Bad Habits Some Therapists Believe Are Acceptable

by Marla Chalnick

Reading my favorite collection of blogs at PsychCentral,, I came across a blog written by Tamara Hill hi-lighting behaviors that signal you may have picked the wrong therapist. As in all professional fields, there are great therapists, good therapists and not so good therapists.  Your choice is extremely personal. Here are some  ‘red flag’ behaviors that may help you make the best choice.

What bad therapists think:

  1. You should be forced to talk: A good therapist will alternate between challenging a client to open up by adding some pressure when necessary and allowing the client to take their time. Some therapists are uncomfortable with quiet space and their attempts to fill the room with words often backfires.
  2. You should  either take medication or don’t take medication at all: Many therapists are highly uneducated about medications. A good therapist will educate themselves about medication management and be able to discuss the pros and cons with their client. The therapist should also refer their client to a psychiatrist to ensure they are getting the best advice.
  3. Confrontations and arguments are 100% healthy: Some therapists may take out their own disappointments and anger out on their own patients. This is never appropriate!
  4. I need to answer the phone, respond to email, complete paperwork while talking to you:  A good therapist will sit calmly, help the client explore thoughts and feelings, and facilitate therapy. A client should never feel ignored.
  5. You don’t need to read it, or understand it, just sign:  A good therapist will help the client understand important details, encourage them to read the form, and ask questions.

What bad therapists might say: 

  1. You NEED to start talking:  Forcing a client to talk never works!
  2. Why do you do that?  Condescending!
  3. What’s so hard about that?  how about  ”Can you help me understand why this is so hard for you?”
  4. You aren’t trying: Maybe the therapist isn’t trying hard enough!
  5. Sit down: You ought to be able to move around if you need to!

It may take some time to find the right therapist. There are many ways to do your research. Reading reviews on the internet can be helpful. Asking your family physician might be a good resource. Ask your friends. Word of mouth is often the best predictor of  success!

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