What do you do when you are mad at your therapist? Normally, when you are really upset and you don’t know how to solve it, you would talk it out with your therapist and figure out how you want to handle it… But now theyare the person you don’t know how to resolve the issue with.
Just like any other relationship, there is likely going to be a time when you feel let down by your therapist. Maybe they said the wrong thing, maybe they didn’t remember an important detail or maybe they forgot about your appointment!
Transference is a clinical term for when you project feelings, emotions or beliefs onto your therapist. It’s totally normal and in some cases even necessary for things to work. Sometimes you know you’re doing it and other times you don’t. But it can heighten the intensity of a mistake your therapist has made and make things hurt more.
There are times when your therapist may even intentionally upset you in order to elicit a certain reaction out of you. For example, for a person that struggles with anger, creating a safe place where they can get upset and not be attacked in response can be really useful. But also really uncomfortable!!
And, in couples work it can be really powerful to allow a couple to get upset and learn how to de-escalate together as a team. It may not always be helpful for the clinician to jump in and do it for them.
If you ever feel like your therapist is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, coming onto your or falling asleep, that is totally unacceptable and you should not tolerate that. And you should probably consider filling a complain against them.
If however, the offense is smaller (like the offenses listed at the top), it can be very powerful – even healing to be able to address it with them. I know it’s scary but most of the time we build it up to something it doesn’t need to be.
Keep in mind that your therapist is human and fallible and messes up too. There are almost literally a million reasons they just said the wrong thing. Going to grad school doesn’t give you the perfect answer for everyone, every time.
And his/her job is not to solve the problem for you but to help you arrive at solutions for yourself. If your frustration stems from your therapist’s refusal to ‘just give you the answer already!’ then that is a different problem. An important thing to discuss but a different problem.
Tell your therapist what they did (or didn’t do) and how it impacted you.
If, for example, s/he was late for your appointment and you found yourself upset about it even after the session. Bring it up at the next session! Allow your therapist to know that it bothers you and why. They can’t address material that you don’t present.
Keep in mind that anger, frustration and hurt are all normal, healthy human emotions and if you can’t talk to your therapist about your feelings then you probably aren’t getting what you need for your time there.
As always, I’m here. If you are ready to live your best life, call me and let’s get started!