Therapy can bring up some intense feelings, but one you probably don’t expect is doubt about whether your therapist is right for you. Therapy is a vulnerable thing to do, and if the person you’re working with isn’t a good match, it can hinder your progress. However, you aren’t trapped with the person you’re seeing if it doesn’t seem to be effective. There are other therapists you can work with if that’s what you need to do.
But how do you know if it’s time to find a new therapist? Ultimately, you are the only one who knows for sure if it’s time to move on. As you consider your options, here are four signs that it’s time to switch, as well as a couple of reasons to consider staying.
Four signs you should find a new therapist
1. You’re just not a good fit.
There doesn’t have to be a big problem for you to decide you might work better with someone else. Sometimes people simply don’t “click.” It often feels uncomfortable to open up to someone new at first. But if that awkwardness persists after about five sessions, you may just not work well together.
This doesn’t mean either of you has done anything wrong. Sometimes, personalities simply don’t match. Feeling a connection with your therapist is very important to the process. You simply must feel comfortable and able to open up to make the progress you deserve. Rather than trying to push past a basic incompatibility, it’s worthwhile to seek out someone who is a more comfortable fit.
2. You’re not making progress.
The same issue typically comes up more than once in therapy. That’s understandable, as you work through patterns that have been a part of your life for a long time. However, if you find yourself simply talking about the same things without seeing any changes, you’re not really getting the benefits of therapy.
Therapy should be a collaborative effort. If you don’t feel that your therapist is working with you toward solutions, then they may not be fully participating in that collaboration. Venting about your problems can be helpful, but the work must go deeper than that.
3. You need someone with a different area of expertise.
It’s not uncommon to uncover an issue in therapy that has gone unnoticed before. Sometimes, this new area requires specialized therapy, such as dealing with an eating disorder. However, not every therapist is trained to work with every issue. For some problems, it’s important to find someone who specializes in that field.
A reputable therapist will not be offended if you say that you need to explore an issue with someone who specializes in that arena. They may even be able to give you some referrals to help you find the right person.
4. You experience any inappropriate behavior in therapy.
There are some actions that pretty much anyone would recognize as inappropriate or even criminal in a therapeutic setting. For example, sexual advances cannot be tolerated, and sharing your personal information with others is a serious breach of professional ethics.
However, there are other actions therapists can take that may just feel uncomfortable or confusing. These include things like oversharing with you about their personal life, repeatedly canceling appointments with little warning, and pressuring you to make decisions that you don’t feel good about. Therapists are held to a strict code of ethics, and it’s not your job to keep them in line.
Are there reasons to stay?
It’s important to know that you have the right to discontinue therapy at any time, and you don’t have to justify that choice. But before you decide to stop working with someone, it may be worthwhile for you to examine your reasons. Here are some reasons you may want to stay the course.
1. Your discomfort is a big change, and you can’t identify why.
If you’ve had a productive relationship up to this point, and you suddenly feel negative emotions about therapy, it’s worth asking why. Unless the therapist has done something unusual to trigger that response, is it possible that you’re reacting to an issue that’s come up during your sessions and is upsetting you?
Therapy can be very uncomfortable at times, and it’s a natural response to want to avoid painful emotions. To be clear, you never have to go to therapy if you don’t feel safe, whether you can explain why or not. But if you have any doubts about where your discomfort is coming from, it’s absolutely acceptable to bring up these feelings with your therapist.
Simply mention that you’re feeling negative emotions about therapy. How they respond and what comes up as you explore these feelings should help you clarify what you want to do next.
2. You can talk to your therapist about what you need.
Barring any inappropriate behavior, you and your therapist may be able to come up with a solution for what’s troubling you. If you’re feeling stuck in a specific area, you can work together to come up with a plan to address that. There is more than one style of therapy, and sometimes it’s a good idea to try a different approach.
It’s also possible that your therapist may agree with you that it’s time for you to explore working with someone new, or to even “graduate” from therapy. This may feel like a scary conversation to have, but it’s a healthy way to end a therapeutic relationship. You aren’t dumping a friend: you’re making the best decisions you can for your mental health. A professional will be happy to support you in that.
You deserve support and guidance that works for you
Therapy is an intense journey, but the rewards are worth the work. If you need to find someone new to work with, you have every right to make that change. At Trillium Counselling, we are here to support patients on their way to better health. If you have any questions about our therapists, we urge you to contact us today.