Should I Stay? Or, Should I go?
It is not uncommon to have mixed feelings about your therapist while working through personal issues. If you are working in deep areas, untangling the knots of your life, you will likely feel angry, misunderstood, confused by your therapist at one point or another during your process. This is normal. This does not mean that it is time to leave. In fact, you might be making progress. That you are struggling with the content of your sessions is actually a sign that you should stay and push through the work. What is being triggered will come to surface so that it can be transformed. So, what are the signs that you should leave?
1. If you have truly resolved your issues to the point where the work is not relevant any longer, then it is time to suggest a “trial closure”. You will both set a date, and taper off the therapy. If, during this process you experience panic, or the separation process triggers an episode of fear, depression, or mania, that is a sign that you are leaving prematurely. If, on the other hand, brining therapy to a close feels right and natural, then you are on the right track. You therapist will be able to see you if you need a “tune up” or if you find that you are in need.
2. If your therapist does not honor the session time by giving the session his or her undivided attention while being focused on the work that the two of you are doing, it is time to shop for a new therapist. This means that the therapist should not be using your time to eat lunch or talk on the phone.
3. Excessive talking about one’s own self and one’s own problems on your time is not ok. This session is for you, your emotional well being, and your mental health. Sometimes a therapist will share personal information for the purpose of showing you that his life experiences are similar, or to model how one might approach a situation, or to show you that he or she has authentic empathy. These are good and appropriate reasons to share personal experiences with a client/patient. This can be therapeutic and can foster the therapeutic alliance. However, if you get the feeling that your therapist is processing his or her own emotional baggage for his or her own therapy, and not yours, then find another therapist. Not only is this a wrong use of your time, but the therapist probably should take some time out of his or her practice and get the support she or he needs before returning to the work.
4. Sex is NEVER ok in a therapy session. If your therapist suggests dating, or touches you in a sexual manner, LEAVE AND REPORT. Yes, report the therapist’s behavior to the State Board. He or she can, and should lose their license and will not be allowed to practice.
5. Finally, if you have been feeling that you simply are not connecting, or that the therapy isn’t meeting your needs, and you have consistently gone to therapy for at least a couple of months, then you might simply be a mis-match. It can take a few sessions to develop rapport, so keep that in mind and do give the therapist a couple of months before deciding to switch; especially if you took the time to shop for your therapist as I talked about in my last blog: Therapist Shopping- http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar-update/?p=216