Jeff Guenther on Jul 14, 2019
I run a couple therapist directories at therapyden.com and portlandtherapycenter.com. The directory in Portland has been operating for over five years and is very popular. It attracts over 20,000 visitors a month. TherapyDen is a national directory that launched a year ago and attracts over 30,000 visitors a month, with growth every month. A ton of clients are finding good matches on both sites and I couldn’t be happier. But, as you can imagine, sometimes therapists aren’t the best match for a client. That’s normal. And for some reason, when some clients have a bad experience with a counselor, they want to reach out to me, the owner and creator of the therapist directory, to report how bad their therapist was. I’m not asking for this feedback. I’m not the person they should go to. But I can understand why they might think I should be the one to make a report to. I typically refer them back to their therapist or to their state board if they want to file a complaint. I have received dozens of complaints over the years. And some are truly amazing. I’d like to share my favorites with you.
I received a phone call from someone who had only one session with their therapist and decided to walk out before the session came to an end. She reports that they met for an intake and after she had signed all the forms, the therapist asked her to explain what had brought her in. After talking for about ten minutes the therapist reached into a small drawer and, without losing eye contact, she pulled out nail clippers. She held the clippers for a few minutes and then slowly started to clip her nails. As the client talked, tiny nail clippings were flying across the office. The client stopped talking, told the therapist she was disgusted, and walked out the door. On the phone, she asked me if this was normal behavior. I assured her it wasn’t and encouraged her to find another therapist. I’d probably do the same thing.
Listen to this week's episode of Say More About That. Jeff talks to Danielle, a philosopher, about philosophical counseling and what exactly that is. They discuss how Danielle became a philosopher and whether or not she thinks it's okay to call comedians "modern day philosophers." Danielle describes an unbelievable story about her break from reality after she had a baby and how she was determined to get better and be a stable mom for her daughter. Click play below or listen on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
A man called me up to tell me about how he was no longer able to see his therapist because of a problem with the furniture. I asked him to expand on his problem and he went on to explain that he hated the chair he was “forced” to sit in while in session. I asked if it was uncomfortable and he said that comfort wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he didn’t like how small his chair was and how large his therapist’s chair was. According to this client, he was the bigger person so he should get the bigger chair. And the tiny female therapist he was talking to should sit in the small chair. I asked him if he could bring this up to the therapist and he got upset with me because he felt as though I should be the one to tell her.
A young sounding man called me up not so much with a complaint, but with a genuine question. He had been seeing his therapist for a few sessions and all seemed to be going smoothly, but he was really bothered with how much eye contact the therapist made with him. He felt it was “excessive.” The client claimed that the therapist never looked away. That the therapist stared at him for an entire hour and never broke eye contact. I doubted his story, but he persisted. He said the eye contact made him incredibly uncomfortable. He wanted to know if this was standard practice for therapists. I told him that while therapy may have more eye contact than most conversations, it’s pretty typical for eye contact to break at a normal rate. He said he broke up with his therapist because the creep factor was too high. If he’s telling the truth, I kinda get it.
Recently, a client called to report to me that they felt uncomfortable with their therapist’s support for Donald Trump. I asked if they had processed this with the therapist. They said they hadn’t talked about political affiliation or who they voted for. I asked how they knew the therapist supported Trump and he responded with, “you can just tell man” and then he hung up the phone.
I received a call from someone that said they needed to stop therapy because they were too distracted by the bits of food that were in their therapist’s teeth. She said that this didn’t happen all the time, but it had happened enough times that it was too distracting and she didn’t want to mention it to her therapist. She said she wasn’t mad and that she understood why there might be food in her teeth because the client saw her around lunch time. I told her that it’s okay to bring this up with her therapist but she said she didn’t want to and would rather I find another therapist that didn’t have the same problem. I said I could help her find another therapist, but I can’t guarantee they won’t have food in their teeth once in awhile.
By far the most common complaint I hear is people telling me that the therapist said something along the lines of “and how do you feel about that?” way too many times. I can’t tell if their therapist really is asking about their feelings too much or if this has more to do with the client feeling uncomfortable with talking about their feelings. Either way, the common sentiment is that the client felt like talking about their feelings wasn’t doing anything to “solve their problem” and that they wanted more out of their therapist. Typically, I tell the client to bring this up in their next session. But it’s often too late and the client is calling me to ask for a therapist referral that doesn’t ask this same question over and over again.
I am not the person people should contact if they don’t like their therapist. However, I imagine it will keep happening as long as I run therapist directories. Also, if you’re a therapist that wants to help move the mental health industry forward, sign up for a free six month profile with TherapyDen.com. TherapyDen is doing its part to fight racism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of discrimination. And if you sign up for a profile you can choose to donate 10% of your monthly fee to one of five organizations that we support. Those organizations are Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Trevor Project, Mercy Corps and Life After Hate. More and more people are finding their therapist at TherapyDen. Thanks for your support :)
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.