15 Signs of a Bad Therapist (And What to Do About It)

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Looking for a therapist?

Seeking therapy is a great way to manage your mental health, learn how to cope with the daily stressors of life, and have extra support. Therapy allows you to explore your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to certain situations.

The right therapist will guide you to becoming the best version of yourself. That being said, not every therapist is a good one.

If you’re in therapy or have been considering trying it out, you might be wondering how you’ll know if you have a bad therapist.

Here are 15 signs of a bad therapist and what to do about it. 

Explore emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in affordable online therapy. With 30,000+ licensed therapists and plans starting from only $65 per week, BetterHelp makes self-care accessible to all. Complete the questionnaire to match with the right therapist.

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1. Not Listening To You

The main purpose a therapist serves is to listen to you and respond to what you’re saying. If they seem distracted or like they’re not actively listening to you, speak up and let them know how you’re feeling.

It’s unacceptable for a therapist not to listen to your every word and if they aren’t, you might be left feeling like you’re not important.

As scary as it seems, speaking up is the best thing to do. 

Depending on your therapist’s response, you’ll know if it’s time to find a new therapist. 

2. Breaking Confidentiality

Therapists are legally required to protect your privacy. The only exception to this is if you or someone else’s life is in danger.

If you’re certain that your therapist has violated confidentiality, the best thing to do is report them to the state licensing board. 

3. Judging You

It’s never ok for a therapist to judge their client or shame them. This behavior is hurtful and isn’t something anyone should experience. 

In therapy, you should be able to be yourself without fearing what your therapist may think or say. The best thing to do in this situation is to bring it up to your therapist.

Remember that your therapist is human so of course they will make mistakes. That being said, their job is to support you regardless of their personal feelings about what you’re sharing with them.

4. Frequent Self-Disclosure

It’s perfectly fine for a therapist to talk about themselves a little bit and it can help you feel more connected to them and make it easier to open up.

However, them talking about themselves should relate in some way to your session and should never take the focus off of your problems.

You’re paying for an experience that should be all about you. 

If you notice your therapist talking about themselves frequently, you can say something like, “I’ve noticed that you talk about yourself a lot. This makes me feel like I don’t matter.”

If they don’t respect your feelings, it’s time to walk away.

5. Becoming Extremely Defensive About Feedback

You should be able to provide feedback or criticism to your therapist when they make a mistake. Your therapist should respond calmly and in a mature manner.

If they become defensive, you have the right to end your session or even fire them as your therapist. 

6. Imposing Their Beliefs On You

Your therapist should always respect your beliefs, whether it’s religious, spiritual, social or political beliefs.

They have no right to tell you they don’t believe in something you’re doing or to try and push their own beliefs on to you.

7. Trying to Force You to Talk About Something You’re Not Ready to Discuss

It’s definitely a red flag if your therapist is trying to force you to talk about something and you’re not ready. 

A good therapist will always be patient with their client. They are there to guide you but they should never push you if you’re not ready to open up.

8. Checking Their Phone

A therapist checking their phone during your session is rude and means you don’t have their undivided attention. 

If they’re too distracted to pay attention to you, your time is better spent elsewhere. 

9. They Touch You Inappropriately

It’s unethical and completely unacceptable for a therapist to touch you inappropriately. 

If any touching happens, such as a hug or handshake, your therapist should always ask for consent.

If it’s something inappropriate, end the session and report them to the proper authorities. 

10. They Can’t Help You

Not every therapist will be able to help you. For example, if you’re struggling with trauma, it’s important to seek a trauma-informed therapist who will help you work through what has happened to you.

Also, if you’ve been in therapy for a while, you should begin to notice an improvement in your life. If nothing has changed, this could be a sign that the therapist you’re seeing isn’t a good fit.

11. Trying To Be Your Friend

Your therapist isn’t your friend; therefore, they shouldn’t be making any attempts to hang out with you as friends or contact you if it’s not related to your treatment.

Behavior like this can negatively impact your treatment.

12. They Frequently Miss, Cancel, Or Show Up Late

Because your therapist is human, situations will arise which cause them to cancel or show up late to an appointment. This is completely understandable.

However, if they’re frequently canceling or late to appointments this means they don’t value your time.

Sometimes a session may run longer with other clients which causes your therapist to be late. In this case, cut them some slack as long as it’s not a regular thing. 

13. They Tell You What to Do

Some people think therapists constantly give you advice or tell you what to do. While advice-giving does happen during therapy, it shouldn’t be an all the time thing.

Therapists are there to guide you and help you make your own decisions. 

14. They Make You Feel Uncomfortable

It’s normal to feel nervous when first starting therapy, especially when you don’t know what to expect. If while in your therapist’s presence, you constantly feel anxious or uncomfortable, listen to that feeling.

This is a sign that it’s not a good fit. 

15. Regularly Leaves You Feeling Worse After Your Session

Most times, people in therapy are working through some difficult things. It can be hard to open up and talk about what you’re going through. When you do talk about it, you may be left feeling drained. 

This is a normal reaction but it shouldn’t be occurring every time you go to therapy. If it’s happening after every session, it needs to be addressed so that you can work with your therapist to figure out why you always feel worse. 

Not Every Therapist Is A Good One

Deciding to seek therapy is an important step to take when it comes to healing and managing your mental health. Choosing to go to therapy is a brave move and you should be proud of yourself for taking the first step at bettering yourself. 

It’s important to realize that not every therapist is a good one and sometimes the first therapist you see could turn out to not be a good fit. 

There are some issues that you and your therapist can work through together but in some cases, the best thing to do is to find a new therapist. It can take time to find someone who is right for you but once you do, you will reap the benefits of therapy. 

Therapy is a wonderful tool to have with you as you navigate through the ups and downs of life. 

If you find that you come across a bad therapist, keep looking. Don’t let one bad experience keep you from getting the help you need. 

Additional Resources

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Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and we earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

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About the author

Jaila Macklin
Jai Marie is a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in writing about mental health and spirituality. She uses her writing as a way to connect, heal, and inspire others to take care of themselves. In 2015, she started a blog where she continues to advocate for mental health. Visit her blog, itsjaimarie.com.

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