5 Types of therapist to avoid, I once saw a woman wearing a T shirt with the logo “You have to kiss a lot of toads before you meet prince charming”, I wonder if the same goes for therapists?
The examples below are a bit of fun however in the decade that I have been involved with counselling training I have met a few therapists who fit these descriptions like a glove, the most common in my experence are:
The toucher, this type of therapist believes that they can be more congruent, more healing, the therapeutic relationship is ‘enhanced’ by giving you a hug whether you want one or not!
You wonder if your therapist will ‘lurch’ at you at the end , putting you in to the equivalent of a therapeutic Half Nelson * you spend the entire session thinking about your escape plan but are always thwarted because she sits near the door (don’t we all) and you are’ intercepted’ on the way out.
Yes, there are therapists who touch, but this is usually contracted for and thought out by a therapist who will always ask themselves the question, why do I feel I need to offer touch to this client? , reflecting on this in supervision and considering in terms of touch, whose needs are being met.
Mr Self – Disclosure
Too much self disclosure , which usualy strarts with the therapist stating “Oh I know exactly what you are going through, when that happened to me… “ And so it begins, the time you wanted to share your experiences, is eaten way as your therapist ‘shares’ with you their own experience of what you have gone through – or so they think !
You sit listening, as they share their inner angst, the existential pain of their own life path, and wonder- who is the therapist in the room, you or them?
Sometimes a therapist disclosing parts of their own life can be useful for a client to hear, however over disclosure and repeated references to the therapist own life issues can detract from the purpose of your own therapy.
To much theory not enough humanity, your therapist loves theory and lots of it!
Every issue you bring is approached with a long theoretical explanation followed by barely masked glee as the therapist ‘recognises’ your 'symptoms' before sharing with you some abstract piece of psychological theory.
For instance ‘ What you are telling me fits perfectly with Leon Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance and how focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. He hypnotises that when inconsistency (dissonance) is experienced, individuals largely become psychologically distressed -’is that how you feel ?
You are sitting there wondering if you have come for therapy or a psychology lesson and leave believing that you are a basket case, beyond help.
Some therapists may explain their theory to you, this is not unusual in Transactional Analysis or Cognitive behavioural therapy where clients may have to engage in homework or learn techniques to overcome their issues.
However,as therapists we have to understand that every human being is unique, and no theory will be an exact fit, in other words we need to see clients as human beings first and foremost and not a theoretical perspective on legs!
Mr Stock – Phrase
The same old song , with the lyrics -“So how does that feel? “ , “let’s explore that” , “Can we bring it back in to the room “, “ Well if you always do what you have always done- you will always get what you have always got “ and on and on and on it goes, week in week out – aaaahh!
Every session you can almost time when your therapist will use an ‘off the shelf response’ , you leave feeling that you would be better off recording the phrases then sitting in a room on your own for an hour listening to the play back- and saving fifty quid in the process.
Of course therapist have their own pet phrases, mine is ‘it is what it is’, however we have to be thoughtful that we do not go down the route of ‘parrot phrasing’ lazy and ill thought out responses to our clients , a bit of idiosyncratic empathy– please !
To much congruance not enough empathy ,your therapist may have wondered if she should have become a dominatrix or a counsellor and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, if verbal domination is your bag) she chose the latter rather than the former.
Before every session she turns her ‘congruence’ dial up to maximum while the empathy and unconditional positive regard dials are set firmly to zero.
You come in sit down and explain the difficulties you are having with your partner, as you pause for breath you see her gearing up , and brace yourself for the emotional ‘incoming’ ,then your therapist lets forth a barrage of challenge which feels like the emotional equivalent of Desert Storm –
“But of course she is not going to change, it’s you that is being indecisive about the relationship” or “ What are you doing to change the way you interact with your partner?”
Yes, challenge is a very important part of therapy but it has to be balanced with high support, which is acknowledging the clients feelings and budgeting for small changes not an instant cure ‘
While there may be some stereotyping in the above examples, I have also had clients who have shared their experiences of therapists they have seen, and yes some of these descriptions do come up more than often you would think.
But let me asked you this – and be honest!, do you ever find yourself in any of the above categories?
It’s hard to admit, but if I am honest I think at some time or other I may have inhabited all of these personas !
Which one do you have to work hard at avoiding or find yourself having to ‘manage’?
Have you seen a therapist that fits any of these examples of perhaps another experience?
Please share your experiences in the comments section –