What is a Bad Therapist? Four Signs of a Bad Therapist

A recent news article described therapists as those who “mischarge” sessions with mental health patients. Such a description would certainly describe the work of many licensed and registered psychotherapists and psychologists. Yet such practices are not unique. All therapists have both good and bad practices.

Unfortunately, the confusion about what is a bad therapist can cause harm to many otherwise good counselors and psychologists. Some people believe that therapists and psychologists are unprofessional and that they push treatments on vulnerable people. Worse, some think that therapists are callous and even ruthless. Such views often stem from inaccurate stereotypes about mental health counseling. For example, it’s been argued that counseling is primarily for irresponsible adults looking to pass off substance abuse as therapy.

According to research, only one out of five clients requiring mental health counseling ever receive an inappropriate treatment. Ten percent of clients receiving mental health counseling are subjected to at least two abusive behaviors. Although the percentage of such incidents is undoubtedly higher in rural communities than in metropolitan areas, such high instances are not widespread enough to warrant concern.

Another myth about what is a bad therapist is that he or she should be avoided at all costs. In fact, it’s a common mistake to assume that if two therapists work together, then they will inevitably worsen the situation between them. Two therapists can be equally harsh; both are likely to apply pressure, push, and ridicule. Yet when one of the two therapists acts inappropriately towards a client, the damage is done and further damage can be done as a result of the disparity between the two therapists.

What is a bad therapist? In my experience, the most common negative behaviors among mental health counselors are passive aggressive behavior, blame, condescending remarks, and assuming that their patients need to validate their experiences. Some therapists even put their clients on task without paying attention to what the client is saying. Such behaviors create hostility between the counselor and client. Others simply assume that clients are unable to resist theirwill. As a result, clients may spend a large amount of time talking with a passive aggressive therapist who verbally attacks them without listening to what they say, while other therapists look on and respond with hostility to the clients’ comments.

What is a bad therapist? A bad therapist can also be one who minimizes or denies the client’s problems, tries to solve them on their own, places too much blame on the client for his or her own problems, resorts to yelling and name-calling, criticizes the client in public, makes the client feel guilty for trivial problems, or makes promises to change that aren’t actually possible. A good therapist treats the client as an individual with dignity and empathy. He or she listens carefully to the client’s viewpoint, values the client’s feelings, and allows the client to make his or her own decisions.

What is a bad therapist? You should be able to detect at least some signs of a bad therapist if you feel that he or she is abusive. If the therapist makes promises that aren’t possible to keep, or if promises are made that seem hollow, then he or she is not taking you where you need to go. If the therapist praises you too much or uses profanities aimed at you, then he or she isn’t interested in helping you achieve your goals. And if your therapist becomes defensive whenever you try to ask questions or make changes, then he or she isn’t working well with you.

What is a bad therapist? So many times we hear complaints from clients who say that their therapist abuses their trust or flirts with them in order to establish some sort of connection. If you notice that your therapist crosses the line when it comes to having a romantic relationship with a client, or if you notice that your therapist makes sexual advances toward you, then you need to find another therapist for yourself.

What is a bad therapist? Unfortunately, therapists are human and humans make mistakes. In this article, I have described four of the more common signs of a bad therapist. If you notice any of these behaviors, it would be in your best interest to find a new therapist immediately.