Therapist Red Flags! Beware of These Signs of a Bad Therapist

Last Update on March 31, 2023 : Published on April 2, 2023
Signs of a Bad Therapist

One of the most interesting conundrums I found myself in was when I decided to seek therapy. By then, I already had some preconceived notions about therapy and therapists, in general, but then my curious soul wanted nothing more than to understand how therapy worked and could help me.

I don’t know if I was merely lucky, but I found myself with a therapist who didn’t just listen to my rambling with an active interest but was also interested in understanding me and helping me get better. Truthfully, in my opinion, that’s what a good therapist is all about. However, many people aren’t always as lucky as me. Not all therapists are empathetic nor are they all ideal for you.

Therapy is like picking out a good car, to be honest. You test-drive different models and experiment with different powers and functionalities until you find the one that best suits your needs. In therapy too, you experiment with different therapists and therapy options until you find the one that suits you best.

While sometimes, the signs of a bad therapist aren’t that subtle, there are some hidden in the folds of professional courtesy that can be too hard to spot. Like Waldo!

And just like that, you need a guide that helps you spot a therapist’s red flags so you can avoid hitting a setback and find the therapy and therapist you truly deserve. A note of advice – while it’s important to check all the signs of a toxic therapist, it’s also important to give your therapist the benefit of doubt.

After all, they’re humans too, and just like you and me, they are also likely to make mistakes. One or two mistakes we can overlook and talk through with our therapists, but when the therapeutic space becomes unsafe and judgmental, then maybe it’s something you can’t reconcile.

Here are some common therapist red flags I have combined for you. Check them out and let us know in the comments at the end of these signs of a bad therapist helping you get out of a toxic therapeutic relationship.

Red Flags to Look For in a Therapist


1.They Behave Unethically And Unprofessionally

If your therapist refuses or fails to follow through with the code of ethics, then it’s a major red flag. Being unethical and behaving unprofessionally is no excuse and if it happens to you, then take it as a sign of disrespect from the therapist.

A therapist is legally obligated to follow the code of ethics – unwritten or not – and breaking them is a violation of your right and trust. Therapy is meant to make you feel safe and if it leaves you feeling unsafe, then it’s a toxic environment.

2.They Cannot Be Objective

A therapist who fails to see things objectively is a bad therapist. First and foremost, a therapist should not be taking on clients who have an emotional connection with them – friends, family, etc. That’s the first sign that gives away their ability to stay objective.

There could be no exceptions to this rule. If your therapist accepts gifts and prefers one client over the other is a sure red flag you can’t ignore.

3.They Bypass Confidentiality

One of the most important things in a client-therapist relationship is confidentiality and trust that what’s said in therapy will not be disclosed unless it is absolutely required, normally in the case where the information shared puts the client’s health and safety at risk. A therapist cannot divulge your information to others without consent and if it is happening, then it’s a sign of a bad therapist.

4.They Take On Clients Even Without Expertise

Even within the rank of therapists, there are specialties. Here’s an example; one therapist specializes in working with substance abuse disorder clients while someone else helps people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

If a therapist is taking on a client who is struggling with a condition that the therapist does not specialize in nor has the qualifications for it, then it’s one of the major therapist red flags you can’t ignore.

5.They Talk Too Much About Themselves

In the world of therapy, self-disclosure is a rare thing and is always done keeping the client in mind. If the client responds well to the therapist’s self-disclosure, then it can be accepted, but some clients might not find such disclosure helpful. In such cases, if the therapist keeps talking about themselves over the client, then take it as a red flag.

6.They Make You Feel Bad About Yourself

While feeling unsettled after a therapy session is common, however, if you walk out of the session feeling bad about yourself, then it could be a sign of a bad therapist.

There’s always a risk that the client might take some things too personally even though with no fault of their therapist, but if the client-therapist fits poorly, then it could be something negative. In such a case, it is recommended that you talk to your therapist about it and address it the next time you meet for a session.

7.They Make You Feel Judged And Ashamed

A successful therapy session is when there is trust and mutual collaboration between you and your therapist. However, if your therapist makes you feel uncomfortable, judged, and ashamed for being in therapy or having a particular condition, then it’s not a sign of a healthy therapeutic relationship.

A session should be objective and personal bias and prejudices should be set aside. In any case, humility, objectivity, and trust should be present in a therapy session.

8.They Are Not An Active Listener

One of the traits of a good therapist is that they need to be an active listener. They need to listen and figure out patterns and respond accordingly.

If your therapist is constantly asking you to repeat what you’re saying and asking for clarifications more than necessary, then it could be another red flag. A therapist should be able to bring you back from your spiraling thoughts, not send you back there again and again.

9.They Don’t Pay Attention

Another red flag you need to look out for in a therapist is their attention. If they keep looking at their phone or are distracted, then it’s a sign you shouldn’t ignore.

If you are seeking online therapy, then there could be network or such issues that can be unavoidable, but a good therapist always has a backup in such a case. If yours doesn’t and is always distracted by something, then take it as a sign of a bad therapist.

10.They Leave You Feeling Uneasy

Never fail to trust your gut. If your gut says that your therapist is making you feel uneasy, trust it. There could be some challenges but if you leave feeling uneasy after every session, then it’s something to take notice of.

What Next?

Bad experiences with therapists aren’t rare and can leave you feeling distressed more than usual. Having received no validation from someone who is morally and ethically required to present one can leave you feeling unsettled and for good reason.

If you notice these red flags in your therapist, then know that you can talk to your therapist to clear the air or consider changing your therapist. You and your therapist should be on the same page otherwise the therapy will not work as expected.

I hope you’ll find these red flags in a therapist helpful and will be able to take the right steps if you notice these signs of a bad therapist. For more, you can write to us at or DM us on social media.

Take Care!

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About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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