I am currently taking an MA in Counselling & Psychotherapy. Part of my course requirement is to partake in 50 hours of personal therapy. The college recommended therapists who fit their criteria required of a therapist for us students. Picking a therapist from the list in my area I began my personal journey and was very excited to be doing so. I had plenty of past experiences I wanted to sort through and plenty of live situations to keep me going for 50 weeks! To begin, I had 10 sessions with a wonderful therapist who was kind, empathetic and challenged when necessary.
Unfortunately, due to conflict of interest reasons, we had to terminate our relationship. Not to worry, she had a recommendation for me. Another therapist in my area and one who offered a student discount. Bonus! So, I began to see my new therapist for my remaining sessions, once the college approved him. I was 100% ready to engage fully, openly and honestly again, as I had with my previous therapist.
There were red flags from the start. He was smart in his tone, belittled my experiences and feelings and downgraded and disputed traumatic experiences. I could go on and on here but you get the drift…he was down right awful. I stayed with him for 20 sessions before finally being pushed to my limit of patience and walking out on a session half way through. Why did I stay so long? It is a good question and one I have asked myself a lot since finishing with him.
I went into these sessions feeling slightly worried about the change in therapist and how it would work for the assignment I had to complete upon conclusion. As well as this, I very much wanted to benefit from the process. I was desperately trying have the personal journey full of insights and lightbulb moments, which I thought I would have. These reasons made me stay and just try to get through it.
It was a terrible experience, but one I learned a lot from. I learned how not to be with my clients. I learned how it feels to be on the end of bad therapy and I will try my hardest to make sure I never do that to any client who chooses me as their therapist. I learned first hand what all the research says: positive outcomes from therapy is less about the therapeutic approach a therapist takes (such as CBT, psychodynamic etc), and more about the relationship between client and therapist. In order for therapy to be effective, you must feel connected to and like your therapist. You must feel as though they like you and that they care. Under these conditions you will flourish and thrive.
After finally walking out on the bad therapist, I tried a few more before settling on my next therapist. I didn’t just jump into it, I took time with it. I found a few frogs before at last finding a great therapist. She is wonderfully empathetic, congruent and provides unconditional positive regard.
Don’t settle for bad therapy. Spend time trying as many therapists as it takes in order to find the one you click with. The one you will feel safe with and the one you will feel able to bare your soul to.