Was Dr. Melfi the right fit for Tony Soprano? Dr. Leo Marvin for Bob? Hannibal Lecter for…anyone? That’s not really for us to decide (well, for the last one we can say definitively not). When it comes to patient-therapist relationships, it’s really up to you, the patient, to decide whether you feel your therapist is right for you. If you’re on the fence and not quite sure, here are eight signs that the professional you’re in session with might not actually be ideal for you.
1. Your Therapist Is a Lousy Listener
Your first appointment with your new therapist should center around the issues that brought you through their door in the first place. If you find your therapist missing major points you wanted to address, looking at their phone or spending more time talking than you, it might mean they’re not truly listening. So, when it comes down to your precious time and money, it might not be worth booking another appointment just so you can try to hammer home why you came there in the first place.
2. They Minimize Your Experiences
Validating your emotions marks the first step in dealing with them effectively. If your therapist tries to minimize the things that brought you in—aka gaslighting you—it might be in your best interest to move on from that professional and find someone who takes what you say seriously.
3. You Don’t Really Like Them as a Person
This may seem trivial, but don’t disregard the importance of finding a therapist you like as a person. In the words of Tarik Shaheen, M.D. and founder and CEO of Iris Telehealth Telepsychiatry: “Over time, you should build a strong and valuable relationship with them as you work toward meeting your agreed upon goal. The more colloquial, straightforward answer is that, in short, you should like your therapist. If you don’t, chances are that you’re not going to achieve the results you are looking for.”
4. You Don't Feel Safe with Them
A qualified therapist creates a safe space in their office where no topic is taboo. If you feel you cannot mention your innermost feelings, ask yourself why you feel unsafe doing so. If you feel this way because you're not at the stage where you're ready to process traumatic events, that's fine, but if it's because the treatment specialist gives you a bad vibe, look elsewhere. Therapists need to establish trust with patients by maintaining their own boundaries and avoiding oversharing their own experiences. Ineffective therapists flirt inappropriately (which may prove grounds for harassment), share too much about their private lives and give you the heebie-jeebies. Trust your gut.
5. They Insult Your Intelligence
Regardless of what brought you to therapy, you know more about your frustrations and challenges than many experts. Yes, your therapist has specialized expertise from years of training. They should not gloat about this with you in session, though. If you tell them a certain herb helps improve your depression, and they dismiss this as bunk, ask yourself some questions: Are they genuinely concerned about your improvement or are they more in love with their own favorite treatment regimen to consider alternatives?
6. They Don't Challenge You to Grow
Should your therapy appointments stretch endlessly or should they end after a set number of sessions? Considering the high price of mental health care, most patients and their care team hope for a speedy recovery. However, if you find your sessions going on ceaselessly while you experience no improvement in outlook, you may need to look for a therapist who challenges you more. Some people do need lifelong support, but many with mental health issues do recover and lead happy lives. If you no longer receive any benefit, discuss finding a new caregiver with your team or ask yourself if you're ready to go it on your own.
7. They Behave Unethically
Finally, all therapists must follow a strict code of ethics when it comes to matters like establishing friendships or romantic relationships with patients and maintaining confidentiality. While you may feel badly for ditching your therapist if you have no personal problem with them, remember, when it comes to protecting your mental health, your needs take priority.
8. Letting Your Therapist Go
Telling a therapist you don't intend to return can feel empowering or, on the flip side, incredibly intimidating. Whether you directly confront them or quietly ghost them matters not—what matters is protecting your mental health. If your current care provider exhibits any of the seven signs above, it may be time for an intervention—and a new counselor.