Should I switch therapists?
July 23, 2015 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out, a few sessions into therapy, whether my feelings of initial apathy, now verging on annoyance, are a reason to consider looking for a new therapist or not. Special snowflake details inside.

I've seen a therapist for four sessions now, focusing on depression, anxiety, and some general coping stuff involving some life stress. I can't pinpoint anything specific wrong with her or her approach, but I also don't feel like I've made any particular connection with her. I don't really get any feeling that she particularly "gets" me; I guess I was expecting, by this point, to either feel a connection or else possibly to feel, say, uncomfortable as a result of working through uncomfortable things.

My reaction to her is mostly that she seems sort of timid -- she hasn't really made any recommendations about homework (although she's said she does assign it to some clients), she doesn't ever really seem to have any insights beyond basically repeating back what I've just said, or showing sympathy. Which is nice, but frankly I don't feel like it's doing anything for me.

In my limited previous experience with therapy, years ago, I felt more of a connection with the therapist, but I also felt like she asked tougher questions and occasionally called me on bullshit in a way that was really helpful. I actually feel like I have a stronger connection with my primary care physician, or with a psychiatrist I saw once recently for a medication adjustment, than I do with this therapist.

I know I could ask her for more of this kind of thing, but I also really would like someone else to steer the ship, so to speak. I kind of feel like I'm not getting the support or guidance I need, and I feel like being more demanding about what I want her to do is sort of at cross-purposes to the goal of letting a therapist guide me some.

I know there are different therapeutic modalities, but my therapist takes an "eclectic" approach (which seems to be the case for most therapists I've found, at least ones with websites advertising their services), including CBT, psychodynamic work, etc. Incidentally, I also find her manner a little annoying -- maybe I perceive her as timid just because she speaks in a way that comes across that way.

Am I just expecting too much? I'd just as soon not have to find another, but I also feel like I'd just as soon stop going to (and paying for) these sessions. Is this where I should expect to be at this point, or should I consider looking for someone else?
posted by mister pointy to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I feel like being more demanding about what I want her to do is sort of at cross-purposes to the goal of letting a therapist guide me some

Not really, in my opinion. "Therapist, I need X from you." "Okay, what is it about X that you need?" is a conversation I had with my former therapist more than once. Then we'd tease apart what I was asking for and why, and we'd make another step of progress.

I suggest asking your therapist for exactly what you feel you need and/or working out for yourself exactly why it is you want what you want. If, then, your therapist isn't capable of it then yeah, probably time to move on.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:54 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Do you have a goal for therapy? Have you and your therapist talked explicitly, more than just at the first session, about what you're working towards and what kinds of changes might indicate success? Good therapists I've had have wanted everyone involved to be clear on that.

The other thing I think (have also read) matters most is the quality of the relationship, trust, etc. If you're not feeling it after a handful of sessions, maybe you're wasting your time.

If you want someone to tell you what to do, in a really directive way, not sure therapists are the people for that. GPs can be understanding but the relationship is usually still pretty uni-directional (except in unusual circumstances). Same with psychiatrists, ime. Ymmv
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:27 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

You need to feel comfortable with and trust this person. If you're not feeling it then find a different therapist. You don't need our permission and you don't need current therapist's permission.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 8:38 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's okay to switch therapists/counsellors because they're not a good fit for you. It sounds like this person is not a good fit. I have been in this situation, except It only took me one "meh" session before I switched to a different person who was actually helpful. I'm glad I didn't waste more time with someone who wasn't a good fit. I think you've made a good faith effort with this therapist, and it's time to find a different one.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:32 PM on July 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Assessing fit with a therapist, in my experience, is similar to assessing fit with a romantic partner. If the connection doesn't feel right for some reason, find another therapist.

My last therapist was someone whom for some reason I didn't make a great connection with, and that made it hard to get beyond the superficial with him. There was no way I was going to open up about deep painful stuff, because I didn't really trust him to do a good job of working through that stuff with me. After six months, he suggested we stop seeing each other, because he thought I was done & well-equipped to go out into the world and deal without a therapist. Which was hilariously untrue, but maybe demonstrates the superficiality of the relationship we had.

By that point, I had contempt for his judgement, intellect and skills - and, like in a romantic relationship, contempt is a real killer when it's towards the person whose help you want fixing you. It doesn't sound like you've got a lot of respect for your therapist, and unless you want to work with her in addressing that, it might be wise to move on.
posted by terretu at 11:28 PM on July 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

No, you're not expecting too much. Get a different therapist.

Also - if you begin to see a therapist who advertises that they do (say) CBT - find out a little bit about CBT and how it works, and then ask your therapist about they they would do it with you. If their answer makes no sense - move on. If they tell you that you're doing CBT, and it's no kind of CBT you've ever heard of - move on.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:34 PM on July 23, 2015

It's worth trusting your gut. But also, as alluded elsewhere, reflect on what your goals are and on whether a part of you is looking for a stern authority figure that will give you "tough love" and thereby fix your problems. Because that really won't come along ever, from anyone.

[Look at my projections!]
posted by pantufla_milagrosa at 8:37 AM on July 24, 2015

Why not try and use your current situation before moving on? What I mean is, tell this therapist what you've posted here. E.g. tell her you experience her as timid. You could even ask if she finds you intimidating. Tell her you don't feel a connection. Note that this is different from not letting her guide you. What you're doing is telling her how you feel.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:54 AM on July 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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