emotional wellbeing

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Dr. Lily Le Ph.D., R. Psych


What to Do When You’re Not Connecting with Your Therapist

PUBLISHED May 28th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Jul 20th, 2023

Sometimes there’s just a moment when you’re sitting in your therapist’s office and thinking to yourself “I don’t think this is working.” It could be something as simple as the two of you not clicking, or as difficult as your therapist not making you feel seen, heard and understood. Either way, recognizing that your therapist isn’t right for you is totally okay! It’s better to acknowledge when something isn’t helping you than to continue the therapeutic relationship while silently feeling uneasy.

How Do You Know If Your Therapist Isn’t Right for You?

In some cases, it’s super clear that your therapist isn’t the right fit for you. In other cases, it’s a bit harder to figure out. Since everyone is unique and we all go to therapy for different reasons, you’re going to have to determine for yourself what your most important factors are. But let’s help you through that! Here is a list of things you might consider really important when deciding if your current therapist is the right fit for you:

  • You feel like you can share with them and be your authentic self
  • They have expertise treating your presenting concerns
  • You feel validated, seen, heard and understood in your sessions with them
  • They respect your boundaries and meet you at your current stage in your healing journey
  • You feel comfortable with their modality (e.g. CBT) and approach as a therapist (e.g. using humour in sessions)
  • They ask for or are receptive to your feedback and make adjustments in sessions based on what is working well or isn’t working well

This list covers a few of the foundational elements that are needed for a really great client-therapist relationship but it isn’t exhaustive! You might have other things that you’d like to add that are specific to you — for example, say you definitely want a therapist that is okay with swearing in session and using very casual language. Other examples might include that you want a therapist that has professional and/or lived experience in working with bi-cultural identities, or with racialized communities, or with 2SLGBTQIA+ folks, etc.! Take a minute to jot down the things that would make you feel like you found the right fit in a therapy relationship and use that to figure out if your current therapist makes the cut.

Now, some of you might not be able to fully label whyyyy the vibes are off but you just know that the vibes are definitely off and this therapist is not for you. That’s okay too! At the end of the day, being comfortable around your therapist is important to the therapy outcome so if you feel strongly that you’re not connecting with them, it might affect your progress. We’ll walk you through the next steps if this is the case a bit further below.

Things to Keep in Mind

As you’re thinking through whether your current therapist is a good fit for you or not, we have a few other tips that might help you come to a conclusion. Consider these other factors:

  • Sometimes it could take a few sessions for clients and therapists to develop a relationship and get to know each other (just like when you meet other people too!). If you’ve only attended one session with them, consider if the lack of fit is related to you feeling vulnerable and discomfort in therapy in general, or if it’s something about this particular therapist. If the former, you may consider if you might want to give it a bit more time.
  • On occasion, therapists may challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone a bit if it is related to your therapeutic goal. The key word there is “a bit”, which means only when they’ve already established a relationship with you and they deem it appropriate for your treatment. Rising to a challenge is how we grow! However, if it doesn’t sit well with you, or the timing is off, don’t be afraid to let them know.
  • Therapists will sometimes ask you to do exercises that you don’t see the value in or that you may find tedious, annoying, etc. This is part of the process! If you trust your therapist and have taken strides in your work together already, consider the benefits of doing the exercise even if you don’t see the merit yet. If it’s pushing your boundaries more than what feels right, communicate that to them and they will adjust as needed.

What to Do When You’re Not Connecting with Your Therapist

If you’ve made it to this point in the article and still think “nope, I can’t imagine connecting with my therapist that way”, then it’s time for the next step: talking to them about it. 

We can see your anxiety level rising through the screen after reading that and honestly, we totally get it. Having this type of conversation can feel sooo overwhelming! But just remember that you’re having it with a therapist, someone who is literally trained for moments like these and can understand how difficult it is for you. Here’s how to go about it.

1. Be Honest About Your Concerns

Honesty really is the best (and the hardest) policy. If you’re already in a session with them, the best approach is to tell your therapist exactly what is and isn’t working! Either it’ll be within their ability to adjust their therapy style to better suit what your needs are, or you may have to part ways. Just remember that your therapist won’t ever hold it against you or make you feel guilty for ending the therapy relationship. They truly want what’s best for you!

2. Decide If You Want to Communicate Your Decision to End Therapy

If it feels appropriate for you, you can let your therapist know you don’t plan on returning. This may depend on how long you’ve seen the therapist, the nature of your work together, and your own personal preference. You can do it face-to-face if you’re already in a session or send an e-mail. It may benefit you if you feel like you want to give the therapist feedback and closure, or feel like you want that closure for yourself. 

However, know that you absolutely do not have to talk with them if you do not want to. Although therapists have a duty of care to their clients, you are not held to the same standards. So if you wanted to peace out without saying anything, you totally can and a lot of clients do it all the time. Therapists know and accept that that there are a multitude of reasons why someone decides not return to therapy.

3. Ask for a Referral 

Believe it or not, a lot of therapists know other therapists. So, if it’s reeeeally not a good fit, ask your therapist to refer you to another one. There won’t be any hard feelings because they want you to get the best outcome from therapy that you possibly can. And if another therapist is the way to do that, then they’ll defs help you out! 

What to Do If You Have Concerns About Your Therapist

If your therapist says something that makes you uncomfortable or does something to offend you, you can consider bringing this up with them. If there is a rupture in the relatinship that can be repaired, research shows that the therapeutic relationship is enhanced thereafter.

However, if you feel you have been harmed by your therapist or they may be practicing unethically, you can file a complaint with the regulatory colleges. For instance, registered psychologists and registered social workers must be registered under a college in order to practice. Regulatory colleges exist to serve and protect the public. If you search their website, you can find and follow the steps to file a complaint. 

We’ll leave you with one last nugget of advice — your needs matter and your therapist should do everything in their power to support you, including hearing your feedback and helping you find support from a different therapist.

Read More: 7 Helpful Ways to Take a Social Media Break, 5 Signs of Emotional Abuse & What to Do Next,