Similar to most relationships, having a smooth, instant connection with your therapist is rather rare. Sometimes, the client simply does not click with their therapist. Even worse, the client might find themselves saying, “I don’t like my therapist.” If you fall into that camp, it’s okay; things can get better. After you have taken the time to assess why you don’t like your therapist, you can take certain steps to express your ideal change.
Create a Script
Since people cannot read minds, there are several moments where a person is unaware of the other person’s needs. The same applies for your therapist: they may not know that you’re unhappy. To grant the possibility of change, expressing your ideal improvements is crucial. One way in which to do this is to create a script for yourself. Having a script can lessen anxiety because the person knows exactly what they’re going to say. With a script, you don’t have to worry about expressing yourself on the spot. To create a script, first assess what your ideal changes for therapy are. Second, reflect on what you want your tone to be. Using “I” statements tend to be effective in getting your listener to actually hear you (e.g., “I feel that we’re staying on the surface in therapy”). Avoid accusatory language, and frame your tone in a way in which you would want to hear it. Third, incorporate your desired changes and tone into a short paragraph. Here’s an example of how it can look.
- My therapist and I go deeper with my thoughts and feelings regarding an issue.
- My therapist gives me homework assignments, and holds me accountable for them.
- My therapist confronts me on my undesired behavior
My Desired Tone:
- Direct, but not domineering
“I appreciate the work we’ve done in therapy, and there are some aspects that I want to change. From my perspective, I feel as though we’re not going as deep as I would like regarding my problems. I sometimes feel as though we talk about solutions too quickly, and I don’t feel like I’m being held accountable for some of my bad behavior. I know that you cannot read my mind, so I wanted to bring up some of these desired changes with you.”
Afterwards, if you were the one receiving the feedback, reflect on whether you would be okay hearing what you wrote down. If so, move on to the next step.
Practice with a Friend or Loved One
When advocating for our needs, it’s common to feel nervous. It’s also common to feel as though we’re overreacting. Practicing with a friend or loved one helps lessen both of these issues. When practicing what you’re going to say to your therapist with your friend, it gives you a small taste of what the real experience is going to be like. That taste often gives confidence with doing the real thing. Additionally, practicing with a friend or loved one can normalize the need for advocacy. You’re practicing your script in front of someone else; therefore, if you trust the person whom you are practicing with, they will more than likely let you know if what you’re saying is absurd. Having that external validation can help assuage any fears.
Imagine the Worst-Case Scenario
Another way to help express your dissatisfaction with your therapist is to imagine the worst-case scenario. Some of our fears come from an irrational place, and stating them out loud can highlight that irrationality. Additionally, by stating the worst-case scenario, it can put things into perspective. To put it simply, sometimes, the worst-case scenario is still manageable. After you have come up with your scenario, ask yourself, “Would I be able to handle this?” Here’s an example to make matters more clear.
Worst-Case Scenario: If I tell my therapist that I want parts of our therapy to be different, they will get mad and defensive. They will say disparaging things about me, and refuse to see me again.
With this example, the worst-case scenario is the therapist saying offensive remarks and leaving. Though it can be hurtful to experience, the hypothetical client could probably handle it. After all, the worst outcome is that they would no longer have a therapist whom they didn’t like.
Putting a Foot in the Door
Now that you have an understanding of what you would want to say to your therapist, the next step is simply saying it. Once again, it can be daunting to advocate for one’s needs. Therefore, here’s something to help with the process. If you want to express your dissatisfaction with your therapist, put one foot in the door. At the end of your session, state that there’s something that you want to talk about for the next one. Alternatively, you can message your therapist before your next session saying the same thing. This sets the stage for a future conversation. Though this expectation can create some pressure, this does not have to be inherently bad. Some pressure can be motivating, as opposed to paralyzing. Additionally, you’re only stating that you want to talk about something for the next session. If you feel too uncomfortable, you don’t have to bring up your dissatisfaction. You’re simply dipping your foot in the water, not diving in.
Similar to all relationships, the therapist-client dynamic can be intricate. Sometimes, clients find a therapist who’s the perfect match, while others aren’t so lucky. If you find yourself thinking, “I don’t like my therapist,” that’s okay. Not only is that experience completely normal, it also has solutions. By advocating for your needs in therapy, you can improve your relationship with your therapist, while also increasing your ability to advocate for your needs outside of therapy. However, there will be times where a client simply needs to find a new therapist. If you have given your therapist a couple of sessions and you still don’t like them, it may be time to find a new one. You can schedule a session with a competent therapist online at www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact .