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5 Things Therapists Shouldn't Do In Therapy. A Clinical Psychology Podcast Episode.

5 things therapists shouldn't do in therapy a clinical psychology podcast episode

As current or future psychotherapists it is always important to know what definitely not to do in therapy. Since therapy is a delicate process where relatively vulnerable people share their thoughts, feelings and experience with us. Therefore, if we do present certain red flags to them then this can harm the therapy, our clients and our own repetition, this is why learning about what we shouldn’t do is important. And some of these are really, really interesting!

This clinical psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Formulation In Psychotherapy. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.

5 Things Therapists Shouldn’t Do In Therapy

Of course I should start off by saying that red flags are extremely rare in therapy because all therapists are professionals. As well as we learn what is and what is not good to do during training but it is sometimes good to have reminders, and it is always good to know what not to do in case you want to be a future therapist.

Boundary Violations

As therapists, there is a relatively not-so-fine line when it comes to boundaries. Since we do need to ask a fair about of semi-personal question about a person so we can understand them.

As well as the therapeutic relationship requires us to maintain professionalism and work with the client to help them alleviate their psychological distress and improve their lives.

Therefore, this is why boundaries are so important so our clients that feel vulnerable and like they’re exposing their souls know they’re in a safe place.

As a result, the most obvious breach of boundaries. Like non-consensual touching is strictly forbidden and your client should basically run away from anyone who does this. To the lesser obvious breaches like asking too many questions about unrelated matters, like if your client wants to help their anxiety and you keep asking them about their sex life.

Just don’t do that!

And another just flat out creepy boundary violation is if the therapist asks the client where they live, and tries to run into them outside therapy. Not only is that extremely creepy, but it is just inappropriate.

Overall, always stay behind the line of professionalism.

Ineffective Communication

As I’ve mentioned on the podcast a few times, in therapy effective communication is everything because we need to be able to communicate with our clients. Whether this is about what they’re going through, making them feel safe and comfortable or explaining a bit of psychoeducation to them. Communication is critical and bad communication can really harm therapeutic success.

In addition, ineffective communication doesn’t just have to poor communication skills like struggling to talk to the client. It can be only using technical terms to explain things to the client so the client cannot understand them. Equally it can a therapist who cannot understand what the client is experiencing even after several attempts.

Overall, it is critical to make sure therapists have effective communication skills so they can effectively help the client. As well as if a therapist cannot understand what the client is saying, it is of course important to talk about this problem. Yet if the client cannot get a satisfactory answer then it might be a good idea for them to get a new therapist.

Specific Or False Promises:

This I really doubt happens on purpose (at least I hope so) but as we know therapy is not an instant fix. As well as in clinical psychology we acknowledge that mental health difficulties are not an illness or disease, they are a part of a person and their maladaptive coping mechanisms to deal with the world.

Therefore, whilst therapists will introduce themselves, what’s going to happen and the timeframe of the treatment (in addition to all the other things like explaining confidentiality) at the start of therapy. They must not make promises or guarantees. Like, in ten sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy you’ll be cured.


Therapy just doesn’t work like that because of all the factors that affects therapeutic success. Including the client’s own capacity to change.

Unfair Judgement

Whilst we are all human at the end of the day, meaning we do judge other people, have our own personal opinions and like and dislike people. When it comes to our clinical psychology work, we need to leave all those things behind to some extent because a good therapist will ask follow-up questions to understand and clarify what the client is experiencing.

That is far from a bad thing as it means we get to really understand what’s going on, and that means we can hopefully make more accurate assessments and interventions.

However, a bad therapist will explicitly (and sometimes immediately) past judgement on a client and their decisions, or even make them feel embarrassed and ashamed.

Don’t do that!

Don’t get me wrong. I know there are some great clinical psychologists who listen to this podcast, and I am certain they could tell all of us some stories. And of course we are going to hear some very unfortunate stories in our careers.

However, we do not make people feel worse than they already do. As I mentioned in my Clinical Psychology Reflections Volume 1 that goes completely against the clinical psychology mandate. It is our job not to pass judgement and alleviate psychological distress and improve lives.

We don’t make people feel worse.

And we still need to remember how much courage, bravery and balls it takes to go to therapy in the first time.

Excessive Self-Disclosure

This definitely has to be one of the most interesting red flags in therapy since the line is so fine between this being great and awful.

Since it depends on your therapeutic orientation how much you use this tool. Due to psychoanalysis prefers not to use self-disclosure as they feel it is better to be a blank slate but other therapeutic approaches prefer self-disclosure used carefully as it can foster the connection. Helping the therapeutic alliance to strengthen and grow.

Personally I agree with the latter because from psychology of relationships, we know how self-disclosure can drive liking and friendship-like behaviour. This is arguably important in therapy.

Nonetheless, self-disclosure needs to used carefully because this can become a problem if it is used excessively. Resulting in the therapy becoming centred around the therapist, or the therapist saying something that makes the client feel uncomfortable.

As well as I completely agree with what Elinor Greenberg, PhD said that this topic. “It should carefully be targeted for the patient’s benefit,”


Overall, as I mentioned in the beginning of today’s episode. These red flags are extremely rare, and I’m sure the therapists listening to the podcast can confirm that, so in case we have any future therapists listening today. I want to remind you how little you need to worry about this because your training will certainly cover it.

Also we’ve covered a lot of different red flags that can harm the success of the therapy and the chance of alleviating our client’s distress and improving their lives. So of course, never be constantly worried about these flags, but just have them in the back of your mind just in case.

I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast.

If you want to learn more, please check out:

Formulation In Psychotherapy. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it.

Have a great day!

Clinical Psychology Reference:

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