192 Comments to
12 Most Annoying Bad Habits of Therapists

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  1. Listen up, folks, Miastella is right – the demands for paperwork are extensive in private settings, too. We are in a hospital-based clinic and have to gather volumes of information by the end of the first session – hence the reams of paperwork that clients are asked to fill out, most of it very personal, before the first session. The information has to be correct because it goes into the electronic record and cannot be altered once it has been “processed”(I think clients should scream bloody murder about electronic records for therapy, but that’s another topic.) Then the insurance companies demand another set of information. If we therapists fail to gather this information, our clinic can be cited with violations, or the insurance company can deny a client’s claim. The client literally gets no time to explain his/her needs, and it’s all because the regulatory bodies and insurance companies insist on these practices. If a client survives the first few sessions that require a large number of irrelevant questions, they can get what they came for – until 90 days later when almost the entire process has to be repeated.
    Now we are told that we must collaborate with physicians (hence the electronic record). If an MD calls, we are to drop everything, including the client in the office, and take the call.

    Perhaps knowing the backstory of the demands on the therapist can help put some of these annoyances into perspective.

    Regulatory bodies and insurance companies certainly don’t listen to us therapists; even the APA gets nowhere with them. Clients have to speak up and insist that quality of care requires that therapists have more flexibility to respond to the needs of their clients, not the “needs” of the regulators and corporations!

  2. I am lucky to have a terrific therapist now. She does none of the things on the list, but if she ever found it necessary to eat or take notes, I know she’d ask me if it were ok first, and she’d have a good reason. Her boundaries are very good and I have never felt that she was trying to fit me into some preconceived idea of me and my condition.

    I have to say that I have been in therapy on and off for the past 4 decades and I have had therapists who have done all the things on the list. Luckily, I guess I’ve had enough experience and gained enough confidence to stick up for myself and make sure my needs get met.

    That’s not easy or even possible for many new patients. It requires that you know what you need, and it helps if you have good experiences with which to compare the bad ones, and you know what is helpful to you. I only know that I have read a lot; I have compared notes with other patients in support groups, and I’ve done a lot of self-examination to get to the place I’m in now. I’m sorry to hear about all the bad experiences. There are terrific therapists out there too.

  3. I am a therapist (clinical psychologist) who works primarily with children and families. I found this article and the comments very interesting and even enlightening. I always enjoy and appreciate having the opportunity to hear things openly from clients’ perspectives.

    I do have one question that I would like to bounce off of everyone: I do one of the behaviors indicated here and would like to get a sense of whether people think this is wrong. I’m a type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetic. My clients and their parents are aware of this. I tell them primarily so that if I do start to have an insulin reaction during a session, I can explain to them quickly why I need to eat candy or glucose tablets. That probably happens about once every two or three months. In those situations, I’ll say to my client something along the lines of “you know how I told you I’m a diabetic?” Well, my blood sugar is dipping and I need to have some sugar. Is that ok?” No one has ever expressed any misgivings about me doing that or seemed bothered by me eating at those times.

    But I welcome any feedback.

  4. Dr Mateja

    In your circumstance I don’t think there are any clients who would object. What is being talked about is the eating of a meal in front a client. Some therpists with poor boundaries will not, or do not, schedule a meal break for themselves and think it’s just fine to eat while in session.
    If you do need to eat candy and take care of your needs I do suggest you also offer a piece to the client. More so for the benefit of the client and yourself… If you have an attack…wouldn’t it be a better idea to stop the session and reschedule the client as your system needs to return to homeostasis? If your reading your own bodies signals that something is off balance…taking care of your needs and then feeling when balance is returning…how much focus are you really giving your client at the time?

  5. I think there are a lot of therapists who truly love what they do and want to help their clients. As a client, when my therapist is not perfect…she’s a few minutes late, or she forgot something I thought was important but probably only barely mentioned it once, then I get to see that she is human just like me. When I first saw my therapist and I thought she was this perfect person it was intimidating. Now I am not talking about a therapist making a big mistake that really harms the client, but sometimes we can learn something from these little things that just make them more human. Just my thoughts.

  6. @Michelle- The question of “How does that make you feel?” has gotten a bad wrap for years, mostly because people don’t understand why we therapists ask it. I can understand how it feels generic to you, but we ask questions like that because we genuinely want to know how you reacted to a particular situation!

    Often I will hear clients describe a particular scenario, and while I know that I personally would have felt disgusted/angry/guilty in response, I can’t make the assumption that my client feels the same way. When I ask, “How did that make you feel?” it’s because my client hasn’t said what his/her emotion was, is giving me lots of details but avoiding the emotional aspects, or telling me what his/her friends’ reactions were but lacking insight into his/her own reactions. Sometimes it’s not so obvious, as you say, and a question like “How did that make you feel?” will be greeted by a stunned look and “Hmm, I’m not sure,” or “I don’t know.”

    We ask questions like that to keep the focus on the client. It helps both of us understand how he/she is working inside and can be informational for the both of us.

    • So therapists should explain why they ask it, and why they do and say other things, instead of (and no, I am not saying this is all therapists) assuming they are the expert and performing their little hocus-pocus on the client without treating the client like an equal and an adult enough to tell them what is going on!

  7. I think most of these should really go without saying. I found the worst habits of therapists were:
    failing to see things from my perspective
    not offering sympathy
    not being flexible about the kind of treatment offered
    telling me the conclusions instead of letting me work it out for myself.
    Its simple, when I go to therapy I want to talk about my emotions to someone who cares about me, to feel like they are on my side. I want them to ask the right “guiding” questions so I can eventually work out my own solution and put that into action. Sounds basic but I’ve had such a hard job getting anything like that from some therapists!

  8. I didn’t even know that people had issues like these. I am lucky that I don’t have issues with my T.

  9. I place the profession of “Psychotherapist”, in general, in the same category as “Lawyers” and in some cases, “Doctors”. There are others that fit into this general category. What is the the tie that binds them?
    They all have a vested financial interest in non-resolution. In other words, they all will make more money the longer the “problem” persist.
    I have been to a “therapist(s)” and, though I don’t blame them for the issues I’ve had, I do accuse them of NOT offering possible valid solutions.
    To be in the profession, I think, takes a person of extreme moral and ethic fiber to do their job without thinking about how to make the next payment on their upcoming hawaiian cruise they plan to take in September.

  10. My comment to my fellow psychiatrists would be: why not give your bills to your patients and let them file? As long as you are up front about it. Also, I wouldn’t get too upset about patients regressing, whining about the how do you feel question, wanting a perfect pill, expecting you to read their minds and fix their problems for them immediately, etc. If they had wonderful childhood they wouldn’t act this way. But then they wouldn’t need THERAPY. These behaviors are called *transference*.

  11. I can’t tell you HOW many times #1 has rung true for me.

  12. I would not like it if my t had a insulin reaction in session, I would then feel like I was having to take care of them, I have hypoglycemia and know that I can fade out very fast and need assistance in coming around…besides my brain always gets foggy first…

  13. #13: A therapist who sets herself up as powerful and in control of the session through obvious and covert means. Obvious: telling you why you feel as you do before obtaining sufficient background on you or placing you in a ‘shoebox’ labeled as xyz and identifying all your symptoms as from that ‘xyz shoebox. Covert: sitting in the ‘big chair’ which is higher than any other chair in the room and using a ‘professorial’ tone of voice. I tested my current therapist several years ago by sitting in her ‘big chair’. She was very open to the switch and we had a good discussion of the power dynamics involved. Needless to say, she is still my therapist.

  14. My therapist is absolutely wonderful. He genuinely cares and empathizes without coming on too strong or making it uncomfortable. He made it clear from day one that he was coming from another location and will most likely always be 5-10 minutes late but always makes sure I get the extra time at the end. The only time he tells of his personal life is if the subject matter relates to my particular problem. Too bad their aren’t more therapists out there like him. Previously I had seen a social worker a few times for a family members terminal illness and all she wanted to do was talk about her favorite restaurants..needless to say I got the hell out of there.

  15. Lola…it’s great that you really like this therapist but think about this…

    Why don’t you and your therapist make your appointment time 15 minutes later so he’s “on time” and you’re not waiting? It’s not extra time your getting at “the end” but the time you are paying for.
    Unless of course you both just enjoy the dynamic.

  16. Regarding the “how does it make you feel” question, you would be surprised how often you either can’t tell how a client is feeling, or assume they feel one way only to find out otherwise.

    For example:
    Therapist: it must have hurt you when Shelly broke up with you.
    Client: Not really. I was eagerly waiting for it to happen.

    Just there the therapist has lost credibility with the client and made themselves look foolish. It’s better to ask how a client feels than assume. On the other hand, if it bothers the client, he/she is free to ask their therapist to stop asking this question.

    13 should be attacking the client. One colleague of mine bombards his clients with “why did you do that”, “you know that was wrong”, ect. He should have been a police interrogator, not a counselor.

  17. Number 10 is the worst!

    My previous counselor talked about how wealthy he was all the time! His expensive canes and how he wins money gambling! It was atrocious to say the least.

  18. Glad I found this great thread. I recently found a therapist around my own 45-50-year-old range, with whom I feel quite comfortable so far. He’s always on time, dresses up but neatly, and interacts with me very professionally, yet he seems warm, sensitive and empathetic. I am also bugged by therapists who are overly sterile- or clinical-acting, who make you feel like a complete lab specimen.. When one prior therapist of mine did that, I felt put off and uncomfortable.

    I will agree that I always find it hard not to wince when the end-of-session arrives. Often I feel like a goof being in the middle of some important statement or profound thought — only to have my therapist remind me our time’s up.. He’s good though and will try to quickly get in a “We have to stop in a moment, but…” segue a good minute or two before. But then you get rushed right out the door, and sometimes your thoughts are like wounds that were opened and then not properly closed up.. Sometimes I find ME checking the clock to try to out-session-end him! These little things can make therapy seem to me like “advice prostitution” sometimes — but overall it’s quite valuable and self-affirming to me.

    I like professionalism mixed with an easygoing nature — but I would not want a therapist to only be a drive-through prescription refiller for me, nor someone who acts like my best friend — which they never are and should never be or feel like, IMHO.

  19. I happen to know that my therapist changed careers (she was an Account Executive in the ad agency world), has been divorced (her husband was very controlling) and is a Buddhist. All of this plus her habit of giving me books to read (that I have no time to read) instead of giving me insights that would actually help are making me want to dump her. My husband has finally agreed to go in with me but now I’m not sure I want to. She’s trying to push me to a psychiatrist and I don’t want any part of that. I’m depressed, I have some issues but I don’t need to be medicated for the rest of my life. She’s also inconsistent in when she can see me. I’m happier when I’m not in her office. How do you spot a good therapist and what are the warning signs that one is kind of a fake, like she is?

  20. I’ve been attending therapy since I was 6 years old, and have been to at least 10 different ones. All of which have always asked the same question at least 20 times in an hour session, “and how does that make you feel?”. Honestly, the first time it’s fine, but after the 3rd or 4th time you begin to answer the questions more hostilly and eventually lunge at them with a fountain-pen-spear. So, what I was trying to state is that you forgot the asking of “how does that make you feel?”.

  21. Wow. I have been sooo fortunate with my therapists! The first was an intern – a delightful lady with a pleasant (almost musical) voice and a charming accent. She would drink hot tea in some sessions, always asking did I want some. I didn’t care that she drank her tea during session… there were just bigger issues in my life.
    She moved away and referred me to a male therapist. For about the first 6 months I was bound and determined to hate him. He has a well honed “therapist stare” (as it was called in a much earlier post) and I felt as if he could see the very stains on my soul. Now, I absolutely adore him. We have a friendship, but on a professional level. I trust him completely. Sometimes he has a bottle of water, but not usually. If he is expecting a phone call he warns me at the beginning of the session (ie when family was ill, or when there was unexpected road construction blocking the normal route to his office).
    His stomach has growled. He has yawned. He has sneezed. I don’t have him on a ‘little god’ pedestal, so they don’t bother me.
    Sometimes if my appt is right after his staff meeting he runs a little late – a quick apology and we move on. I guess we have just developed a relationship that is based on more than “perfection”.
    He asks ‘how do you feel about that?” … but because I trust him so much, I know he genuinely wants to know. How else would he find out my true feelings if he didn’t ask????

    I admire the therapists (etc) who set out to truly help hurting hearts find healing… it isn’t a glamorous or thankful job, but I would think in its successes there is a multitude of rewards.

  22. I must not be like most people because I really don’t want my therapist to be uptight! Some of the examples are no brainers (common sense) but the others, I believe, get in the way of the therapist being themselves. Also, for me, some of the examples listed would make me feel more comfortable not less. I don’t believe every therapist can be everything to everybody but as long as the therapist stays true to themselves and doesn’t try to be something they are not the people they do mesh with will have a much more positive therapy process.

  23. Each person has a story and their experiences (good , bad , or ugly ) are a reflection of what *Another person experiences or has experienced ,providing them with insight and helping them cope with issues , that aren’t very hard to deal with , what im trying to say is that its very important to recognise these emotions and let them float and manifest into an enlightening learning experience that in turn paves way to a healthier and happier future.

  24. i,ve read every post-took me 3 hrs. as i like to reflect on them to see if there is one that fits my situation. i have DID and the process of knowing the altar and learning of the memory can take a day or weeks for me. But the one thing i get comically annoined with is the part where he says, “Next session we’ll process the memory.” just to give me a heads up. i finally asked him if there was a better word for “process”? i grew up ona farm and when fall came around so did the “beef”. my job was to “process” the hamburger! When I told him this story, he laughed loud and long!! He said he would try to find a proper synonym, but he can’t break an old habit. Yet, every now and then, when he says we would be processing a memory, i shoot back with, “…will it be from the rump roast part or sirloin mixed with a bit of fat…!” After almost 11 yrs., we still have fun with the process of processing!!

  25. Therapist re-wrote my family history and had me believeing mom was the cause of all my problems and I should cut her and anyone else who disagreed with me out of my life. And I did do that accusing them of all sorts of crap. Then I woke up one day reading online stories of bad therapy and how the drugs affected thinking and emotions. I had a lot of relationship repairing to do, including the husband and kids I walked out on, and one step at a time I am taking my life back without drugs or a shrink.

  26. I am a therapist. I agree these 12 habits are poor. However, one expection maybe talking about yourself. Self-disclousre can be beneficial to a client. Sharing how you may have handled a common situation the client has can help. Sometimes it is relieving to a client to know their experiences and feelings can be common and they arne’t the only ones etc. However, if the session revovles around the therapist talking about themselves not good.

    In defense of therapists people can project so much on to a therapist about their own preconceived notions about what the therapist is suppose to look like, say, dress like, what their office is suppose to be like etc. If you don’t match these ideas clients can project their anger, disappointment, pleasure, annoyance, etc on to the therapist before the therapist even has a chance to attempt to work with the patient. Sometimes I can immediately just upon a greeting sense whether I am what they think I should be positive or negative. If it doesnt match their expectations then its over before it starts. I do addicitons counseling in addition to individual and couples. I have actually had clients assume from the beginning once they realize I also do addictions that I can’t help them because I am that type of counselor and they are probably in the wrong place. Thus, just having a addicitons credential is a stigma. At times I can feel I am being judged unfairly and sets a tone that can make it difficult as a client has already made quick judgements. So I say give us a break too! We are just trying to help even if we don’t match some idea in someones mind about what we are suppose to be like before we get a chance to see if we can be helpful.

  27. This was a good list. I caught my therapist glancing at the clock a few times, and she tended to be late a lot–sometimes by 10, 15, or 20 minutes, which wasn’t good for me since I saw her on my lunch break. I will say that she brought her dog Eli with her and I actually found that calmed me down a bit: He was adorable and seemed to like me a lot. I no longer see her, but I did adopt my own dog, partly because of the effect I noticed he had on me. Because I have to see him every day and his needing to be walked forces me out of bed every morning, Oliver’s presence in my life is more therapeutic than the therapy!

  28. Right ON! Wow, I’ve been waiting almost 20 YEARS to read this!!!
    I even suggested light-heartedly once that my Therapist’s Grocery list was looking kind of extensive, even for ME!
    He had no sense of Humor at all! Ever.

  29. At the beginning of a session I noticed my therapist had a Cornell coffee cup on her desk. I kiddingly asked if she was trying to hold her superior education over my head. Suddenly she looked like a deer caught in headlights. I looked over to where she was staring and I saw her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees hanging on the wall next to me — right over my head.

  30. my therapist always seemed shocked when I told him things. Like he’s never heard this ever before!!

  31. I have seen several therapist myself. One was just a pill pusher and didn’t both to get down to the real problems I had which would require different medication. When I would tell her it wasn’t working she would just increase the dosage.

    Another one would eat, drink, and tell me about herself and her daughter who works in the same school system as I do. Not very professional at all.

    A third one who the one above told me that a bunch of people complained about him and that he was no good. He was the one who figured out that I was Bipolar II and not just depressed. However, what made me leave him was that 1. He was never on time, even when I was the very first person of the dad. And 2. he was so dang happy all of the time. I’m sorry but if I’m feeling bad, I really don’t need happyness shooved down my throat. I believe concern would be more appropriate. If I’m discussing something that has upset me, by him being happy go lucky makes me feel that my problem isn’t imporant.

  32. Let’s see:

    I had a therapist that did yawn and rub her eyes during our session. She also dressed up in “finery” and jewelry and made sure her cleavage showed everyday. She also took notes while I talked. She then hugged me and told me she was sorry that my life was so sad.
    Then there was the psychiatrist that told me at every visit that I needed to read some of his religious literature, that it would help me to get better and then continued to shove his religious beliefs down my throat.
    Then there was the psychiatrist that asked me only two (2) questions and told me that I had Borderline Personality Disorder and needed to be institutionlized because (Yes! this is the only reason he stated!) I had seen several psychiatrists in the past and that I had issues with them. I attempted to explain why I had to leave the psychiatrists (change in insurance, the psychiatrist moved away, the psychiatrist retired) but he wouldn’t listen to me. His remarks in my medical records have caused multiple issues with proper diagnosis and treatment for GAD and Major Depression. I paid for my own psychological testing and I was found not to have Borderline Personality Disorder or any other Personality Disorder that interferes or complicates my life.
    Then there was the psychaitrist and therapist (LCSW) that accused me of being “racially biased” because I did not/could not drive an hour to see her at her new location.
    There was also the psychiatrist that held my hand and attempted to force me to take Lithium telling me that I HAD TO TAKE IT and that I could not leave his office without taking it…I left his office in an out-right sprint and that was the only time I stood on the ledge of a parking deck and contemplated jumping off of it…HE HAD NO RIGHT TO DO THAT TO ME!!!
    I resent the psychiatric profession because of the BAD ones that I have had. They try to play GOD with my life and will never accept NO as an answer.
    As for the psychiatrist and therapist I have now…they are acceptable…Do I trust them, NO. And since my therapist can only “make room for me” every 4-5 months, I have to begin the terrible process of finding another therapist. And so the world of psychiatric medicine and psychology rolls on and I am the one who suffers.

  33. I’ve had a lot of bad therapists/psychiatrists, but that is another story…

    I prefer my therapist to be down-to-earth, laid back, human. When they are too professional I just don’t feel comfortable.

    I had one very respectable psychiatrist, one of the best where I live, who kept his dog in his office and his wife was his secretary.

    The Doc was very professional and helpful and I loved the atmosphere, especially the dog. When his dog would sit next to me when I could pet him I felt much more comfortable and relaxed and could open up much more easily.

    I got further with him than with anyone else, until he retired!

    I hate it when I see a therapist whose office and demeanor is cold, reminding me that they are a “professional” and that they run a “business.” I know this but when I am constantly reminded it just makes it much harder for me to feel comfortable with them. I don’t want them to be my friend, I just want to receive good therapy.

    I find this much easier to do when the place and therapist is more human.

  34. We are talking of what is not expected of a person in professional life. The fact, however, remains that s/he too is a human being after all. And, mind you, which profession doesn’t have black sheep! Let us not paint all professionals with the same brush.
    Those professionals who don’t come up to our expectations form only a minority. For us to have a total picture in front of us, to be truly balanced in our assessment, let us also have a TWELVE (if not more) MOST ANNOYING HABITS OF COUNSELEES, who too are human. = Gurudatt, selfhelp support group facilitator, Pune, India

  35. We are talking about Therapist. I had one who wouln’t let me seek another therapist or try to get any other help. She took it personal. She would say, I can do what they do.I quess I felt oblgated to stay with her. Even though her therapy wasn’t working. I guess she has a self-esteem Problem. But that didn’t help me.

  36. Where is the list for the worst habits of patients?
    Get a life, live and let live. Sure, some habits are annoying. To my thinking a patient/therapist relationship is about keeping communication open and honest. Why not just tell the therapist that the certain behavior is getting in the way of your progress? If nothing is said or happens it is the PATIENTS responsibility to change therapists. You are responsible for your own life and decisions. I find that I get frequently annoyed hearing complaints against professionals. Generalization of a group is just wrong. If in fact an innapropriate action occurs, report it to the proper authorities and then LET IT GO!

    • Denise,
      Here are some things you may not have considered.
      It can be difficult to find a new therapist who accepts your insurance and is available when you are. So it is not so simple as “go find a new therapist.”
      Not all therapists are the same. Some are wonderful, some not so much. The client should have the ability to choose. But this can be difficult (see my first paragraph.)

  37. There are many reasons why a patient might not feel comfortable bringing up such bad habits, primarily because of the power differential in the relationship.

    Also, not all therapists take such feedback or criticism well. Not all patients want to risk the work they’ve done and their progress over a bad habit.

  38. Oh..How I see my own therapist in this report. I often wonder if she has something else to do that is much more important, as she watches the clock incestantly. She is also on that computer and says she MUST get the paper work done FIRST. She is already late, anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes after our scheduled time, before she opens the hallway door to announce 11:30 Group! and it is now 11:50 ! , but regardless of how late SHE is; our session ends promptly at 12:30, BUT my INSURANCE IS BILLED FOR THE FULL HOUR ! She often apologizes for eating (she says finishing, but she has just taken it her salad from the refrigerator and is putting dressing on it) her lunch during our sessions ! She often forgets our names during Group sessions and must be reminded what our nmae is. She says that paperwork is the reason she is always behind, but I really can’t see that because she is always doing her paperwork the entire time we are in session ! I think your write up indicates true concerns of Patients.Being a Patient myself,I certainly feel qualified to state that every one of the 12 items that you mentioned DO create a tension or cause that ill at ease feeling. And to address the Denise: Denise, letting it go is not that simple. We are given forms, by Park Center Decatur, IN, to address concerns or compliments for services afforded us. I, and I do know that several others as well, have listed all of our disapprovals of the aforementioned problems with our therapist. We are asked to put our names on these forms and we have done so. The message on the form states that we may be contacted regarding our complaints or concerns. I have never been contacted, and I have been told by others in my group, that neither have they been contacted. As far as we can tell no action has ben addressed or taken. I say this because our Therapist continues with her same bad and unprofessional habits. My Insurance company is still billed for a full hour of service, when it has only been 45 minutes or LESS spent with the Therapist and during this time, she has completed my paperwork. Upon seeeing this write up, and seeing my own complaints shown here, I do not believe this is just a ‘generalization’ as you contend.

  39. Per Dr Grohol’s, and prior to his that of Denise, I think it is nothing less than fully appropriate for a patient to raise concerns if therapists’ behaviors are impairing the psychotherapy process.

    If a clinician is going to do something to compromise the therapeutic alliance because they as professionals cannot take a well intended concern or criticism from the patient, then such individual should not be providing care. If the comment is in error, it could be used to enlighten or empower the patient to see where the flawed assessment or opinion came from, and see that responsible and well intended feedback or disagreement in treatment style or intervention can be processed and worked through.

    Yes, I agree with your last comment that patients do not want to risk losing progress if the said concern comes up after treatment started, but wasn’t the point of this post to educate and empower patients to have some idea what to not tolerate or endure by an alleged professional?

    As per Denise’s comment, I totally agree, and I think what I read in alot of comments at psych blogs these days represents what I call characterological features, not necessarily frank personality disorders, but I read a lot of inflexible and rigid commentary by some, and that is not going to improve with meds alone, nor by coming to a stand off with a professional because the patient, in the end, does NOT really want to change. Just an opinion.

    By the way, to Vickie, better to have gone through the process in filing a complaint than just let things ride as is, because you have started a paper trail, and if the supervising authorities have any real interest in protecting the public, documentation has an impact in the end, so I applaud your efforts, even if you feel not effective in the end.

  40. I just started seeing a psychiatrist a couple of weeks ago for the first time. He sat me down in the room and basically asked “so whatsup?” without any getting to know eachother talk or anything to make me comfortable. It was so akward, I just started crying and eventually had to say something so that he would stop staring at me and nodding. Is this normal??? I thought it was a bit bizarre. Things are better now and I feel comfortable talking to him, but I just thought that was so strange that he couldn’t make me more comfortable at a first session.

  41. I have a question that I hope someone can answer… My therapist was late for a session so after waiting 15 minutes for her to show I just left. She called me another 15 minutes later and asked that I return. I declined, told her I didn’t appreciate her unprofessionalism, and never went to see her again. Now she is threatening to take me to small claims court if I don’t pay the bill for the session that day. Does anyone know who is in the right here? I believe I am, but I don’t want to waste my time if she is correct. Advice?

  42. I just read this tonight, August 2, and would like to take a stab at Jim K’s question.

    report this person to whatever professional board your state has in place to consider unprofessional conduct by a licensed professional. Because, as I used the word professional several times in the last sentence, this person’s behaviors and subsequent actions are as far from professional as I can see. And make sure anyone who has an interest in your situation knows about it. Word of mouth can be effective. And make sure this idiot knows you are letting others know she is clueless and will be labeled as unprofessional. My advice, use that term very deliberately if you choose to contact this unprofessional clinician.

    Anyone who takes a patient to court better realize there are two sides to a story, and some will see through the clueless side!

  43. Interesting! I think my comment was erased! It was the last one of 163, and now…

  44. Sorry! Never mind!

  45. One more thing – I don’t care if your feet hurt. Leave your shoes on! It’s distracting (and kind of repulsive) to fixate on the fact that my therapist prefers pantyhose with reinforced toes. Ick!

  46. For four years I saw a psychiatrist who told me she had psychotherapy and CBT training, but actually didn’t. This was discovered when my situation got worse/more complicated as a result of many of her well-intentioned, but hackneyed suggestions/theories. When I finally got the strength to leave her (it was hard for me to leave someone I had been seeing for so long), I decided to do my research when it came to finding my next therapist. I looked up names of individuals trained in CBT and I contacted the local universities psychology department for referrals. I ended up with a list of four individuals, and I interviewed all four over email.

    The one I settled on changed my life for the better. I had to pay out-of-pocket for his care, but it was worth every penny.

  47. The last time I saw my therapist (LCSW), she took notes during the session using her computer keyboard. She put the keyboard in her lap and tapped away on it during the session. She didn’t look at the monitor and mostly kept eye contact with me but it was really very distracting. In the past, I would notice her jotting things down occasionally but that didn’t bother me. About halfway through the session, I told her that I didn’t like the keyboard and she informed me that doctors and other health professionals were moving to this kind of system. She told me that I would get used to it. In my view, therapy is different from other health professions and some how being aware of her observing and documenting me changed the dynamics of the session for me. I’ve seen her off and on for 3 years and she has helped through the loss of my mother and the breakup of my marriage, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

  48. I just started seeing a therapist. The first session was me giveing her TONS of info on my family growing up ect… at the end of the sessions she said there’s alot there and so many themes. I was pretty excited thinking we’d make some break throughts and she would help me with some action and coping skills. I felt like I got alot out the first session,second session there must have been a total of fifteen or twenty minutes in dead silence just starring at eachother and her later telling me she was waiting for something to come up.So out of the 50 minute session twenty minutes was wasted. Nothing was coming up for me and I found it a bit annoying and a waste of my money that there was all this dead air time. I felt like leaving at one point!
    Forawhile she would just stare at me with a half smile on her face. This just feels awkward and lazy in her part to me.

    I know she explained to me she was waiting to see “what comes up” but she just got done saying the previous week there was tons of stuff and these,the pevious week when she was gathering info I even cried about some stuff….can’t she draw on that to spark some feeling or what she thinks might need to be addressed first? This is a womans clinic and she is actually an intern in her 50’s,so she’s just getting out of school.

    am I the only one who experienced this? and does anyone else find it rude and annoying?

    I was just a bit annoyed by her stare therapy approach and wasting my money ticking on the clock. Honeslty I could have talked to my friend about the same thing over drinks.

    • Its your life. What to do you think you should talk about? In today’s managed care world you’re fortunate actually that your therapist wasn’t leading you through a manualized ” evidence based practice” cookie cutter treatment process. That said there is productive silence and unproductive silence…

    • It sounds more like your own discomfort in the session. Therapists are actually trained to sit in silence even when it is uncomfortable. It is not their job to set the agenda, but yours. If you feel it was a waste of your time, perhaps you could have used your time better. You don’t just sit there and expect the therapist to do the talking. That would be the mark of a bad therapist.

  49. I know this thread is old but I want to say that “How does that make you feel” is definitely preferable to “That must make you feel…” I had one therapist who did that a lot but I liked her otherwise. Finally I told her that “must” is a command and she was telling me I had to have feelings that I didn’t have, which made me feel like I was even more abnormal than I thought! Or that she thought I was abnormal in areas where I had normal feelings. She agreed & put a stop to it.

    My current therapist takes notes frequently and then she brings stuff up in later sessions especially if I contradict myself. Sheesh. The reason I’m in therapy is because I have mixed feelings about things and I want to sort them out! It’s almost like “gotcha” journalism sometimes and I’m starting to be careful about what I say in case she’ll haul it out later.

  50. All right I’ll take a crack at this one too. I’m on my seventh therapist (I’ve moved a bit) and of them I can say that two of them have really been excellent, two good, one ok and one who was such a rip snorting bitch that it felt like I might have walked into Eva Braun’s office by accident.

    One of the good ones had the highly annoying habit of comparing my situation to her or her other client’s lives. This would not have been so bad if I had been there for relationship problems or adjustment issues, but I was actually there to process a highly traumatic event, and frankly, many times the comparisons she was making didn’t even come close. At times it was actually was quite insulting, and even though I liked her and she did help me, I eventually stopped seeing her because I never gained the level of trust in her that I needed to fully disclose what had happened to me.

    This was very frustrating, and ended up causing me some suffering as I was having a hard enough time with ptsd without worrying about how to get out of the therapeutic relationship. I also wondered how much of my (anonymized)story was being discussed with her other clients, and that made me very uncomfortable as well.

    Fortunately I was able to end that relationship and after a short break found someone who I feel very comfortable with. I have been able to open up completely and I can sense a real improvement in my symptoms, which feels great. It makes me wish I had moved sooner!

  51. What Dr. Gohol said previously….about if you had a plumber type problem, you would simply call a plumber…How much damage could he do!?

    Except for perhaps doctors/surgeons, there is no other profession that can be dangerous to your health of not done ethically.

    How scary to think that the profession has so many unprofessionals. “Above all, do no harm.”

    I’ve talked to so many people who had terrible expriences…..one was a woman who was in abusive marriage, lost her job, tried t commit suicide 2 times and was a cutter. her therapist had sex with her….he then decided to try and work it out with his wife and dumped her. Unfortunately, this stuff goes on more than we know.

  52. My now former therapist once mentioned her political views in passing. Maybe it’s my fault, but for whatever reason I wasn’t able to get past this for a very long time. I don’t think I ever did until I met my current T.

  53. My therapist wears knee length dresses.
    Every session I look up her dress and see thigh.
    Today I saw panties and she asking caught me looking but didn’t move

  54. So the first thing that annoying about my psychiatrist is that he is alway 15-20 minutes late to the appointment, which would be bad enough seeing as I’m always a few minutes early to any aponntment if it was not for the fact I’m the first one of the day and therefore locked out of even the waiting room untilled he finally shows up. Then he has a tendency to check mail and faxes which often envolves him swearing clearly audiobly in another room.
    He then spends more time making the tea he drinks during the appointment.

    Most appointments start with him venting/complaining about what’s going on with him and an excuse for why he was late this time. Fallowed by 15-20 minuets of awkward silance whale he waits for “something to come up” which I can’t stand its very uncomfortable and dose not really lead to progress because i judt start saying what ever I think he wants to hear to make the dang silance end.

    Then there is the total lack of any concreat stated goal or path to it and a dismissive attitude when I bring up wanting one or possible sidecefects of the medication I don’t like. I also don’t like the constant feeling That I’m being abserved like a lab rat but not being told why or for what it makes me feel uncomfortable and like a freak.

  55. I have only just found this blog but interested in it as my therapist always looked bored and seemed moody. She analyzed what I told her and turned it in to a personality disorder. I am not sure if she wanted to write another paper or was particularly excited by a vulnerable client. I felt unable to say what I felt with her and felt I was protecting her by keeping quiet, a mistake I would not make again. I just agreed with everything she said to keep the peace in case of making her annoyed. I was training to be a psychotherapist and didn’t want to provoke her through fear she would talk to my tutor, they all knew each other. TA is a very small world, all chummy and I don’t believe that anything we spoke about was sacred, I dropped her like a hot potato, she continued to write to me and I asked her to stop as it was becoming abusive. Dangerous stuff!.

  56. I wish I had read this 4 years ago before I allowed my therapist to send her husband to my house, to pick up the cat they bought for me, She made me feel like I owed her something so I joined her suicide task force, took her safe talk suicide first aid training all at the same time I was suicidal but could not tell her or no one fear of letting her down. She talked about me to to her family and husband, her husband went to his job and talked about me to my neighbor who also works where he does but he didn’t know it. My final straw with my therapist is when she allowed her husband to listen in to a phone session, than after I confronted her she says I am confused I do not see where I done anything wrong. Hello, what happened to the code of ethics with therapist. It got to the point where I was so confused about what therapy really was suppose to be, we always talked about the task force and the cat no more therapy the last year. I withdrew from her and finally ended therapy and filed a complaint with the licensing board.

  57. Actually, some therapists do engage in Pet Therapy. Certain states allow you to get licensed or certified as a pet therapist. It’s one of the many undervalued expressive therapies. I don’t use it in my practice, but I’ve seen it used with a wide variety of practitioners with different theoretical orientations. So technically, That can be taken off the list

  58. Annoyances:
    A therapist getting mad at me for talking too much. The therapist could have kindly pointed out to me that I was talking so much it was not allowing them to say anything. I never went back. A therapist should try not to sound mad or frustrated.

    4 therapists I tried out I think in the name of their theories and philosophies, or something, err on the side of coming across overly reserved and cautious, like they are afraid of the patient. They end up coming across standoffish. I would like to have someone’s tone of voice and body language at least feel a teeny bit empathetic, compassionate, caring which I believe can be done while maintaining a professional level similarly to what one would expect from a primary care physician or any other physician or healthcare professional.
    Therapists should not have more than a 6 week wait time to get in for an appointment at the very most! and that is not even very good, a month at the most, and 2 weeks is more ideal. When you are hurting and they tell you, you can come in 4 weeks?!? One therapist I had this way would not allow you to schedule another appointment until she had seen you for the initial time as a new patient, then being told another 4 weeks!! Try being in chronic pain, depression, being told 4 weeks for one appointment, then once that time another 4 weeks to get in again. By that time it’s the end of the year and you can’t go back because your deductible is not met!
    Another time I was a new patient, and the therapist canceled the night before or same day 3 times! When I finally did see her, she talked about her personal health issues that had prevented her from making her appts. The office should have found me someone else in the network and got me in right away being new. I never went back.

    Therapists: please find ways to manage your allergies. The same therapist I waited in chronic pain and depression for 4 weeks, had an allergy attack for half the session. She seemed standoffish as described above, then her eyes started watering and it was obvious she couldn’t concentrate. I finally told her it was fine if she needed to go take something, it was obvious she wasn’t able to pay attention anyway. She should have charged me for half the time on that visit and scheduled extra time to get me back in right away. I have allergies too which are managed very well now with acupuncture and herbs, and nasal saline w/ occasional over-the-counter meds.
    Many of these issues caused me not to go back for a while. I’m finally sticking it out with a therapist. If I ever want to change now I’m afraid I’ll get accused of doctor hopping.
    Also, I sometimes feel like being so booked w/ patient after patient therapists let the session time get eaten up not really giving 100% on their part during the session, not enough focused energy, not working hard enough as a worker who lets their work day time go by just to get through the day.

  59. Recently I started seeing a Dutch therapist, since I live in the Netherlands. I am an English native speaker, and speak Dutch with an accent. Dutch people aren’t always very kind to people with accents. Even though I’ve lived here for 15 years, and have worked as a translator, my Dutch therapist asked me if I could read Dutch before giving me some forms to fill out. She came late to our appointment, was very cold, asked a bunch of rude questions about my religious beliefs, then proceeded to ask if I could read! I’ve gotten pretty used to being treated badly. I guess that’s just the lot of foreigners (I even have a Dutch passport), but I was so shocked by her unprofessionalism, I didn’t say anything. I have found the professional level here to be quite a bit lower here than what I was used to in the US. It’s just so infuriating. The person before her spoke slowly to me so “I could understand,” and the psychiatrist didn’t even bother to read my file. It seems like there just aren’t any good therapists here, or perhaps they’re only good for Dutch people.

  60. A therapist who talks about himself just puts me off.The same therapist making comments about my looks put me off. But the worst was when he rolled his chair so close to me & freaked me out. If I wanted a date I wouldn’t pay %35 for it.And of course, he’s married.

  61. The red flags are all very helpful but what about the therapists who are true predators. By this I mean the ones who don’t do any of these things until you have known them for a while. They earn your trust and then they start to do some very upsetting things??? By then you already trust them and it makes recognizing all of these red flags very difficult. By this point, you aren’t really sure you are experiencing things correctly because they keep telling you you’re not.

  62. something I have found is very common is the returning of phone calls only once per day, and not answering their phone – only accepting voicemail messages. For example: I call therapist and leave a message. Therapist calls me back the next day (so far so good – return call within 24 hours). I miss the call and return the call sometimes this can be anywhere from 30 seconds to an hour after their call. The call goes to voicemail and I leave a voicemail and receive a return phone call the next day. I miss their call and call them back and leave a message. Then I receive a phone call back the next day, on and on. I can certainly understand therapists having clear boundaries and having “phone time” once per day, and also not answering incoming calls, because, understandably, the rest of their day is spent in session or spent outside of work. However, this takes on truly bizarre proportions after several days of this scenario. This can happen even if I leave times that I’m free to receive their call, because even if they call during those available times, I may just miss their call by a moment and call them right back. Communication can certainly help ameliorate this with a therapist I work with regularly, but recently this phenomenon has come to light during a search for a therapist, where it happened with several therapists concurrently over many days. This led to unnecessary delays, in my opinion, and an overall curiosity that they were possibly either not easy to work with, too old-school phone-wise, and/or a bit rigid in their phone boundaries. I don’t expect a therapist to be available 24/7 either before or after I’m their client. I do, however, expect some sign that they’re easy to get a hold of, at least a little bit administratively savvy and that they value my time and effort.


    Yesterday was my second visit and she fell asleep both times. In addition she insulted me that day. I came to her office to deal with family issues and at the end of yesterdays session she says “I been meaning to ask you, why are your clothes big on you”. I was stunned especially since my issues had nothing to do with my clothes. Also almost every day I get complimented on what I am wearing. I dress very chic and elegant, I do not dress slutty. The blouses and sweaters are not tight on me at all. I asked her why she said this and she said “I want to know if you have body issues”. Again I was stunned. I told her that the way I dress is none of her business and I always get compliment on how I dress. All of a sudden I felt very insecure about the way I dress. I told her I will never come back to see her again and she had no right to put down the way I dress. When I got to my car I called my best friend and she was stunned as well

  64. Once you realise that therapy is a business you learn to expect professional treatment from anyone who is paid to help you. I have experienced all of these annoying habits, and more from the various therapists I attended. By now I laugh at some of the indiscretions as well as the fact that many of the therapists are less clued in than their clients and seem incapable of apologising for unprofessional comments or behaviour. The last therspist arrived late, slurped on coffee and couldn’t hold her notes upright or remember any of my details. She seemed strained and intimidated by me, and the last session was a disaster and cut short as she didn’t have a clue what she was doing, but decided that I had to return to ‘learn to trust her”. While away on four weeks holiday i called her receptionist to cancel future appointments, and explained that she was too overwhelmed to offer help. the receptionist insisted that I return and pay to resolve HER problem. I laughed and said that this had to be insane – me paying for another person’s incompetence and failure to provide any treatment. As a collective, many therapists are driven by power and money and do not care about their patients beyond being means to a growing bank account. Most come from abusive backgrounds and have failed to resolve their own issues adequately to be able to help other people. Many are nutty, abusive, self-serving and dishonest in their desire to cover for the incompetence, misconduct and gross negligence of their peers. And they get paid for being ineffectual and obnoxious? What a weird world where the client can be more observant than the therapist and more switched on about appropriate behaviour. Psychiatrists are the strangest of them all and wield the greatest power in the system. After years of therapy I now delight in analysing the therapist and so I guess it is time for me to leave and keep my money in my purse.

  65. I recently started with a new therapist. The former one passed away several months ago. This woman is definitely helping me, however she has some habits I find a bit strange in a therapist. Some I have decided to accept, one I just can’t. She draws lines on paper – I am thinking maybe it is a little like Tourrette’s or something, she can’t control it or its to calm her nerves. But it doesn’t bother me and she seems focused. She eats during sessions. I told her I was hungry too and asked if I could have a couple of the crackers she was eating. OK, no problem. Today though she did something I will have to talk to her about in a different mode. She continuously checked her Smartphone for about the last half hour of the session. I didn’t say anything this time because I was trying to concentrate on what I was saying (thinking, feeling) and didn’t want to get off on a tangent. Next time when we start, I will say something to her about it. It felt like other people who weren’t present, were more important than me, who was. Not what I want for my role model. I would not accept that in a friend, why should it be acceptable in a therapist I’m paying for support. Anyone encounter this and how did you deal with it?

  66. I had a therapist who often fell asleep, unless he was discussing his dinner plans or next trip to Atlantic City! I finally got some guts and walked out and slammed the door waking him never to return. My current therapist is awesome. I just wish she’d put her cell on silent. Although she never takes a call, it is a huge distraction.

  67. Being a therapist, enjoyed the comments more than the column(as it is what therapists should know already)Hey it’s tough out there, after many yrs, my “style” changed completely, dumped the bs we got in grad and post grad school yrs ago and did what a therapist really should do be a good grandma, priest, minister, teacher, kind next door neighbor or friend who has common sense etc. Therapists are pretty much an invention of the 70’s, when State Mental Hospitals started cutting everyone loose and the traditional family began breaking down. Was an interesting job early on, and we did Good Work in those days, when there were next to No meds for anything!! Also still have bite scars and a broken nose from old In-Patient days. By the nineties Meds, Too many meds started showing up as did the “patients” faking anything to try for disability. Psychiatrists were swell at enabling this bunch. The fakers will keep an apt once every three mos. just to stay on the dole. Too many psychiatrists come up w/toxic cocktails and are notorious for overmedicating. Far too many cannot diagnose well(they took NO classes in it, unlike therapists) The Whole MH thing has turned into an Industry, as is all of Medicine. We must keep you coming to exist, so we will dx you w/anything that is billable and keep scheduling unnecessary appts. All about $$ now. Every Agency staff meetings are about how to attract more of you and keep you coming in. Most of ppl working in the field have as many or more issues than do the patients, but you actually trust them with your children? They Will dx them w/ADD or now Asburger and anything else in that Autism Spectrum-so fashionable now. These Dx will follow you kids throughout their lives!! most are Normal as Normal is??? but, we must get those Insurance/Medicaid Bucks. Could write volumes on what I’ve seen, know, and that which makes me want to scream. Though obnoxious clients are not uncommon, it’s the Looney Therapists and useless psychiatrists that really makes one,such as this therapist, want to puke. You have NO clue just how Bad some are. How they got out of HS is baffling let alone made it through /grad School? Speaks Volumes about the fabulous Higher Ed. in US now. And re: Psychiatrists-lowest level on the MD totem pole~~Too lousy for Real Medicine, so, they got into the “Gray Area” = MH, where it is Very Difficult to prove mistakes, since we really have NO clue. All guess work, yep. We are just guessing!! and you are the Guiana pigs(if you agree to the meds or an obviously “damaged”{by some of we slick ones,anyway} therapist.)Careful out there. Though Some do Very Good work and have good skills, far too many are Dangerous and or Worthless. Ask yourself, would you pay out of pocket for this?? if not, Run. Find a good friend (unless you really do need meds for whatever) and if all you have is a Pers D/O-you cannot be medicated for that (most psychiatrists just can’t seem to grasp this~want to medicate everything RX are all they know, and NOT well~~~so get out if a Doc tries to medicate you for such. So much to say re: the horrors of the MH system/industry/now SCAM and that which I’ve seen and know to be true, as do most therapists, but we CANNOT talk about it, because we need an income!!!
    Later, topazmarie

  68. He was mirroring thoughts and comments. He told me not to read from my notes. He decided I should be back for therapy after causing near PTSD for me. I knew nothing of PTSD he didn’t need to scare me. He needed to apologize and explain why each sessions had him sitting closer to me. This is his way of being closer? Enotionally? Pschologically? Maybe something else?

  69. I can think of two cases where I felt uncomfortable bringing up an issue about therapy with my therapists:
    The first was an MSW who was a really nice guy, but who had what appeared to be a really bad problem with jock itch. He’d squirm around uncomfortably during most sessions, then BOOM, he’d grab his crotch and scratch. Thought it would clear up but after several months I just left.

    The second was a female MSW who was great at first, but then started to talk a lot during my sessions about conspiracy theories involving the AMA and Ebola, alien abduction, and “destroyed studies about chakras the govt is hiding.”

    In the first case I was too embarrassed to say anything. In the second I didn’t think her mindset would change (she was not a thinker who valued evidence-based knowledge). Not all issues are amenable patient assertiveness.

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