“My therapist judges me.”
“I don’t think my therapist is listening. She seems bored.”
When you’ve run into a relationship problem with your therapist, what can you do? What should you do?
Let me preface by saying that therapy should be a safe space, unreservedly. If you’ve been seeing your therapist for awhile and an issue arises in the relationship, it’s worth your time to address it. It’s especially worth it if it’s an established and previously trusting relationship. Why? All relationships encounter momentary difficulties, and the therapeutic relationship is no exception. If a friend or loved one said or did something to upset you, you’d likely say something, right? If someone you love hurt you or angered you, you’d tell them. Treat the therapeutic relationship the same way.
It may seem like therapists have all the answers, but we’re not perfect. We’re human. If we’ve unwittingly said something (or didn’t say something you needed to hear) that hurt you, we want to know! We always want to know your feelings, and we want the opportunity to heal whatever kind of rupture has occured. (Side note: research shows that after a therapeutic rupture is resolved, the relationship is strengthened!)
Another reason you should try to mend before moving on? Sometimes (no; OFTEN), the issues we experience in our personal relationships manifest within the therapeutic relationship. What does that mean? If you’re a highly sensitive person and feel easily misunderstood by others, then it’s very likely you’ll feel misunderstood by your therapist at some point. If you struggle with loneliness and have felt invisible for years, chances are good that you’ll feel invisible with your therapist, too, simply because that’s how you’re accustomed to feeling in relationships. If a problem arises in the therapeutic relationship, it’s worth addressing because you give yourself the opportunity to work through something that may be very pertinent to the reason you entered therapy.
Now, a disclaimer: There may be situations where, even after addressing an issue, you don’t feel things have gotten any better. I would still encourage you to talk about it with your therapist, but at some point, you may decide that the problem is too great to continue the relationship. And that’s okay. Your therapist will always respect your right to leave therapy, even if it’s not what they recommend. We wholeheartedly respect your right to make that choice, and if you’ve given your all, then give yourself a hug and know that it’s okay to find a new therapist.