At Three Seas, we pride ourselves on educating our clients about the benefits of therapy. We encourage you to seek help early if you struggle with mental health issues, because therapy can make a huge difference—even when things appear hopeless. As many as 20 studies have even demonstrated that therapy can change your brain. So if you’re investing in the sort of life-changing work therapy can provide, it’s worthwhile to ensure you’re getting the biggest possible return on your investment. Research consistently shows that a healthy, trusting relationship between a counsellor and his or her patient is the single biggest predictor of success in therapy.
If you encounter any of these five warning signs, it may be time to come to Three Seas. You wouldn’t give up on medicine just because you had a bad doctor, so don’t ditch therapy just because your first therapist didn’t work out.
Your Therapist Ignores Your Goals or Values
The best therapists can work with people from all walks of life, even when their clients believe things radically different from what they themselves believe. But some therapists push their clients toward a particular political or religious ideology; others believe that a client’s failure to conform to the therapist’s values constitutes a personal failure. And a handful believe that a specific set of beliefs—such as belief in the equality of the sexes or a belief in God—are “wrong” and must be “cured” in therapy.
Good therapists challenge your problematic beliefs. For instance, if you think all men are pigs or that promiscuity inevitably leads to rape, your therapist will make it clear that these beliefs are inaccurate and potentially harmful. You therapist won’t, however, try to change the personality traits that make you you, or attempt to turn you into a carbon copy of your therapist. Everyone is entitled to their own personal values, and therapy shouldn’t force you to compromise yours.
Your Therapist Doesn’t “Get” You
A therapist should make you feel heard and understood, but not all therapists are a good fit for all people. Maybe your therapist doesn’t understand your lifestyle. Perhaps he or she is a poor listener. Or maybe the two of you are just incompatible. If you feel like your therapist doesn’t understand you, it’s time to move on. Good counselling makes you feel less alone, not like a being so alien you don’t even make sense to your therapist!
You’re Not Making Any Progress
Sometimes the first therapist you try just doesn’t work for you. If you want to see changes in your life, you’ll need to be willing to put in plenty of work—and that includes looking at how your own behaviour holds you back. If, despite your best efforts, you’re still not seeing meaningful changes after three to six months, it may be time to move on. You’re in therapy to achieve your goals, not to endlessly talk to a paid listener. If those goals are no closer to your grasp after a few months, it’s time to find someone else.
You Only Vent
On television and in movies, therapy is little more than a chance to talk about your emotions. Your therapist absolutely needs to understand your emotions about your life to help you. But endless rumination about what’s wrong with your life may not help; indeed, it can potentially make things worse. Your therapist should not allow you to spend your entire session talking about your feelings. Instead, he or she should offer you a mix of attentive listening, gentle prodding, and strategizing about what you can do to improve your overall quality of life.
You Don’t Get Homework
If you want to master the art of living well—which is really what therapy is all about—then you need to practice more than once a week during an hourly session! Good therapists give you plenty of opportunities to practice by giving you homework. Of course, they may not call it that. Instead, your therapist might tell you to notice when you’re getting angry or respond to frustrations in a specific way. If you’re not getting specific guidance on how to respond to everyday stresses, you’re not getting what you deserve out of therapy.