During therapy

I am not getting on with my therapist

I think it was basically because he wasn’t the right therapist for me. He wasn’t awful or horrible, we just didn’t get on as in the therapist-patient relationship.

If you feel that you are not getting on with your therapist, this is likely to be getting in the way of therapy or may be leading to some difficult experiences. 

The relationship between you and your therapist is a crucial part of therapy, It’s difficult for both clients and therapists to know if they will fit in together but I do think it is important and one of the three components of what’s termed the ‘therapeutic alliance’. In general you are less likely to get as much out of therapy if there is not a positive bond between you and your therapist. This doesn’t mean that you and the therapist are ‘best friends’; therapy is different from friendship.  In fact, a good therapy relationship is one where it feels safe to have negative feelings as well as positive ones. There should be enough of a relationship for you to be able to trust him or her, and for you to work together in respectful, mutual co-operation. 

There can be a number of reasons for you not getting on with your therapist. Some of these may be to do with the therapist’s personal style or way of relating to you. The most obvious of these is this when therapists seem to be insisting on doing things their way (perhaps by doing what the ‘rule-book’ says and adopting a rigid, inflexible style) rather than paying attention to you and the uniqueness of your problems. At the opposite end of the scale, your therapist might be so flexible that it is difficult to know where your therapy is headed, or what you need to do; consequently, therapy ends up going nowhere and you don’t feel heard. 

Sometimes the reasons may relate to why you sought therapy in the first place and can be a useful focus of the work. Here, for example, you may find it hard to trust people in some positions of authority, and notice this in your relationship with your therapist. Of course, to be able to explore a negative relationship between you and your therapist does require enough of a working relationship to recognise these patterns and to be willing to work together to address them.  Working through a negative phase in the relationship often leads to really positive changes. 

Whatever kind of therapy you have, a competent therapist should be able to recognise these negative relationship patterns and address them with you in a way that helps, rather than blames, you. 

Questions to ask yourself 

  • How would I describe the nature of the relationship with my therapist?
  • Do I experience my therapist to be warm, empathic and understanding?
  • Do I trust my therapist?
  • Is my therapist doing anything that’s making it hard to get on with them?
  • Am I doing anything that’s making it hard for us to get on?
  • Is there a way I can discuss how I’m feeling with my therapist?
  • Is it possible for me to do the work of therapy with the relationship we’ve got?