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Counselling: What to do if you’ve had a bad experience

Feb 13, 2020Psychology, Counselling & Psychotherapy0 comments

Counselling. What to do if you've had a bad experience

Counsellors can offer so much valuable, life-changing support for clients who are going through something tough. Be it trauma, mental health concerns, life coaching, or simply just getting some help working through life’s trials, tribulations, and your personal goals, counselling can help people to overcome hurdles and start leading the lives they’ve been hoping for. Unfortunately, however, there are all too many horror stories about bad counselling experiences. And a bad experience in counselling can turn people off counselling for good. But it needn’t. Here’s what to do if you’ve had a bad counselling experience.

1. Don’t blame yourself

The first reaction of most people who’ve had a bad experience with counselling is to think, “counselling must just not be for me.” However, nothing could be further from the truth. Counselling is something that should be open to everyone – no matter what you’re going through – and should be tailored to suit the needs of every individual. Never assume that you’re “not the right type of person” for counselling. You just may not have found the right counsellor yet.

2. Not every counsellor is right for you

Although they may be highly qualified and experienced, not all counsellors have the same approach or style of counselling. Only you can decide if your counsellor is right for you. Ask yourself some questions about your counsellor, including:

  • Do I feel safe and free from judgement in my sessions with the counsellor?
  • Do they make me feel supported, heard, and understood?
  • Do they have the experience and expertise I’m looking for?
  • Are they offering me the kind of real, actionable solutions that I feel can really help me?
  • Do I feel encouraged to open up, try new things, and make positive changes in my life?

If your answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then you might need to consider finding a new counsellor. Which leads us to our next couple of points.

3. Do some self-reflection

If you’re not feeling good about the experiences you’ve had with a counsellor, it could be that he or she is not the right therapist for you. However, it is also a good time to do some self-reflection and try to unpack exactly why you’re not feeling good about your experiences so far. This will help you to determine a couple of things;

  1. What it is that you’re looking for (and not getting) in a counsellor
  2. Whether or not your feelings of discomfort are a result of the counsellor’s approach, or because it’s bringing up some uncomfortable truths for you

One thing is for certain: seeing a counsellor should help to make you feel better, more empowered, and ready to tackle your life with greater success. If your counselling sessions are making you feel demotivated, vulnerable, and lacking a sense of personal power, then you’re not being served by your counsellor. However, if you’re simply finding that the process of counselling is bringing up some difficult issues which are uncomfortable for you, your negative feelings might have more to do with these feelings being brought to light. A good counsellor will help you to overcome your personal struggles by bringing up some uncomfortable feelings, but importantly, they will give you the tools to manage these feelings and overcome these struggles. If you don’t feel as though your counsellor is doing this for you, our next point is crucial.

4. You are allowed to find a different counsellor if you’re not satisfied

Unfortunately, many people who have a bad experience during counselling think that they have two choices: 1) To keep seeing their counsellor and feeling uncomfortable about it, or 2) To quit going to counselling altogether. Fortunately, neither of these things is true! Whether you’ve been referred to a counsellor by your doctor, or you’ve found your own by searching for one in your area, you are absolutely allowed to see someone else if you’re not feeling good about your counselling experiences. Go back to your GP and ask for a new referral, or get online and start hunting down someone new.

5. Do your homework

When it comes to finding a counsellor that’s right for you, there are a few key things to take into account. First of all, find out what qualifications and specialties a counsellor has before going to see them. Every counsellor should have details of their experience and qualifications available for potential clients (on their website, for example). A counsellor’s website is also a great place to find out more information on the areas that a counsellor specialises in and can also give you a feel for how they approach counselling. Do some reading through their website, and you’ll soon have a good idea of the counsellor themselves. Another great thing to look for is reviews. Although no one can tell you who’s going to be the right counsellor for you, reading the reviews for a counsellor can give you a deeper understanding of how they work and what their past clients have experienced.

6. Reach out

If you’re seeking help from a counsellor but are feeling vulnerable and anxious about seeing a new counsellor after an initial bad experience, the best thing you can do is to pick up the phone or send in a contact form to a new counsellor. You’re under no obligation to jump in, head-first, if you’re not sure about opening up to someone new. Instead, get in touch first, and either have a phone conversation or ask a few questions via email before booking an appointment. If you’re looking for some reassurance that a new counsellor is a good fit for you, they will be able to set your mind at ease and book you into your first session once they’ve laid your worries to rest.

7. Be open to trying

Finally, be open to giving a new counsellor a try, if your first experience wasn’t for you. Book in for an appointment with your new therapist and go in with an open heart and mind. Most importantly, tell them about your past bad experience and let them know that you’ve been hesitant to try again. This will help your new counsellor to understand more about you, and how they can best help.

If you’ve had a bad experience with counselling the past, or if you’ve been thinking about seeing a counsellor for the first time, get in touch with us today at Integrated Health Specialists. Take a look through our website and read more about our experience, the kinds of symptoms we treat, and the services and programs we offer. You might like to take a look at some of our other blog articles too! These can be an excellent resource and are full of helpful information.

Michelle van Namen

Author: Michelle van Namen