Healing after a Bad Experience with Therapy

Seeking therapy requires immense courage and willingness. It’s a vulnerable decision, but the journey can result in profound growth and change. 

However, if you’ve ever had a bad experience with therapy, you might feel frustrated, confused, and angry about what happened. You may also feel completely turned off against pursuing future mental health treatment. 

These feelings are normal. A bad experience can undoubtedly exacerbate loneliness, shame, and despair. That said, it’s also possible to heal from this challenging pain. Let’s get into what you need to know. 

What Is Bad Therapy?

There isn’t one specific definition for bad therapy. 

It’s important to realize that many variables can affect the therapeutic relationship. All therapists must comply with specified laws and ethics to maintain good standing in the field.

However, unfortunately, some therapists may cross boundaries, act inappropriately, or abuse their position of power with their clients. If you aren’t sure if your therapist engaged in a harmful action, consider educating yourself on the common unethical violations provided by the American Psychological Association. 

Bad therapy can also be more subjective and nuanced than breaking the law. For instance, maybe you felt a therapist wasn’t really listening to what you needed. Or, maybe, you believed they offered too much advice without enough validation. Or, perhaps, the type of therapy didn’t adequately address your presenting issues. 

Why Does Therapy Leave Lasting Effects? 

Therapy is an inherently unique relationship. It often feels quite raw and unfiltered, but you also enter the work knowing that it will eventually end. 

You spend your sessions revealing your thoughts and feelings, but the disclosure is one-sided. It’s your therapist’s job to support you through your growth process. They are there to listen and understand you.

Therapy- whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in-between- can leave lasting effects because it may feel like one of the most vulnerable relationships you have. You may share secrets you’ve never revealed before. You might start taking risks you previously avoided.

If you have a bad experience with therapy, you might feel a sense of betrayal or animosity. It can seem like you trusted someone important who then exploited you. At the same time, you might also feel like you’re the one who’s responsible for what happened. 

How Can You Create a Better Experience?

It’s okay if you feel scared about seeking therapy again. You may naturally feel cautious or suspicious towards therapists. You might worry about history repeating itself. 

But creating a better experience starts with creating a new experience. At some point, you must accept the risk associated with trying again. This requires trust, and trust takes time

Only you can decide when you feel ready to consider trusting someone again. This process can be similar to dating after a bad breakup or looking for a new job after a poor experience with your last one.

Define The Issues 

Before diving in with someone new, it may be beneficial to spend some time reflecting on what went wrong. Write down the details if needed. All feelings and thoughts are valid, even if you occasionally start second-guessing yourself. 

Defining the issues can help you process your feelings. It can also facilitate a meaningful conversation with a new therapist.

Reflect on What You Need Now

What do you think you need from therapy moving forward? 

Do you want to work on a specific goal, or do you need more general support? Do you want to try a particular treatment like art therapy or EMDR? Are you hoping to work with someone who shares some similarities to your last therapist- or do you want someone completely different? 

It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to these questions. You don’t need to have a particular agenda for getting help. However, it can be helpful to reflect on your present needs. Having some insight can support you in narrowing down your search and getting the most from your future treatment.

Talk About What Happened 

A good therapist will want to hear about any negative experiences with past therapy. It’s okay to share what happened and your feelings about it. This disclosure can begin the healing process, especially if your new therapist helps you feel safe and supported. 

In some cases, you may want to report a therapist for acting illegally or unethically. If this is the case, your new therapist can provide you with resources for moving forward. 

Final Thoughts 

Healing from a bad experience with therapy can be challenging, but it can harness increased self-awareness, growth, and optimism. Good therapy is out there! Connecting with the right therapist can make a tremendous difference in improving your emotional well-being.

At Willow Counseling, we understand that no two therapy experiences are identical. We work hard to help you feel safe and supported. Even if you have a negative association with therapists in the past, we believe healing is always possible. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you. 

Willow Counseling, PLLC – Nashville, TN

Willow Counseling, PLLC exists to provide quality trauma-informed mental health counseling to the Nashville community, recognizing the interconnectedness of our emotional, spiritual and physical selves. We work together to alleviate symptoms, learn better coping skills, relieve burdens, remove the pain of trauma, and so much more. However, our greatest desire is for you to know what it means to feel purpose and joy again and to recognize the strength and worth you have to offer the world.


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