Step 4: Ensuring the right fit
Once you’ve chosen a therapist to work with, continue to evaluate whether they are a good fit for you and look out for red flags.
Ensuring the right fit
It’s hard to properly evaluate a therapist during the first few sessions because you’re focused on sharing your story and they’re primarily listening and asking basic questions. You may see no clear reason to stop working with them. And yet over time, you might find that:
- They don’t go beyond being someone you can vent with; there are no significant insights or shifts
- You aren’t able to open up with them about some of your most sensitive issues
It doesn’t mean they’re bad therapists, it just means that they aren’t the best match for you. This is why meeting multiple therapists before choosing can help you find a better fit sooner.
Looking out for red flags
Sometimes red flags can come up much later in the process of therapy. A therapist who is really helpful until a certain point, could still be at risk of going off the rails – something might trigger them or they may become less vigilant over time.
- Judgmental and critical of your behaviour, lifestyle, or problems - shames or blames you, makes you feel bad about yourself
- Blames your friends, family and partner or encourages you to do so
- Not a good listener, interrupts frequently, jumps to conclusions and doesn’t try to clarify
- Distracted and not paying full attention to you – on their phone, eating, etc.
- Seems overly emotional or affected by your issues, and is intent on rescuing and taking care of you
- Has strong opinions of what’s best for you and keeps telling you what to do, not as interested in what you think and want
- Too focused on diagnosis and disorders, and not you as a unique individual
- Talks too much about themselves or says nothing (not even clarifying questions)
- Tries to sell you on their other products and services, and seems focused on marketing themselves
- Is offended when you disagree with or question them, does not acknowledge mistakes or limitations
- Crosses boundaries by flirting or touching, or makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in any way
- Breaks confidentiality by discussing other client cases or disclosing their identities
- Encourages unethical or immoral behaviour
- Makes guarantees or promises
- Speaks very negatively of other treatment types or providers, without being objective
- Pushes you into highly vulnerable feelings or memories against your wishes
Don’t ignore wrong behaviour or dismiss it as the therapist having a bad day. If anything bothers you and you aren’t sure, bring it up with them. Even therapists make mistakes, but whats more important is how they react to and address those mistakes – do they get defensive and make you feel uncomfortable or do they acknowledge and apologise for their behaviour, and do their best to make you comfortable again?