Therapy (or psychotherapy as some call it) is a very complex endeavor because it involves emotions, the mind, personalities, belief systems, and interpersonal communication that can either make or break therapy. It is important that we are all aware of the issues that we can potentially encounter in therapy.
Here are a few things I recommend you keep your eyes open for:
- The narcissistic therapist: As you can imagine, this type of therapist is very self-centered and overly confident. This person may talk about his or her accomplishments as part of your session, talk about his or her children or home and new car. This therapist often makes therapy about him or herself. There is rarely an equal conversation and the client may walk away feeling empty and confused.
- The unethical therapist: This type of therapist is open to doing any and everything with clients such as date them, sleep with them, visit their homes, meet them after office hours, talk to them on Facebook or Twitter about personal matters, or even go out for dinner or coffee. While some of these things may be okay, it is important that therapists know their boundaries. An unethical therapist would not have a clue. You can read more here.
- The know-it-all therapist: This type of therapist often knows everything there is to know about everything. You talk about sports and they know all about the various teams. You talk about knitting and they know all about yarn. You talk about stocks and they know all about finances. This therapist is often “over-informed” and may expend so much energy trying to remain “intelligent” that there is no emotional knowledge or compassion and concern for you present. This therapist is a natural dictionary, almost robotic in all his or her exchanges with a client.
- The “let me double check” therapist: Although double checking information is a responsible thing to do, a therapist who constantly does this would put me on edge. I would often question the knowledge base of this therapist and you should too.
- The teacher: This type of therapist is often useful, especially if working with children or teens. But if this type of professional lacks other qualities and only seems to teach every session, this may not be the therapist for you. This type of professional always has something new to teach clients, but rarely engages in equal conversation.
- The theorist therapist: This type of therapist is often using theories to explain away your needs (or the needs of your loved ones). “Book knowledge” is something extremely powerful to this type of therapist. Research, the most recent scientific experiment, or statistics make this type of therapist feel very well versed. Every sentence in therapy may begin with “according to the National Institute of Mental Health……” or “55% of people never get over their divorce because 25% of children become depressed while 5% become rich.”
- The overly compassionate therapist: While compassion is one of the most important traits a therapist can have, there are some therapists who are so compassionate that they frequently cry with their clients in therapy, can come across as patronizing, or simply does not offer mental stimulation. Everything is emotional, almost too emotional! There are no goals being worked towards and there is rarely any learned experiences in therapy. The therapist just seems to like crying and emotional displays of sadness. This might even make the therapist believe he or she is doing their job well.
The most important thing to remember about therapy is that a therapist who is truly skilled will have all of the necessary traits needed to be the best they can be. No one is perfect, we all have flaws (even therapists!). But there are some personality traits or ways of thinking that can make the therapeutic endeavor more complicated than it actually needs to be. You (or your loved one) should feel liberated by therapy, hopeful, and challenged to see things differently and to change negative patterns. You should never have to deal with a therapist who possesses the above traits to the exclusion of the most important traits (i.e., compassion, care, concern, authenticity, practicality, humility, wisdom, intelligence, etc.).
When searching for a therapist, be sure to take your time and don’t rush. Some therapists will use “bait” such as free sessions, free consultations, or telephone sessions to reel you in. But be wise in your search and ask questions. A therapist who is “turned off” by you asking questions, is not the right therapist for you. A mental health professional should be open and willing to educate you about the process.
As always, I wish you well.