Overall, I’m a huge fan of therapy and counseling. When you have a good relationship with a therapist that you like, it can really help you make positive changes for yourself and serve as a sense of support. You can even develop a friendship with the person.
In my own experience being in therapy on and off for several years, I have tried several therapists and counselors, and during hard times in my life it certainly helped to have someone to talk to, but I’ve found that sometimes my experience in counseling actually caused more harm than good. Make sure that if you are in therapy, you feel it is a good match and that the person will support you. It’s almost like dating. Sometimes you will outgrow the person and sometimes it is a long-term match.
Here are 6 of the negative therapy experiences I have had, and I hope they help you understand the difference between a helpful and harmful therapist:
1. The therapist who kissed me on the cheek and told me I was beautiful.
I had one experience with an older male therapist that I only saw once or twice. He was in his 90s and probably was starting to get a bit senile. He would compliment my beauty (although I don’t think he could see very well) and in the last session we had together, he gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Maybe that would be okay in another country where that sort of behavior is more normal, but it felt inappropriate to me. I left and never went back.
2. The therapist who was super judgmental.
Actually, this could apply to multiple therapists I’ve seen. Everyone lives their life differently, so it must be kind of difficult to be in a position where you are giving guidance counseling. There are basic needs in life that need to be met, but other than that, it’s hard to know sometimes whether the way you are living is not good or if it’s just the therapist judging you inadequately. Not everyone is going to be a good fit for you, so it’s important to realize this when you are in therapy — you don’t have to go with the first one you meet. They might have a different lifestyle in which they make different choices than you do. However, I think it’s important to feel that your humanity is understood and respected by your therapist rather than judged.
3. The therapist I saw with my ex who was totally on his side.
I booked a couple’s counseling appointment with one of my exes. We were together at the time, but it was nearing the end of the relationship. It was my last-ditch effort to stay together with him. I was happy that he was open to attending the session. We were both in individual counseling and I thought it made sense to see a therapist together. Honestly, kudos to 23-year-old me for being mature enough to make that sort of decision. I thought the therapist would see that, but instead she proceeded to agree with everything my ex was saying and basically told me I was wrong about everything. It left me feeling even more unheard and unsupported in the relationship than I felt going into it.
4. The multiple times my family and I tried to go to family counseling.
These times were always a shitshow filled with arguments and tension. Perhaps issues were brought to the surface, but ultimately nothing was ever resolved, and these sessions left us feeling worse than we did when we went in. My family has a very wide variety of ages, experiences, and perspectives, and ultimately we had a hard time seeing eye to eye on important issues, which caused any sort of counseling to be quite ineffective.
5. The multiple times I have been prescribed the wrong or ineffective medication.
When I was going through a rough spell of depression and anxiety due to the loss of my mom and other past trauma, I began taking antidepressants. They were ineffective and didn’t help me. They gave me negative side effects and caused me to feel numb rather than making me feel better. If you do decide to take antidepressants or other medication, know that you are in control of your body. I’m not a doctor, but to me it is common sense not to take anything that makes you feel worse than you did before.
6. The therapist who told me she had never met anyone like me before.
I have had a lot of spiritual and mystical experiences, which are quite normal for me, but it was not something this therapist could relate to. There is a very thin line between psychosis and spirituality, which I have certainly walked. I’m glad she was honest with me about this, but it did make me feel more alone than I did going in. Luckily, I found a therapist shortly afterwards who understood what I was experiencing. If you are going through a spiritual awakening or crisis, it is important to find a therapist who understands that process.
The unfortunate thing about therapy and mental health is that there really isn’t a right answer. You have to essentially figure out what’s right and best for you, but a therapist or counselor can certainly serve as a sense of support or sounding board for your decisions.