Are you feeling stuck in your therapy sessions, as if you’re speaking but not being heard? Have you been questioning whether it’s time to find a new therapist or counselor?
If so, you need to know that such questions are not just common — they’re an essential part of your mental health journey.
As mental health care is becoming increasingly common, many people find themselves questioning the effectiveness of their current therapeutic relationship.
In fact, a study in Clinical Psychology in Europe found that 8.89% of patients drop out of therapy before completing treatment (Kullgard et al., 2022). Often, this is due to a mismatch with their therapist.
If you’ve been concerned about a lack of progress, emotional disconnect, or a vague sense of aimlessness in your therapy sessions, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll outline 6 key signs that it might be time to look for a new counselor or therapist.
6 signs it might be time to find a new therapist
1) You’re not making progress
If you’ve been attending therapy for a significant period and haven’t noticed any positive changes, it’s a first sign that you need to take a step back to evaluate.
- Are you still struggling with the same issues that brought you to therapy in the first place?
- Have you and your therapist reviewed your treatment plan lately?
When it comes to therapy, progress may not always be linear, but it should be tangible. This means that you should be able to notice specific improvements in your mental health, relationships, or coping mechanisms.
Perhaps you started therapy with specific goals in mind — better-managing anxiety, improving relationships, or overcoming trauma. As time goes on, it’s natural to expect signs of improvement.
For instance, achieving minor goals, feeling more equipped to handle emotional challenges, or even noting changes in your thought patterns can be signs of progress. But what if these signs are absent?
Then it might signal a mismatch in therapeutic methods or even a lack of expertise for your specific concerns.
2) You don’t feel emotionally connected
The therapist-patient bond has always been considered a cornerstone of effective therapy. In fact, even psychological theories and models have emphasized its significance for decades. For instance, Carl Rogers, a pioneer in the field of humanistic psychology, pointed out the importance of “unconditional positive regard,” empathy, and genuine engagement between therapist and client as essential components for therapeutic change.
The thing is that when you don’t feel emotionally connected to your therapist, it creates a barrier that can hinder your progress. Think about it: therapy often involves revealing your most intimate thoughts, feelings, and experiences. If you can’t establish a strong emotional bond with your counselor, it’s likely that you’ll hold back, consciously or unconsciously.
This can limit the depth of conversations and, consequently, the effectiveness of your therapy sessions.
The absence of emotional connection can manifest in several ways:
- You may find yourself repeatedly checking the clock during sessions, counting down the minutes until you can leave.
- You might feel anxious, uncomfortable, or simply indifferent when sharing your thoughts.
- It’s also possible that you don’t feel heard or understood which leads to a sense of isolation rather than relief after a session.
On the other hand, a strong therapist-patient bond can serve as a “secure base” from which you can explore complex emotions and challenges.
3) You can’t have difficult conversations with your therapist
Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the most fundamental aspects of counseling is the ability to have difficult conversations. This means that you should be able to talk about uncomfortable or challenging subjects openly, knowing that your therapist is equipped to guide you through them.
The reason is that the basic purpose of therapy is to move beyond surface-level issues and dive deep into the root causes of your emotional or psychological challenges. But if you find yourself hesitating to bring up certain topics, or notice that your therapist changes the subject when things get intense, it’s a red flag.
Remember that therapy should be a safe space where you can explore your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment or discomfort. And a therapist who avoids difficult conversations may lack the skills or experience to guide you effectively.
4) You don’t know what you are working toward
Are you clear about what you’re trying to achieve in your therapy sessions?
If the answer is no, you may be missing an essential component of effective therapy: a well-defined treatment plan.
A successful therapeutic journey has to be goal-oriented. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every session needs a checklist of topics to cover. However, a therapist should help a client develop specific objectives taht will guide the entire process. Therefore, if you find that your sessions don’t have a clear focus, you likely don’t have a well-defined treatment plan. Why this is important?
Because without clear goals, it’s hard to measure progress or even understand what progress would look like for you. So, if you’re in this situation, it may be time to find a therapist who can help you establish and work toward more meaningful objectives.
5) Your therapist crosses boundaries
Maintaining professional boundaries is not only a cornerstone of effective therapy but also an ethical requirement. If your therapist crosses these boundaries, it raises ethical concerns. The American Psychological Association has a Code of Ethics designed to ensure the integrity and safety of the therapeutic relationship. The American Counseling Association, National Association of Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapist Association have similar ethical codes.
Here are some of the boundaries your therapist shouldn’t be crossing:
- Making inappropriate comments
- Sharing too much about their own life
- Attempting to connect with you on social media
- Offering to meet you in non-professional settings
- Violating confidentiality
If you experience a violation of any of these ethical standards, it’s a compelling sign that you should seek a new therapist who adheres to these important guidelines.
6) Your therapist seems disinterested or distracted
The final sign we’re going to discuss that may indicate it’s time to find a new therapist is if your current one seems disinterested or distracted.
Active listening and engagement are non-negotiables in a therapeutic relationship. The reason is that the quality of your therapy sessions can be significantly impacted by a therapist’s level of engagement.
For example, if your therapist frequently checks the clock, scrolls through their phone, forgets details you’ve previously shared or appears to zone out during your discussions, these are serious red flags. First of all, such behavior is counterproductive as it undermines the therapy process. But also, it raises a question about their commitment to your mental well-being.
So, if this sounds familiar, it’s a strong indicator that you should seek a therapist capable of providing the focused, personalized care you deserve.
The importance of a good fit between therapist & client
So, after going through these signs that it might be time for a new therapist, you’re probably wondering why finding the right fit is so crucial.
Believe it or not, studies have found that the quality of the therapist-client relationship really does affect your outcomes (e.g., Zilcha-Mano et al., 2015). Specifically, a good fit fosters a trusting, open environment where clients feel safe to delve into sensitive issues. This emotional safety is critical for transformative change.
Moreover, a strong therapist-client bond can lead to more effective therapeutic interventions and recommendations. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of positive outcomes.
What to do next
If you’ve recognized any of the signs we’ve discussed and are considering a change, know that you have options.
At Health for Life Counseling, we understand the importance of a good therapist-client fit. That’s why you can choose any of our skilled therapists who specialize in various areas of mental health. And if you ever feel like the match isn’t quite right, we make it easy for you to transition to another therapist within our practice.
Keep in mind that we accept a wide range of health insurance plans to make your path to wellness as accessible as possible. These include Blue Care Network, United Healthcare, Golden Rule, UMR, and many more.