I don't like my therapist, now what?
Fortunately, there is more acceptance in society today with getting help for your mental health. Therapy can be an extremely beneficial service that can help you work through difficult situations, symptoms and life events. We work on relationships because human beings are wired for connection and belonging. Sometimes those relationships are with family members, our partners, our coworkers/superiors, friends, a higher power and sometimes it is our relationship with ourselves.
So whatever the reason is that brings you to therapy-- you did it. You had the courage to seek support from a professional and be vulnerable to a complete stranger.
Aaaaaand you don't like them.
"Why don't I like my therapist? Is it them or is it me? Do they like me? I went for help, and I don't even like them, What do I do now?"
First and foremost, you are not the first nor the last person to not like your therapist.
In therapy, it is important for the client and therapist to have a positive therapeutic relationship. I often psycho-educate people about their right to find the provider that they feel a good connection with. We are talking about two different personalities who are coming together to talk about the most vulnerable things, whether they are positive or negative experiences. Of course you should find someone that you feel hears you, respects you and cares. So when you come across a situation where you are not liking your therapist or other mental health professional, here are some things to consider and do:
1) Think about what it is that you are not liking. Is it the environment? Is it their treatment modality? (meaning, are they focusing on coping skills and the problem at hand, when you feel like you are trying to tell your story or talk it through? Or any other example). Is it that you are having a strong reaction to their gender/ facial expressions/ scent/ look etc? Whatever it is, identify it, and bring it up to your therapist.
I know, I know, No one wants to be mean or say something rude, but here's the thing, therapists are trained for years to be open and receptive to feedback from their clients. There are so many things about therapy and/or your therapist that can trigger feelings, thoughts and reactions from you. Addressing these things can be a great opportunity to explore whatever you are feeling uncomfortable with, and an opportunity for your therapist to get to know your needs better or change things up to a pace you are more comfortable with. So before you jump ship, talk to them. Chances are they will be receptive and be able to provide some guidance or clarity on what is going on, or be able to refer you to someone that might be a better fit for you.
2) You like your therapist, but you walked away from one or two sessions feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and now you are kind of avoiding going back.
Anyone who has ever had therapy can tell you it is not all butterflies and rainbows. It can absolutely be emotionally, mentally and physically draining because you are working on the most difficult, frustrating and painful parts of your life at times. Sometimes a therapist will explore some of these areas or events with you, and if you are not ready to do so, you might avoid coming back. Sometimes these challenges are good, and working through them brings growth and relief. Other times we are not ready to "go there" and we react in a way that is going to protect ourselves. Either way, I strongly encourage you to communicate with your therapist those thoughts and feelings that are coming up.
3) You have gone to several therapists, and at first you like them but then you end up hating them all, or once you leave, you think "they weren't so bad". If you feel like you keep going to different providers and hate them all, or things always seem to end badly, then it might be time to take a look at what the pattern is. We discussed earlier that sometimes therapists address things that make us feel uncomfortable or defensive. If it seems like each therapist has been giving the same message, or doing similar work and you are not having it, it might mean that this is something you should really consider looking in to and working on-- even though it really makes you feel icky. These are the best opportunities for growth. Let them know the pattern that you have noticed, and your thoughts on why you are so uncomfortable with what they are bringing up. Remember, change only happens if you want it to happen. A therapist cannot magically make everything better, or force you to grow and practice anything. The power and control is in your hands. You get to decide what direction you go.
4) You tried speaking to your therapist about what is making you feel uncomfortable, and after a couple more sessions you still feel the same way. As a mental health professional, I cannot tell you the amount of times that I have heard stories from clients and other professionals about therapists who are just not doing the right thing. Therapists are upheld to very specific laws and ethics that are there to protect clients. Unfortunately, there are therapists who are just not ethical or who do harm to people whether they believe they do or not. I remember the first time I went to therapy, I was joining my mom in her individual therapy session because my parents were going through a very nasty divorce and I was acting out by not wanting to go with my mom amongst other things. I will never forget how this therapist shamed me, told me that I needed to be like her daughters who loved her and needed her, and that I would regret not living with my mom one day. She never checked in with what I was thinking, feeling or going through. I left in tears. This is just one example, whereas there are others who have had other experiences that leave them feeling more wounded or hurt than before. Whether it is just that you are not feeling like you and your therapist click, or if it is something worse, you absolutely have the right to end treatment and find another therapist or request a different provider from the clinic/ agency / practice you are at.
As a client you have rights, and you can always decide if you continue with treatment or not. My only encouragement is to not give up on treatment. Find a provider who will help you. Call different providers and tell them what you're struggling with, and ask what their approach to help would be. This usually can give you a good opportunity to feel out if they feel like a good fit or not, and if you should move forward with scheduling an appointment.
Wishing you a wonderful week!