- Therapy is one of the best ways to help you through a tough time, because vocalizing your thoughts helps you to stop ruminating and finding yourself in a negative spiral.
- But sometimes you may find a therapist who isn’t a good fit for you.
- For instance, taking about your feelings in a traditional therapy session might not work for you. Or your therapist may have way too many clients to focus on you sufficiently.
- Breakup recovery coach Cherlyn Chong and doctor of psychology Perpetua Neo told INSIDER some of the signs you should look for a new therapist.
- Finding someone who is a good fit for you is just as important as the work you’ll be doing, so it’s best to understand how they work early on so you can make an informed decision.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Therapy is one of the best tools at your disposal to get through trauma. Allowing thoughts to rush around in your head without vocalizing them can lead us to obsess and find ourselves in a negative spiral, so it’s nearly always better to speak about what you’re feeling out loud than to ruminate.
But it’s not as simple as finding the first therapist near you, talking at them, and hoping for the best. In fact, your therapist may not be a good fit for you, and therefore won’t be as helpful as they could be, according to breakup recovery and dating coach Cherlyn Chong.
“It’s not that therapy doesn’t work, it’s just that they don’t get the results from therapy,” Chong told INSIDER. “One client had a CBT therapist for one whole year, and she got nothing done. And within two weeks of working with me she got so much done, she fired them.”
There are a few reasons that therapy may not work for you. Here are six that could be red flags that mean you should stop seeing yours.
1. They’re a jack of all trades, but a master of none
Many therapists aren’t all that focused, Chong said. They go in so many different directions, covering everything and everyone from your work, to your relationships, to your upbringing. While this can be useful for discovering past traumas, it’s not so efficient if you’ve gone in for one specific problem.
“They don’t specialize on that one field, and if you’re a jack of all trades you tend to be a master of none,” Chong said. “If you’re talking to everyone you’re talking to no-one. That’s why you have to specialize on one thing.”
If you’re seeking therapy to get a wider insight into your own thoughts, then a general approach is a good one. But if you’re struggling after a trauma, or you can’t get your head around why you’re always unlucky in love, a more specialized therapy program is probably a better option.
2. The sessions are time-based, not results based
Many people in therapy have weekly slots, with a session of about an hour or less. The problem with this, Chong said, is that the problem can be drawn out.
“Trauma doesn’t fit into a once a week sort of thing,” she said. “People need additional support. It’s not very flexible.”
She said when the hour is up, therapists leave their clients to their own devices, which can be irresponsible. The client may think: “What am I supposed to do all week with all these thoughts?”
In a way, the hour in the therapist’s office is like putting a band-aid over a wound. But that wound is still festering underneath.
“The problem never really gets solved, because they are session-based not result-based,” said Chong. “And the patient thinks because they feel okay afterwards, their problem has been solved. But there is deeply rooted trauma lying underneath the band-aid.”
So if you’re struggling through something that needs longer than one hour bursts, go for a therapist who you can call whenever you’re having a tough time, she said.
3. You’re not integrating what you learn into daily life
Another issue with ad-hoc sessions is the drawn-out nature of the therapy can mean it’s harder to integrate what you learn into daily life.
Doctor of psychology Perpetua Neo, who works as a therapist for high-achieving women, told INSIDER that it can be damaging if you haven’t gotten to the root of the issue.
“The human mind is designed to sabotage itself,” she said. “We don’t really like change … Essentially, therapy needs to account for sabotage and to clear the problem at its root, and of course, have accountable steps for a person to follow.”
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4. You have learned helplessness
Some clients can get addicted to therapy, like a toxic friendship. The therapist isn’t toxic, but this kind of relationship doesn’t help anybody, Chong said. This is how people can find themselves in therapy for years, or even decades, without making much of an improvement, Neo added.
“If they are paying quite little for sessions, they don’t care if it lasts forever,” she said. “But you pay the price in terms of your sanity, your confidence. People learn how to be helpless and hopeless.”
For instance, a therapist may tell their clients their problem is something they have to learn to live with, rather than conquer, which Neo said isn’t usually true.
“You’re trusting someone with your mind, your sanity and your wellbeing,” she said. “If you hear you’re going to have anxiety for the rest of your life, that’s really disheartening.”
5. Your therapist forgets who you are
“A lot of therapists have way too many clients,” said Chong. “They’re trying to do everything for everyone at the same time.”
One of her clients, for example, told her his therapist forgot everything he’d said in previous sessions, so he’d have to remind them of the work they’d done every week.
In this case, it’s unlikely the client will feel like therapy is really working for them, and they’ll probably think their therapist doesn’t really care. If you find you’re often repeating yourself in sessions, and your therapist isn’t taking in what you say, it’s a big sign you should look for someone new.
6. Talking doesn’t work for you
Sitting and talking about your feelings for an hour just doesn’t work for some people, and that’s fine. High performing women, for example, often don’t want to talk about their feelings, they just want to get things done, according to Neo.
But therapists can be set in their ways about how to go about their sessions, so they don’t adapt and learn with their clients, Chong said.
“They over-intellectualize everything away, they talk about labels and they are rigid in that way,” she said. “I’ve had coaches who were like this, and even though I told them it wasn’t working for me, they insisted on it, and made me feel like I was being lazy.”
Chong puts this down to the fact some therapists have an ego, and if their way of working has been effective in the past, they see no reason to change. In that instance, it’s up to the client to find the expert who works for them.
“People look at therapists and don’t think of having the right fit,” she said, otherwise it’s like “the blind leading the blind.
“The way I make things easy to understand for my clients is by using illustrations and videos,” she said. “I use a lot of graphics to turn things into layman’s terms. I adapt and learn, and that’s why I have such a high success rate.”