6 Habits That Secretly Annoy Your Therapist…According to Therapists

Updated: May 10, 2023

You let your therapist into your mind...here's what a few licensed pros told us you might find out if you got inside theirs. (Don't worry—they're gentle!)

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By now, a lot of us are aware that optimizing your personal health and well-being is about more than just hitting the treadmill and cutting out carbs. In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) places mental health on par with physical health, noting that certain mental health issues can play a contributing role toward physical ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Although there are a number of actions you can take to improve your mental health, one of the most prominent has long been through the use of mental health therapy. But we’d venture to guess it’s possible that if you’ve sat across from a therapist (either in-person or in a tele-visit), you’ve probably wondered what thoughts are running through their head, and whether you’re on the right track with your treatment.

As it turns out, you might be engaging in certain habits that therapists told us are impeding your progress and keeping you on the therapy couch longer than necessary. Here’s their list.

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1. The self-diagnosis

While it’s understandable for some of us to seek answers to our pressing issues through the use of internet searches, therapists often find clients arriving for their session with preconceived ideas about the source of their problems. “The problem is when someone wants to see a therapist, but then comes in already having diagnosed themselves, having their own treatment plan, and not having an open mind to any other feedback,” says Holly Gutstein, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Behavioral Health Specialist with Kaiser Permanente. Gutstein adds that being receptive to your therapist’s observations and suggestions is critical in making progress and establishing a healthy working relationship.

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2. Not providing feedback

Therapists told us they want to hear from you about your counseling experience. Having an open dialogue with your therapist can enhance the therapy engagement and work to strengthen the overall relationship. “If a comment lands wrong or your feel misunderstood, let them know it didn’t feel good,” says Elaine Hamilton, LMFT and owner of The Finding You Project. Hamilton acknowledges that this can often be hard to do, but adds: “It’s their job to work with you in a way that is helpful to you. Healthy therapists know they make mistakes sometimes, so they are prepared to hear when that’s happening.”

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3. Not doing your homework

Of course, there is a lot of work done in the typical hour that you’re sitting with your therapist, but much of the progress comes through the implementation of new strategies in your everyday life. “There are skills you need to start developing and engaging with outside of therapy in order to create change,” says Chris Dooley, LMFT, based in San Diego, CA. “Some of it is scary and feels easier said than done—your therapist gets that.” However, Dooley adds there are cases when “making yourself uncomfortable can lead to major improvements and help you develop the skills it takes to be who you want to be. Not doing the work can stall your progress.”

If you find that you’re having difficulty remembering the homework or the details of what you’re supposed to be working on, don’t be afraid to jot some notes down during the session. “Clients who take notes during their sessions, and revisit those notes in between sessions, experience more progress,” Hamilton adds.

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4. Waiting for the big crisis

It’s often hard to think about therapy when everything is going great in your life, but one of the biggest mistakes that therapists noted is waiting for the big problems to occur before scheduling a session. People often know when trouble is brewing, and not seeing a therapist early can hinder a therapist’s ability to intervene before damage is done. “Don’t wait until things are in a huge crisis, such as the brink of divorce, before you get help,” Hamilton says. “Start when you feel stuck, need some new ideas, perspective, tools, or skills. Therapists can provide skilled, new eyes on your situation.”

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5. Doorknob confessions

Although it’s recognized that the conversations you have throughout a therapy sessions can stir up new thoughts or issues, therapists often cringe at the last-minute confessions. Therapists, like many health care providers, have to stick to tight schedules with the inability to spend extra minutes unpacking the latest development. “It’s the bombshells in the last few minutes, followed by an expectation to go over time and to not be abandoned,” Gutstein says. Therapists are there to help you sort through your issues, but it’s essential to have enough time to appropriately address the problems.

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6. Lying to your therapist

Many of the discussions you and your therapist have during a session involve sensitive, and perhaps embarrassing, issues—yet honesty is the best policy in maintaining a positive relationship with your therapist. “Some things might feel really scary to express or own up to,” Dooley says. “You might worry your therapist is going to judge you. However, your therapist’s job is to approach you with compassion and non-judgment. Lying doesn’t allow your therapist to help you in the best ways possible, and it can make therapy a major waste of time and money.”

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