Crabby therapist

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I have been going to this therapist for about 7 months. I really like her so far besides the fact that she can be really crabby with me. If I say one thing that upsets her, she takes it so offensively and says I am disrespecting her. Like today, we got in an argument because she was saying how frustrated she gets with me all the time, so I asked her if she had something going on that was bothering her. I was asking that genuinely because I care about her. I know that in therapy, you shouldn’t inquire about your therapist’s personal life, but seriously, I don’t know what is upsetting her so much lately. She doesn’t laugh at anything I say, so I ask her why she is so serious. Then, she tells me that I really frustrate her when I do that. I just feel like she has some sort of wall up, which I don’t think therapists should have. Is this normal?

A: Without being a fly on the wall, I can’t tell whether your perception is correct or if you are avoiding your own issues by shifting the conversations to the therapist’s behavior. Either might be true. I’m glad you like her but you won’t be able to work with her to settle your personal issues unless you can work through your mutual frustration.

If you can’t, you might need to consider a transfer to another therapist. The most important indicator of whether or not therapy will be successful is whether the client and therapist “click.” All things being equal in terms of therapist training and experience, it is the relationship that makes a difference. Therapists know this and there are no hard feelings if a client decides it just isn’t working out.

On the other hand: If you do transfer and then have some of the same issues, it may be that there is something going on with you that is making a therapeutic alliance difficult. In that case, it will be important to work with your therapist to understand what you contribute to frustrations in relating and how it is also played out in your personal life.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Sep 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Crabby therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/09/25/crabby-therapist/