How to Determine that Your Therapist is Not Right for You

Here are a few tips to determine if your therapist is NOT right for you:

You do not feel understood:

Trust your gut. If you do not feel understood by your therapist then your therapist is likely not truly understanding you and will not be effective.


Your therapist shares about his/her own life:

While you might want to know more about your therapist (and, of course a lot of that is available online), the research on outcome in psychotherapy indicates that therapist consistently sharing his/her own life is not only ineffective, but actually can be harmful. I realize that a therapist disclosure may not feel bad at the time and may even, meet your desire to know the therapist in a more personal way, but therapist disclosure, more often than not, is ineffective in therapy. Therapy is for YOU the client. Therapist disclosure often distract you from your issues.

Your therapist is distracted during therapy:

With so many modern device distractions it can be challenging to stay focused on a personal interaction. Successful therapy is based, to a great extent, on the therapist’s ability to bond with you the client. To do so requires focus on the relationship between you and the therapist. If the therapist is distracted by their cell phone or activities such as action outside of a window, then they are not focused on you. You should also consider this issue if you receive therapy over the phone or in a “virtual” environment. It is difficult to stay focused during phone or virtual interactions. While this may or may not be true of “chat” therapy, in customer service chat, the service rep is chatting with a number of people at the same time. If this is done in therapy it is almost guaranteed to be ineffective.

Your therapist asks questions that move you away from whatever you want to share:

While a therapist asking questions seems like a central part of therapy, the reality is that most therapists far over ask questions. Many ask questions when they are “stuck” and unsure how to proceed. Questions are the “go to” response when a therapist does not know what to do. Such questions frequently take you (the client) away from what you were experiencing and discussing. This is distracting. In all fairness, there are appropriate questions. The best questions in therapy encourage you the client to continue on your path and are asked when you are stuck on your path.

You feel interrogated:

Even when questions are useful, they become ineffective when you feel interrogated. With repeated questions by the therapist, you may not be able to keep up with the questions. You may feel “flooded.” Repeated questions often do not let you (the client) “process” your stuff.

Your therapist frequently changes appointment times or does not begin and end your sessions in a timely fashion:

Consistency is one of the personal factors therapists offer to their clients. Of course, everyone needs to adjust times or be flexible, but for the most part effective therapists are consistent and predicable. If your therapist is frequently changing your appointment time, beginning sessions late, or running over this may be distressing for you especially if you are seeing the therapist on a particular time frame (e.g. during your work lunch hour). Many years ago I had a colleague who consistently began her sessions about 15 minutes after the scheduled appointment time. I asked her about that and her reply was that it was not an issue because she made up the time at the end of the session. In other words, she started late and end late. I guess for some clients (hers in particular) this was not an issue. For my clients who often came using their lunch hour this would have been an issue. They commite4d a particular time and for me to end late would interfered with their schedule. Even if the client was totally flexible, for me, this way of treating clients seems disrespectful as it would be if you were meeting a friend for a time scheduled gathering.

Your therapist tells you “not to feel that way” or offers clichés like “everyone has issues some of the time.” 

Of course, your therapist would like you not to feel distressed, but if you do, you do. Saying not to feel as you do is discounting of your experience. Clichés, like the example above, also often discount your experience.


In Conclusion:

I invite you to discuss your concerns with your therapist. A skilled therapist will be able to effectively address your concerns. However, if you address them and still do not feel right in the therapy, look for another therapist. There are many great therapists out there and with some effort you will likely be able to find one.