Just as there are good and bad doctors, there are good and bad therapists. There are many good ones, but you must search for them. I have dealt with several bad therapists and it took me time to find the right one who helped me reach recovery. It’s easy to give up and become disappointed in your search for the right one, but don’t give up.
I have put together a list of signs of a bad therapist. These are things I have faced in my search for help. Read over them and keep the list close by while searching for a therapist.
Signs of a bad therapist:
- Tells you to think happy thoughts or watch a funny movie. Mental illness isn’t fixed by thinking happy or watching a movie that makes you laugh. You wouldn’t need help if the road to recovery were that easy. I had a therapist that continually told me to think happy thoughts. I left each session feeling frustrated, and after a few appointments I decided to look for a new one.
- Doesn’t challenge you or teach you ways to help yourself. If the therapist doesn’t give you homework or teach you ways to combat your negative thoughts and to cope with your feelings, he or she is doing little to help you. Part of reaching recovery is to work hard for it. Your negative thoughts and lack of self-esteem have taken years to accumulate. If you are not taught how to change them then recovery is impossible. You also need to learn how to cope with your illness. Coping techniques will help you reach recovery and stay in recovery. I’ve had a therapist who just sat, listened, and took notes. I felt like I was at a standstill. I wasn’t improving and had no idea how to get better. I had to decide to search for better help.
- Tells you long stories about her or his own problems and give you little time to focus on yourself. You go to therapy to work on yourself and to focus on your mental health. You’re not there for your therapist’s stories or his or her problems. You are there for yourself and you must come first. Therapy is your time to be selfish. You’re there for you to get better. You can’t find recovery if your sessions are dragged on by your therapist’s stories and problems. The therapist’s job is to put all his or her time into helping you. One therapist I went to told me her problems. She would go into a long story about something that happened in her life. By the time she was done talking, there was little time for me and solving my problem. I felt my therapy sessions were useless. I was angry. I didn’t go to her to hear stories. I wanted help and I wasn’t getting it. Of course, I had to search for a better therapist.
- Falls asleep while you’re talking or doesn’t seem to be paying attention. Your therapist’s job is to listen to you. If he or she seems distracted, then he or she isn’t listening. How can a therapist help you if he or she doesn’t pay attention to what is bothering you? You can’t reach recovery if your therapist falls asleep and doesn’t listen. By hearing your worries, thoughts, and fears a therapist can give you techniques on how to cope and fight your illness. Someone I care for went to a therapist who dozed off as he talked. I encouraged him to leave the therapist.
- Tells you that you are causing your problems for attention. You are not to blame for your mental illness. It’s not all in your head. A therapist should know that and should never tell you that you are causing your own illness. Mental illness is like any other illness. It is caused by chemicals malfunctioning in your brain. You have no control over it just like a person has no control over cancer. When I was self-injuring, I went to a therapist who told me I injured to hurt others and to gain attention. Each time my mom picked me up from therapy, I cried. I felt guilty for causing pain to my family on purpose. When I told my mom about this she searched long and hard for better help for me.
- Makes you feel ashamed or embarrassed after your appointments. A therapist must never make you feel ashamed or embarrassed by your illness and the things you do while you are sick. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. You have an illness just like any other illnesses. A therapist’s job is to encourage you, not to make you feel bad about things you have done while you are sick. He or she should teach you ways to forgive yourself and find coping techniques, so you don’t repeat those actions. The therapist who told me I was injuring for attention also made me feel ashamed of being sick. This only made my illness worse.
If your therapist has any of these signs, it’s time to search for a new one. Don’t get frustrated and give up on your search for help. Be patient. Unfortunately, there are many bad therapists out there and finding the right one is not easy. Don’t let this sway you from seeking help because there are good ones out there. It’s like finding a doctor; you have to look around until you find one that suits your needs best. You may not always agree with your therapist’s advice, and a therapist could be good, but your personalities may clash. Don’t give up. The right one is out there.
After dealing with several bad therapists, I found a real good one who became like a friend to me. I confided in her like she was my best friend, and she helped me reach recovery. She taught me much of what I write about in my blog posts. She calls me one of her success stories. Even though I no longer need therapy, I hold her deep in my heart.
Because I didn’t let bad therapists stop me from seeking the proper help, I stand strong in the light of recovery.