Deciding to actually take that big step and go to therapy, then getting out and finding a therapist, can be an ordeal in and of itself.
To suddenly find you don’t like the therapist you’ve booked can feel a real blow. What do you do if this is the case?
7 Important Tactics For When You Don’t Like Your Therapist
1) Stay calm.
Such is the power of therapy that even one session can leave you feeling more emotional and vulnerable than usual. And maybe you are not sure who to talk to about your therapist, or your friends don’t even know you are therapy in the first place. (Isn’t it a shame that we can’t all talk about our psychological health like we talk about our physical health? It’s something we at Harley Therapy are committed to helping happen).
But take a deep breath, because here’s the good news. It’s actually normal to not instantly like your therapist.
Think about it logically. How often have you gone on a date and liked the other person right away? Or started a new job and instantly liked your colleagues and boss? Therapy is no different.
We are not all designed to get along. And just because someone is a therapist does not make them instantly perfect or likeable. Therapists are, shock horror, humans.
That aside, it’s important not to let your panic make you make rash decisions over what to do just yet.
2) Fire your inner drama queen first.
While you might feel so upset you are preparing to instantly fire your therapist and give up on therapy altogether, try to put paid to dramatic thinking first.
Dramatic thinking, also known as ‘black and white thinking‘, tends to come out as grand or extreme statements that have us talking ourselves out of the step forward we have just taken. Examples might be, “Therapy obviously doesn’t work”, “Therapists are weird”, or “I am not suited to this sort of arrangement”.
If you were in the market for a new vehicle, and drove one car but didn’t like it, would you then declare, “I am just not a driver” or “driving doesn’t work?”
The truth is that dramatic thinking and panic can both often be our mind”s way of throwing up a smoke screen so we don’t have to face up to what’s really going on for us.
Like that perhaps you are scared of what therapy is stirring up for you, or how vulnerable it makes you feel.
(If you are still sure you really are going to fire your therapist, read our piece ‘Help! I Want to Fire My Therapist! first).
3) Focus on the facts.
You hired a therapist to work with you, not to be an instant friend. It’s actually a business deal, not a personal one, no matter how intimate the therapy room can feel.
Take the time to do more research on what to expect from therapy in the long-term, focussing on a balanced picture of both the highs and lows.
Learn about what therapists are like and what you can expect of them. It means you know what to look for if you do decide to find another one.
Also look into the different kinds of therapy available. You might simply not have chosen one that suits you.
Then get real about the true reason you don’t like your therapist. It might really be they are wrong for you. But if you are coming up with flimsy things like, ‘they dress funny’, ‘the office smelt weird’, or ‘I don’t like the way they looked at me’, then it might just be that there is more at play here than you are admitting to.
Is it plain old nerves? Fear of the unknown? Are you maybe scared of the change you can feel therapy will mean? Or, like many of us who seek therapy, is it possible that the sheer intimacy of the therapy room has you freaking?
Try some journalling over talking to others. Without an audience, we tend to be more honest with ourselves.
4) Follow the ‘Rule of Four’.
The truth about finding a therapist is that it is rather like dating. There are many types of therapy, and millions of therapist out there. Expecting to find your perfect therapist right out the gate is pretty unlikely.
But at the same time, again like dating, you can’t really judge someone from the first date. If you do so, you tend to miss out on really good life partners who you can benefit from in the long run.
Give the therapist a fair chance surprise you by using the ‘Rule of Four’.
It’s really the rule of three in disguise, because the first session of therapy tends to be an assessment. Even if you get to appointment three and think it’s going dreadfully, push onwards through number four. For some reason it seems to be the session where the click most often happens – or doesn’t, meaning you can walk away sure you made the right choice.
5) Learn about transference.
Transference is therapy speak for a kind of projection. More precisely, it is when we unconsciously take feelings we have towards one person, situation, or object and then move them onto another person, situation, or object, without realising it or they are really nothing to do with why we feel the way we do.
A simple example is when you’ve had a really rough day at work but stayed cool, only to come home and freak out on your partner because she asks you to load the dishwasher more carefully.
(read more about transference in our article, How to deal with transference in therapy).
The most discussed form of transference when it comes to therapy, probably because it makes for good film and TV drama, is romantic or sexual attraction.
But it’s actually just as common to experience negative transference in the therapy room. Say, for example, your father made you feel controlled, you might find you treat your male therapist like a childish rebel.
Which brings us back to the issue at hand – not liking your therapist. Ask yourself, who does she/he remind me of? Is it really him I don’t like, especially if I have only done a few sessions and don’t know him? Is she triggering any childhood pattern? Am I unconsciously seeing him or her as one of my parents, family members, or person from the past I didn’t like such as a teacher?
Is it possible that this therapist you aren’t sure you like is actually a chance for you to sort out unresolved feelings in a safe environment for this other person from the past?
6) Talk to your therapist about it.
Convinced the best way to end this disastrous scenario of not liking your therapist is to send off a quick email saying you’ll no longer be attending?
It’s a normal reaction. Perhaps in the past your attempts to be honest with others have led to you feeling rejected or judged.
But if there is one person in the world who can handle you saying you aren’t sure you click with them, it’s a therapist. They are not going to be mad at you if you tell them you aren’t sure they are for you, they are going to help you see what is behind that. And you paid for the chance to explore yourself. Why not also explore your fear of being straightforward?
At the very least they can help you understand what other forms of therapy might suit you best, or even help you in finding a therapist that is more suited for you.
If you really can’t bear it, and you hired your therapist through an umbrella company, try talking to the administrator. You never know what can come of it.
(For example, while some companies offer nothing in ways of compensation if you change your mind about your therapist, at Harley Therapy we not only don’t make you go through another assessment if you switch therapists, we offer you a session with a new therapist free of charge).
7) And seriously? Stay in therapy.
You have every right in the world to change therapists and find one that suits you. And doing so can be a good experience of asserting yourself and learning more about your options.
Most of the time, wanting to quit therapy is a sign that we really can benefit from therapy. It means intimacy issues or relating issues have been triggered, or our inability to communicate our feelings effectively is being called to account.
You’ve made the first step, and you’ve cracked open the lid of the Pandora’s box. At this point, it’s often actually easier to go forward than back, no matter what it might feel like in this moment. Suppressing emotions once they start to rise is harder than it sounds, and can lead to low grade depression, whereas processing them might be hard, too, but leads to relief and life change.
If you really are sure you want to quit therapy, why not set a ‘stop time’ sometime in the future, instead of quitting from a place of high emotions? For example say, okay, I’ll do those four sessions then I can quit. And then see what happens.
Do you have a tip for what to do if you don’t like your therapist? Share below.