Warning Signs of a Bad Therapist
Are there warning signs of a bad therapist? Of course!
As with any profession, there are always bad eggs. Unfortunately, when it comes to hiring a counsellor, they can be quite expensive. Now imagine spending your hard-earned dollars on someone who is a bad therapist.
Please read on to learn the warning signs and what to do if they pop up.
Posted: March 6th, 2021
Disclaimer: Although I am a mental health professional, all information and reflections are meant for educational purposes only. If you plan to make changes in your life, it may be worth consulting with loved ones and/or your wellness team. Also, this post may contain affiliate links that will connect you with some pretty cool products and when making a purchase through those links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Before we get too far into the warning signs of a bad therapist, I want to provide a small disclaimer. No therapist is ALL good or ALL bad.
Some of the things I mention are major issues, while others might just have you a little more on alert. If any of this resonates with you, critically think about your next step and consider a discussion with your healthcare professional.
I would never want you to lose a positive therapeutic connection through one of my posts. Talk to friends, family and/or your counsellor to see what is up. If something seems obviously fishy, though, it might be time to seek a new support.
Now to the warning signs of a bad therapist…
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In some places, counsellors/therapists are NOT required to register with an association to ensure they are practicing ethically.
In simpler terms, people are getting away with unsafe counselling because no one is checking in.
Before starting with someone, or once you do, ask where they are registered through. If they are not, it’s best to inquire why and what their limitations are in helping you.
If they are not registered, I would wonder why…
Dependent on what your needs are, check to see what letters are behind their name and where they went to school. Some people display their degrees, but others do not.
For me, I will be framing my degrees to ensure clients feel reassured about my counselling education.
Here is the thing, though, there are many different levels of therapeutic help available out there. Some people are doctors, others are masters level counsellors, while some have diplomas or just a certificate. Alternative or traditional healing are also areas to consider. For insurance purposes you may need a specific type of professional, so please check!
I am NOT saying that one is better than the other, but it IS a warning sign if they are not being upfront about their credentials.
Counsellors are meant to assist with listening, validating and problem-solving. We are NOT meant to give a bunch of advice, regardless of if you ask for it.
There is a reason for this, though! Telling you what to do takes away your control and confidence in your own abilities. Also, what if it is terrible advice? You know your own life better than anyone.
Suggestions of wellness activities and asking questions so that you can think of your own solutions is an area that IS helpful.
Telling you to break up with someone, spend your money in a different way, change your substance use patterns, quit your job, etc… It is NOT their place to tell you what to do.
Plus, they are in a paid position. They are a professional. It is hard to say no even if the advice doesn’t seem right to you. Definitely a warning sign.
You are paying for a service, so the spotlight should be on you. If your therapist is talking about themselves and always sharing examples they have related to your issues, they are being inappropriate.
“Self-disclosure” can help with relatability and decrease feelings of being alone, but you do not need to hear about their struggles all of the time. It is their job to listen to yours.
This may not make them a “bad” therapist, but it definitely can interfere with your thought process by being interrupted with their story.
Now, this can take many forms. Some examples include:
– asking for large amounts of money (other than a slight fee increase).
– threaten to share your information
– offer to be a legal decision maker
– request inappropriate favours
These are just some, but I’ve heard of them all. You are a vulnerable person coming to counselling. You are seeking help from a trustworthy person.
Some people take advantage of their position of power and KNOW where your weaknesses are (we all have them).
If you have been or are being taken advantage of, contact the place they are registered and report the behaviours if you feel safe to do so. If it is happening to you, it may be to others, too.
There is a big difference between friendships and professional relationships. Even more so, there is a huge difference between romantic and professional relationships.
If your counsellor is asking you to spend time with them outside of your appointments, there is a boundary being crossed. Your counsellor should have been taught about professional relationships and that anything outside of the office is inappropriate.
There are actual guidelines written for counsellors to follow regarding friendships or romances, which includes typically YEARS after you were their client.
You deserve to have a safe and neutral person as a counsellor. There should be no pressure to hang out, and now you know that the counsellor knows better too.
Lastly, if they make you uncomfortable, they just aren’t the right counsellor for YOU and that is okay. What works for some, may not work for others.
Some examples may include:
– feeling judged
– your cultural beliefs are disrespected
– they impose their beliefs on you
– pushing you to talk about things you aren’t ready to
– they do not accept feedback or criticism
– gender preferences
I am aware that I will not be everyone’s favourite counsellor, but I will do my best to make people feel comfortable and provide safe care. Personality differences will not make me a bad counsellor, but…
If I were to do any of the above things by making poor decisions for my client’s care or lying, THEN I would definitely be engaging in bad behaviours.
If you’ve spotted some warning signs, what can you do?
– If safe and comfortable, talk with your counsellor directly and ask questions.
– Ask a trusted loved one about their thoughts on the counsellor’s behaviours.
– Ask yourself if you feel uncomfortable or disrespected.
– Find a new counsellor.
– Report them to their counselling association if you feel they are unsafe for yourself and others.