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Why I Won’t “Break Up” with My “Ineffective” Therapist

I’ve been seeing my psychologist for two and a half years. It seems like every six months we have the same conversation. He says that he feels like things aren’t working between us and he isn’t being helpful.

He explains, “I’ve been a therapist 30 years and I feel like I have some decent skills, but I feel like my counseling skills aren’t effective with you.” He explains that it seems like I’m not happy with him and mentions how people in my life have told me to switch counselors since it doesn’t seem to be working.

For some reason I panic every time we have this conversation. I feel like he is abandoning me. He sees me panic and continues calmly, “It’s your choice. If you want to keep seeing me I will do my best to help you.”

I calm. I tell my therapist that everything is fine and I like him. Though maybe that’s not quite true.

I feel like he is judgmental, and talking to him causes me anxiety. I’ve had panic attacks in his office triggered by things he said. I dissociate in his office every week. Often I dissociate because I feel triggered or threatened. He knows I feel and experience these things.

So why would I keep seeing him?

Because he understands me. I’ve seen several therapists over the past 15 years, since I was diagnosed 15 years ago. I saw several for long stretches of time. None of them ever really understood me. One came close. But I feel like I have complex problems that are hard to grasp. Maybe I find my therapist judgmental, but he truly perceives who I am and how my mental issues happen.

I have dissociative problems that are subtle and my therapist can tell the instant I dissociate. No one else can tell, not even my husband. My therapist knows all the different behaviors for each of the personalities: how my voice and eyes change, how my speech and comprehension level changes.

My therapist helped me discovered I have multiple selves. I hadn’t noticed it before. If I switched to a new therapist, even if I saw the therapist for years, I’m skeptical he would understand my complex problems.

Because he’s creative. Although we’ve had difficulty connecting, I appreciate how creative my therapist is. And he’s constantly researching things. Some weeks he is excited to share with me an article he read, a lecture he heard, or a podcast I might find inspiring. One week he shared a slam poem since he knows I love poetry.

He’s brilliant and he’s constantly thinking of creative ways to approach my problems. Although maybe I’m not making enough progress, he keeps trying new things and I believe that together we will eventually find things that are helpful.

Because he’s different from me. I think I often perceive my counselor as “judgmental” just because we have different personalities. I’m a sensitive, emotional empath while he is a research-minded psychologist. He is constantly studying me and evaluating me. So maybe he is “judging” me but it’s only so that he can understand and help me better. Judgment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Often it is helpful.

I think it helps me to see a therapist who is different from me to get fresh perspectives on how to handle my life. Our differences mean I may perceive him as judgmental or feel like we’re opposites, but our differences mean that I feel like he is able to help me in ways that someone similar to me might not be able to.

Because he is knowledgeable about dissociative problems. It is so hard to find a counselor with knowledge and experience with dissociative identity disorder. I am thankful that I have one.

I feel like we work together best when we are trying to understand my dissociative problems. And he’s counseled a few of my other personalities.

Because I’ve been “stuck” for a long time. I’ve seen different counselors over the years. I’ve changed in some ways, but there are some things about me that haven’t changed.

Maybe I find my counselor difficult to talk to sometimes, but he truly understands me and keeps trying new creative ways to help me. I feel like my odds are much better if I stick with him than find someone new. He says I’m not changing, but I’ve been “stuck” for a while; I don’t know if seeing a new counselor would make me change quicker.

If I saw a new counselor, it would take them months to understand me, if they ever understood me. Then there would be months of them telling me the same things I have heard in therapy many times. And then maybe, just maybe, we would get to a place where I might start changing and getting better. I think staying where I am is the right choice for now.

Why would I stick with a counselor who doesn’t seem to be helping? Because I believe I will start to improve. We keep trying new things in therapy. I believe I will get better and he will be someone who can help me.

The last few weeks of therapy have been very productive and helpful. Last week we may have had a breakthrough. I believe things will change and I will become the healthy person I know I can be.

Why I Won’t “Break Up” with My “Ineffective” Therapist

Anna Lente

I am currently getting my master's in clinical mental health counseling. I have bipolar disorder, a dissociative disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. I am a writer, poet, and artist. I like to write online about my experience of mental illness in order to raise awareness and break stigma.

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APA Reference
Lente, A. (2018). Why I Won’t “Break Up” with My “Ineffective” Therapist. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Mar 2018
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