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  • Gary Malone, LMFT

When to Fire Your Counselor

I have this theory about why people enjoy Chick-fil-A so much. It isn’t the food albeit it is tasty. It deals with the one thing I’ve never experienced in a CFA restaurant and that is bad customer service. Ever. I’m greeted with a smile and a “Welcome to Chick-fil-A” when I walk in the door, the cashiers are always friendly, and workers even stop by my table and ask if I need a refill. I am not saying CFA is perfect in how they serve their customers, I’ve just never heard anything less than.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case in most service oriented professions…including mental health.

I get it. It’s probably a faux pas to bad-talk professionals in one’s own career, even if they do provide subpar service, but not all of us are cut from the same cloth. You need to know what are red flags that may mean you aren’t getting the best help during your course of treatment. You then have the right to discuss your concerns with your therapist and even ask for a referral if you believe you could be best helped elsewhere. I should note in the mental health world, like other service oriented professions, the bad apples are few and far between.

Below is a list of red flags that make for an ineffective therapist, followed by a green flag of an effective one. For simplicity sakes, RED means not good, GREEN means good.

RED FLAG: Talks a lot about themselves.

GREEN FLAG: Being fully engaged in your story and your problems

RED FLAG: Always telling you what to do.

GREEN FLAG: Empowering you by helping build your cognitive skills to make good decisions

RED FLAG: Imposing their religious, spiritual, political, or social beliefs on you.

GREEN FLAG: Respecting your belief system.

RED FLAG: Over diagnosing

GREEN FLAG: Having the discernment to know when a diagnosis is helpful and beneficial and when it is not (outside of insurance purposes).

RED FLAG: Feeling shame or judgement from their words or attitude.

GREEN FLAG: Being fully accepted and respected simply for being a human being

RED FLAG: Being overly sensitive or unresponsive to criticism or feedback

GREEN FLAG: Being open to hearing your concerns and seeking understanding

OTHER RED FLAGS: Inappropriate touching, constantly checking their phone during your session, cutting your time short, frequently checking the time, don’t remember your name or details from previous visits, or asking to hang out outside of your sessions.

If, by chance, you currently see a therapist who exhibits some of the red flags above don’t hesitate to discuss this with them. The majority of counselors out there want the best for you and will actually appreciate you voicing your concerns.

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