What if I Hated Therapy?
Let’s get real for a minute. So you had a bad experience in therapy: it’s normal. Does that mean therapy will always suck for you? Not necessarily.
It takes courage to go to therapy, so it can be awfully distressing when you have a bad experience. Sometimes a “bad experience” means that you were forced to go by your caregiver when you were young. It can also mean that you were legally mandated to go, or maybe it was just a bad match for you as a willing adult.
Just to be clear, you should never walk out of a therapeutic experience feeling like more harm was done than good. Unfortunately, it can happen. Here are some examples of what should definitely not happen in therapy.
Your therapist should not:
- engage in any form of a sexual or romantic relationship with you or your family.
- treat you differently because of your gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual/ romantic/ emotional attraction towards others, disability, socioeconomic status, religion, lifestyle, or beliefs.
- impose their personal beliefs or attitudes on you.
- break confidentiality except in specific circumstances, including:
- if you are a danger to yourself or others; if you disclose information about abuse to a current minor, elderly person, or a person with a disability; if the court requires the therapist to release your records; or if you disclose a previous counseling relationship where harm was done. (Even in these circumstances, the therapist should include you as much as possible in the decision-making process of disclosing this information, and to whom.)
- mislead you about their credentials or the therapy process.
- tell you that you must stay in counseling.
- try to engage in a friendship with you or add you on Facebook/social media.
- abandon or neglect you as a client by not informing you of absences or termination. (1)
If you want to peruse more detailed information or have questions about any of the above, this website is helping to inform the public about what safe therapy looks like.
Outside of these harmful scenarios, there can also be problems of fit (or compatibility) between you and the therapist. Choosing a therapist can be overwhelming, and this relationship is no small matter either.
There are many factors that influence the therapeutic work and relationship. Research has shown that effectiveness in therapy is mainly due to:
Note: 30% the therapeutic relationship alone!
Finding a counselor these days isn’t exactly “user friendly.” Self-directed searches often lead you to run into cryptic terms or acronyms on websites such as EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) and CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). Even if another professional refers you to someone, it’s hard to know if someone else out there might be better suited to you.
Other common reasons for a negative experience can include inaccurate expectations of therapy, the therapy type is not right for you, you or the therapist is simply not ready to make changes, the timing is off, or you become too overwhelmed. (3)
It’s just easier if someone who knows what they’re talking about breaks it down for you. That is the purpose of this blog series: to develop a kind of recipe to get you the help you need.
Spoilers: what you can hope to find later in this series is information regarding theories, modalities, credentials, and what I offer as a counseling intern at Counseling South Austin.
(1) American Counseling Association. (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics: As approved by the
ACA governing council [Electronic version]. Retrieved from
(2) Lambert, M.J. (1992) Implications of outcome research for psychotherapy integration,
in Norcross and Goldstein (1992), pp. 94-129
(3) Tartakovsky, M. (2016). Therapists spill: When you have a bad therapy experience.
Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/therapists-spill-when-
If you’re interested in learning more, you can email me here and I’d be happy to answer any questions. I am accepting new clients in South Austin at this time, so I’d be happy to set up a free 30-minute consultation with you if you’re interested.
This blog was edited by Samantha Rice
Julia Stamman, M.S., LPC-Intern
Supervised by Ann Stoneson, LPC-S