The New York Times Rounds Up Readers’ Top Tiffs with Therapists

The New York Times has put together a list of top twelve annoyances endured by therapy clients, and in addition to harmless mistakes or one-time slip-ups, there are some upsetting trends.

A fairly common and sometimes unavoidable issue reported by clients is the problem of therapists showing up late. Whether by a few minutes or a few hours, the message seems to ring out that the client is not important or worthy of time or attention–not a nice message to send. Eating and yawning or even sleeping in front of clients also made it on the list; one reader reported that their therapist took the initiative to use their session time–around noon–to have their lunch. Being self-centered or focusing on the minute details of their own life is one therapist behavior that appeared anathema to client preference. Distractions including ringing phones, computer use, and in-office pets ranked high on the list of grievances as well. Making it hard for clients to make contact via phone or email was reported as a major problem, as was discussing the therapist’s personal racial, sexual, and religious preferences; music and lifestyle choices also made the list, though these seem to become an issue only when they are the focus of a session’s precious time.

Clock watching and excessive note taking seem like fairly obvious no-nos, and uncomfortable hugging or touching was noted as a problem. One reader mentioned that her therapist, seemingly very concerned with whether the client cared for her, would frequently ask for an opinion and give small gifts to the client. A final item well worthy of its place on the list is flamboyant displays of wealth or of flesh–behavior not suited to the therapist’s office.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Amy


    March 31st, 2009 at 12:51 AM

    Hey, I think if I was a patient I would feel totally unimportant if my therapist asked me questions through a mouth full of food. A lot of people who go to church rarely do get a much needed siesta because they are bored. That explains the yawning therapist. If the therapist is genuinely tired then he should refrain from keeping too many appointments.

  • Dave


    March 31st, 2009 at 1:28 AM

    Probably why a lot of people dont opt for therapy is one friend with a bad experience with therapy can totally discourage a person from trying it themselves.

  • Tara


    March 31st, 2009 at 2:25 AM

    I can see why these would annoy a client. If I was a client and seen her/him yawn, I would think my problems were not important. It’s sad to think a therapist, who knows better, would do such things in front of their client knowing full well that sooner or later the client would pick up on this.

  • Wendi


    March 31st, 2009 at 2:32 AM

    This is a very good article and I enjoyed reading it. I can’t believe some of the therapist would do this, but I guess some are just out for the money

  • Ginny


    March 31st, 2009 at 7:02 AM

    Maybe I am just lucky but I have found a wonderful therapist who never does any of those annoying things. She is always prompt and I never have the feeling that she has one eye on the clock during our sessions together. I get from her a sense that she genuinely cares about what is going on in my life and that she really cares about me and getting me to a happy place. Just knowing that she cares really helps me a lot.

  • Belinda


    March 31st, 2009 at 3:17 PM

    I’m sure there are still very good therapist out there who aren’t this bad. Ginny you are lucky to have a good therapist who really truly cares.

  • darlene


    April 1st, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    Ginny, you are so lucky to have found a therapist that is caring. I hope there are more therapist that are out there looking out for the best in their patients.

  • Nikki


    April 2nd, 2009 at 4:28 PM

    I had a counselor once who jiggled her leg the whole time and for some reason that annoyed the heck out of me. I could not concentrate on anything but that.

  • Megan


    April 2nd, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    I was in therapy for kleptomaniac tendencies in my teen years. I think I rectified my act just to avoid going to my therapist who enjoyed digging his nose inside out. I know this is disgusting but I just had to say it here.

  • Brandi


    April 3rd, 2009 at 4:14 AM

    One has to wonder if it is even worth going to therapy if all you are going to have to do is worry if the therapist is even listening to you. Whether she’s busy looking at the time, looking off or whatever. Jotting notes, I don’t think would bother me, since it tells me she is taking the time to do that

  • Lindsay


    April 4th, 2009 at 9:39 AM

    Just to play devil’s advocate, we all have to remember that being a therapist is a tough job. You have to listen to the problems of others all day long, help patients process those problems and all the while maintain your own sense of sanity. How difficult all of that juggling must be! I wonder how many therapists have to seek help of their own just due to the stresses of having to help other people with their problems all day long? I am not saying that leering at the clock or yawning in the middle of sessions is acceptable but we do have to cut them some slack sometimes which I know is hard to do when we feel like we are paying them good money for their time. Sometimes I guess there is just no real winning situation.

  • Mica


    April 5th, 2009 at 10:43 AM

    I think Lindsay has a good point. I don’t think I could sit all day long and listen to everyone’s problems. I know everyone has them, but to listen to them ALL DAY LONG. I’m sure this gets to the best of the therapists.

  • Jeannie


    April 6th, 2009 at 3:12 PM

    How about someone who constantly interjects to tell you more about what is going on in their own lives instead of listening to you? If I faced this I would be wondering if this was a therapist who was in the right line of work after all.

  • Taryn


    April 7th, 2009 at 2:09 AM

    I guess there are good therapist and some not so good. I would hope that if I ever needed a therapist, that I wouldn’t get one who was more concerned about other things going on around THEM instead of focusing on the help I need.

  • Lela


    April 8th, 2009 at 2:30 AM

    There’s a lot of talk about the Bad in the therapists, but I think if we do some research and checking up on a therapist if one is needed, we could find several good ones. I don’t think it’s fair to judge other therapist to the ones who are insincere and are too busy with their ownselves.

  • Jes


    April 9th, 2009 at 2:22 AM

    If I ever had a therapist fall asleep or yawn while i was in session, I think I would just walk out and find another who is willing to pay attention to my needs. I would almost not want to pay the annoying therapist, but that wouldn’t be right. I can’t imagine wasting money on something that is suppose to help me get thru something just to have the therapist act as if she is not intereted.

  • Lisa Brookes Kift

    Lisa Brookes Kift

    April 9th, 2009 at 12:30 PM

    As a therapist myself, this piece was shocking. I guess I never imagined there are others out there who actually fall asleep, eat or do some of the other things that were mentioned in this piece.


  • tabitha


    April 11th, 2009 at 10:26 AM

    I hope other therapist don’t get the raw end of the deal just over a few bad apples.

  • Robin


    April 21st, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    Every once in awhile my therapist does yawn – and you know what- I find it exceptionally human! I mean I yawn, my friends yawn – at 3 o’clock in the afternoon we have some sugar lows – I don’t take this as a sign of not being present with me – My therapist has always been there for me – but I also need her to be real like I am which means she gets sick, tired, etc. So come on people – eating, being late, asking you if you like her – I understand those… but let’s give the people who are there for us – listening, caring – most of the time – a break.

  • Dannika


    June 24th, 2009 at 2:09 AM

    I think we need to remember that we are not the only ones the therapist are listening to. They have to go through this all day long and although i’m not a therapist nor been to one, I’m sure this is a very tough job.

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