Feel uncomfortable around your therapist? Just have a strong feeling you can’t trust them? It’s a definitely something to take seriously.
But it’s also something to look at honestly, as it might mean other things than you expect.
Key things to know about therapy and trust
Therapy is an unusual and unique experience if you think about it. Where else in life do you share your thoughts and secrets with someone and then pay them for it?
Because therapy is such a different experience, you can’t expect it to be comfortable or familiar at first – or even for quite some time.
Acquaint yourself with the process and its pitfalls before determining if any discomfort and lack of trust is about your therapist… or something else.
1. Recognise that therapy is actually a relationship.
Yes, you pay for the experience. But therapy is still about forming a bond with someone, and is at heart a relationship.
Think about other relationships in life and how long it can take to know someone. Are their colleagues at work you weren’t sure of at first that you now like? Or a romantic partner you took ages to fall for? Therapy is no different. It can take time and patience to hit your stride and to form a bond of trust.
You do need to give your therapist a chance.
It’s recommended that you try four appointments (an assessment and three sessions working together) before making your mind up about whether you can trust your therapist.
Also keep in mind that if you aren’t good at trusting relationships elsewhere, you are not suddenly going to be good at building one in the therapy room! If you often like someone at first then change your mind, or get suspicious of others over small things, it’s likely to happen with your therapist, too.
2. Learn about transference.
Have you ever known someone you always felt or acted awkward around, only to have the sudden realisation that it might be because they reminded you of one of your parents whom you don’t get on with?
This is really what is referred to as transference in psychology.
Transference refers to when a client assumes or feels certain things about the therapist because of other relationships they have in the present or past. They are ‘transferring’ feelings and thoughts from those other experiences onto their therapist, instead of seeing the therapist as they really are right here and now.
Are you seeing your therapist as he or she really is? Or are you making assumptions about them based on your past experiences with others?
3. Understand psychological projection.
The art of unconsciously attributing how we secretly feel to others instead of ourselves, projection is a tricky mechanism that can blind us to what is really happening in our relationships.
And psychological projection is common in the therapy room.
You might think you don’t like your therapist because deep down you are worried they don’t like you, or you might think they are too judgemental when really it’s you judging them.
Why not trusting your therapist can be a GOOD thing
Having uncertain feelings about your therapist can actually lead to important progress – if you approach it correctly. And yes, that means talking to them about it.
If you feel you’d rather run away then talk honestly to your therapist about what you are feeling, it’s likely this ‘abandon ship’ pattern is in your other relationships, too.
Therapy provides a safe space where you can experiment at other ways of relating that you can then take out and try with confidence in your real life. Being brave enough to explore such patterns of avoidance and judgement in the safe space of the therapy room can lead to big changes in the way you relate to others.
If you instead keep running from one therapist to the next at the first hurdle, or see therapy as a place to ‘fool’ your therapist into thinking you like them, you will miss out on this great benefit and really just waste your money.
I definitely don’t trust my therapist. What next?
There’s two ways to look at it.
You don’t have to like your therapist for therapy to be effective. The truth is, if you rarely trust or like people, you might not like any therapist you work with. It’s a matter of picking someone you can relax enough around that maybe in the future you could like or trust them.
But if you really don’t trust or like them, then it might be in your best interest to find another therapist. Therapy is like dating, and you need that ‘click’ to happen or it’s unlikely the therapy will serve you as well as you can.
Good reasons to not trust your therapist
Like any profession, some therapists are just not good at what they do or simply don’t like their job, which reflects in how they are around clients. If the following signs of unprofessionalism sound familiar, it is time to fire your therapist.
- they talk about themselves frequently in sessions
- they are disrespectful, engaging in behaviours like answering the phone or eating in sessions, starting late, interrupting you when you are speaking, or cancelling your appointments at the last minute
- they criticise you or put you down
- they don’t take your concerns seriously or even belittle them.
If a therapist ever does something inappropriate such as a sexual advance, not only should you feel free to leave immediately you might consider filing a complaint with the relevant licensing boards (in the UK, this would be the BACP or UKCP – look into where the therapist is registered).
If you do find you’re having bad luck finding a therapist, consider an umbrella organisation over hiring an individual therapist. They will vet their therapists very carefully (at Harley Therapy, if it doesn’t work out with one therapist, they offer you the chance to transfer to another without having to pay for a second assessment).
Do you have a question about liking your therapist, or want to share an experience with our readers on this subject? Do so below.