What should I do if I don't agree with my therapist?
Therapy is a great place for personal growth, healing and making positive changes in your life. But what happens when you find yourself disagreeing with your therapist? Is it OK to question their methods or challenge their perspective?
At the risk of spoilers, the answer is yes – it’s absolutely OK to disagree with your therapist. Not to say it can’t be complicated or difficult but, ultimately, it can actually be a valuable aspect of the therapeutic process as well as supporting your own growth and goals.
The therapeutic alliance: A foundation of trust
The therapeutic process is centred around establishing a strong and ethical working relationship between you and your therapist. This relationship, also known as the therapeutic alliance, is crucial for achieving your therapeutic goals. It is based on trust, mutual respect, confidentiality and collaboration.
Therapists who follow frameworks such as the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy's (BACP) Ethical Framework place great emphasis on creating safe and non-judgmental spaces for you to express your thoughts and feelings.
Embracing open dialogue
It’s OK to disagree with your therapist and it doesn’t mean therapy has failed or that you’re a difficult client. Expressing disagreement can strengthen the relationship and uncover underlying issues and assumptions that may be slowing down or preventing progress. Therapeutic theories, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), person-centred therapy or psychodynamic therapy, encourage open dialogue and exploration of differing perspectives as core aspects of the process.
What are the benefits of disagreement?
Disagreeing with your therapist can help you reflect on your values, beliefs, and goals. It can clarify what’s important and deepen your understanding of your thoughts and emotions.
Engaging in respectful disagreement opens avenues for collaborative exploration, and encourages broader discussions, alternative viewpoints and consideration of different therapeutic approaches. Your therapist should be able to adapt their strategies based on your feedback.
Different perspectives can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand. Examining conflicting viewpoints can give everyone new insights and promote growth and understanding by challenging existing assumptions or biases.
Most therapists belong to membership organisations such as the BACP. These organisations have ethical frameworks or equivalents that members must adhere to to ensure ethical practice in therapy. It can be helpful to have some of these ethical considerations in mind:
Respect and autonomy
Both the client and therapist have a responsibility to respect each other’s autonomy. Clients have the right to express their concerns and be active participants in the therapeutic process. Therapists must respect a client’s right to disagree and seek alternative paths.
The therapist’s responsibility is to prioritise the well-being of the client. Any disagreements should be handled with empathy and sensitivity. Therapists should create a safe environment that encourages openness and ensures that the client does not experience harm or distress.
Ethical frameworks stress the importance of maintaining professional boundaries. Therapists should recognise that disagreements are not personal attacks, but rather use them as constructive conversations that promote therapeutic intervention.
Effective communication and resolution
Navigating disagreements in therapy requires effective communication and finding common ground. Here are some suggestions for constructively addressing disagreements:
Express your concerns
It’s important to be open and honest with your therapist, sharing your concerns and reasons behind them. This will help your therapist better understand your perspective and tailor the therapeutic approach to your needs.
Ask for clarification
It’s important to ask for clarification if you find any therapeutic interventions or techniques confusing or unsettling. Misunderstandings, assumptions or differences in communication styles can lead to disagreements that can be resolved through clear communication.
Collaborate with your therapist to find solutions. Explore alternative approaches, modify the therapy plan or seek a second opinion if necessary.
It’s important to know that disagreeing with your therapist doesn’t mean that you’re not making progress or that your therapeutic relationship is failing. In fact, it can be an opportunity for self-awareness.
By having open and honest conversations, and understanding the benefits of disagreement and the ethical underpinnings of therapy, you can work through any differences in a positive way and strengthen your therapeutic alliance. Ultimately, therapy is a collaborative journey and your thoughts and feelings are important.