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Red flags to look out for in your therapist
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Red flags to look out for in your therapist

These warning signs might mean that you should look for another therapist
Representational image | Canva

Entrusting your deepest thoughts, fears, and vulnerabilities to a therapist is a courageous step towards self-discovery and healing. A therapeutic relationship is built on trust, empathy, and open communication. However, as in any professional partnership, it is crucial to pay attention to red flags that might indicate your therapist is not the right fit for you.

Happiest Health sheds light on the often-overlooked aspect of therapy – recognising red flags in your therapist.

Qualifications

Do educational qualifications matter? Yes, says Srishti Saha, clinical psychologist and senior consultant at Fortis Hospital Kolkata, adding that it is the first sign to look out for in a therapist. A minimum of a master’s degree in psychology is required to be a counselling psychologist, and an MPhil to be a licensed clinical psychologist.

“Although lately there has been a great increase to the dialogue surrounding mental illnesses, this has also led to the mushrooming of so-called mental health experts who do not have the adequate training or license to practise therapy,” says Saha.

It is common these days, she says, to find advice for mental health espoused by many, however,this may not be suitable for everyone.

“When such advice is taken as a substitute for therapy, it may sometimes even lead to exacerbation, rather than alleviation, of symptoms,” says Saha.

As such, it is important to ask your therapist about his or her qualifications, expertise, and ability to tackle the types of issues that you are looking to explore in therapy.

Lack of comfort with your therapist

Therapy is meant to be a safe space where you feel comfortable with your therapist. While it is natural to experience discomfort when certain feelings come up, the discomfort should not arise because of the therapist.

Feeling that your goals are being put on the backburner, that you are not being seen by your therapist, or that you are being judged, can all lead to discomfort with your therapist, says Saumya Vatsa, a Gurugram-based counselling psychologist at Maitreyee Foundation.

Inconsistencies in your therapist’s behaviour

According to Vatsa, some signs of inconsistency in your therapist to look out for include –

  • Constantly rescheduling sessions without prior notice
  • Not remembering crucial details about you and your life
  • Asking for favours (like money or tickets)
  • Being distracted or not being present during sessions

Giving advice

A core tenet of therapy is not giving direct advice to clients. “That’s a big, big no because no therapist should be giving you any kind of advice,” says Vatsa. A therapist, she adds, must become redundant eventually. “If your therapist is giving you advice, it makes them so relevant and takes away your agency from the session.

Reluctance to take feedback

A good therapist is open and receptive to taking feedback. “An effective therapist is one who recognises that you are the expert in your own life,” says Saha. “At every juncture, your feedback holds a very critical value.”

An effective therapist will not only welcome but expect and respect your suggestions and feedback and include them into the process of therapy, she adds. The lack of this trait might be a sign that you should look for another therapist.

Violation of boundaries

Therapy is meant to be a safe space, where the therapist and client enter a professional relationship. A core tenet of the therapeutic space is to maintain professional and ethical boundaries during sessions.

According to Saha, violation of these boundaries might look like inappropriate or sexual advances, probing questions unrelated to the issue at hand, extended contact outside of therapy environment, and violation of confidentiality.

Communication gap

The therapeutic relationship is meant to be one where the therapist takes an active interest in the inner world of the client and can foster an empathetic, and compassionate view of the client. A communication gap can majorly pose an obstacle in the therapeutic process.

According to Saha, this gap can look like “Difficulty understanding concerns, problems in articulating, language barriers and using highly technical terms.”

Dismissive attitude

Therapists often approach their clients with unconditional positive regard. Providing the clients with a non-judgemental attitude and openness to their experience is an important tool in therapeutic work.

Trivialising of concerns, blaming tendencies, invalidating statements, false promises, according to Saha, are huge red flags.

Improper conduct

Here are some things that a therapist should not do in sessions, according to Saha:

  • Appear messy or unkempt
  • Appear distracted
  • Continue using a phone without providing an excuse; or in the absence of an emergency
  • Speak harshly or rudely; making critical remarks
  • Controlling the conversation
  • Not practising active listening
  • Giving direct and unsolicited life advice
  • Giving precise instructions or directions on what has to be done; making decisions on behalf of the client
  • Being unresponsive to feedback from the client

 

Recognising red flags in your therapist is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and effective therapeutic relationship. Whether it is having qualifications, ensuring comfort, maintaining consistency, avoiding advice-giving, or valuing feedback, each of these factors play a pivotal role in the success of your therapeutic journey.

 

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