Bad Therapy Is Bad For Your Health
As a therapist in NYC, a city with so many therapy options, it bugs me when people are in bad therapy. My biggest concern with patients who stick with bad therapy isn’t only that bad therapy turns people off to therapy, making it less likely they’ll try again and get good help, but it also lowers their expectations. Even when they reach out, they’ve been trained to expect very little and that becomes a real obstacle in tackling big issues. Patients ask for less help, expect symptom relief and “support,” at best, rather than being open to the idea that these issues might really transform with the right help plus work.
Your Therapist Needs You To Speak Up When You Feel You Aren’t Getting Good Therapy
Patients in therapy are vulnerable. Therapy has largely borrowed and extended from medicine with physicians casting themselves as sort of modern day high priests. The claim is they are wise, mysterious and see things others don’t. It’s all hogwash. I’m pretty smart and I know some stuff–I talk to people all day about their pain and problems. But I also respect that the patient and I need to sort out the task at hand together. This therapist mystique can sometimes make it tough for patients to see that they’re just not getting the right help. They may think, “Perhaps the therapist knows something I don’t? Maybe it’s me?” The therapist’s unavailability might also feel familiar, mirroring how many people have also been in a patient’s life.
Therapists need patients to speak up when they feel they aren’t getting good therapy or the therapy that they need. In spite of the ways our profession has fashioned itself as all knowing, we do really have to figure this out together. I hate the idea of people being upset and not telling me. That doesn’t mean therapy with me is like ordering off a menu–sometimes I may push back, but in those instances, I have the chance to make the case as to why something is so important. I think about therapy as two smart people (or three or more, when it comes to couples, family or group therapy) doing hard work. Speaking up is another way of inviting collaboration. Of course I also may not be right for you! In that case, let’s sort that out so we can get you the right help.
How Do You Know If You’re In Bad Therapy?
So how do you know if you’re in bad therapy and should speak up or run for the hills? Below I highlighted 24 signs you’re in bad therapy, set up as dialectics to show that the opposite extreme isn’t always better when you’re in bad therapy: