This blog post was written by Michelle Mattero, Counselor at Nivati. You can see more of their content on the Nivati platform and on the Nivati blog. If you want to learn more about Nivati, click here.
You finally took the step to better your mental health and are met with a therapist that just…isn’t it. What now? Is this a sign that therapy isn’t for you?
Take a deep breath, I got you. While it can be discouraging at the moment, it is actually very normal for it to take time to find the therapist that is right for you. Sometimes a one-size-fits-all approach is great, but for something as important as your mental health, you want to make sure it’s just right.
The therapist and client relationship are an essential factor influencing positive treatment outcomes. A good therapeutic relationship helps the client connect with and get the most out of therapy.
This article will explore how to tell if your therapist is not a good fit, the common traits of a good therapist, and what to do if you’d like to try someone new.
How Can You Tell if Your Therapist Is Not a Good Fit?
You may just know. And coming from a therapist, please trust that we do not take it personally. I would rather a client be comfortable and honor their feelings than settle for a therapeutic relationship that isn’t a good match. Remember, this time is for you, and you’re less likely to get the most out of therapy if you don’t connect with your therapist.
If you’re still unsure, review the following signs that a therapist may not be right for you.
Signs That a Therapist is Not a Good Fit
- They don’t have the right training to help you
- There are various types of therapy—Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma-Focused Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), to name a few—and many therapists are experienced in providing more than one approach. Don’t shy away from asking them about their training and experience to better ensure that they have the knowledge and tools to help you. Learn more about the different types of therapy here.
- You feel judged or misunderstood.
- Therapy is most effective when you feel accepted and validated. Your therapist should demonstrate genuine compassion and understanding for whatever you are going through. It’s a good time to look for a new therapist if you feel criticized or uncomfortable sharing for fear of judgment.
- They aren’t culturally sensitive.
- While your therapist doesn’t have to come from the same background as you, they must be sensitive to yours. You don’t want to feel as though your therapist is pushing their own cultural beliefs or ideas on you or avoiding discussing culturally sensitive topics.
- Their approach isn’t what you’re looking for.
- Some therapists have a more direct approach, challenging you to see things from a different perspective or assigning homework to advance your progress. Others may take a more passive approach, often listening more and providing less feedback. You want to feel like you’re making progress and that your therapist’s approach to therapy aligns with what you’re looking for. It may take a few sessions and a discussion with your therapist to ensure their therapy approach meets your needs.
- You just don’t like them very much.
- Your therapist doesn’t have to be your favorite person or someone you’d be friends with outside of the therapy office, but you do want to like their basic personality traits and find them trustworthy. It’s okay if you don’t seem to click with your therapist and want to try someone new.
- You don’t have a clear idea of your therapy goals.
- Everyone’s therapy goals are different and it’s impossible to know exactly when you’ll reach them. However, you should expect your therapist to guide you toward reaching your goals and have a clear path in mind.
Traits of a Good Therapist
Most times, it’s not about if they are a “good” or “bad” therapist, it’s more so, are they a good fit for me?
When a therapist feels like a good match, you’ll often experience the following:
- You feel comfortable. The therapy itself is not always comfortable, but it’s important that you have a good rapport and feel comfortable sharing and exploring different topics.
- Your boundaries are respected. Often therapy touches on personal experiences and emotions that you may not commonly share with others. It can take time to get to the root of an issue or feel safe being vulnerable and you want a therapist that respects the boundaries of what and when you want to share.
- You trust them. Trust is an essential component of therapy. It builds over time, but your therapist should work to create a space in which you feel safe and supported sharing your thoughts and feelings, without the fear of judgment.
- You’ve established an alliance. Your therapist wants what’s best for you and the therapeutic relationship should be one that is collaborative, compassionate, and designed to meet your goals.
How to Find a New Therapist…and Break Up with Your Current One
So, you’re ready to break up with your therapist…now what? Having conflicting feelings about ending treatment with your current therapist is normal. You may worry you’ll hurt their feelings or have doubts about making the wrong decision. If you’ve been thinking about this for some time, or are struggling to feel good about therapy, trust your instincts. You deserve compassionate care and effective treatment and sometimes that means meeting with a couple of therapists until you find the right fit. You should be proud of yourself for taking steps towards self-improvement and it’s okay if that means breaking it off with your current provider.
Tips for Letting Your Therapist Know You’re Going a Different Direction
- It may be helpful to share some of the reasons you’ve decided to move on— perhaps you continue to feel unclear about your goals, you are hesitant to share or express yourself or the approach is just no longer working for you. It’s also okay to just keep it simple and say, “I don’t think this is the best fit for me”.
- You may want to discuss this in person, but if you’re more comfortable, calling your therapist or sending them an email works, too. Reminder: You are not obligated to discuss this with your therapist, but keep in mind it may be an empowering and healthy experience for you to advocate for yourself and openly process this transition.
- It may be helpful to have another therapist, or initial appointments with a couple of therapists scheduled before leaving your current one. If you’re hoping your current therapist can provide you with referrals, you can discuss a plan for termination based on the referred therapist’s availability. Do whatever feels right for you.
Finding a New Therapist
Nivati makes finding a new provider easier than ever—you can access dozens of licensed counselors with the click of a button. Take a few minutes to explore the various counselors’ bios to learn about their experience, expertise, and availability.
For more information on finding a new therapist, check out How to Find the Right EAP Therapist for You
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