As the field of therapy expands in Pakistan, there is still a dearth of understanding among clients about what it means to see a good therapist and whether or not they are working for you, practicing ethically, and avoiding red flags. There has been a lot of discussion in the last year or so about unethical/unqualified therapists, as well as those who have the credentials but are deemed “poor” therapists. Of course, things aren’t always so simple. In this post, we’ll discuss the distinctions between what’s acceptable and what’s regarded “poor” or unethical therapy. Furthermore, we advise all potential clients to inquire about therapists’ credentials — you have the right to know.
LACK OF ATTENTIVENESS IS A RED FLAG.
One of the most important qualities of any therapist is their ability to actively listen. They may occasionally misunderstand what you’ve said and ask you to repeat yourself, but if this happens frequently, it’s not a good indicator. A therapist should be able to respond empathically to your material, ask follow-up questions, and possibly even repeat what you’re saying to ensure that they’re listening when you’re in the therapeutic space.
THE GREEN FLAG MEANS YOU ARE SAFE AND HEARD.
A therapist should be able to provide a client with a safe, nonjudgmental, and open environment in which to open up and express themselves. While it may take some time for one to open up, it’s vital to be aware of how you feel in a location – and if you feel safe, that’s a good sign.
BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY: RED FLAG
The foundation of therapy is confidentiality, and it’s safe to assume that breaking it is a major red sign. So, if you ever discover that your therapist is violating confidentiality*, this is potentially harmful and should be reported to their regulatory body/association.
*In rare circumstances, such as if a client is a danger to themselves, confidentiality can be compromised, but the therapist must notify the client beforehand.
GREEN FLAG: YOU ARE FEELING EMPOWERED AND ARE BEGINNING TO TRUST YOURSELF MORE.
While we work on the client’s goals, the goal for us as therapists is to give them the room and freedom to investigate things for themselves, allowing them to grow and trusting their intuition and instincts. As a result, it’s critical to ask yourself: do I believe my therapist is capable of providing me with the space I need to grow? Do I feel empowered and protected in their presence?
RED FLAG: THE THERAPIST IS SHARING TOO MUCH INFORMATION
Therapists are usually cautious when it comes to self-disclosure. While they may divulge information about themselves at times, it is only done on rare occasions and for the goal of strengthening the therapeutic partnership. This can be a red signal if a therapist starts disclosing details about their personal lives that are unrelated to the client or the work. The focus of therapy is on the client, not the therapist.
CHECKING IN WITH A GREEN FLAG
Therapy, particularly long-term therapy, can sometimes come to a halt, make slow progress, or even reach a point when a client has achieved their goals and no longer requires therapy. In either situation, a therapist will check in with a client and possibly perform a brief overview of the work so far to assess where it needs to go, or even suggest an ending – in any case, they are working in the best interests of the client.
RED FLAG: PRESSING THE CLIENT OR FORCING THEM TO SET THEIR OWN AGENDA
Therapists may encourage their clients to explore regions that they are unwilling to explore in order to move the treatment ahead. While therapists may recommend that clients explore tough issues, a skilled therapist will respect the client’s wishes.
GREEN FLAG: YOU ARE AWARENESS OF CHANGES IN YOURSELF (POSITIVE)
One of the most telling signs that treatment is working for you is that you start to detect improvements – while the trip may not be linear, you observe some semblance of development and a sense of healing.
RED FLAG: WITH YOUR THERAPIST, YOU FEEL JUDGED, ANXIOUS, AND UNSURE.
One thing we would advise is to trust your instincts when it comes to treatment. If you find yourself feeling worried before a session, or if you believe your therapist is judging you in any manner, it’s time to change. Therapy is supposed to feel safe and comfortable, and if such feelings aren’t there, something is obviously wrong!
GREEN FLAG: EMPATHETIC, CHALLENGING, AND ENCOURAGING THERAPIST
Good therapists can strike a balance between taking a gentler approach and knowing when to push a client. It’s necessary for a therapist not to be overly demanding to the point of being aggressive or judgmental, but it’s also important for them not to be too passive, as this can obstruct the work. They should be encouraging, supportive of your viewpoints, and eager to listen to your ideas with open minds and unconditional positive regard.
Before You Begin Therapy, Use This Checklist
- The therapist has received training in one of the following areas.
- Has a Master’s or Ph.D. in Psychology, Counseling Psychology, or Mental Health.
- Has completed specialized training (Diploma/Advanced Diploma) in therapeutic counselling from a recognized institute that is approved by a regulatory organization.
- Therapists are governed by a governing authority (BACP, CCPA, APA, ACA)
- The therapist is being observed.
Before your first session, you might also ask the following questions:
- Have you ever worked with a client who had a problem similar to mine?
- In your profession, what issues have you dealt with?
- Have you honed your skills in a certain area of therapy?
- Have you been practicing for a long time?
- Inquire about the therapist’s methods (if you’re seeking for a specific type of therapy).
- What should I expect from our first meeting?
- What charges do you have?
- What is the therapy’s frequency?