15 Things I Learned From Bad Therapy Experiences

In the month of May I dedicated blogs to mental health. I believe it is a very important component of success and living a great life. We must be able to face our fears, our past, and create clarity for ourselves. Therapy has the power to bring all of that for us. However, not all therapist are created equal. And not all therapy forms are for everyone. I have been in therapy three different times for three different reasons and they all left a bitter taste of what therapy can do for someone. So why do I press this concept of therapy? I realized a couple of things about my therapy experiences that helped me understand that finding a good therapist is a process. However, if personal development can help us get clarity and allow us to reach success, I believe it is worth it. I want to share my experiences and the 15 things I learned about therapy.

First Experience

The first time I was ever introduced to therapy was in a time when I really needed someone to talk to. My marriage was failing, the environment we had created was beyond toxic. I still held an undocumented status in the country and so many more other things were going on at the time and to be very open with you I was considering suicide. ( That is a topic for another blog and I will write about that experience very soon) I began to see this therapist who was also seeing other family members of his family. From the beginning it was clear to me the practice was unethical. She referenced their therapy experiences with me. I could have said, “yes, I know it’s a family thing and not me.” However, that wasn’t going to save my marriage! Also, if she was sharing what they talked about in their therapy it was almost guaranteed she did the same about my therapy sessions. But what disappointed me the most was her encouragement to stay in toxic relationship based on my legal status at the time. I walked away after that.

Second Experience

I was in the middle of my immigration process and I was ordered to get cleared by a specified psychologist. It was part of my immigration clearing. I had to get fully checked physically and mentally. When I stepped into therapy I was nervous, worried, I felt as if I was about to take a test and needed to pass. I couldn’t really open up. The therapist was kind and understanding but I never felt at ease. I only opened up about the things he asked and I second guessed myself. Its like when you are driving and a cop gets behind you. You might not have done anything wrong but you can’t help but hold the steering wheel with both hands and check how fast you were going. That’s kind of how I felt. He offered his services after he cleared me but I just couldn’t open up to him after that.

Third experience

This time I picked the therapist, it was through a reliable source. So, what went wrong? Throughout our time together I actually went deep. We talked about my childhood and events in my life I didn’t talk about with other therapist. The problem is that when explaining my upbringing there was this cultural disconnect. It became very obvious when the time came to talk about my immigration process. She couldn’t believe they had given me my residency and her disbelieve made me realize she wasn’t the therapist for me. I needed someone that could understand an immigrant, a Latina, and someone that went through various traumas.

Now, even though these experiences didn’t go as I had hoped, I learned so much. I learned what a therapist shouldn’t be, what a good therapist really is, the red flags to look for and the process of finding a good one. Like I said, I need someone that can understand the immigrant, Latina with various traumas. That’s a tall order and I get that. I know it will take time but I know it will be worth it. So…

What I learned

  1. Not all therapist are created equal. Every therapist specializes in certain things. Some will specialize in trauma, or family issues, or PTSD. Make sure your therapist specializes in the area you need help in.
  2. Therapy is confidential, if your therapist is sharing specifics about other therapy sessions, walk away! They most likely will do the same with your therapy sessions. That is unethical and that is not what you need ( know that “I had a client in a similar situation” is different from “your tia has that same issue and she said”……)
  3. I know as Latinos we are use to receiving recommendations and hookups from family members but make sure they are creditable. Remember that you are putting your mental health in their hands.
  4. You must feel comfortable or it will never work. This is someone you will go deep with, make sure they make you feel at ease.
  5. As a Latina I want to find a Latina therapist. I want to find someone that understands my cultural background and can really navigate certain references or cultural norms. Make sure your therapist is able to understand you.
  6. There should be clarity in the process. A good therapist will ask what your objective of therapy is. What are you trying to achieve with therapy?
  7. After talking about your objectives they should be able to tell you how they can help you get there. This can be from techniques, different styles of therapy etc.
  8. In therapy you will be challenged. Your therapist might ask you questions to go deeper into an issue. However, they should never press by making you feel bad.
  9. Boundaries must be respected. If you are not ready to talk about a certain issue that should be respected.
  10. A therapist should never tell you what to do, their job is to guide you so you can make your own decisions.
  11. There should be clarity through out the process. If you understand the whys of your behavior, it will be easier to rectify them.
  12. A good therapist should never tell you to stay in a toxic environment.
  13. You must be ready to put in the work. If you want to really create change in your life, the work must be done.
  14. Therapy is not easy. You will cry at times, its okay. That just means there is growth happening.
  15. Finding the right therapist might take time but it will be worth it.

Keep these tips in mind when going to therapy and I wish you the best of luck. Remember, you can do this!

Written by: Lupita G.

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