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Suzanne, Mental Health Professional
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  LCSW, RN. Mental Health, Relationship & Parenting issues.EMDR, Hypnosis.
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I need help deciding whether to switch from a counselor Ive

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I need help deciding whether to switch from a counselor I've had for 11 months back to a counselor I had for 3 years. My old counselor was empathetic and we communicated well, but I felt that she wasn't challenging enough for me. I had hoped that my new counselor, a PsyD and self-proclaimed ADHD expert, would help me become more productive and hold me accountable for making changes in my life. While she's likable, I'm not as comfortable with her and don't have as much faith in her. She has missed many appointments because she is disorganized and often sick, and when she gives me "homework" she usually forgets to follow-up on it. She says contradictory things; one time she said that I was "too good for" my boyfriend, but when she met him, she said "You two are soul mates!" I also think she was off-base suggesting that I might have a Personality Disorder that no other professional has ever assigned to me.

I still think that my new counselor can potentially help me move forward in life. While my old counselor didn't think I would qualify for Disability, my new counselor encouraged me to apply for it and wants to help me win it. Besides, I would feel bad dumping my new counselor, because she's been battling cancer and struggling financially. I would hate to reduce her business right now. What would you advise?

Thanks for bringing your question to JustAnswer.


The very fact that you're asking this question suggests that you're realizing that your new counselor is not "walking her talk." As a self-proclaimed expert in ADHD, she should have the tools to be organized, remember your homework, etc. Her missing many appointments is appallingly unprofessional.


Also, making judgments about your significant other is not appropriate for a counselor. She should be exploring your feelings about him, not offering hers.


The fact that you know that she is struggling financially --something no client should ever know about her counselor--means that she is violating boundaries in more areas than passing judgment on your boyfriend.


It really, really isn't your job to help support your counselor.


And by the way, the fact that she's encouraging you to get disability does not mean you will actually get it. If ADHD is your main diagnosis, the chances are almost non-existent that you will get it. With all the people out of work these days, the applications to disability are skyrocketing....and so are the denials. The only folks getting mental health disability these days are the significantly disabled. So even though it might be pleasant to hear her say "go for it" ...that doesn't mean that you have a factual , actual chance of actually getting it. Make an appointment with a disability lawyer, and see what they say your chances actually are. (People with Bipolar I or Schizophrenia have the best chance of getting disability).


Perhaps it's time to re-visit your original counselor, and be up-front about wanting to be challenged by her. If you aren't able to reach an agreement about what "being challenged" means, then start the search for yet another person. Your current therapist only seems to be challenging you by not showing up for appointments and expecting you to deal with her personal issues...

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for your objective opinion! I was denied SSI and just hired an attorney to help me file an appeal. Because I have no income, poor job history, ADHD, OCPD, depression, anxiety, and a repetitive stress injury, my attorney and my psychiatrist think I have a strong case. Would you agree?

So glad to hear that you have an attorney (I didn't realize that from the first note, sorry). With the combination of the mental health diagnosis list, and a physical limitation as well, I think you do have a good shot at getting disability. Getting denied on the first round seems to happen to everyone. The fact that the lawyer took your case--because they don't get paid unless you win--is proof that you must have a strong case.


However, I have to add that this doesn't change my mind about you finding a therapist who can challenge you AND keep good professional boundaries so that the attention is on you and your growth rather than on the counselor.

Suzanne and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Another P.S. (I'll "accept" your new answer)

It's really hard for me to reject an "ADHD kindred spirit" who is currently bald due to chemotherapy. She told me that she's preparing to move, and she mentioned being broke only when I suggested that she hire a mover.

Anyway, how does the following email to her sound? Should I tell her some of my reasons for dumping her (e.g., that an online therapist called her "appallingly unprofessional")?

Dear ___, It was good to see you again yesterday. I like you, and I hope you're not hurt by this, but I've made the difficult decision to switch back to my old therapist.

You recently wrote, "I will not have any negative feelings or think bad of you for your decision to go elsewhere." I hope that's still the case. I'm sorry that my leaving lowers your income, but at least it lowers your workload, too.

Thank you for the tools and insights you've given me over the past year. Feel free to write, call, or set up an "exit" appointment. Otherwise, best wishes, enjoy your new apartment, and get well soon!

I think that sounds just fine. No need to go into more detail, as it sounds like the preliminary discussion about a possible change has already taken place.


And I might actually take back the "appallingly" part of my earlier statement, as it now sounds, from the additional info in this note, a bit more reasonable how these things could have come up in conversation...but the missed appointments, forgetting your homework and making judgments are still unprofessional. And some of these things (forgetfulness) may be due to the chemo, but if the treatment is affecting her work, then she needs to make adjustments until she is back to her former level of competence.


And remember, with your leaving, she now has an open hour to accept a new patient into. There is a lot of change and flow in therapy practices. Don't get too hung up on what your decision will mean to her--the focus needs to be on finding yourself the right therapist.

Suzanne and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you

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