Do I Have to Like My Therapist?

therapist and patient

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Therapy can be a unique and mysterious process. It isn’t uncommon to have questions about your treatment and therapist.

All Therapist-Client Relationships Are Different

A common question that can come up is if it is necessary to like your therapist. Some may feel challenged by how connected they feel to their therapist, worrying if they like them too much or view them as a friend. Others may feel zero connection to their therapist and even dislike simply being in the same room with them. Finally, some people feel somewhat indifferent to their therapist.

Each scenario can raise concerns about what is “normal” in therapy and what is necessary to receive the best results possible. But, while you don't have to like your therapist as much as you would a friend, you certainly should like them. Read on to learn why!

Do I Have to Like My Therapist?

There may be times in your therapy sessions when you’re wondering if you need to like your therapist. This is a normal question to have. Therapy is a space where you form an intimate relationship with someone you only interact with for a limited time each week.

Yes, You Should Like Your Therapist

It is essential to like your therapist, but expecting yourself to always like your therapist is unrealistic. First, let’s address why it is important to like your therapist. Working with someone you generally like can facilitate feelings of connection in therapy. When feeling connected, you may have an easier time opening up to them.

It's Hard to Be Vulnerable With People You Don't Like

Conversely, it can be challenging to make progress if you don’t like your therapist and therefore don’t feel connected to them.

It is also crucial to accept that there may be times when you don’t like your therapist. Discord in the therapeutic relationship is called a "rupture."

Allowing yourself to tell your therapist when you dislike them can lead to significant breakthroughs. Many people who seek out therapy haven’t experienced healthy conflict resolution or may not have had their voices heard.

When you speak up in treatment, the therapist can model beneficial conflict resolution or validate your emotions. In turn, this can lead to clients noticing that they’re able to utilize conflict resolution skills or feel that they can trust their feelings more outside of the therapy room.

How Much Should I Like My Therapist?

While it is key to like your therapist, there are important boundaries to remember. First, your therapist is not your friend.

Therapists, Legally, Cannot Be Your Friend

While you may enjoy a friendly relationship with them, or they might have some qualities you’d like a friend to have, they cannot be your friend.

This is due to therapists' ethical duty to not engage in dual relationships.

A dual relationship is when a therapist pursues a business, friendship, or romantic relationship in addition to the therapeutic relationship. It is unethical for this to happen because there is a power dynamic involved between the therapist and the client, it can be unsettling for the client to have blurred boundaries. Moreover, a dual relationship doesn’t help the client meet their treatment goals. 

It Is Possible to Feel Like You Love Your Therapist

You might notice that you have strong desires to form a friendship or romantic relationship with your therapist. This common occurrence is called transference.

Transference—Why You May Love Your Therapist

Transference is the feelings you experience towards your therapist that may relate to your past emotional experiences.

For example, you may long for a loving mother and find your therapist to be maternal. In turn, you could crave a deeper relationship with her.

Alternatively, your therapist may remind you of a partner you’ve had in the past, and you could develop romantic feelings for them. While it may feel taboo to admit these things aloud, therapists are trained to support their clients through these emotions.

What Should I Do If I Don’t Like My Therapist?

If you don’t like your therapist, consider why that is. Do you find them to be unprofessional or judgmental? If so, that can indicate that they are simply not the right therapist for you.

Finding the right therapist can take some trial and error, so do not be discouraged if you feel it is time to seek a new provider.

If you dislike your therapist because they remind you of someone in your life, take a moment to ponder what is coming up for you. Sometimes, our therapists can remind us of people we know and have negative relationships with. This is another example of transference.

Try discussing your feelings of dislike with your therapist and take it from there. If you find that you still don't like them or cannot connect with them, it's probably time to find a new therapist.

Finding The Right Therapist for You

It's OK if you don’t like your therapist and can’t pinpoint exactly why that is. Should you find yourself needing to seek out a new therapist, there are a wealth of directories that can help you.Open Path Collective offers a directory of therapists that offer sliding scale rates.

Inclusive Therapists has providers committed to a social justice-oriented approach to the therapeutic process.

You can also reach out to your health insurance for further support in finding a new therapist.

4 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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  3. Afolabi OE. Dual relationships and boundary crossing: A critical issues in clinical psychology practice. IJPC. 2015;7(2):29-39. doi: 10.5897/IJPC2014.0287

  4. Nissen-Lie HA, Dahl HSJ, Høglend PA. Patient factors predict therapists’ emotional countertransference differently depending on whether therapists use transference work in psychodynamic therapy. Psychother Res. 2022;32(1):3-15. doi: 10.1080/10503307.2020.1762947

By Julia Childs Heyl
Julia Childs Heyl, MSW, is a clinical social worker and writer. As a writer, she focuses on mental health disparities and uses critical race theory as her preferred theoretical framework. In her clinical work, she specializes in treating people of color experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma through depth therapy and EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trauma therapy.