If you're in therapy, it might cross your mind that you're unhappy with either your therapist or the progress you're making in your sessions. You might wonder: What are the signs I need to find a new therapist? If so, don't panic or blame yourself. Finding a good fit with a therapist can take some trial and error.
Sometimes whether or not a specific therapist is right for you comes down to a matter of fit: Mental health professionals are people, too, and sometimes people's personalities and communication styles just don't vibe. In worse scenarios, there are therapists who are simply not doing their job: If your therapist is shaming you, disrespecting you, or making you question your self-worth, that is not OK. While therapy can be challenging and raise some hard questions and tough emotions, it should never feel like an unsafe environment.
For a lot of people, it can be hard to distinguish when you need a new therapist; it's something rarely talked about when we discuss treatment options, so we don't always have a wealth of knowledge or experience to go on. So, I pulled together a list of five scenarios when you might want to consider finding a new therapist. When it comes to treatment, you and your mental health deserve to have someone who is firmly Team You.
1. They Use Victim-Blaming Language
If your therapist uses victim-blaming language, it's time to move on. Victim-blaming language is inexcusable in general, but it's especially inappropriate coming from a therapist. While part of therapy is sometimes discovering your own role or agency in a situation (for example, examining how your communication issues impacted your last relationship), this should never be an opportunity for rationalizations or language which blames the victim. It's entirely inappropriate, for example, for a therapist to suggest that you were the victim of a sexual assault because you were intoxicated, or that you self-mutilate for attention.
2. They Have No Boundaries
Yes, mental health professionals are indeed people with their own unique tastes, backgrounds, and preferences. However, even if they can relate to something you're sharing, it is not OK for them to turn the session into story time about their own experiences or their own ongoing issues. While that sort of interaction may be helpful between you and your friends, it's a no-go in a counseling environment. Your therapist's literal job is to be there for you, not use you as a sounding board for their own issues.
3. They Don't Value Your Time
If your therapist is consistently late or cancels on you, it's time to find someone else. Sure, the occasional cancellation because of a personal emergency is one thing, but if you constantly find yourself waiting in the hallway of their office because they can't seem to prioritize you as a patient, that's a bad sign. This can also happen within sessions, as well: Is your therapist always taking a phone call in the middle of your session? Do they check their phone or email while you're speaking? Not only is this rude behavior, but moreover, it's literally a waste of your time. Seeking out mental health treatment can feel scary enough; having someone be dismissive of your presence doesn't help matters.
4. They Judge You
This one can be a little tricky to identify; at times, you might feel very vulnerable or sensitive to reactions of any kind, and that's totally normal. Sometimes therapist will challenge what you say in an effort to make you more self-aware or raise awareness for connections between issues in your life. It's a fine line, but there's a definite difference between those scenarios and actual judgment. If there are things you want to talk about, but you're afraid your therapist will judge, shame, or mock you, that's a sign it's time to find someone else. Therapy sessions should be a safe space, and your therapist should be the last person giving you anxiety about opening up.
5. They Pick Sides
I think this one definitely applies if you're in some kind of couples, familial, or relationship counseling. The therapist's role is to help you work through your issues, not declare someone as "right" or "wrong" in any given situation. In my opinion, this is only going to add fuel to the fire and create a further imbalance in your relationship. This has the potential to occur in one-on-one therapy as well, if your therapist begins taking a personal bias and makes suggestions based on what they personally think you should do, as opposed to suggesting multiple approaches and helping you figure out which one is right for you.
In short, seeking out mental health care can be stressful and difficult as it is. The last thing you need is a therapist you don't work well with, regardless of the reason. If any of the above ring true to you, it might be time to look into finding a new therapist, because you and your mental health are worth it.
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