One of the most important parts of being a therapist is self-care. Self-care is any activity that someone does deliberately to take care of their own mental, physical, or emotional wellbeing. It can range from getting your nails done, to going to the gym, to taking a vacation. These self-care activities are particularly important to mental health professionals who spend their days caring for others. If a therapist does not take proper care of their own wellbeing, they cannot effectively help their clients.
To manage their mental health, many therapists actually see their own therapists! (Who would have thought?). Personally, I have seen a handful of therapists throughout my life for a variety of reasons. While some experiences were extremely positive, others were not so positive (to put it nicely). As I have sat on both sides of the room, I thought it may be helpful to discuss mistakes that I have seen other therapists make and how they can effectively be addressed by clients in sessions.
- Disclosing too much personal information. All personal information that a therapist discloses should be solely for the client’s benefit. When a therapist discloses personal information to a client, it can be a great tool to establish rapport, strengthen the therapeutic alliance, or validate a client’s feelings. If you feel as though your therapist is disclosing information that is not relevant to you, be honest and let them know. If you are honest, chances are you can work out your differences.
- Not admitting they made a mistake. Therapists are people too, and will inevitably make mistakes. If your therapist says something that bothers you, I recommend confronting them and seeing what they say. If you confront your therapist, they should be able to handle it in a gracious manner, and if anything, it should make the therapeutic bond even stronger. If they are not able to handle your feedback, they may be working out their own issues. In my opinion, the most important thing to consider when a therapist makes a mistake is how they handle it.
- Making you feel guilty about cancelling therapy sessions. Therapy is important but it is also important to have a life outside of therapy. If you are constantly missing therapist sessions, your therapist should not make you feel guilty. Instead, you should have an open and honest discussion about the reasons why you are unable to attend your sessions and collaboratively develop solutions to resolve the problems.
- Being inflexible with treatment options. Therapy is a commitment; however, each client’s level of commitment varies. Whether it is for financial or logistical reasons, every client may not be able to consistently attend in-person sessions on a weekly basis. Therefore, it is important that therapists are flexible with the frequency and manner in which sessions take place. Therapists should offer biweekly and virtual sessions when it is appropriate for a client.
- Not respecting the value of a client. In my opinion, clients are the experts of themselves and are an extremely important part of the therapeutic process. Many clients already have the answers to their problems but need therapists to help them with the process of unlocking this information. If you feel as though your therapist does not understand the value that you bring to the table, I suggest discussing it with them and seeing what they have to say. Therapy is a collaborative partnership.
Erica Cramer is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.