I’ve received a number of calls and emails from people indicating they’re looking for a new therapist because they’re disappointed in the work with their current therapist. My first question is usually, “What were you hoping would happen when you began your work with them?” To which many reply, “That I would get better. I thought they would understand me.” Therein lies the beginning of disspointment.
Let’s begin with a hard truth you may not be ready to hear: You have issues. It may help ease the blow to know that we ALL have issues. In fact, I believe there is probably one truly neurotic person in the city of Chicago whereas the rest of us struggle with our emotions and childhood to some significant degree. When it comes to feeling disappointment, the desire to feel understood is at the top of the ‘emotional struggle’ list.
How does this relate to having a disappointing therapist? Well, no one can make us feel anything that is not already there. They can only stir up what has already been experienced: sadness, joy, excitement, anger, fear, disappointment, betrayal, shame, powerlessness, et cetera. The only thing people, including therapists, can often unknowingly do, is stir them up … again. The behavior, responses, comments or facial expressions of others often trigger certain experiences that in turn flood us with certain emotions.
Now before you click off this page, hear me out. Some therapists are absolutely disappointing – even the good ones. The disappointment can be the result of lack of experience, training, interest or burn out. This is why you have to be selective in how you choose a therapist. (I’ll write another blog on that later). The point I want to make is that disappointments with your therapist are actually part of the work and present an opportunity for you to work through unresolved issues.
The key to transforming your disappointment in your therapist into growth and healing is for you to tell them how you feel about your work and why. It may seem like a no brainer but it really is that simple. How your therapist responds to your disclosure can either deepen your disappointment or instill hope and relief. If you feel the disappointment continue over time then it may be time to talk with your therapist about whether or not they feel they are able to help you get through this impasse. Sometimes it has less to do with whether a therapist is good or not but whether the work has run its course, your needs have evolved, or the fit is no longer there.
As always, best wishes to those who are brave enough to begin their journey to emotional health and wellness!