Mad at your therapist? Tell them!

So you start a new therapeutic relationship with a psychologist who, all things considered, seems good. You have conversations and you get to know each other. Of course your therapist might likely know more about your life’s content than you do about theirs but that’s the way it has to be for understandable reasons (I mean, I’m not going to take time to tell a client that I just finished that last season of Orange is the New Black and then argued with my fiancé about how much I thought it sucked). You will, however, get to understand how your therapist does his or her job. You will feel their level of knowledge, expertise, compassion, and empathy, to name a few things.

Now, what happens if your therapist says something you don’t like? I’ll never forget talking to one of my clients about another therapist he had seen in the past. He voiced, “She just didn’t listen to me and would never agree with what I was saying. We would always butt heads and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like her so I never went back.” He would also display this kind of dislike and mistrust with his physicians. We therefore found that he was constantly changing healthcare practitioners because he “didn’t like them, was angry with them, and never went back.” Was I the next “victim?”

Ladies and gentlemen, I can’t stress this enough. If you have a problem with your psychologist or therapist or doctor, TELL THEM! Telling your psychologist that you are angry with them, instead of just leaving, is a therapeutic goldmine. If you do this with a good therapist, one of two things will happen. 1) If the therapist did, in fact, do something that offended you, he or she will acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and talk about for as long as it is needed. The therapist will engage is good conflict resolution with you, which is such an important tool to use in the real world. 2) However sometimes, as in the case of my client above, the problem is not with the therapist but is, in fact, with the client. If you do not like your therapist and have a history of generally not liking your healthcare practitioners, you need to talk about this problem. If the therapist did not commit an offense, a good therapist will address the client’s anger and mistrust with diligent care. I can’t tell you how much of an amazing intervention this is! The client’s pattern of dislike, avoidance, and escape could easily mimic what happens in real life. He gets mad at people, avoids them and leaves, never to come back. If this pattern manifests with a therapist, the therapist has an opportunity to help the client work through avoidance and escape by lovingly questioning the behavior in the absence of judgement and abandonment. In the real world, behavior like this is not favored by people. In social relationships, this person’s behavior is likely not tolerated, judged, and discarded. A psychologist, however, will loving stay alongside the client as they get mad, avoid, and attempt to leave. This is a beautifully rare opportunity to legitimately help this client work through his, likely heartbreaking, social pattern.         

In sum, if you have the strength to do it, please talk to your therapist about anything that you are feeling, even if you are feeling anger towards them. I’m telling you that if you work on your anger and faulty social assumptions and judgements, you’ll find healthier relationships with people who support you and stick with you through thick and thin.  

Anna-Maria Tosco, or our Sassy Psychologist, has two masters degrees in the field of psychology and has studied and worked coast to coast. She has worked in both psychiatric and community settings in some of Montreal's most respected healthcare organizations and institutions, and has also given a variety of talks and workshops on neuroplasticity, meditation, and uncovering barriers to love.