Whether you’re going to therapy for the first time or you’re a seasoned pro who’s been in therapy for decades, there’s a certain expectation that a therapist will be supportive and have your best interests in mind. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, which is why it’s important to be aware any some phrases or behaviors that are total red flags. We checked in with Dr. Bethany Cook, PsyD, author of For What It’s Worth: A Perspective on How to Thrive and Survive Parenting Ages 0-2, for three things your therapist should never say to you.
3 Things Your Therapist Should *Never* Say to You (According to a Therapist)
1. “I really think you should do XYZ.”
“It’s not a therapist's job to offer their opinion about what someone should do,” Dr. Cook stresses. “A therapist asks questions that guide a client to their own conclusions based on their personal desires and drives.” Of course, a therapist can provide guidance or help equip you with tools to help you make certain decisions, but if they’re bypassing that step and making decisions for you—and pressuring you to do things their way—it might be time to find a new provider.
2. “Are you sure that’s what really happened? Maybe you read into things.”
Holy gaslighting, Batman. Cook says that a therapist making you question your recollection of events is a major red flag. “Two people can witness the very same situation and have completely different ideas and feelings about what happened. A good therapist works with someone, validates and tries to understand how the perceived experience impacted the client’s mental health.” They don’t, she notes, challenge their perception of reality, adding that studies have even shown that dementia patients have positive emotional outcomes for treatment when therapists meet clients in their emotional world instead of challenging them to live in ours.
3. “I have never felt this connection with another client.”
Yikes. “A comment like this should never be shared with a client,” Cook urges. “Of course, therapists are human and will be unable to predict all the feelings that may arise when working with clients. Nevertheless, they are trained to bring these types of comments and feelings to supervision (with another therapist) and process them outside of the session.” If we’re talking about uneven power dynamics, a therapist making this kind of comment to a client is inappropriate. This type of comment is very likely to make someone uncomfortable, and in the moment, they may not feel empowered to share that with the therapist.