3 Things To Watch Out For In A Therapist

Stepping into a therapist’s office for the first time can be nerve-racking.  You might not know what to expect from a therapy session in general, but you certainly don’t know if the therapist you’re about to see will be a good match for you.  It’s scary to think about, but it’s true: not every therapist is a good match for everyone.  Sometimes, you’ll be able to tell after your first session.  Other times, you’ll know after a few weeks.  Seeing a therapist shouldn’t fill you with dread and more anxiety.  If that’s happening, it’s time to evaluate your therapist.

Recently, I found a new therapist in the town I go to school in.  He seemed like a decent fit at first- he was blunt, and things he was saying made sense.  However, I soon realized that he was the worst therapist I had ever worked with.  After four sessions, I stopped going, and I’m now looking for a different therapist in the area.  These were the red flags that I noted:

  1. He deemed all of the previous opinions from other professionals to be invalid.

My therapist flat out told me that he didn’t think borderline personality disorder was a “real” condition that people had.  Rather, he felt that it was a symptom of PTSD.  He was entitled to his opinion, but he completely failed to acknowledge that I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and responded incredibly well to treatment geared towards people with BPD.  When I told him that I had been previously diagnosed with it, he flat out said “well they’re wrong.”  This was during my first session!  He eventually told me to take every piece of advice, every diagnosis, and every skill set from previous therapies and throw them out the window.  His opinion was the only one that mattered in his office.  Based on his opinion that no one else was right but him, he gave me advice for the week that wound up causing a minor setback due to the fact that it involved not using the skills I learned in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).

Although it’s perfectly understandable if two professionals disagree on what’s going on with you, a therapist should be taking into account your previous experiences with treatment.  If they are willing to blatantly disregard strategies that helped or made you feel worse, they’re not going to help you.

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2. He was judgmental 

It’s one thing for a therapist to question your decision-making abilities.  It’s different when a therapist judges you based on your lifestyle or hobbies.  My therapist referred to people in my life as “losers” because they still live at home, and would make snide remarks about people’s educational choices (he told me that my degree path was “better than women’s studies, at least”).  There were things I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t know how he would react.

If you click well with a therapist, you’ll be willing to disclose your personal life events with them.  That’s not going to happen if you feel like they’re judging you.

3. He jumped to accusations and conclusions 

My therapist’s attempts to psychoanalyze me came off as condescending.  Instead of asking me for my own opinions on situations, he told me that I “crave drama because I love the adrenaline rush that comes from  it.”  That couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Interpersonal conflicts cause panic attacks for me- if I craved those panic attacks, I wouldn’t be in therapy or taking medication!  Part of his conclusion was based on the fact that he didn’t believe borderline personality disorder to be a legitimate condition (see #1).  It almost seemed like he was taking out his frustration on me.

Your therapist should make you think critically, but shouldn’t be verbally attacking you.  It’s probably not any therapist’s intention to do so, but if it feels like it’s happening, find a different therapist.

Remember that every therapist has different specialties and a unique personality.  When one therapist doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean that therapy is not for you.  If you don’t like your cardiologist, would you stop seeing all cardiologists? You’d probably just move onto a different one.  Having that mindset with therapy will help you stay focused on your goals, even though interacting with an unhelpful therapist can be frustrating.

I’ll be covering this topic in more depth in the e-book I’m currently working on.  Sign up for my e-mail list to be the first to receive updates on it!

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