What are some signs of questionable therapeutic practices?

The first step of any successful mental health journey is making the decision to talk to a therapist. You don’t necessarily need to visit one in person as these days you have the option of attending sessions through the internet. You can just visit one of the top 10 online therapy sites and find an ideal therapist for your issues. However, to get the most out of your therapy, you need to know how to spot signs of questionable therapeutic practices. Therapists are human beings, as we all are, and are thus prone to making mistakes. While this is perfectly normal, you don’t want to be spending your sessions with a bad therapist. In this article, we will show you some of these signs and explain why they are detrimental to your progress.

Signs of questionable therapeutic practices

Here are some of the most common signs of questionable therapeutic practices:

  • Therapist is unethical
  • Therapist is unreliable
  • Your therapist judges you
  • Lack of cultural sensitivity
  • “Pushiness”
  • The therapist is too passive
  • Therapists overshare about themselves
  • Regularly feeling worse after the session
  • Divided attention
  • It just does not “feel” right
person writing down signs of questionable therapeutic practices
It’s always a good idea to go ahead and write down your observations.

Aside from these common signs, you may want to avoid any therapists that are trying to be your friend, touch you without consent, or act as if they have the answer or a solution to everything. Even the best online therapy for depression cannot help everyone, as each person’s mental issues are quite unique. Good therapists will understand if they are unable to help you with your problems and will defer you to another professional. That said, you might not even know that you are dealing with a bad therapist unless you spot the signs. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the most common ones.

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Your therapist is unethical

Every therapist should be bound by a professional code of conduct. This means no touching without explicit consent, no sexual propositions of any kind, no breaking confidentiality, etc. However, some therapists may blatantly disregard the code of conduct and may engage in such behavior. If you notice that your therapist is exhibiting any kind of unethicality, it is in your best interest to never come back. If you don’t want to deal with most of these issues, your best choice would be to seek online therapy. Some of the best online therapy for depression programs offer pretty much the same benefits as traditional therapy but are void of any dangers that patients may face in face-to-face sessions. That said, there is still potential for unethical behavior even in online therapy, so be on your guard.

Your therapist is unreliable

A therapist’s reliability is a huge thing. You need to know that they will be there for you at arranged times, as you are scheduling your life around these sessions. While it is perfectly normal for a therapist to reschedule a session due to an emergency, emergencies do not happen all that frequently. If you happen to notice that your therapist often shows up late or reschedules your session frequently, you are looking at one of the signs of questionable therapeutic practices in the face. And if your therapist simply forgets about the appointment, that’s even worse.

person looking at a wristwatch
If your therapist is constantly late, you might want to consider changing them.

Some patients may even develop anxiety about attending their next session due to low therapist reliability. That is why some of the best online anxiety treatment programs are all but guaranteed to be completely reliable for their patients. Think about it for a bit, lack of reliability means that your therapist does not put you high on their priority list. And that means that they are not the ideal person to help you, simple as that.

Your therapist judges you

We all have our own opinions on pretty much anything. Most of us are at least a tiny bit judgmental from time to time. However, therapists need to be different. While they have opinions pretty much like anyone else, they need to keep them to themselves. A therapist should never force anything upon you, not their religion, not their personal views, or anything of the sort. Judgmental therapists are one of the top reasons why people quit therapy, after all. The therapist’s job is to help you gain insight into your own life and make the changes on your own. It is not to impose their own opinions and beliefs. If you feel that a therapist is judging you for any reason whatsoever, you may want to change them.

The worst thing that can happen if you stay with a judgemental therapist is that you start pretending not to have any problems because you know you will be judged otherwise. This will severely delay your progress and may even have a strong detrimental impact.

Lack of cultural sensitivity

a bigoted therapist
Therapists can be driven by stereotypes, just like anyone else.

Bigotry is not exclusive to non-therapists. Your therapist can be as much of a bigot as anyone else and they may hold stereotypical views. This can be a bit tricky to figure out, as your only source of information will be infrequent disparaging remarks. These remarks may touch upon your religion, racial background, or any other aspect of your identity such as sexual orientation. You can always recognize a bad therapist if they seem surprised that you are well-educated, married, or even speak English well. Their surprise indicates that they have applied their stereotypes to you prior to getting to know you.

Again, if you notice any such behavior, or that your therapist is condescending, talks down to you, or seems uncomfortable in your presence, simply change the therapist for someone else.

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The therapist “pushes” you

Sharing personal information can be quite difficult, even during therapy sessions. The best therapists know this fact very well and will allow you to share when you are comfortable sharing. If a therapist pushes you to disclose any information, that is one of the clear signs of questionable therapeutic practices. The same can apply to setting goals for yourself. If you notice that your therapist is strongly pushing you toward loftier goals, you might want to consider your choice of therapist. Your therapist should provide you with advice and recommendation if you ask them to but they should never give you detailed instructions on how you should be living your life.

You will encounter many more “pushy” therapists in face-to-face sessions than you will in an online setting. One of the major benefits of online vs in-person therapy is that you will not need to deal with aggressive body language. While this may be a detriment at times, when it comes to pushiness it is definitely a boon.

Your therapist is too passive

person talking to a therapist
Your therapist needs to be an active participant in the conversation.

On the flip side, some therapists can be overly passive with their patients. They may fear being pushy and are going toward the other extreme or there may be other reasons for their behavior. The fact of the matter is that you need your therapist to be proactive but not pushy at the same time. You can recognize a passive therapist if they do not say much throughout the session and they also do not have a clear plan of treatment.

Most of the time these therapists do not have enough experience or practice to help their patients. They are just trying to “make do” with what they know. Luckily, they are few and far between, even if you choose to find affordable online counseling. Your best choice is to change the therapist if you decide that they are too passive. If you really like the therapist, though, you may want to talk about them about creating a goal-oriented treatment. Sometimes, even therapists need a nudge in the right direction. But that is only reserved for the therapists that you really like. In most cases, you will be best served by changing the therapist.

Oversharing is one of the clear signs of questionable therapeutic practices

Self-disclosure can be a very powerful tool when applied correctly. Some patients respond very well to therapists sharing their experiences while others may be bothered by it. Overall, finding the right amount of self-disclosure is a skill that therapists hone all their lives. In fact, one of the reasons why people avoid starting therapy in the first place is because they expect that the therapist will talk about themselves at length. Oversharing is quite common, unfortunately.

All that being said, only you know how much self-disclosure is helpful to you. It may happen that you are perfectly fine with listening to the therapist’s stories and that they actually help you with your mental issues. This is rarely the case, however, it is much more common that oversharing is not helpful to the patient at all.

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You feel regularly worse after the session

person feeling ill
If your therapy sessions are making you feel worse, maybe it is time for a change.

The fact of the matter is that you may feel worse immediately after the session. This is an inevitable part of any healing process. There are numerous reasons why this may happen, including bringing up difficult feelings or feeling that the session was not productive enough. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are always feeling worse after the session, you may be looking at one of the signs of questionable therapeutic practices.

You can try talking to your therapist and explaining that the sessions are making you feel bad afterward. Changing the therapy mid-course is something that is required from time to time and might not be detrimental to your treatment. If you tell your therapist about the issue, they remedy it, and you start feeling better after the sessions, you may not need to change the therapist. That said, the best therapists need to be able to “pick up” on the fact that you are not gaining anything from the therapy sessions.

One of the most common signs of questionable therapeutic practices – Divided attention

When you visit a therapist, you expect to have their undivided attention. After all, they are there to help you, and only you. In the time that the session takes place, you need to be the most important person in the world to the therapist. Therapy can be expensive, after all, and you need to know that your therapist is not doing something else on your clock. The only time when your therapist can be forgiven for undivided attention is during an emergency. Divided attention is much more common in online therapy sessions, where your therapist might be trying to “handle” several patients at once.

The therapy just does not “feel” right

Sometimes, the only sign you may have is that the therapy simply does not feel right. This can be a gut feeling or a feeling of uneasiness and it will impact the effectiveness of your therapy session. This may not be purely the therapist’s fault, either, but it is very important to listen to those feelings and know when to trust your gut. Most of the time, you will get such feelings due to the therapist’s lack of knowledge, unmet expectations, or even lack of cultural diversity. You may try to work through some of these issues and talk with your therapist about them. If your feelings change, great. If not, you will want to change the therapist as soon as possible.

That said, therapy usually involves some difficult feelings from time to time. These feelings are sometimes necessary to help you work through your problems. But if those feelings stem from the therapist’s faults, the easiest way to get rid of them is to change the therapist. You don’t want to ignore any signs of questionable therapeutic practices, after all. You can work with your therapist and see if there is any improvement but most of the time it is advisable to search for a new therapist.

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If you want to learn more about therapy, both in-person and online, the best place for that is right here at the Consumer Opinion Guide. Feel free to peruse our knowledge database, where you will find all the answers to your questions!

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