Going to therapy can be a scary, vulnerable experience. After all, you may reveal aspects of yourself that you haven’t with anyone else. Though the experience can be daunting, sometimes the connection between the therapist and client makes therapy less scary. However, what if the connection isn’t good? What do you do if you find yourself saying, “I don’t like my therapist”? Besides finding a new clinician, this article will also discuss how to talk with your therapist about your dissatisfaction.
Advocating Versus Leaving
As mentioned earlier, this article is mainly about how to determine what isn’t working with your therapist, with the goal of improving the current dynamic. To be clear, there are definitely moments where finding a new therapist is the best course of action. Having a therapist who makes you feel unsafe, a therapist who is constantly cancelling sessions, or a therapist who is bigoted are a few valid reasons to seek a new therapist. Barring those types of situations, expressing your dissatisfaction with your therapist could yield more benefits than leaving.
The therapist-client relationship mirrors other interpersonal dynamics. For instance, no one can read the mind of the other person in the relationship. This is crucial because it’s easy to assume that the other person knows what we want. If they know what we want and they’re not providing it, we often assume that they’re uncaring, a jerk, or a bad person. However, it could also be possible that the person simply does not know what we want, nor how their actions are affecting us. Most interpersonal relationships (e.g., friends, family, loved ones) require some work. Rarely do people match perfectly. Therefore, advocating for your needs in therapy gives you experience with advocating for your needs in general.
Understanding What You Don’t Like
So, if you have the thought, “I don’t like my therapist,” what do you do with that? Well, an essential step is to first understand what you don’t like about your therapist. After all, before you try to solve a problem, it’s important to first know what that problem is. Here are some prompts to explore to help ascertain what you don’t like about your therapist.
Tone (The way in which a person expresses themselves when talking)
o My therapist is too dry
o My therapist sounds like they’re bored with our sessions
o My therapist sounds too judgmental
Exploration (The process of gaining more insight into one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors)
o We stay on the surface
o I don’t feel as though I’m learning anything new
o We explore topics of interest to my therapist, and not mine
Confrontation (Directly addressing a perceived issue)
o My therapist is too confrontational
o My therapist doesn’t hold me accountable
o My therapist seems afraid to call me out on my bad behavior
Physical Attributes (Tangible characteristics of a person)
o I look much older than my therapist
o I don’t feel comfortable discussion erectile disorder with my female therapist
o I don’t think that my therapist can understand my unique issues with race
Therapeutic Approach (The way in which the therapist operates and constructs their work within each session)
o My therapist focuses too much on the past
o My therapist is quick to talk about solutions
o My therapist is optimistic, which sometimes feels dismissive of my feelings
- I feel as though I need to take care of their emotions
- Being around my therapist simply makes me feel uncomfortable
- My therapist reminds me of someone I don’t like
These prompts are not exhaustive; there may be many other reasons why you dislike your therapist. Your first step is to simply reflect on what those reasons could be. By understanding your reasons for disliking your therapist, you’ll be able to determine what your solutions are.
Write It Out
After you have taken some time to reflect on what you don’t like about your therapist, write it all down. Next, go back to each attribute and list its ideal change. Ask yourself how it would look for this negative attribute to no longer exist. Here are some examples.
Problem: My therapist talks about solutions too quickly.
Ideal Change: My therapist and I go deeper with my thoughts and feelings regarding an issue.
Problem: I worry that my therapist may not understand issues regarding race.
Ideal Change: My therapist shows that they understand some of my issues, despite not sharing my race.
Once again, there are some issues that may not have, or warrant, a change. For example, if your therapist is being racist, you don’t have to educate them on their racism. You can definitely leave. The same goes for a therapist who makes misogynistic comments, or a therapist who appears to be homophobic. By writing down the problems that you have with your therapist, it can solidify your ideal change. Now that you have a better sense of what types of changes you would like to make in the therapeutic relationship, the next step would be to share those insights with your therapist. Remember, just like other interpersonal relationships, change may take a little time and effort; so you may need to revisit this conversation a few times. However, if you start to feel like your therapist is not responding to your feedback, then that might be another indicator that you may need to move on to a new therapist.
It’s important to remember that not everyone has a great relationship with their therapist. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t like my therapist,” it’s okay. Taking time to reflect on the client/clinician dynamic provides you with the tools for change. Essentially, by knowing what you don’t like, you’ll be able to advocate for what you do like. If you feel dissatisfied with your current therapist, you may find a better fit at The Center for Growth. Because the therapist-client relationship is so important, you’ll be able to try multiple therapists at little to no cost before deciding on one. Go to therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact to schedule an appointment.