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.
- Connection is missing.
It 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Your 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.
- 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.
- 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. The therapist may have a personal issue that is appearing in the therapy office.
- Feeling shamed and judged.
Feeling 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. A bad therapist might say things like “you are worthless.” If you feel constantly judged by your therapist, you need a new one.
- 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.
- 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.
- Canceling or showing up late.
This happens to all of us from time to time. If they are consistently late or canceling 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, find a new one. If you have a bad feeling about 10 therapists, then something might be off with your gut feeling.
Originally appeared on http://thefamilytherapyblog.com
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.
Therapy session photo available from Shutterstock