5 Signs You Have the Wrong Therapist

Doubt the value of your therapy? Maybe your therapist is the problem.

You shopped around, dipped into your savings, and found a psychotherapist for yourself. But after a handful of sessions, you (and your bank account) aren’t feeling any better. Before you berate yourself, doubt the value of therapy or begrudge your karma, consider this: maybe the problem is your therapist.

The Roots of Disappointment

Remember, every profession has its share of crackpots; psychotherapists are no different. Very few employers hire people on the spot. And since you are the employer, treat hiring a therapist with the same caution and consideration.

Most people who express dissatisfaction with their therapist have many common experiences. The top three are:

  • They rushed into therapy without interviewing different therapists.
  • They didn’t get a referral from a reliable source, such as a friend or colleague.
  • They hired the cheapest therapist (and got what they paid for).

The attunement between a therapist and a patient is key to success, so taking your time to find the right person is crucial. If you can pay out-of-pocket, you have lots of options; there’s really no need to rush. Take your time and interview at least three before choosing one.
If you’re lucky enough to have good insurance, work through that long list of providers. Yes, it’s frustrating, but well worth it. Be patient, find a therapist you can trust and open up to.

If you’re broke and have no insurance benefits for therapy, search for local mental health clinics, hospitals or training institutes. Whenever I provide clinical training seminars in such places, I’m always impressed quality of care that they provide. Even with a low fee, you still have the selection process on your side.

5 Signs Your Therapy is Going Nowhere

If you’re in therapy and discouraged with the results, here’s some warning signs that you’re probably working with the wrong therapist.

1. You don’t look forward to your sessions.

When therapy is working best, your session is a high point in your week. You leave your therapist’s office feeling invigorated by insights, motivated for change. Naturally, sometimes sessions can be sluggish or dull. But if this is the majority of the time, there’s a problem. Therapy is a growth experiences. Even when it is painful, it should be empowering. If you find yourself chronically bored, confront your therapist, tell him that you want to get more out of your sessions. If nothing changes, pack-up and spend your money elsewhere.

2. You don’t feel challenged by your therapist.

Many patients complain to me that their former therapists were too passive and never said anything. Naturally, every good therapist needs to be a good listener—but there’s more to therapy than listening. A good therapist confronts, challenges and inspires you to make new choices. Therapy should embolden you. If your therapist is too passive and unresponsive, move on. Therapy should never be a snoozefest. If you’re bored, chances are your therapist is too.

3. You don’t quarrel with your therapist.

A therapist who always agrees with you may feel good, but you won’t see much progress. Bottom line: therapists are not paid friends. You don’t hire them to enable you or passively listen to you vent. For therapy to work well, you and your therapist should clash now and then. The patient/therapist relationship works best when you express a full range of feelings toward your therapist: affection, irritation, admiration, even hate. Such a dynamic, active relationship is the hallmark of good therapy.

4. You don’t see any growth in your life.

Why keep going to therapy if you don’t see the payoff in your daily life? There has to be some kind of positive motion, such as better relationships, more confidence, less depression or anxiety. If you see absolutely no change or growth from therapy, something’s seriously out of whack that needs to be addressed with your therapist.

Washington Square Institute

Speaking with therapists at WSI, New York City

5. Your therapist isn’t a good role model

Is your therapist expressive, engaging or dull and passive? Therapists need to be good role models for their patients. Even if your therapist reveals nothing, you can sense if he practices what he preaches. Truth be told, a lot of therapists suffer from depression. If they can’t cure themselves, how could they possible cure you?