27 Warning Signs You Have A Bad Therapist

A seasoned therapist will never make you feel unsafe, unheard, or like you don't matter.

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You’ve been seeing your therapist for what seems like a long time and it’s not because you just love seeing them. Maybe it’s because you feel stuck with what you’ve got, don’t want to go through the process of finding another one, or aren't getting anywhere because you think you can’t change, won’t change, or like feeling miserable.

Just know that you're not trapped. In fact, there might come a time when you absolutely should move to a new therapist — and there are plenty of signs to guide your decision.


Maybe it's not you — maybe it's your therapist.

RELATED: 10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Deciding If Therapy Is Right For You

Some psycho-emotional-behavioral problems are particularly challenging. Trauma and significant mental illness require specialized care and treatment and usually take a long time to “resolve and integrate” or “cure."


It’s also true that some therapists aren’t very good at their profession or are just downright bad. Why? It might be that they weren’t trained very well, they’re burned out, it’s only about billable hours, or they’re practicing outside of their scope of ability. Those are all possibilities.

Everybody does things wrong or makes mistakes, but a “bad therapist” is doing certain actions or has specific behaviors frequently, repetitively, or consistently. If you’re experiencing or noticing these things often, it’s time to evaluate your therapist’s performance.

Here are 27 signs of a bad therapist (or a therapist that is wrong for you).

1. They talk about themselves and their problems.

This can come in the form of sharing a problem like yours without relevance or expansion in a way that might be useful to you. But a therapist should be discussing your problems without involving themselves.

2. They don't really listen.

They lose track of the conversation or wander off on tangents. A bad therapist will also interrupt you while you're speaking, show a general lack of interest, and may consistently misinterpret what you say.


3. They don't really engage.

You have a bad therapist if he or she says “uh huh” a lot or leaves uncomfortable silences (unless you’re in psychoanalysis). A therapist who doesn't engage may also lack empathy or emotional connection, appear distracted, and ultimately make it difficult for you to open up.

4. They forget details.

It's a bad sign if your therapist isn't taking notes during your sessions. This means they may forget important details about your life, history, and prior discussions. Their forgetfulness can make you feel undervalued and prevent you from progressing in your therapy journey.

5. They frequently miss or reschedule an appointment.

Personal lives can intrude on treatment, but it shouldn't become a pattern. If your therapist's personal life is interfering with your sessions, it's a glaring sign they aren't the right one for you. It shows they are unreliable and can disrupt the therapeutic process.

6. They blame you for missing an appointment they had missed or canceled.

This is a sign they are not reliable and are likely to shift blame. They also take no accountability for their actions, deflect blame onto you, and inevitably create feelings of guilt.


RELATED: 5 Hard-To-Admit Things I've Learned From 15+ Years Of Therapy

7. They don't take responsibility for errors.

It might be errors of timing, tone of voice or mixed messages. But no matter what it is, they won't apologize or make amends. Make no mistake: a good therapist will acknowledge their mistakes and take accountability for them.

8. They touch you without permission.

This is an absolute violation of ethics and possibly the law. If your therapist is violating ethical boundaries by touching you without permission, it's a clear breach of trust and can create emotional distress.

9. They track time to the minute.

If your therapist has an excessively rigid time-tracking schedule, they are showing a level of inflexibility that proves they don't care about your needs. By adhering to these strict rules, they may rush through discussions or abruptly end important conversations.


10. They fall asleep in session.

Needless to say, this is a major red flag of a bad therapist. It indicates a lack of professionalism, lack of attentiveness, and a disinterest in your own concerns.

11. They don't give homework.

Assigning homework to therapy patients can be valuable in allowing you to actively engage with the therapeutic process outside of sessions. A bad therapist may neglect to provide any assignments or tasks to work on.

12. They give homework but don't follow up on it.

If they do give you an assignment, they should absolutely ask you about it next time. If they don't follow up to discuss your insights or experiences, they are showing a lack of interest in your personal growth.

13. They don't set or revisit treatment goals with you.

This should occur early in the patient-therapist relationship, as effective therapy means regularly collaborating and revisiting the goals for treatment initially set. If you have a bad therapist, they may fail to establish clear objectives for therapy and the process as a whole.


14. They don't seem to have a plan.

Early in your sessions, a good therapist will develop a treatment plan customized to your needs. A bad therapist, however, lacks structure or direction, is disorganized, and ends up leaving you uncertain about why you're in therapy to begin with.

15. They tell you that you should get divorced in the first or second session.

How could they possibly know so quickly? This means they don't see you as an individual with an individual set of challenges. A therapist who suggests any major life decisions or changes is unprofessional.

16. They diagnose your spouse without ever meeting them.

They have no idea about your spouse's state of mind or medical history, so diagnosing someone without a direct assessment is unethical. A bad therapist will make assumptions about your partner based solely on a description, undermining the therapy process as a result.

17. They excuse your spouse without ever meeting them.

Similarly, a bad therapist may excuse your spouse or partner's behavior without proper perspective or understanding. Again, they don't know your spouse, they only have your point of view. It's a one-sided approach.


RELATED: My Therapist Slut-Shamed Me

18. In couples therapy, they're always neutral.

There’s no place for neutrality in couples counseling. While therapists should maintain fairness and impartiality, being overly neutral hinders any progress. A bad therapist avoids taking a stance or facilitating difficult conversations, leading to a lack of resolution.

19. In couples therapy, they don't intercede in fights.

Therapists should never encourage or escalate conflicts or arguments, but they are responsible for guiding or intervening as needed. A good therapist will point out that yelling is inappropriate behavior and give gentle reminders.

20. They take on the role of referee.

A therapist isn't here to be a judge or a moderator; rather, their role is to listen, offer advice, and offer a safe and supportive environment. If your therapist involves themselves in situations or inhibits progress, it's time to find a new one.


21. In family therapy, they can’t control sessions.

Family therapy can be complex due to the dynamics and participation of multiple people. A good therapist maintains control over the session, rather than allowing disruptions. If unruly or overly playful kids, for example, are a problem for them, they might not be for you.

22. They repeatedly ask the same question.

Sometimes it's a therapy cliche, such as “How did you feel about that?" And while repetition is sometimes necessary for deeper exploration, a therapist that does this indicates a lack of attentiveness and engagement.

23. They are boring.

This is not the same as low-key or understated; rather, this means you can't stop yawning when they talk. A therapy session should be engaging in some way, but if a therapist fails to capture your interest or enthusiasm, it's essentially throwing off your motivation to grow.

24. They are judgmental or hyper-critical.

You shouldn't ever be made to feel inferior. If you have a therapist who criticizes or judges you, making you feel ashamed, they are suppressing honest communication.


25. They aren't culturally sensitive.

Good therapists demonstrate cultural competence and respect for diverse backgrounds and experiences. But you may have a bad therapist if they express bigotry, discrimination, or insensitivity towards cultural, racial, or ethnic identity.

26. They violate confidentiality.

Confidentiality is a crucial and absolutely essential part of therapy. A bad therapist isn't above breaching this trust and will share your information with others without your consent. This is a violation of privacy and safety.

27. They press you to reveal more than you’re comfortable with.

A therapist should never pry unnecessarily into subjects that aren't relevant. Instead, a good therapist will respect your boundaries and allow you to disclose information at your own pace. A bad therapist will pressure you to share sensitive or traumatic experiences before you're ready.

RELATED: 11 Simple Ways We Can Monitor & Maintain Our Own Mental Health


What To Do When You Have A Bad Therapist

1. Remember that your therapist is your 'employee'.

You searched for and evaluated the prospects, vetted them, got references or reviews, interviewed them and now you’ve hired one. You are therefore the employer. It’s generally not wise to consider yourself the “boss," but you have expectations even if your new employee has never asked you, nor have you ever spelled them out specifically.

Your employee has given you a statement of professional services which tells you what they will and will not do, what the cost of their service is, who is expected to pay it and when, what their working and availability hours are, and the best way to reach them.

The important thing here is that you are paying them yourself or through your insurance. That makes them your employee. And, as any employee, they might be subject to dismissal if their performance is not satisfactory over time.


2. Take control of your decisions to find the right therapist.

You have hired your counselor to evaluate (diagnose) you, help you to eliminate or minimize “bad” habits, consider new approaches, show you your strengths, collaborate with you on solutions, and give you recommendations. That’s what you pay them for. So do their other clients.

You asked lots of questions before you hired them. Now, your counselor has asked you lots of questions in order to illuminate and clarify your goals. They are calling you into or from their office, so you can’t control that work environment, but you must be willing to make requests to co-create a collaborative workspace.

Seating, positioning of tissues, lighting, temperature, and ambiance are all aspects you can and should participate in.

3. Collaboration is key.

Above all else, valuable and successful therapy depends on collaboration. So don’t be bossy and do be respectful of the space and the person, and expect the same in return.


It's never appropriate for you to adjust to your therapist’s unprofessional or disregardful manner. If you have brought concerns to the attention of your therapist and given them enough time to make changes, be patient but attentive.

If, on the other hand, your therapists’ anti-relational stance persists, it’s time to say goodbye to them and start the project of finding another one or evaluating yourself to determine if you are “better enough” to step back. If you don’t feel comfortable with any aspect of the relationship, speak up.

4. Take a break.

Taking a break from therapy can be healthy. “Episodes” of treatment allow for more reading, thinking and living away from expectations — yours or your therapist's.

During a “break,” I make infrequent contact for several months. Brief email check-ins reinforce relationships without expectations. But if the problems of living that brought you or your relationship to therapy persist or intensify, get active in hiring a new therapist.


Consider how you might have had poor advice or preconceived ideas about what would make the right therapist for you. Make adjustments in your search. Just don't throw up your hands in despair. You're worth the effort it takes to find the right therapist for you.

RELATED: 15 Common Types Of Therapy And How To Know Which You Need

William "Bill" Meleney is a Washington state-licensed mental health counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, and life coach. He has 20+ years of experience and expertise helping clients deal with relationships, parenting, and mental health.