Seeking therapy is undoubtedly a vulnerable decision. It is courageous to willingly walk into a room with a complete stranger to talk about, or even consider talking about, your feelings. Therapy is about finding the right fit, and not all therapists are the right fit for all clients.
You may have walked out of therapy feeling confused, underwhelmed, or just like the therapist wasn’t the right fit for you. So, what makes for a valid therapist red flag?
Self-disclosure can be an incredibly helpful tool when used appropriately in counseling. It can help a client feel understood, cared for, and heard. However, when self-disclosure crosses into oversharing, it becomes a red flag.
If you find that your therapist is spending a lot of time speaking about themselves in a way that feels unhelpful to you--it may be time to look for a new therapist. Your sessions should be focused on you and your needs. You shouldn't feel like you're subject to hearing their life story!
Therapists are held to a high standard of confidentiality, and your therapist is also a mandated reporter. Therefore, upon starting therapy, you should be provided an informed consent document that shares the limits of confidentiality in therapy.
If you are not given this information--it is a red flag. You should know who your information may be shared with and what kind of information would be shared. If you want your therapist to speak to another provider, like your doctor, they should have you sign a formal release of information. This process should be communicated to you clearly.
Making You Feel Worse
Healing is hard, and things often feel worse before they feel better. But, if you find yourself regularly feeling worse after sessions, that's a red flag.
Your therapist will likely push your buttons at times. For example, therapists may challenge a pattern they’ve noticed or prompt you to set a boundary you don’t feel ready for. This is normal, and hopefully, you still feel that your therapist supports your growth.
If you feel worse because you feel that your therapist is inattentive, not listening to you, or not helping in the way you’d hoped, speak up. If you feel any of these feelings, you should feel safe to voice your concerns. If you don’t feel safe, it’s a red flag.
You Feel Judged
All people hold their own judgments and biases that they’ve learned from their own unique life experiences, and therapists are people. However, therapists have an ethical responsibility to check those biases and address them outside of the therapy room.
If you are feeling judged by your therapist, consider that a red flag. The therapeutic relationship is the most essential part of the therapy process across therapy modalities. If you feel judged, it is not a facilitative therapeutic relationship, and it may be a good idea to move on.
No Experience With Your Issue
Therapists have an ethical and professional obligation to practice within an appropriate scope. Therefore, a therapist should not advertise as a trauma specialist if they do not have any experience or training in working with trauma. Moreover, your therapist should not provide a specialty therapy treatment or intervention in which they do not have training, such as EMDR.
You should be able to ask your therapist what credentials, training, and experience they have to support your particular challenge. If they are unwilling or unable to answer that question, it is a significant red flag.
Lots of Cancellations
Therapists are humans first, and life circumstances can happen that prevent them from getting to work. However, your therapist should be open and communicative about their availability for regular sessions.
If your therapist is canceling on you a lot, it may be a red flag. Therapy can be a long process and requires consistent time and attention. If your therapist is cancelling often to the point it is interfering with your experience, it may be time to move on to someone new.
It is also important to consider the nature of canceled sessions--are they always at the last minute? Did your therapist not show up to your appointment? These could be red flags that it’s time to find a new provider. Good therapy requires consistency and punctuality- and that applies to both of you.
Final Thoughts on Therapist Red Flags
Sometimes your therapist is just not the right therapist for you. Even if you haven’t experienced the therapist red flags above, you might still feel like your provider isn’t the best match, and that's okay.
Therapy is your special time, and it’s important to feel safe, comfortable, heard, and respected in the therapeutic relationship. It's reasonable to need to meet with a few people before finding the right person for your needs.
At The Mental Health House, we strive to provide excellent clinical care. No matter your mental health need, we are here to support you. Contact us today to learn more.