last visit she seemed disgusted with me and never asked when would I like to return like she always did in the past. I felt that she was done with me and it hurt. All because I didn’t take her reccomondations?

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  3. Selfish isn't my name // March 13, 2016 at 9:31 am // Reply

    #1,#2,#3,#5,#6. It was just brutal. Everything I said at one point he had to say it happened to him or his children or whatever. Trying to be my friend, compliments of the phony kind.
    A therapist isn’t your friend. A therapist needs to be neutral at times. Unless you are on meds, there is not reason you shouldn’t feel better in therapy between session 3-8. Somewhere things/issues should start to feel better. I do not think it takes 8 sessions. IF therapist does not give you homework find your own. The internet is filled with creative ideas that you can work on with or without a therapist.

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    • That sounds terrible. I agree that you should have some hope for improvement and at least begin to feel better after just a few sessions. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I hope you have found the resources you need.

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      • Selfish isn't my name // March 13, 2016 at 3:43 pm // Reply

        Thanks for your compassionate words. Yes, resources, more therapy wasn’t my wisest idea.
        There is much we can do. It’s almost as if you need a bit of luck not just work to find someone you can work with.

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  4. I have been seeing a counselor for substance abuse required by my doctor. I have made zero progress. They agree with everything I say, and this person is very timid. They have told me that they are in therapy and personal things. We made a treatment plan but even after 5 sessions, we have never touched on it. We mostly discuss every day things. The communication is awful. I cannot reach them if I need an appointment, I have to speak to another person and they are always confused as to who I am or who my therapist is. Seriously terrible. It’s low cost but I think I deserve better. I avoided seeing a therapist for almost 4 years because I wasn’t ready. Now, I feel ready and I am not making progress. Now my therapist says they are moving to another part of the facility and cannot see me. They said someone will call to give me information on my new therapist before my next appointment. No one has called.

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  5. Kathleen Sullivan // September 10, 2015 at 7:05 am // Reply

    This is excellent…thank you!

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  6. i’m wondering how long one should stick to the therapist to know whether s/he is the right one. is a therapist good if s/he talks a lot abut client’s stuff (not his/her own stuff) so much, that client doesn’t get to say everything s/he wants during the session. What’s the limit?

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    • Good question. I do not have a hard and fast rule, but the client should be able to feel heard. As the client, I would bring this up immediately with the therapist. If they cannot adjust after one or two sessions, I would take my money elsewhere.

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  7. Reblogged this on Musings of a Creative Spirit and commented:
    These are all very important. As therapists who care about our patients and our work with them, we need to be mindful of these basic very important criteria and strive to look at ourselves and be aware of our own weaknesses. My biggest challenge is both my strength and weakness: excitement and enthusiasm. I can get too caught up in being excited about my patient, their progress or just something they say that is fascinating, so I have to slow down and let the session unfold, lean back and get grounded and listen actively. It’s all about balance and trusting in the moment,being really present, letting go…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. christine m // August 11, 2015 at 4:32 pm // Reply

    Hits all important points….wondering if this might be something that could be handed out to new clients. I generally ask a new client to let me know if they feel they are not being understood or if an intervention or interaction brings up negative feelings about the alliance.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Reblogged this on Child's Play Counseling Services for adults, adolescents and children and commented:
    Re blogged from The Family Therapy Blog. Good information for anyone who is concerned that their therapist might not be a good match.

    Liked by 1 person

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