7 Signs a Therapist Is Not the Right Fit

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If you are experiencing a mental health challenge, entering therapy is a brave first step. As you begin this journey, keep in mind that each person is unique and has specific needs when it comes to therapy. Not only is it important that you choose a type of therapy that will work best for your mental health condition, but it’s vital that you find a therapist who you feel comfortable with.

In fact, studies have found that the therapist-patient relationship is a top concern for people in therapy, and when there isn’t a good match between client and therapist, it can have strong negative impacts on their therapy experience.

Here are some signs that your therapist is not the right match for you, what some traits of a good therapist are—and what to do if you find yourself in a situation where you need to switch therapists.

Attributes of Good Therapists

Before we look at the types of therapist-patient relationships that are less favorable, let’s consider some traits of good therapists.

It should be noted that oftentimes, it’s not a matter who is a “good therapist” or a “bad therapist,” but who is a good match for your particular needs and personality.

Generally speaking, therapists who are the right fit for you have the following traits:

  • Someone you have a good rapport with, you generally feel comfortable opening up to, and who listens well and seems interested in what you are saying.
  • Someone you can trust with private matters, emotions that you don’t normally share with others, and who respects your boundaries in terms of what you feel comfortable sharing and when.
  • Someone who feels like an ally, who cheers you on, who wants what’s best for you, and who understands your perspective.

Signs a Therapist Isn’t the Best Fit

Just like different people in your life don’t seem to “get” you, the first one or two therapists you try may not feel quite right. In fact, it’s common for people to need to try a few different therapists until they find the one that feels right to them. It’s also possible to “outgrow” your therapist and realize a few months or years down the road that you need a different therapist.

Here are some signs that your therapist isn't the best match for you.

You Simply Don’t Like Your Therapist

You don’t have to adore your therapist, or feel like they are someone you’d be friends with outside of therapy, but you do have to like their basic personality and find them trustworthy. Research has found that people who don't like their therapist's personality or who don't find them to be someone to look up to, often have negative therapy experiences.

Your Therapist Is Engaged in Unethical Behaviors

Unethical behaviors from a therapist may include inappropriate touching, asking for sexual favors, violating confidentiality, and asking for or accepting bribes. Each counseling and therapist credentialing organization has their own set of ethics, and if your therapist appears to be violating these codes, you should report them to the organization associated with their credentials.

In essence, any therapist who engages in unethical behaviors is breaching your trust. Studies have found that experiencing any kind of unethical behavior can be extremely damaging for the person receiving therapy, which is why you should end the therapy as soon as possible if your therapist is exhibiting any unethical behavior.

Your Therapist Isn’t Culturally Sensitive

We all come from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions. Your therapist doesn’t have to come from the same background as you do, but it’s imperative that they are sensitive to yours.

If your therapist seems to be pushing their own cultural or religious agenda on you or is urging you to reject your own, this is a red flag. Similarly, if your therapist isn’t sensitive about your gender or sexual orientation, they are not a good match for you. Additionally, a therapist who avoids discussion around culture especially when there is a cultural difference between therapist and client may not be a good fit.

Your Therapist Isn’t Clear About Goals

Therapy isn’t meant to provide immediate results, and each person will have a different timetable when it comes to progress. Still, your therapist should be clear about what benchmarks they are hoping you’ll hit. They should be discussing what your goals for therapy are, and should note when you have made progress.

Your Therapist Doesn’t Have the Right Background or Training to Help You

There are many different types of therapy out there—including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), psychodynamic therapy, and interpersonal therapy. Oftentimes, therapists are well versed in more than one type of therapy. Still, your therapist may not have the background or training to help you in the most productive way, and this might be a reason they aren’t the best match for you.

Besides ensuring that the type of therapy that your therapist practices work for your situation, it’s important that your therapist has experience dealing with the conditions that you are experiencing.

Most therapists have experience dealing with anxiety or depression, but if you are dealing with somewhat less common conditions like eating disorders, bipolar disorder, or gender dysphoria, it’s important that you have a therapist who has experience helping people with these conditions.

Your Therapist Is Judgmental 

It can be appropriate for a therapist to call out behaviors or choices that don’t seem helpful to you, or that may harm you, but a therapist should never shame you.

If and when they are critical, it should come from a place of compassion and understanding. If you feel like your therapist looks down on you or seems overly harsh or judgmental, it may be time to move on.

Your Therapist Is Too Much Of A Friend

It’s nice to have a therapist who feels like a peer, or someone you could be friends with outside of therapy. That can help you feel more comfortable and at ease. But there are certain therapist-client boundaries, and if your therapist breaks them often, this isn’t a good sign.

For example, if your therapist spends too much time talking about themselves, or their own struggles, this isn’t appropriate. Sometimes therapists who are too much like friends won’t challenge you or push you out of your comfort zone.

How to Break Up With Your Therapist

Even if you feel clear that it’s time to move on, it can be difficult to tell your therapist. You may feel worried that you will be hurting their feelings, or that they will be angry with you. You may doubt that you are doing the right thing. These are all normal feelings to have, and it’s understandable.

But you deserve to have effective, compassionate care, and that may mean “breaking up” with your current therapist. Keep in mind, too, that it’s part of a therapist’s job to deal with patients who move on—you don’t have to worry about taking care of their feelings.

Some tips for telling your therapist that you’re ready to call it quits include:

  • It can be helpful to write down the reasons you would like to move on, to help you sort out of your feelings and to prepare yourself for what you want to say
  • Keep in mind that you don’t have to have an elaborate reason—simply saying, “I don’t think we are the right fit” is perfectly fine
  • You can discuss this in person, but if you feel more comfortable, you can call your therapist or send them an email
  • It can be helpful to have another therapist—or a few therapist options lined up—before you end things with your current therapist

While you have no obligation to your therapist to share this in person, it could be a healing moment for you to advocate for yourself and your needs. Ideally, your therapist would be receptive and curious about your reasoning to ultimately help you better understand your feelings and experience. Even if this is not the case, it could be a valuable moment for you to have a difficult conversation in service of your best interest.

A Word From Verywell

Just as making the choice to start therapy is a brave choice, realizing that a therapist isn’t the right match for you takes courage, and is a sign of your inner strength. It can be scary when you realize you need to move on and find a new therapist, but it’s very common, and a better fit is out there for you. Don’t give up—you will find the right therapist for you.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a health and parenting writer, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and mom to two awesome sons.