Recovering from a Bad Therapy Experience
Trust is important in any relationship, but it is especially critical in your relationship with your therapist, and it can be hard to recover from a bad therapy experience when that trust is broken. Therapy requires allowing someone we barely know to access our deepest fears and insecurities and trusting that they will treat this information with respect and sensitivity. When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and receive empathy and understanding from our therapists, therapy can be healing and fulfilling. When we feel unseen, invalidated, or misunderstood after sharing deep parts of ourselves, it can open emotional wounds and make us feel even worse. A bad therapy experience might even turn us off to the whole idea of therapy, but if we never try again, we might miss out on a transformative relationship that allows us to achieve our goals and live happier lives.
Feeling Guarded After My Last Bad Therapy Experience
My experience with my last therapist wasn't a positive one. I went into my last therapy experience with an open mind. I wanted to allow myself to accept feedback even if it was hard to hear. I came in ready to trust my new therapist, so I brushed off the invalidating comments she made to me, deciding I must have been reacting out of defensiveness or not being clear with her. Still, I often left sessions feeling frustrated, invalidated, and misunderstood.
When I tried to address these feelings with her, she responded with statements that made me realize that she and I were not a good match, and I let her know the relationship wasn't working for me. I regretted opening up to her and replayed sessions in my head for months, feeling hurt and angry every time I thought about the way things went.
I haven't been seeing a therapist for a year now, and I regret waiting so long to try again. I have a degree and two years of experience myself in mental health counseling, but even I felt turned off to the idea of therapy after such profound disappointment. I know that sometimes it takes a few tries to find the right therapist, but I still was afraid to risk making myself vulnerable only to be let down again. After a year, I'm starting with someone new this week.
Finding the Right Therapist for You
Therapy is an intimate experience, so it is important to feel safe and understood by your therapist. Like any other relationship, some people just click better than others. If you start therapy and are feeling like your therapist isn't hearing you, you can and should speak up about it. Communicate your feelings and concerns.
Sometimes it's simply a matter of needing a different approach or style, or sometimes you just need to clarify what it is you hope to gain from therapy. If your therapist is a good fit for you, he or she will be receptive to your feelings about the relationship and work with you on fixing the problem. If you speak up and don't feel that your therapist understands your concerns, it may be a sign that you aren't a good match, and it is completely normal to say so. You have to feel safe and understood in therapy to make progress.
For more information about mental health counseling, visit these links:
- "Mental Health Counseling: How it Works, Benefits"
- "Types of Mental Health Counselors: Finding a Good One"
- "Free Mental Health Services and How to Find Them"
Have your experiences in mental health counseling/therapy been mostly positive or negative? What do you look for in a good therapist? Have you had a bad therapy experience? Let me know in the comments.
Sabatello, J. (2021, May 10). Recovering from a Bad Therapy Experience, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/relationshipsandmentalillness/2021/5/recovering-from-a-bad-therapy-experience
Author: Juliana Sabatello
I had a very difficult experience with a therapist. After working with her for a couple of months, she delayed booking a new session and then when I did go in, she started our time together by telling me that I do not seem to like her and why do I keep coming back? She told me I was dismissive of all her ideas, that she did not know how to build rapport with me, and that she did not know what else she had to offer me.
I was flabbergasted and felt two feet tall; that somehow, even though I had been honest and engaged with everything we had discussed in our time together, I had said all the wrong things. It ended up triggering deep fears of rejection and being judged and I had a panic attack right there while she watched.
I really relate to what you said about replaying sessions in your head. I absolutely feel unseen, misunderstood and invalidated. Experiencing her judgement and questioning in that vulnerable situation was extremely painful and, I think, traumatic.
I had a terrible experience with a therapist. I started seeing after being sexually assaulted. I had made a police report and they had charged the guy and so there was an ongoing criminal case. My therapist didn’t like a decision the judge had made on the case so she went to her own attorney (without my knowledge or consent) and got him to investigate the judge after telling him all about me (including many identifying details).
This therapist also ignored and invalidated suicidal ideation I was having. I told her in a session I wanted to die and had a plan. She responded with “I don’t want to talk about that.” She then flatly refused to discuss anything regarding suicidal ideation with me again, didn’t assess me for risk and later made fun of me for it, calling me “delusional” “crazy” etc.
She also was chronically late, sometimes up to 25mins late. She never arrived earlier than 10 minutes late. She also often had her daughter interrupt our sessions to bring her McDonald’s or coffee or whatever.
More than once she spent the entire session telling me about her problems. I know all about her various trauma’s, her political and religious beliefs, her negative religious experiences, her child’s bully etc. Once she even became “triggered” in a session and I had to become the therapist and take care of her.
The last session we had she didn’t approve of a decision I made about my life (that had nothing to do with therapy). She started yelling at me calling me “delusional,” “unfixable,” “selfish,” “damaged,” etc.
I’ve since found out I’m not the only one she’s done this to. I’ve heard about similar incidents from other clients of hers and I know quite a few therapists in the area are refusing to work with her because of behavior like this. I filed a complaint with the state licensing board (and tried to with the national accreditation board she claimed to be licensed by but in doing so found out that she wasn’t nationally accredited and was just saying that) but I’m not sure if anything will come of it. She is unbelievably dangerous and damaging and shouldn’t have a license. The terrifying thing is that she’s very well known in the city I live in and well known nationally within the eating disorder and trauma fields.
I am so sorry you had that experience. It sounds like she violated many ethical and legal practices of therapy in the way she worked with you and others. I hope something comes from the complaints against her to the state because she can do some serious damage to the people she sees with that type of behavior. I hope you were able to find someone better to help you with your trauma. Thank you for sharing your story.