Looking for counselling in the Glasgow area? The following post will hopefully make you more aware you of the signs of bad counselling.
Counselling has been described as both an art and a science.
Like any endeavour, involving people, it can go wrong. Therapists are human. They can and do make mistakes. They have off days. Some therapist errors are minor and some much more serious.
Some signs to be wary of, (or very concerned about in some of the instances listed below), are if your Counsellor or Psychotherapist:
- does not take time to explain fees, cancellation policies, limits to confidentiality, and length and frequency of sessions with you, at the start of your counselling relationship. Knowing what you are getting into is important. Some counsellors offer a written contract while others provide such information verbally.
- fails to ask you what you want to get out of counselling. It is important for you and your counsellor to know the direction you are travelling in.
- talks about or reveals too much about themselves. However, self-disclosure can be useful if it has a therapeutic purpose.
- talks too much, in general, or hardly ever talks. The session is your time to talk. That’s why it is called talking therapy! No counsellor should dominate the conversation. Personally, I prefer to have a dialogue with my clients.
- is overly nosey or inquisitive. Obviously, in order to get to know you, and work with you effectively, a therapist will ask you questions. However, there should be a therapeutic reason for asking those questions. It’s not about satisfying their personal curiosity at your expense.
- touches you inappropriately. It goes without saying that being touched inappropriately is never right whether it is in a counselling relationship or not.
- makes sexual advances towards you. The counselling relationship can be a very intimate one. But any sexual advance toward, or sexual behaviour with a client, is always wrong.
- tries to be your friend or attempts to initiate an intimate relationship with you. Your counsellor is there to help you in a professional way, not to have his or her own needs met.
- accepts invitations from you to meet you out with sessions or attend social occasions with you.
- changes the venue from the normal place where you have your sessions to a place where you feel uncomfortable.
- conducts therapy in an inappropriate venue. Cafés or bars, for example are not appropriate places to hold a counselling sessions in.
- does not engage in regular clinical supervision of their work with a more senior counsellor or therapist. In the UK, all counsellors or psychotherapists, who are members of a professional body, need to engage in supervision of their work. This is not the same a managerial supervision, in the workplace. The purpose of counselling supervision gives therapists a chance to discuss their client work, any ethical dilemmas, and their professional development. It is also meant to safeguard clients against unprofessional conduct.
- is not properly trained or qualified to work as a counsellor or psychotherapist.
- is not a member of a recognised professional body such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) or UKCP.
- comes across as a jack of all trades and master of none.
- answers the phone or their door during sessions. You are paying for a counsellor’s time and attention. Nothing should interfere with that.
- does not turn their phone off or put it on silent during sessions.
- works in an environment which is noisy or where there is not a sufficient degree of privacy.
- does not appear to be listening or trying to understand you. A large part of what makes counselling work is being listened to and understood by your therapist. What’s the point if you do not feel truly listened to? Or that you feel they are not doing all they can to truly understand you?
- invalidates you/makes you feel wrong.
- regularly forgets information about you. Everyone has memory lapses from time to time but if it happens a lot then that is a cause for concern.
- falls asleep during sessions or appears distracted.
- gives you unsolicited advice, tells you what to do, or makes decisions for you. I know what it is like to be a client myself and to hope that my therapist would tell me what to do to fix things! But the purpose of therapy is for the therapist to help you find your own unique solutions.
- criticises your family members and friends.
- does not appear to empathise with you. Being empathised with is one of the essential ingredients of what makes counselling work so it is very important.
- comes across as cold, unfriendly and uncaring.
- doesn’t treat you with respect/puts you down/ridicules you.
- fails to check in with you about how you think your counselling is progressing.
- emphasises techniques over looking at the underlying causes of your issues. I personally call this the “sticking plaster approach” and believe that addressing symptoms and core issues are both important in therapy.
- does not take a collaborative approach to working with you. If you were going to see a surgeon, solicitor or accountant, you would expect them to be in the driving seat. But going to see a counsellor is different. They are not there to do something to you. They are there to work along beside you using the therapeutic relationship as the vehicle to helping you. And you have a part to play in making the experience successful.
- judges or criticises you. Most of us do this well enough for ourselves without paying someone to do it for us!
- behaves in a way that gives the impression that they believe they are superior human beings, who are “sorted”. We are all works in progress, therapists included. Many of us who join the helping professions do so because of difficulties we have experienced in our own lives. The term “wounded healers”, from Jungian psychology, is sometimes used to describe us.
- appears to be acting a role/lacks authenticity. No one likes a phoney!
- prevents you from talking about the issues that are important to you. At the end of the day, you know where it hurts!
- gives you the impression that some topics, such as talking about your sexual issues, are off limit.
- tries to force you to talk about issues you are not ready to talk about.
- does not ask your permission to use techniques in the session e.g. role play or explains them properly to you.
- allows the sessions to become mainly an occasion for chit chat.
- works in a way that does not really fit or make sense to you.
- can’t provide you with an explanation of how their way of doing therapy helps to bring about change.
- disparages other methods and techniques of doing therapy. Research has shown that no one method or school of therapy is better than any another.
- has never been a client in counselling or therapy himself or herself. There is a debate over whether it is important for counsellors and therapists to have had therapy themselves. I believe that it is important. Everyone has issues and therapists are no exception. Personally, I would not be a client of someone who had not had his or her own therapy. In addition to that, having been in therapy at several points during my life, has taught me far more about being a counsellor than anything else, including courses, supervision or books.
- is overly challenging and confrontational.
- never challenges you.
- promises or guarantees results or a successful outcome. This is unethical. There are too many variables involved in what makes therapy successful to be able to say whether it will definitely help you. These include your own resources, the therapeutic relationship, your expectancy that counselling will help, and your therapist’s contribution. However, it is safe to say that research has shown that 4 out of 5 people who engage in therapy do benefit.
- is constantly late for, or cancels appointments, regularly.
- breaches your confidentiality. This is a very big one. Therapists must keep what you tell them completely confidential, with a few exceptions. Your therapist should never reveal what you have told them without your express permission or unless they are required to do so by law.
- discloses the identity of their other clients to you.
- has a dual relationship with you. You and you therapist should not have other roles, outwith the therapeutic relationship, which connect you.
- when they ask you for feedback or you offer them feedback about how you think the therapy is going, they become defensive or argumentative.
- after giving them feedback about what you would like to be different in how the therapy is being conducted, they give you more of the same.
- blames you for therapy not working.
- acts in a way that seems punitive.
- does not acknowledge when they may have made a mistake, apologise as appropriate, or try to repair any damage they may have caused.
- tries to prevent you from stopping therapy when you want to.
- ends therapy with you abruptly.
- forgets that you have the right to leave therapy when you want to.
- tries to make you dependent on them.
- forgets that as well as being a client, you are also a consumer and deserve good customer service.
- fails to return your calls or emails/takes ages to get back to you.
- neglects to see you as much more than your problems. You are much, much more!
Raising issues that you may be unhappy about regarding the counselling or therapy, you are receiving, is sometimes easier said than done.
But it is important that you do speak up.
Doing so can help you to get what you want and need from your counsellor.
You are making an important investment of time, money and effort. You deserve the best possible service so that you can heal, grow and move on to living a healthier and happier life.
Interested in counselling in the Glasgow area? Call 07970 860 711 today to set up an appointment.