Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Therapy

Is therapy confidential?

Yes, therapy is confidential but there are some exceptions. Therapists are required to uphold confidentiality unless there is a risk to someone's safety by maintaining it. Here are the circumstances where legal issues and safety may trump confidentiality: 

* If a client is clearly at risk to hurt themselves or others
* If a client discloses that a child has been or is at risk of being abused or neglected, or witness to abuse
* If a client discloses that they were abused in childhood and there is a possibility that the person who was abusive towards them may be a danger to other children now
* If a client discloses abuse from a regulated health professional
* If a court subpoenas a client file as part of legal proceedings
* If a client discloses that they have a reportable disease, it may be necessary to report it to the Medical Officer of Health
* If a client discloses knowledge of a suspicious death, this information must be reported to a police officer or to the coroner
* If a client reports that a resident of a care home has suffered or may suffer harm as a result of improper or incompetent care, it may be necessary to report it to the provincial Director of Nursing Homes
* If a client provides written consent authorizing the sharing of information 

  Adapted from University of Guelph Couple and Family Therapy Centre Manual, 2012

Do therapists really do anything other than listen and nod their heads?

They also take your money! ;) There are many different styles of therapy and different therapist approaches but all therapists are doing more than simply listening and nodding their heads. Even therapists who operate from a more traditional psychoanalytic framework (think Freud and how therapy is often portrayed in the movies - clients lying back on a couch while a very serious and silent doctor makes notes) are doing a lot more than simply listening and nodding their heads, even if they have a less active approach than many other therapists. Today most therapists sit in chairs across from you and engage with you in setting goals and finding solutions in a more conversational manner. However, there is still a big range in how active therapists are in terms of asking questions, directing the sessions, and making suggestions. In my work, I err on the side of being more active. I have found that most clients want therapists to take charge, direct the session and offer feedback and suggestions. While ultimately the therapy goals are determined by the client, I think it is important for therapists to create structure and ensure that what clients are talking about is relevant to their therapeutic goals. This means that I will usually guide the conversations, make suggestions, interrupt conflicts or cyclical patterns that occur in relational therapy, ask a lot of questions, and offer paraphrases and reflections of what I am hearing to make sure that I understand. I will also brainstorm with clients to find new possibilities and solutions to problems and suggest homework when I believe that it will be helpful.

Is therapy just for people with serious problems?

No. This belief creates a certain stigma around seeking support and can get in the way of people accessing therapy to simply make their lives better. Although being stuck or in distress are good reasons to seek therapy, therapy can be very useful for other reasons including: 
* Gaining new insight into specific problems
* Clarifying goals
* Accessing motivation to make change and to pursue important dreams
* Developing better communication, conflict resolution, and overall relationship skills

Do I have to talk about things that I don't want to talk about?

No. You decide what you are comfortable talking about and any respectful therapist should appreciate your boundaries in this regard. However, the more you are able to share about the challenges you are facing, the more the therapist will be able to help you. Just like any other relationship, it may take time to feel emotionally safe enough to disclose things that are embarrassing or that we fear that we will be judged about. It is up to you to decide if you trust the therapist and their ability to be understanding and non-judgmental about your concerns. If you don't trust that you can disclose these important matters, it may be a good idea to find a therapist that you can be more open with.

Can therapy help me improve in specific tasks, like socalizing or public speaking?

Yes. Therapy can be about whatever you need it to be about. Social skills or public speaking skills require knowledge, practice, and some degree of confidence in your ability to engage in these activities with some effectiveness. Many people become anxious when interacting in large groups, regardless of whether it is a professional or social environment. These skills can be worked on and practiced in the context of therapy and the anxiety and fear that arise are perfect opportunities to learn more about the kinds of core beliefs, self-appraisals, and assumptions that we hold. 
There are many other tasks or skills that therapists may be able to help you with, such as conflict resolution, communication, intimacy building, networking, job searching, planning, and goal setting. You will need to speak with your therapist to find out if they offer these kind of services. Since these important skills and tasks often overlap with so many other aspects of our psychology and wellbeing, therapists frequently will. 

How often do I need to come to therapy and for how long?

It depends on a number of factors including the goals, the current state of the problem, life circumstances, and the amount of work and effort clients are willing to put into both the therapy process and implementing change in their life between sessions. According to research, the most dramatic effects from therapy often happen within approximately 8 sessions, however, people tend to benefit from further work to deepen their understanding, prevent relapse, and possibly work on other related issues. 

 Couple and family therapy tends to take longer as there is more complexity and more people with sometimes differing goals. Research on couple therapy suggests that it usually takes between 10 - 30 sessions to fully meet therapy goals. 
  As far as the frequency, that would again depend on the above factors as well as finances and schedules. However, I do not recommend coming less than every other week when starting out and often weekly is a good place to start, then moving to bi-weekly and eventually monthly as progress is made. 

What should I do if I'm afraid that I might hurt myself or somebody else?

This is a really important question. In moments of pain and distress many people have thoughts about hurting themselves or others and sometimes these thoughts are simply that - thoughts, rather than indicators of plans or actions. However, if you are feeling afraid that you might hurt yourself of somebody else, take this fear seriously and find someone to talk with about this as soon as possible. 

 Being afraid in these moments is a good thing. It means that there is a part of you that deeply cares about your own well-being and the well-being of others. Honour this fear and reach out for support. If you have a friend or family member that you can talk with, do so. If you have a therapist or other health care professional that you see, let them know. 
  When working with clients who have hurt themselves or others in moments of distress, it has broken my heart to see the shame, sadness, regret, and real life consequences that often come with these choices (e.g. damaged bodies, lost relationships, broken families, criminal records, jail, lost opportunities). When we are in a state of distress, regardless of who we are, it is very difficult to make good decisions for our lives. In these moments we need to borrow the insight and care of someone else. There is no shame in asking for help when these kinds of thoughts and fears start rattling around. We all need this kind of support in difficult moments. In fact, it is through this kind of support when we are confused, angry and afraid, that we develop the resources to be able to more effectively cope with pain. There is no other way to learn. 
   If you are having these concerns right now, and live in Toronto, you can call 416-408-4357 FREE to reach the 24/7 crisis line. The crisis line is a free confidential phone service with people who you can talk to about whatever is going on. You can also visit their website: www.torontodistresscentre.com. To find a distress or crisis line in other parts of Canada, please visit the suicideprevention.ca website. 
 If you are a kid or a teenager you are welcome to call the crisis line above but you may find it even more useful to call the Kids Help Phone, where phone counsellors have more experience talking about the kinds of problems that are unique to kids and teens. Kids help phone can be reached at 1-800-668-6868 FREE and there is also a lot of information on their website with e-counselling/live chat available as well: www.kidshelpphone.ca
  If you are questioning your ability to keep yourself safe, or prevent yourself from harming another person, and it doesn't seem realistic right now to reach out to friends, family or the above resources, you can always call 911 or go to the emergency department of a local hospital. Better to be too cautious than not cautious enough. 
I recommend writing down the numbers for the Distress Centre or the Kids Help Phone and carrying it in your wallet or bag. That way, you have it when you need it. There is no need to be alone when you are in pain and experiencing these kinds of concerns. 

See Videos, Book Recommendations, and Web Resources on Self-harm and Suicide, and Violence & Abuse in the Additional Resources section of this website (Videos & More).

Any advice for someone who has bad a experience with a therapist?

There are great therapists and not so great therapists and everything in between. And, as mentioned in my article on finding the right therapist, sometimes a bad therapist experience may have more to do with the fit between the therapist and client rather than a "bad therapist". Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to hear from clients about experiences with therapists that didn't work for them. 

 If your bad experiences result from inappropriate or unethical actions by a therapist, you likely have recourse and may want to do something to prevent others from experiencing what you experienced. Therapy needs to be safe and therapists need to maintain appropriate boundaries for therapy to be safe. For more information related to inappropriate behaviour by therapists, see "What can I do if I'm concerned about things my therapist is saying or doing?" on this page. 
  If the bad experience is simply a bad experience, rather than something abusive or unethical, you may be able to use this experience as valuable information to gain new clarity about what it is that you want from a therapist or from the therapeutic relationship. You may even want to use this experience to help you generate questions to interview future therapists to ensure that you get what you are needing. I frequently ask clients about previous therapy experiences in order to help me understand what the clients are wanting and not wanting from therapy. 
 Even if you have a great therapist and a great therapeutic relationship, you can still have painful experiences, leaving you feeling misunderstood, frustrated, or angry. If you have an overall sense of trust and respect in the therapeutic relationship, it may be helpful for both you and your therapist to have a conversation about how you are feeling. Doing so may lead to powerful new insights about dynamics that show up in other areas of your life as well. It may also lead to a renewed sense of trust in the therapeutic relationship, and be important feedback for the therapist in terms of working with you and other clients more effectively and respectfully. Research on therapy effectiveness shows that working through misunderstandings or frustrations with a therapist can lead to better therapy outcomes than if these misunderstandings do not arise in the first place. I think that this demonstrates how critical trust is in any relationship where you are revealing parts of yourself that feel vulnerable. Trust is built through care and responsiveness to difficulties that arise in relationships, not through perfection and the absence of problems. 

Will OHIP or my insurance provider cover the cost of therapy?

OHIP does cover the cost of some therapy programs that occur within medical facilities – like hospital run group therapy programs, or some short-term therapy that is offered within Family Health teams. Outside of those specific contexts OHIP will only cover the cost of therapy if the therapist is also a medical doctor, and the vast majority of therapists are not. 

Private insurance providers will often cover some of the cost of psychotherapy but the degree of this coverage and what type of mental health providers they will cover varies depending on the insurance company and plan. To ensure that you are covered, check with your insurance provider and the therapist that you are considering working with. Most often you will be required to pay up front and get reimbursed from your insurance provider directly. 

Why do some therapists charge more than others?

 There are a number of factors that influence what therapists charge and many of these factors are the same as with any business, such as supply and demand, overhead costs, skill and experience, and the perceived value of the service to clients. Fees may also be influenced by reimbursement limits that are set by insurance providers and Employee Assistance Programs as well as fee scale recommendations from professional bodies. While sometimes more expensive may mean better, this is not alway the case, as sometimes higher fees have more to do with market factors and credentials, and these are frequently not important factors in therapy effectiveness.

Do many therapists have a sliding scale?

Yes, many therapists do offer a sliding scale as most of us enter this field out of a genuine desire to support others in difficult times and want to make sure that people with less income, out of work, or with greater financial constraints still have access to support. Unfortunately, there is not enough reduced rate therapy to accommodate all those who might benefit from it, and each therapist decides the percentage of their client load that they can afford to offer reduced fees to. This can sometimes result in waiting lists. When I am unable to accommodate a client who needs a reduced rate I try to refer them to colleagues who might or other therapy services in their community that may be more accessible.

Are there any free therapy services out there?

There are some free services but they can be hard to find and often have waiting lists. Usually these services are offered through the hospitals or the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto and similar organizations in other communities. There are, however, agencies that work with lower income clients and families that receive funding from The United Way and sometimes from governmental bodies. In Toronto, these include Family Services of Toronto, Oolagen, & Catholic Family Services. There are also psychotherapy training programs that offer lower cost therapy with clinical interns such as The Centre for Training in Psychotherapy and The Gestalt Institute. You can always check with Universities as well, as some of them train therapists in house and may have clinics that are open to the community at lower rates. The University of Guelph Couple and Family Therapy Centre is an example of this type of resource that serves the community at reduced rates while also providing a training ground for clinical interns.

Although it is not a substitute for seeking in person support, you will find many helpful videos, book recommendations, and web resources on Mental Health and Wellness in the Additional Resources section of this website (Videos & More).

Do therapists give advice and suggest solutions?

Some do and some don't. I will offer advice and suggest solutions when it seems appropriate, but will usually brainstorm with the client and attempt to elicit the client's own insights into the best course of action. It is a collaborative effort. For more information on this topic, see the discussion on this page of "Do therapists really do anything other listen and nod their heads?" 

I am worried about my teenager. Is family therapy appropriate?

That depends. Family Therapy can be very helpful for teenagers who are struggling but there are times when it may be more helpful for them to do individual therapy, especially when they are unlikely to share what is going on with them in front of other family members. For more information on therapy options for teenagers read about therapy for Kids & Teens and also Family Therapy.

My kid won't behave, will you tell us what's wrong with her/him?

Understanding why kids act differently than we want them to can be difficult. It isn't always as simple as figuring out what is "wrong" with your child as it may be more what is wrong around your child or in relation to your child. Kids are much more limited in their verbal communication and in the power that they possess to create what they want in their relationships. These factors lead kids to make all kinds of choices that may appear as misbehaving or acting out but could also be understood as forms of communication and attempts to meet important needs (e.g. attention, care, respect). Before trying to figure out "what is wrong" I would first want to understand what your child may be communicating through this behaviour, how you and the rest of your family interact with your child, what is happening for them in school, and understand more about the strengths and coping strategies of your child and your family as a whole. This will help us understand both what might be going on with them and also what steps can be taken to support your child in developing more effective communication and behavioural strategies. 
  Kids are particularly sensitive to being blamed for family problems and will often feel responsible even when parents are telling them otherwise. Because of this tendency it is all the more important to get to know kids and demonstrate an understanding of their strengths before getting them engaged in any behaviour change project. Often the most powerful interventions for kids are changes that parents make. This is why my preference is to work with kids within the context of their families. 
  There are times where the challenges that your child faces may require other attention in addition to a strength-based and relational approach to therapy. Child Psychologists and Psychiatrists will often conduct different types of assessments and treatment plans, including diagnoses of mental disorders when relevant. I am always happy to coordinate services with other mental health professional to ensure that you and your child are getting the best support possible.  


Is it okay to come to therapy if I've been drinking or using other substances?

That will depend on the agreements you have with your therapist. Being sober helps with therapeutic work and I personally don’t want to work with a client who is very intoxicated, however, occasionally being a little high or tipsy can be manageable. I am more willing to work with clients who are a little high or tipsy if we are working on issues related to substance use and operating from a harm reduction model. In general it is best to be clear headed and sober when undertaking therapy whenever possible, and if you are not it is important to be share that with your therapist, as altered states can affect how you and your problems are being perceived and addressed.

If I tell my therapist about past, current or future illegal activities, will they be reported to the police?

Confidentiality is of the utmost importance in the therapeutic relationship and clients have a right to this confidentiality. However, there are certain types of illegal activities that might need to be reported because of the risk that they pose to others. Most types of illegal activities that are disclosed in therapy do not need to be reported. If every illegal activity had to be reported, than people who are engaged, or who have ever engaged in criminal activity would never be able to get help. Getting support may be essential in moving toward making different choices that don't put their own lives or the lives of others at risk. It is essential that clients can talk freely about their experiences and explore the consequences of their choices without fearing that they will be arrested or publicly shamed for doing so. 

 The only time that the police would be contacted would be if a client informs a therapist that someone is at imminent risk of being physically harmed or if knowledge of a suspicious death is disclosed. If a client threatens to hurt someone or themselves, has the intention, plan, and the means to carry it out, the police might need to be involved. Like anything else that comes up in therapy, there would first be a conversation about it to determine what is really occurring, and ideally the client would be involved in reaching out to the relevant authorities. Breaking confidentiality is not something to be done as a knee jerk reaction and sometimes people make threats that they don't really mean in moments of anger. At the same time, ethically and legally, public safety trumps confidentiality when there is a legitimate risk. 
  Additionally, reports of recent, current or potential future neglect or abuse of a child may need to be reported to the Children's Aid Society (CAS). Therapists, like all residents of Ontario, are legally obligated to report suspected abuse of a person under 16 years of age to CAS. Whenever possible I will work with clients to ensure that these reports are fair, accurate and that the clients are involved in making these disclosures. CAS is a resource to help families in keeping kids safe. CAS will work hard to keep families together, whenever possible. 
   Note taking and record keeping are additional considerations when discussing illegal activities with your therapist. Under some circumstances, files can be obtained by the courts if there is a legal case that you are involved with and a judge can be convinced by an attorney that this information is relevant to the case. It is extremely rare in most clinical environments for files to be subpoenaed. I have worked in a hospital and two community counselling agencies and I have only heard of a couple of times that this has ever happened in the entire history of those organizations. Regardless, if this is a concern to you it might be a good idea to discuss with your therapist how notes are taken and what kind of information is contained in those notes. If you are a client of mine, I am happy to discuss note taking and show you any information contained in your file. I don't believe in holding secrets from my clients. There should be nothing in my notes that I would not be willing to disclose directly to you. If I have concerns about your choices - I will tell you.  

Is Therapy useful even if I'm not suffering or distressed?

It certainly can be. Even when life is feeling great, there are situations that trigger painful emotional responses, skills that could use some development, or goals that we may benefit from getting support in achieving. Doing therapy when you are not feeling distressed may allow more emotional capacity for uncovering ongoing core beliefs and challenges that still cause some pain for us or the important people in our lives. There is always more to learn about who we are and we can always benefit from support in this learning process.

If I tell my therapist about fears or fantasies that would be illegal if acted out, will they be reported to the police?

 No, unless their is a substantial risk that you may act out a fantasy that would endanger the safety of someone else. For more information on what would constitute a substantial risk, see the FAQ directly above, and also "Is therapy confidential?"
 Fantasies often contain inappropriate content that we would never consider really acting out. It may be precisely because of the inappropriateness of these thoughts, or the fact that they conflict with our values that fantasies develop in the first place. Fantasies can be ways of channelling experiences, impulses, and desires that we cannot make conscious room for in other aspects of our lives. Fantasies can be healthy ways of channeling emotions, fears, and desires that would be unhelpful or destructive in reality.
  For example, If we believe that it is terrible to be angry with people or have been made to feel powerless in particular circumstances, we may harbour secret fantasies of expressing power and anger (e.g.pushing someone, acting vindictively, or making someone's life more difficult). If we have strong taboos around sexuality, we may become aroused by the "risk taking" of fantasizing about the very things that we deplore. It can be frightening to have thoughts and fantasies that conflict with our values, but so long as they are purely fantasies and their is a clear distinction between fantasy and reality, there is absolutely nothing to be worried about. Fantasies are not illegal and fantasies do not endanger anyone when they remain fantasies. Exploring fears and fantasies that conflict with our values, or that are considered socially inappropriate, can be very illuminating and liberating as part of a therapeutic process. In addition to the benefit of reducing shame and fear, it can help us get clearer on our guiding values and ethical frameworks. 

Can I come in and talk about some problems even if I'm not sure if I want to make any changes?

Absolutely. Deciding if you want to make change, getting clarity on what your goals are, and what it is going to take to make these changes are all important parts of the therapy process. You are in charge of if and when you are going to make the changes that you need to make. 

 While many of us struggle at times in our lives with unhelpful or even destructive habits, these habits have developed for a reason at some point in our lives, often as ways of coping with painful emotions. It is understandable that we would want to have a better sense of the big picture and what change would look like before making these changes. 
Therapists, especially when working in the field of addictions, will often speak of different stages in the process of making change. We move from an initial flash of insight that we may need to make change, to a deeper contemplation of our habits and the changes we may need to make, and eventually to action. There are additional stages that involve maintaining these changes and preventing relapse. Regardless of where a client is in this process, there is therapeutic work that can be done. It is up to you, as the client, to decide when you are ready to move from contemplation to action. A therapist can help you explore the consequences of making these changes and of not making these changes. It is easy to get caught in a rut when we feel overwhelmed by our choices and end up perpetuating the same habits even when they don’t serve us or hurt other people in our lives. Having support to look at this can be really helpful. 

Do I have to talk about my childhood? 

No therapist will force you talk about anything that you don't want to talk about, however, some therapy traditions do inquire more about your childhood experiences and how they have come to shape your sense of self, your rules and values for relationships, and any potential traumas that may impact your current functioning and wellbeing. It can be helpful to understand where these beliefs and coping strategies come from in order to make sense of your experience and feel a sense of self-compassion, however it is not necessary to know the origins in order to recognize that they need to change. Simply recognizing that these coping strategies are not effective is all that is needed in order to start making changes. If you are clear that you do or do not want to talk about your childhood in therapy, it would be good to share this information when you are shopping around for a therapist.

 Is it important to have a diagnosis?

Having a mental disorder diagnosis may be helpful or even harmful, depending on the person and their circumstances. For some a diagnosis may provide some understanding of aspects of their experience that they had previously lacked and may open up opportunities for psychological or therapeutic support. For others, it may feel oppressive, imposed, and inconsistent with their own understanding and worldview. A diagnosis can free some people from the self-doubt and self-criticism that can come from not having a label or way of understanding painful experiences, but may lead other people to feel like they are now officially "deficient", "ill", "disordered", or "crazy". 
  In my work as a therapist I have encountered clients who were liberated by receiving a diagnosis and others who were so pained by the stigma and misinformed assumptions that may come with a diagnosis that the majority of our work focused on undoing these negative effects. 
  A diagnosis is not the only, or necessarily the most helpful way to get more insight and understanding into your psychological experiences. Therapy can provide a supportive environment to explore your experiences and collaboratively articulate what these experiences mean, what parts of these experiences you would like to hold on to or let go of, what your goals are for your life, and the steps you can take to get there. A diagnosis is not required to do this. A clear understanding of the challenges that you face is important to know how to move forward effectively, but his does not require a specific label for your experience. 
For more information on the benefits and pitfalls of diagnoses of mental health conditions, see my article on mental illness.

See Videos, Book Recommendations, and Web Resources on Mental Health in the Additional Resources section of this website (Videos & More).

Is therapy helpful for people with mental illness?

The answer is usually yes. There is a lot of research that suggests that therapy can be effective for many of the challenges that may be considered "mental illness". In many cases therapy is more effective than medications for treating mental illness, and in other cases it may be helpful in combination with prescribed medications. However, when someone is having an acute mental health crisis they may require other types of assistance and stabilization before starting therapy. 
  For more information on "mental illness" and why I keep putting "mental illness" in quotation marks, see my article "How do I know if I have a mental illness?" 

Can therapists prescribe medication?

Most therapists cannot prescribe medications. Only medical doctors can prescribe medications in Canada and most medical doctors who prescribe medications for mental health related concerns are not therapists. Some GP psychotherapists and psychiatrists may conduct therapy and also prescribe medications.

My partner, parent or friend thinks I need therapy but I think I am fine. Should I come?

That is a difficult question. Like a typical therapist I feel compelled to answer this question with a series of other questions. 

* Why do these other individuals think that you would benefit from therapy?
* Do their reasons make sense to you? 
* Are there ways that you have acted that have given others a reason to be concerned?
* Are your friends or family seeing patterns of behaviour that you may not be aware of?
* Are you open to or willing to try therapy? 

 It is important to trust yourself and your own intuition about what you need, but at the same time, sometimes we are unable to see our own choices as clearly as other people see them. The idea of "needing therapy" may get in the way of making the right choice for you. Instead of need, what about the question - "Could I benefit from developing more insight into who I am and the choices that I make?" 
  Another possibility is doing therapy with whoever it is that is telling you that "you need to do therapy!" The person who is telling you this may be experiencing pain in relationship with you and the two of you may benefit more from some form of relational therapy, even if it is a friend. It is not uncommon when a client arrives after being "sent" by a family member or partner, that we discover that relational sessions would be more helpful than individual sessions. 

Read my article "Why You May Not Be the Real Problem" for more discussion of this topic"

If I'm...should I see a therapist who is also...? 

Often this question comes up around gender (e.g. Should I work with a female therapist if I’m female?), however, it also comes up around race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, family structure etc. The answer to this question depends on a number of factors. It is important to have a therapist that you feel comfortable speaking with, and having some similarity in life experiences can create comfort, insight, and may allow for a deeper sense of being understood. It can also make a difference if you have had particularly bad experiences with someone from a particular gender or social location (culture, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, etc). There are times, however, where it may be more therapeutic to work with someone either very different than you in background and life experience, or even to work with a therapist who triggers some pain for you because of the characteristics that they share with the person who you had these bad experiences with. 
  A sad reality is that most sexual abuse and serious physical violence that occurs in the world, is committed by men. This means that there are many people of all genders who have understandable issues of trust around any close relationships with men, even if they have healthy relationships with some men in their lives. I have had clients who found the opportunity to work through some of their painful histories involving men, with a man, to be particularly transformative. I have also worked with many clients from very different social locations and have not found it to be a barrier to our work. But that is for each client to decide. 
   What will work best for you will depend on your own life history, what you are looking for, and where you are at in your healing journey. While common experiences or culture will matter for some people and some problems, it is likely to be less important for good therapy than the personal connection and "fit" with the therapist. There are all kinds of therapists from all genders and social locations that you will and won't connect with and it may take having a session or two to fully assess what is right for you. 

What should I do if I'm concerned about things my therapist is saying or doing?

 First off, it is often a a good idea to start by raising your concerns with your therapist. A therapist should be open to receiving concerns and feedback about their behaviour, and if they are not, this may be a sign that this is not someone that you would want to work with. Many issues can be resolved through a thoughtful conversation with your therapist as they may result from misunderstandings or actions that were taken without knowledge of how they would impact you as a unique individual. 
  However, If your therapist is engaged in behaviours that seem unethical or like a violation of your boundaries, rights, or privacy you may want to file a complaint with their professional or regulatory bodies to ensure that this is not part of an ongoing pattern that could be impacting others now and in the future as well. Most therapists adhere to codes of conduct laid out by their professional colleges and associations and these colleges and associations tend to take complaints against their members quite seriously. Your therapist can provide you with information about their professional memberships and regulatory bodies, and you may also be able to find out for yourself simply by their credentials (e.g. Psychologists in Ontario are regulated by the College of Psychologists of Ontario). 
   People seeking therapy often come to therapy at times of vulnerability and it very important that you are treated with respect and dignity. This includes answering your questions, responding to your concerns, respecting confidentiality, respecting physical boundaries, and not doing anything that could be experienced as an abuse of the therapist's power and privilege (e.g. making sexual advances, asking to borrow money, making rude or offensive comments). If you have any concerns at all, you have a right to speak up.

How can you help if my kid is being bullied?

There are a number of ways in which a therapist can help when a kid is being bullied. First off, since bullying can have serious effects on a child's well being, it is important to brainstorm about strategies and solutions to ensure that the bullying stops - if this hasn't already happened. Schools are increasingly responsive to concerns about bullying but it may require some advocacy to develop a plan with the school that will work in your circumstances. 
  In addition to safety planning with you and those who are involved in the care of your child, I would want to understand what impact this bullying has had on your child and your family, help support your child's coping mechanisms, work to prevent your child from internalizing (taking on) the negativity of the bullying, and collaborate with you and your child to draw out strengths and opportunities for learning from this painful circumstance.

Learn more about our therapists. Read articles about therapy, relationships, parenting, sex and mental health.

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