We’re well aware, at this point, of the many (many) benefits of therapy. But finding the right therapist for you can be a journey. (A worthwhile journey, but still.) “The question of whether or not a therapist is ‘right’ for you is an important one,” says John McGeehan, LCSW, CADC, founder and CEO of The Dorm. While there are certain red flags—McGeehan mentions violating confidentiality, disclosing too much about themselves, not being culturally sensitive or shaming you—there are also subtler things that could signify that you’re seeing the wrong therapist. Here are five signs to look out for, according to McGeehan and Beth Gulotta, LMHC, founder of NYC Therapeutic Wellness.
Are You Seeing the Wrong Therapist for You? We Asked 2 Therapists
Meet the Experts
- John McGeehan, LCSW, CADC, is the founder and CEO of The Dorm, which has been guiding young adults towards independence through evidence-based clinical therapies, community support and practical skill-building since 2009. McGeehan holds a Master of Social Work degree from New York University with a specialty certification in substance abuse, intervention and related co-occurring disorders.
- Beth Gulotta is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of NYC Therapeutic Wellness. She received her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling from Manhattan College and completed extensive training in an outpatient setting where she treated individuals facing a range of social, emotional and behavioral issues. She’s also the host of the podcast Quiet The Clock, on which she and her guests share insights and tips on how to navigate career transitions, relationships, fertility and more.
1. You Just Don’t Like Them
Hey…it happens. McGeehan tells us, that therapy isn’t always easy, and there will definitely be some moments of vulnerability during your sessions, “But if you are consistently holding back during your sessions because you don’t feel a connection with your therapist, then it’s time to consider making a change.” This might not mean your therapist has done anything wrong (or that they aren’t a skilled professional), but in life there are always going to be people you don’t necessarily click with, and your therapist shouldn’t be one of those people. Gulotta adds, “Attending your therapy session [shouldn’t feel] more like a dreaded meeting than something you look forward to attending.”
2. You Don’t Think They Like You
On the flip side, feeling like your therapist doesn’t particularly like you can be a good reason to find someone new. Now, you don’t have to feel like your therapist wants to be best friends, but as McGeehan notes, you should never feel put off, neglected, belittled or unliked by your mental health professionals. “Everyone has their off days or can get distracted during sessions, of course, but you should generally feel like you are being valued, supported and respected during your sessions,” he tells us.
3. You Don’t Trust Them
Gulotta stresses that it’s a red flag if your therapist doesn’t honor or respect a pace that is comfortable for you or does not pick up on your discomfort. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or distrustful, how much are you really going to share with this person? Probably not much, which kind of negates the purpose of being in therapy in the first place. McGeehan adds that the ultimate goal of a therapeutic relationship is to push beyond your comfort zones and expand your emotional and intellectual understanding of the problems you face. “If you have a knee-jerk distrust of a specific therapist, listen to yourself and research an alternative.”
4. It Feels Like Your Relationship with Them Isn’t Growing or Evolving Naturally
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was a productive client-therapist relationship—it takes time. But if it feels like you’ve been seeing the same person for months and months and haven’t noticed any growth, it might be time to move on. “Your relationship, like any other, should deepen organically and continuously,” McGeehan says. “If it feels like they don’t ever remember details about your life, don’t contribute to your personal growth or aren’t engaged during your sessions week after week, you should move on.” Gulotta adds that if they forget the name of the boss you talk about in every session, for example, they’re probably not the right person for you.
5. Their Values Don’t Align with Yours
“It’s important to come to therapy with an open mind about the benefits of seeing a therapist with a background different from your own,” McGeehan explains. “However, if you are constantly feeling like your therapist’s past experiences don’t help you understand your own growth, it’s ok to move on.” For example, if you’re part of the LGBTQ community and your therapist is heterosexual through and through, it’s totally reasonable to find a new provider who might have a better understanding of your life experience. Or, if you're a BIPOC individual and you're searching for a therapist (or other mental health resource), you might want to seek out a BIPOC therapist whose experiences are more similar to yours than a white therapist's would be.