Q. I had really thought that my teen liked her counselor but now she is acting angry and won’t tell me why. She says she wants a new counselor. Should I let her switch to a new counselor?
A. In general I would say no. It is a counselor’s job to establish a therapeutic relationship and bond with their client. They build trust and once that trust is established, a counselor uses that relationship to help the client heal. Although the positive relationship in itself can be quite healing, it is often necessary for a counselor to push the client to discuss difficult topics and to confront the client on discrepancies in their behaviors and what they report wanting from their life. Most people have a hard time looking at themselves objectively, teenagers especially and therefore become angry at the counselor for challenging them. I have experienced this several times, even with clients who I have had a solid therapeutic relationship with. As the client begins to process what has happened and continues to work in therapy, the anger dissipates and the therapeutic relationship deepens, leading the way for more work to be done. If your child has reported not liking their therapist consistently, however, this is a different issue.
There is always a chance that this is not the reason why your teen reports not wanting to work with her counselor anymore. I suggest talking to your teen and expressing that you do not want to interfere with their confidentiality in counseling, but that they need to be honest with you if they want to switch counselors and see what they say. It may also be beneficial to talk to the counselor and get their take on the anger. Although the counselor needs to protect your teen’s confidentiality to keep their trust, they should be able to tell you something in general terms such as they confronted them on behavior or were asking tough questions. If there was a huge breach then certainly allow your teen to switch counselors. In some cases it may even be appropriate to file a complaint with the licensing board.
If you have a question about counseling for yourself or your family or the counseling process, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.