So, you have mustered the courage to seek help and decided to go to therapy. It is indeed a difficult thing to acknowledge you need help in the first place, but you ultimately realized it was in your best interests.
More power to you!
Fast forward a few weeks, maybe even months, and you slowly start to notice, “Wait, I still don’t seem to feel any better”.
It raises the question of why many people seem to benefit so well from treatment, but you don’t.
Perhaps at this point, you start to think, “I’m such a wreck, even my therapist can’t help me anymore!”.
But what if we told you that if you aren’t seeing any improvements at all, you may be seeing the wrong counsellor!
That’s right, nobody is beyond recovery.
Therapists may well be prepared to support those who are suffering from mental illnesses or psychological distress. But it is critical that you find a therapist with whom you feel at ease, someone you can place your trust on.
A good therapist should be prepared to communicate with you, be empathetic and caring, and refrain from passing judgment.
Somewhere under the superficial differences, all good therapists have a few basic concepts in common. These features are, in fact, responsible for the vast majority of the healing that occurs in treatment.
If you feel that your therapist is violating the above indicators, it’s time to move on to a new therapist. To help you make your decision, here are some red flags to look out for.
Red Flags You Should Look Out For
- They’re Not Paying Enough Attention
In therapy, some techniques primarily deal with the present or the future, whilst others are primarily focused on past events. In either case, effective treatment needs a personal history.
A person’s history gives an insight into what’s causing the things they are going through. It also serves as a background for understanding their conduct.
The past does not dictate today, but it does influence it. Thus, it is extremely important for a therapist to listen with patience till they get to the root of the problem.
When you’re in treatment, you need a therapist who is attentive to what you’re saying. You are not expected to prepare a presentation and talk solo for half an hour straight.
If they are not reflecting their empathy in any way while you pour out your sentiments, fears, and specifics of a terrible circumstance, would you really want to continue?
A good therapist understands how to listen to you. They concentrate on what you are saying. They’re seeking the hidden meaning of what you’re expressing. And they should be able to pick up on the unspoken cues and ask the appropriate questions to push you to the next phase.
- You Feel Like You are Being Judged
Your therapist should never leave you feeling judged. If you do, it’s a hint that you should look for someone else immediately. This is however different from the therapist helping you confront your deep-seated issues to help you get better.
It is critical that the therapist you’re seeing is a person you respect and trust. It is not the doctor’s role to pass judgment on what you are saying. Even the tone they use while speaking to you can say a lot about their stance on your profile.
Therapy, by nature, is not always simple or pleasant. It frequently necessitates confronting uncomfortable challenges and life habits. You are expected to address and recall things about your past that are unpleasant. Sometimes these are things so intimate that you haven’t shared with anyone either.
In an operation room, a surgeon must operate regardless of the patient’s identity. The patients’ virtues, religion, or race don’t play a role here. Similarly, a therapist must make an effort to understand, react accordingly, and respect every client, no matter how different their own values and beliefs are.
Furthermore, a good therapist does not degrade, belittle, mistreat their patients, or make them feel unwanted. It is their job to figure out what you’re trying to say or expressing, where it’s originating from, and how you must proceed from that point on.
And in that process, if you are feeling judged, you should reconsider finding a new therapist.
- They Are Not Available When You Need Them
Different mental health conditions require different amounts and frequencies of sessions. Some conditions may need regular observation, while some don’t. Also, some people may place a larger importance on their therapist’s accessibility than others.
Some therapists, for example, operate in a way where they don’t take impromptu phone calls or schedule additional appointments. Some may provide 24-hour emergency hotlines or regular meetings.
If you believe you require more extensive therapy, discuss this aspect with potential therapists before deciding who you want counselling from.
- Your Therapist Is Trying to Cross the Boundary
You place yourself in a very vulnerable position while talking to a therapist. You are sharing personal experiences and traumas. Therefore, you should be comfortable seeking support from your therapist without the fear of them overstepping boundaries.
If you feel that your therapist is trying to overturn the professional client-doctor dynamic to gain leverage over you from their position of power, it’s a severe red flag. This includes attempting to take advantage of you in any way or perpetuating a romantic relationship. In any case, you should seek a new therapist immediately.
Therapists must maintain boundaries. You can hang out with your buddies regularly, but it’s ideal to avoid spending time with your therapist outside the chamber.
A lot of the patients start to feel weak about their therapists because they feel like they can finally connect to someone. But here, your therapist is just doing their job, and therefore the feeling should never be mistaken for a romantic connection.
Good therapy sessions help build a professional partnership with the sole purpose of assisting you in making positive changes in your life. If you feel this connection being compromised from either end, it’s time to move on and find a new therapist.
- They Share Information About Their Own Life
In therapy, you are paying money to get professional help with your condition. If the therapist spends the session speaking more about themself, it’s a clear red flag.
Now, this is different from trying to relate to you by sharing their own experience. If they are spending time talking about what they bought during the weekend when you are talking about your shopping addiction, that’s not helping you.
Therapy is, by definition, one-sided; it is all about the patient. Every action taken by the therapist must be oriented toward helping the patient. The therapist should not be wasting a patient’s valuable time by talking about themselves.
If your therapist spends treatment time for anything other than helping you, they are not providing good care.
- You Feel Like You are Not Making Any Progress
Since the very first session is more of an introductory meeting, it is common to feel as if little development has been accomplished. But, if you’ve been regularly attending these sessions and aren’t feeling any better than when you arrived, it may just be that your therapist isn’t the appropriate fit for you.
If the treatment process does not improve the patient’s tolerance, autonomy, judgment calls, and life competency, then the therapy is not working.
A skilled therapist knows how to encourage you and make you feel more empowered in control. When your reliance on the therapist grows over time, this is a warning sign. It is not the goal of therapy to provide answers to issues; rather, it is to educate the client on how to solve difficulties on their own.
- They Are Violating Patient Confidentiality
Therapist confidentiality implies that your counsellor must not share any information about you unless they believe you are a direct threat to yourself or others.
For example, if they are sharing information about their other patients, it is a huge red flag. It is, in fact, a crime in the eyes of the law.
If you have any grounds to believe that your therapist is not keeping your conversations private, you are never going to feel comfortable opening up at the level that you need to in order to achieve the necessary improvements.
After all, you don’t want to be stuck on the same boat, being a story for someone else’s ears.
Everyone deserves to feel safe while going through therapy. A good Therapist must offer an environment that encourages and promotes a safe space. It is purposefully built for candid, inquisitive, and insightful discourse.
If you feel that your therapist is not meeting the standards, look out for the red flags and get a new therapist right away!
Photo by TienDat Nguyen on Unsplash