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If you require therapy, you will naturally hope to find a good, competent therapist. One of those wise souls who listen attentively, show compassion and offer constructive solutions. But what if you find a bad therapist? How do you spot one of those parasitical professionals who don't help you and may actually re-traumatise you?
They can be surprisingly hard to spot. Not ever therapist with thirty years' experience and published articles will be compassionate and have your best interests at heart.
Yet we often find it hard to break away from a therapeutic relationship. If we find an experienced and respected practitioner, we may find it impossible to believe that they aren't thinking about our wellbeing. We reason that they wouldn't be so respected if there was something wrong with their therapeutic process.
So how can you spot a bad therapist, and what should you do if your therapist sucks (or is actually damaging to your mental health)?
They Don't Respect Your Time
A good therapist will be attentive when you're in a session with them. All non-essential phone-calls will go unanswered (and if they must answer an essential phone-call, they will always apologize), and (unless they suffer from hypoglycemia) they will not eat in your session. A bad therapist will answer their phone with impunity and will not apologize (because they consider their time to be more important than yours) and may eat throughout your session, whether it occurs at a mealtime or not.
If your therapist does not respect your time, and is not attentive during your session, it's time to look elsewhere. You can never respect yourself when your therapist doesn't respect you.
"It's All About Me!"
Therapy can be a selfish process. But it's not meant to be selfish for the therapist! If your therapist seems to be constantly talking about their lives, their problems, the difficulties they've experienced, their jobs and their families, it could be a sign that they're more concerned about themselves than about your recovery.
Of course, you shouldn't leave your therapist the minute they mention their own life. Many therapists do discuss difficulties they've faced in an effort to connect with their client. But remember that the majority of every session should focus on your needs. If your therapist takes every opportunity for self-aggrandizement (or likes to begin sentences with, "Well, as I said in my very popular speech to the American Psychological Association..."), the time may have come to find someone less self-absorbed.
You've Been Seeing Your Therapist Longer Than Your Partner
A therapeutic relationship is not a marriage, but a short-term relationship that is meant to yield personal gains before you move on. If you have been seeing your therapist for many years, it's time to consider if you're still getting anything out of it. Some people see one therapist for 20 years or more before changing therapist; due to being more in-sync with their new therapist, they may only require 10 to 20 further sessions before not requiring therapeutic support anymore.