I want to Complain about my Counsellor

Problems occur from time to time between therapist and client – and sometimes this is where the real counselling work happens. But sometimes the problem is something that the client cannot work through and, instead, wishes to complain to someone about. This article summarises how you might raise a complaint about your counsellor.

Sometimes, the relationship between the counsellor and client can encounter difficulties.

From a [tooltip text='Psychodynamics is the theory and systematic study of the psychological forces that underlie human behavior, especially the dynamic relations between conscious motivation and unconscious motivation.'] psychodynamic [/tooltip] point of view, the relationship between therapist and client can grow to mirror the difficulties experienced in the client’s life.  It is therefore not unexpected that seemingly-unmanageable situations in the clients personal life may be repeated with the therapist (albeit unintentionally & unconsciously).

Repeating Past Experiences.

The difference in these therapeutic circumstances will be that the therapist will try to help the client work through the problems (assisting the client in taking the opportunity to work with the problems in a different way) whilst at the same time trying to be aware of his own potential to unintentionally repeat behaviour that the client has experienced in his/her past.  It’s a very real process – it can be successfully worked through but for some clients it can be too disturbing if it occurs.

It is my approach to talk openly about difficulties as part of the therapy for these very reasons.

When Therapeutic Problems cannot be Worked-Through.

Despite the best of intentions, sometimes very difficult problems cannot be worked through between client and therapist. Whether the client cannot hold onto a spark of imagination that allows him/her to trust that this distressing manifestation is part of the transference, or the therapist hasn’t been self-aware sufficiently to work with their [tooltip text='Counter transference: the therapist`s emotional entanglement with the client; the therapist`s unconscious response to unconsciously communicated client material.'] counter-transference [/tooltip] response to the client’s [tooltip text='Transference is a phenomenon in psychoanalysis characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another.'] transference [/tooltip] – and the client feels hurt, betrayed, let down etc.

Therapist Abuse.

The client cannot be blamed for being unable to disassociate from very real feelings of betrayal (etc). That is one matter.

Another quite different matter is when the therapist has not behaved ethically – whether by intentionally abusing the client (financially, sexually etc) or not being skilled enough or not using supervision enough to keep the therapeutic work safe.

Complaining to a Professional Body.

If , during therapy, you and Dean cannot resolve manifesting difficulties, and you wish to raise a professional complaint about Dean, you have the option of taking your complaint to his professional body: the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP). 

  • This will make your complaint about me formal and the BACP have professional procedures in place to handle such formal complaints.
  • It may also be helpful to review BACP’s Making a Complaint page which gives information on what to do before raising a complaint.

Contacting the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy.

British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy,
BACP House,
15 St John’s Business Park,
LE17 4HB.

Tel: 01455 883300,
Fax: 01455 550243,
Minicom: 01455 550307,
Text: 01455 560606

3 replies on “I want to Complain about my Counsellor”

You said “Despite the best of intentions, sometimes very difficult problems cannot be worked through between client and therapist. Whether the client cannot hold onto a spark of imagination that allows him/her to trust that this distressing manifestation is part of the transference, or the therapist hasn’t been self-aware sufficiently to work with their counter-transference response to the client’s transference – and the client feels hurt, betrayed, let down etc.”

Where is the counsellor in all this, both points you mention here are about the client’s inability to hold on or of feeling too hurt by the counsellor getting it wrong. This is part of this profession (which I am a part of unfortunately). The client is usually always blamed, in psychodynamic counselling there are just words and theories to support the blame of the client. Person centered counsellors usually tend to find psychodynamic reasons when the client ‘just wont listen, or just cant hold on to the fact that it is all happening in the transference.’

I would suggest a third point, and this I feel is the most important point as it happens many times between counsellor and client and leads to breakdown of the therapeutic frame- the counsellor is still stuck in his/her own past. And by this I am not talking about obvious abusive cts done to her/him by adults that should have known better, no. I am talking about abuse (Alice Miller called it Poisonous Pedagogy)that is seen as normal, acceptable behaviour in society and also the psychotherapeutic schools. In the name of the child’s good the child is abused, in the name of the client’s own good the client is abused.

Thank you for your feedback, Anonymous.

It’s interesting that on re-reading my words, I do find that I’m expressing both the client’s and the therapist’s positions and participation in this phenomena.

Specifically, whilst I define counter-transference as the therapist’s response to unconscious material; I still consider that the C/T manifests within a relationship – it’s both the client’s material and the therapist’s material combined, rather than, as you suggest some counsellors take the position of, it’s just the client’s stuff.

I’m unsure about my own position holding “blame” over the client, per se. If the client experiences the therapist as attacking, and the therapist is not (intending to be?) attacking, I would find that an interesting manifestation of the client’s transference and the therapist’s (possible unconscious) response and participation within this. Something important is happening.

My take on psychodynamic practice is that I don’t consider this example as being a fault of the client, so it’s not really my thing to hold blame over the client for what therapist and client are manifesting together. Yet, when a client cannot – at all – see the therapist as anything other than the distressing object into which he has (been?) transformed, then some may say that the therapy is clearly failing. Yet, maybe, in these circumstances, this was always the intention of the client’s unconscious: to find an object that can be the mantel for a past object/past experience, and be destroyed (enough) for the client to be able to move on (as the client couldn’t have done in the past).

Your comments here are very valuable, Anonymous, and I’m pleased to be challenged by positions and thoughts that I haven’t primarily considered in writing my post.

Thank you 🙂

I went to my doctors back in August asking to be referred to a counsellor. I waited up to 8 weeks like I was advised to by a counsellor. It’s now November and I have been waiting roughly over 1 month more than the waiting time.I have been to my gp after many attempts of ringing the counsellor myself to ask why have I been waiting so long and even my gp has been trying to trace up an appointment to see the counsellor for me but still no word of an appointment. It’s a joke I tell ya it’s a good job I’m not suicidal as i won’t be writing this message right now if I was.

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