10 Therapist Red Flags
Alright, get that datebook out (and by datebook, we mean your Apple Cal.) You’ve got a salon appointment, a doctor’s check-up, an oil change, brunch with the girls, personal training—and therapy, right? We hope so!!! Therapy should seriously be as regular and normal as every other appointment on your calendar. It’s so important to take care of your mental health! (More on that with Gabby Bernstein in this episode of her podcast Dear Gabby.)
A good therapist will help you process your deepest trauma and biggest struggles as you share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences with them. Doing this takes a TON of trust and the right mental health professional is essential to establish that trust and help you move toward healing.
However . . . not all therapeutic relationships work out. Sometimes things just aren’t right between you and the mental health professional. This makes finding a therapist kind of intimidating. How will you know if they’re not a good fit???
Don’t worry, we’re here to help! We’re sharing a list of big red flags you may encounter while in therapy. If you experience any of these toxic traits in your therapist, find a new one! Don’t mess around with a mental health professional that’s not helping you reach your goals. Here’s what you need to look out for:
10 Therapist Red Flags
Doesn’t try to get to know you.
First of all, your therapist needs to get to know you. If you show up to your initial visit and they just jump right into the heavy stuff while giving generic, uninformed advice, they clearly don’t want to take the time to really understand you and help you. It’s SO important that you feel comfortable in your therapy sessions. To have any hope of establishing that kind of trust, your therapist needs to get to know you.
If you want an example first-time therapy visit to get a good understanding of how that should roll, hear about Whitney Port’s first therapy session in her podcast With Whit. Having this in mind will hopefully help you pick up on red flags!
Not interested in your goals.
Everyone in therapy has different goals. “Getting better” is too broad of a term to apply the same way to every person. So, a good therapist will figure out exactly what their patient is hoping to accomplish. Do you want to be more disciplined? Do you want to learn self-love? Is there trauma you’re healing from? Are relationships a struggle? You’re seeking therapy for a reason, and your therapist should care about that reason!!!
Disregard your values or beliefs.
Your personal values, orientations, beliefs, views, and opinions on the ending of Gossip Girl should all be deeply respected by your therapist. These things directly affect how you process and work through your daily struggles, so your therapist needs to have an attitude of understanding and appreciation. If you don’t feel your principles are respected, find a new therapist.
Tells you what to do.
Contrary to popular belief, your therapist isn’t supposed to tell you what to do. It just doesn’t work like that! They’re not a life coach saying “Do this” and “Do that.” Instead, they help equip you with the tools to take control of your own life. If your therapist is trying to manipulate your decision–making, get out!!! (If you want to learn more about what a therapist really does, listen to this episode of ILYSM.)
Shares confidential info about other clients.
Do you know that friends that gossip to you about all your other friends??? You’re careful what you tell them, because you KNOW they’re telling everyone else. Therapists are the same. If a mental health professional is sharing confidential information about other clients with you, they’re not going to keep your stuff a secret either. (Even though that’s illegal!) This is a big, big red flag.
Tries to establish a relationship outside of sessions.
Are they texting you to ask what you thought about the last episode of Love Island? Did they call and ask you to lunch? Have they sent you a gift? All of these things violate a professional relationship. No. Just NO. If their advances, even if seemingly harmless, make you uncomfortable, find a new therapist.
Overshares about themselves.
Therapists that over-share about themselves are not only being inappropriate, but they’re wasting your time! It gives insecure or selfish vibes since they’re clearly thinking more about themselves than they are about you. When it applies cable to exchange stories, welcome it, but if it seems excessive . . . think about how the relationship is serving you.
Tries to keep you in therapy forever.
Some people genuinely need a licensed therapist forever—however, most people don’t! If a therapist does his or her job, you should actually fire them someday (but always keep their number for when things get rough, of course.)
By the end of therapy, you’ll say, “I’m good! Thanks for giving me the tools to thrive!” Both of you will say bye and move on. But, if it seems like your therapist just wants to keep you there forever, they may be trying to milk you for money rather than help you succeed.
Shame or judge you.
When you practice therapy, you sign up for hearing the worst of the worst. You should never have a therapist who judges or shames you. In fact, you should always leave your therapy sessions feeling refreshed and encouraged. If you often walk out of there feeling worse because of how your therapist reacted to your truth, it’s time to find someone safer to share your experiences with. There are plenty of therapists out there who will accept you!
Doesn’t give you anything to work on.
Though your therapist shouldn’t tell you what life decisions to make, they should give you action steps for the week based on the session. These are meant to be empowering and help you see real change in your life! If your therapist doesn’t bother to do this, they may not be all that interested in your goals.
Not every therapist is made equal. Look out for these red flags!
Therapy is such an important part of everyday life. To keep a peaceful and joyful spirit, we should be listening to mental health podcasts, taking mental health days, practicing self-care, and DEFINITELY going to therapy. If you’re still anxious about therapy, Lauren Elizabeth of Mood has some great advice.
And, for those of you who can’t access regular therapy traditionally, don’t forget there are lots of online therapy options now. Just dive in—but stay alert! Don’t let your therapist commit any of these therapy sins. Stay focused on your goals and allow therapy to help make you the best version of yourself. We can’t wait to meet that person!!!