There are a lot of hurdles to navigate before starting therapy. Even if you’re able to navigate the cost concerns, finding someone who has availability and takes your insurance (if you have it) can be a challenge. That’s before you consider whether you need a therapist to help you get through a particularly stressful time, to bolster existing mental health tools, or someone who specializes in a specific mental health condition like PTSD or OCD. “Some of us just have chronic challenges, and sometimes we need longer support for those challenges to feel easier,” says licensed psychotherapist Monica Amorosi.
That means it’s especially important to find someone who’s the right fit for your needs. But if a therapist is crossing your boundaries or behaving inappropriately, their 'help' can negatively affect your mental health — not to mention be a waste of your healthcare dollars. So, how can you tell if there’s a serious issue or something that can be worked through? Here, Amorosi shares some red flags to look for from your therapist — and how to tell if it’s time to break up with them.
theSkimm: What are therapist red flags I should watch for?
Amorosi: “There are red flags that they're not a good fit for you, and there are red flags that they're not a good therapist.
A red flag where maybe they're a good practitioner, just not a good fit: their availability. Maybe they can't see you as frequently as you need. But more often than not, we're looking at red flags that this is an unsafe clinician. That [can] look like:
Ghosting. If you're signing into sessions consistently, and your clinician is not there, they don't tell you that they've moved [the session], [or] they're constantly canceling on you, [they’re] not a safe clinician.
Forcing you to talk about anything. If I'm talking about something stressful with the client, and they say that we need to pause because they're panicking, and [I say], ‘Too bad, we have to talk about this,’ that's unsafe therapy.
They talk about themselves more than they talk about you. A therapist is not, ‘Here's what I would do.’ A therapist is, ‘This is what the science says.’ Your therapist is not your friend. You don't know anything about them. So if the client comes in and talks about the loss of a pet and I'm like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just lost my dog too,’ I have now burdened the client. Now they have to make space for feeling bad for me.
They invalidate you. If you bring forward an experience and they try to tell you how you would feel about it, or they try to tell you whether or not that's a valid thing — red flag. One of the most common examples is [when] someone comes in to talk about racism and their clinician [says], ‘Did they mean to be racist?’
First and foremost, therapy is about the relationship with your therapist more than it is about the style of therapy you're getting. A good therapist is not going to be offended if you need help finding someone new. You are allowed to break up with the therapist anytime, any way, at any moment because they are a provider you are paying. You're allowed to walk out of a session. You're allowed to hang up the call. You're allowed to close your laptop. A lot of times people get nervous about the feelings of the therapist. The therapist's feelings do not matter. The therapist is there to make sure you're comfortable. And if you are afraid to communicate to your therapist because of how they might react, get away from that therapist.”
Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.