Therapy is helpful … except when it isn’t. While getting therapy can be a critical part of addressing mental health issues, behavioral health problems, and a variety of life challenges, bad experiences with therapists can turn many people away from what is normally a lifeline for healing. It adds insult to injury when you are already dealing with personal challenges, and you may not be willing to open up again or persist in finding a better option.
However, learning how to find a new therapist — a good therapist — is a worthwhile venture, and it can be important for your emotional health and personal growth.
Learning how to find a new therapist — a good therapist — is a worthwhile venture, and it can be important for your emotional health and personal growth.
Signs of a Good Therapist
Bad experiences with therapists happen for a number of reasons. It may be difficult to think clearly about your therapy experience when you are in the midst of emotional or mental health issues. However, you can better identify a bad therapist when you know what a quality therapist should look like.
Here are some signs of a good therapist. A good therapist is:
- Qualified – Your therapist should have credentials that reflect their education and are appropriate for addressing what you’re going through, advises VeryWellMind.com. Some professionals are only qualified to provide certain types of counseling, while others can provide psychotherapy and prescribe medication.
- Professional – A therapist should maintain a professional relationship with you. This means that they keep their appointments (rescheduling or canceling should not be frequent), they act as a guide and not a friend, and they never break your confidentiality (or gossip to you about other patients). They also maintain appropriate physical and emotional boundaries.
- Respectful – A therapist should respect your background, personal history, culture, ethnicity, religion, orientation, diagnoses, or past behavior. Even if they hold different views or are different from you, they should be respectful of who you are and what you tell them.
- Helpful – A therapist should provide empathy, compassion, and information that can help you process and overcome the issues you’re facing. If they are able to prescribe medication, they should be focused on how you’re responding to it and make adjustments as necessary.
- Trustworthy – A therapist should be someone that you can trust, which means they are true to their word, keep confidentiality, and maintain a professional relationship with you.
- Understanding – A therapist should understand you, that is, they should be able to listen to you and connect with you. Though they may ask questions about what you say and do, you should feel heard.
In addition to all these qualities, a good therapist is focused on helping you reach your goals and achieve a healthier state.
Signs of a Bad Therapist
Here are some signs of a bad therapist. A bad therapist is:
- Underqualified – They don’t have the credentials or education to be helpful to you, and may even be harmful to you due to their lack of knowledge or skills.
- Unprofessional – They treat you like a friend, or alternatively, they are condescending and talk down to you. They break physical and emotional boundaries, making you feel ashamed, too connected, or indebted to them. They may also ask you to accommodate their chaotic lifestyle or schedule.
- Disrespectful – They are dismissive, critical, or judgmental of who you are, what you’ve done, or the issues or people you talk about. They may even minimize the challenges you’re facing.
- Unhelpful – If you aren’t making progress after a few sessions, your therapist may not be right for you. They may be listening, but if they aren’t helping at all, you need to move on.
- Unreliable – If you can’t rely on your therapist — that is, if they don’t tell the whole truth, if they fail to maintain boundaries, or they make you feel unsafe — you need to end your relationship with them.
- Unsympathetic – If your therapist simply doesn’t understand you, no matter the reason, it will look like a lack of sympathy, and you will find yourself having a tough time connecting or being able to share anything important with them.
If you aren’t making progress after a few sessions, your therapist may not be right for you. They may be listening, but if they aren’t helping at all, you need to move on.
How To Break Up With a Therapist
You may be wondering how to break up with a therapist who isn’t right for you. If your therapist is underqualified, unhelpful, unsympathetic, or unreliable, you can simply say, “I am looking for help with X, and I think I need another resource to assist me. Is there anyone you would recommend for help with X?” If you’ve seen your therapist in person for a while, it’s better to do this in person; email is OK if necessary.
In cases where your therapist is unprofessional or makes you feel unsafe, you do not need to break off the relationship in person. You can use email or even contact the organization you are receiving therapy from. You can report someone to the state licensure board for inappropriate behavior and contact the organization’s manager or administrator with your concerns. If you’re wondering how to find a new therapist, Healthline.com offers a useful list of practical options and questions to ask.
Professional Therapy at The Meadows Outpatient Center
If you’ve been looking for professional therapy that can help you make progress in recovery, you can trust our team to be there for you. We offer flexible options to fit your schedule so you can meet your goals. Our therapists are qualified, knowledgeable, and respectful of your needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.