Are you dissatisfied with your therapy? Is it you or is it your therapist? Let’s evaluate and find out.
First I will tell you what is reasonable to expect from a competent, experienced therapist. In the next post I will explain the notion of transference, positive and negative, and then how to work with your current therapist to see if negative transference is the problem.
Here are some fair expectations you should have of your therapy process and your therapist:
- You should make progress. If you don’t think you are, ask your therapist why they think you are or aren’t making progress. Don’t automatically discount your your own instincts. Listen but don’t assume the therapist knows more than you do just because they are “the professional” if what they say doesn’t make sense to you.
- You should get something new out of every session. If you are not, ask yourself if your therapist is:
- not really working when you are in session – they should be.
- just being “someone to talk to”: therapists should have a lot more than this to offer.
- not clearly showing you how to get engaged in your sessions: You have to if you want to grow.
- just giving advice: you should be learning how to answer your own questions and make your own decision.
- You should be learning from your therapist. Your therapist should know more than you do about the general kinds of issues you are dealing with. They should be able to clearly relate this understanding to your specific situation.
- You shouldn’t feel worried about your therapist’s feelings – it’s the therapist’s job to take care of themselves. The therapist should call you on doing this and reassure you they don’t need or want this from you.
- You should feel your therapist likes and cares about you. If your therapist doesn’t accept who you are and like things about you, you deserve more.
- Your therapist should have several ways to approach you and your problem. You should never feel like you are supposed to fit into their way of doing therapy.
If these expectations are not being met, talk to your therapist about them. It is also reasonable to look for another therapist. Remember, just because this therapist is set up in an office or clinic doesn’t mean they are good at their trade.
On the other hand, if you find yourself repeatedly switching therapists I would recommend you stick with your current therapist and make a sincere effort to work out your dissatisfaction.
If you fire a therapist, it may rid you of the problem at hand, but another version of that same problem will likely show up with your next therapist. You need to give your current therapist 3 to 5 more sessions while you focus on working out your relationship. This may well be about transference which is the unconscious phenomena of transferring feelings from one person to another; in this case unconsciously transferring your feelings for some one else in your life to your therapist.
Transference is one of the reasons therapy can work so well and it is also a reason why it can fail. More about that next in “Transference in Therapy“.