Select a Therapist III - Top Ten Reasons to Run from a Therapist

by Mark Sichel, LCSW

  1. Sexual relations of any kind are inappropriate, unethical and unacceptable between a psychotherapist and patient. This includes any kind of kissing, fondling, or lovemaking. The goal of therapy is often to help the client become more comfortable with intimacy and less fearful of physical contact with others. It is highly appropriate to talk about sex and sexual feelings, and it is even appropriate at times for a patient to talk about their sexual feelings toward the therapist. It is never helpful, however, to act on any of these feelings in the treatment situation, and any therapist who tells you it will be is either a charlatan, a fraud, or an exploitative sexual predator who should be reported to his or her professional association.

  2. Any other form of exploitation of a patient is inappropriate. Remember: You are paying for a therapist's help; it is never appropriate for a therapist to ask for your help.

  3. While a therapist may use examples from his or her life to help you feel better about something, you should never become a therapist's confidante. You don't want to hear about intimate details of the therapist's life, their marriage, children, sex life, parental problems, or anything smacking of an inappropriate use of the time for which you are paying.

  4. There have been actual instances of a therapist requiring patients to cut off ties with their families of origins, spouse, children or other important people in their lives. This is never acceptable, and should never be a condition to which a patient agrees.

  5. Your beliefs, religious or political, should never be questioned, or construed as signs or symptoms of psychopathology. Beliefs and values are just that; they are never synonymous with emotional illness.

  6. You should run for the hills if your therapist falls asleep on you. I have heard this happen to clients with the excuse that it is the patient's resistance that is causing the therapist to fall asleep. This is never the case; if the therapist is sleeping, he or she is not doing their job and should be "fired."

  7. A client or patient should not be kept chronically waiting for their scheduled appointment. Emergencies are inevitable and every therapist runs late once in a while, but you shouldn't have to chronically wait for a late, disorganized, or confused therapist who can't be respectful of your time.

  8. If you feel you are being treated with contempt, disdain or disgust in relation to any of your questions about the therapist, you should look for the nearest exit.

  9. If you feel that your therapist is taking a stand directly contradictory to your value system, you are fully entitled to walk out. For example, a couple recently came to me for marital problems because their former couples' therapist told them that the husband's having had an affair was "no big deal, and more common than they could imagine."

  10. Sometimes people in therapy have insights, which lead them to feel worse than when they came into a session. If, however, you chronically feel worse after your therapy session, and you're not making progress in meeting your goals, you have every right to at least go for a second opinion, or begin to see someone with a very different orientation and technique. there are eleven reasons, not ten. But here's the last one, and it's just as important as the rest.

  11. No therapy is magic. Any therapist who promises a quick and easy "cure" is trying to sell you a bill of goods. This is not to say that a patient can't possibly feel better after just one session, but overall, most problems take some time in developing, and more often than not, take some time to resolve.

Read Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Selecting a Therapist Part I

Read Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Selecting a Therapist Part II: Likeability, Intelligence and Lifestyle


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