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7 Signs It's Time to Find a New Therapist

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As a therapist, I am passionate about the idea that at some point everyone needs therapy for a healthy life. There is so much stigma that comes with seeking therapy services. Sometimes people feel they are bad, there is something wrong with them or that they are broken. Sometimes people feel like they should be able to handle things on their own. The truth is, we all need help sometimes, and it does not make you weak or bad to ask for it. When you ask for help, you are taking care of yourself. As humans, we are social by nature, and we require a lot of support and encouragement from others to have a healthy mindset.

If you have decided to take the next step and find a therapist, I commend you. It is a difficult first step to make. You might not know what to expect, and you might be scared of what you are about to face. I’m not going to lie, it’s definitely not easy. It might bring up some icky feelings, but that’s part of the process. Sometimes you expose a wound you’ve been avoiding for a long time. It can be painful, but therapy helps you clean it up and let it heal.

Now, I would like to say everyone in this field operates under the best intentions and practices for their clients. I really would, but I would be lying. I wanted to write this article because I started out believing that everyone in the field is safe, supportive and understanding. When I started working at various agencies, I had a rude awakening. I saw clinicians mistreat their clients and make them feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It was shocking and jarring for me.

I’m writing this article not to scare you, but to empower you. I honestly believe therapy is vital and important to a person’s mental wellness. From what I’ve seen, all the best therapists have had therapy of their own. However, I do want you to be aware of red flags when you are pursuing therapy so you can make the best decisions for your mental health.

So here are some red flags to look out for:

1. You feel judged.

At any point in therapy, if you feel like you are being judged, that’s a bad sign. Therapy is supposed to be the one place you can let go and feel safe. If you feel your therapist is judging you because of your lifestyle, your choices or decisions, you will not feel safe enough to continue to open up. It will end up being a weird situation where you are just telling your therapist what you think he or she wants to hear. Then you won’t actually be working on what you came in for.

2. You don’t feel like you have a say in your treatment or goals.

Therapy should be a collaborative effort between you and your therapist. You are the one choosing to come into therapy, and you have the power to decide what type of goals or focus you want in treatment. If you feel like you’re being told what to do, then you likely will not do it. That’s just human nature. You have to be invested and incorporated into your goals and treatment to make it worthwhile.

3. You feel misunderstood (and your therapist does not actively try to understand you).

If you feel like your therapist really does not understand you or where you are coming from, it’s going to be hard to be vulnerable with them. Part of a strong client-therapist relationship is feeling like the therapist understands who you are as a person. Sometimes they might not understand right away, but the best type of therapists will actively ask you questions and allow you to explain who you are.

4. You feel unsafe.

If at any point you do not feel safe with your therapist, you definitely need to cut them loose. You should never at any point have to feel unsafe with your therapist. They should never intimidate you, make you feel pressured or forced to do anything, and they should never try to have an intimate relationship or dual relationship with you. I include this aspect of feeling unsafe because if a therapist ever tries to have an intimate relationship with you, that is exploitative. Therapists have a unique role in which they learn about your vulnerabilities insecurities, triggers and other issues. Taking part in an intimate relationship is exploitative because during therapy you naturally let your guard down, and your therapist is now using that for personal gain.

5. You feel like you’re being told what to do or being lectured.

Usually, a therapists job isn’t to give you advice. Advice implies the therapist absolutely knows what is best for you and tells you what to do. Therapists do not tell you what to do. They guide and support you in your pursuit of determining what is best for you. What works for me may not work for you, and that is OK. And when you’re being told what to do, it is no longer a collaborative relationship. It becomes an authority figure instructing you and taking away your freedom to explore and make choices.

6. You feel like they are talking down to you or insulting you.

If your therapist is making statements that feel demeaning, belittling or even insulting, they probably are. And that is not a healthy therapeutic relationship because you will end up shutting down, losing trust and feeling judged.

7. The therapist cannot accept feedback or admit to mistakes.

In order to have a safe and trusting relationship with your therapist, there should be room for you to give feedback. Sometimes a therapist might make a statement or suggestion to you, and you don’t agree with the conclusion. For a comfortable relationship to occur, you should be able to voice that disagreement. Therapists are not perfect. We are human, and we make mistakes. The best kind of therapists admit to these mistakes.

All of these signs are indicative of an unhealthy therapeutic relationship. Even if you are not experiencing these specific signs, if you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist, it is time to move on. There are some wonderful therapists out there who will make you feel welcome, safe and accept you unconditionally.

Follow this journey on Mindful Misfit Therapy.

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Originally published: June 20, 2016
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