Five Bad Signs Your Counselor Wants Your Success More Than You Do


This is a rather direct post but an important one. If your counselor is working harder for you than you are working on yourself and your relationship, they are likely to get burnt out, and you are likely to fail. If this comes across as not showing a strong commitment to client service, it is only because being too committed to client service in areas where clients need to do the work themselves is not in anyone’s best interest. And to be clear, your success is defined by you. For most couples, success means keeping the relationship together and making it stronger, but that is not always the case for everyone.

  1. You want immediate results and complain about the time and cost

This is certainly understandable, and the economy isn’t excellent right now. However, this can only go along with not seeing the big picture. Clients who go into counseling expecting to have perhaps 2-3 sessions (with rare exceptions) are almost sure not to get their money’s worth. Healing isn’t always linear; taking two steps forward and two steps back is possible. Gathering intake information provides value in helping you get to know your therapist and reflect on your relationship. Still, it is part of the necessary assessment phase whose value will not be seen immediately. There are more and less expensive options than Cardinal Point Counseling. Still, clients who need to make reasonable improvements should have and be prepared to spend 1-2k as an investment into what is hopefully one of the most critical areas of your life (your relationship). While no one necessarily “wants” to spend that money, many people will do so without thinking when replacing car tires, fixing a furnace, taking a vacation, signing their kid up for a travel sports team, purchasing electronics, or buying a new couch. Isn’t your relationship just as important or more important? Your counselor wants your success more than you do if they are investing more time and money into your care than you are or are trying to cut corners so that you can see more immediate results (e.g., if you ask a doctor to skip an x-ray and instead give you a cortisone shot, you will feel better right away, but if there is a fracture you are only hurting yourself more).

  1. You don’t make appointments a priority

Work and life can be demanding. Some people have jobs with fixed schedules. That said, many people seem only to want to make counseling appointments if they can, for instance, get a slot after 8 pm (you can’t here) or during an Ohio State football game (you can’t here). Your dentist, PCP, eye doctor, or other professionals will probably not see you at unusual times, and you may have to wait months to see one of these people at 3 or 4 pm. Your cable company or plumber may give you a four-hour window between 9 and 1 pm, and you find time to let them in. Counseling is usually more frequent, making it difficult to come in during the middle of the day every week, but clients who want to make things work generally can.

Cardinal Point Counseling tries to allow flexibility by offering 5 pm and weekend appointments, but those slots fill up the fastest. Your priority may depend on the seriousness of relationship issues as well. If you want preventative care and maintenance, you can probably afford to wait for the best time. A friend makes an analogy that if you have stage four cancer, you will see your oncologist whenever they tell you they are available. If your marriage is the most crucial thing in your life and it’s in bad shape, wouldn’t you make the same commitment? Your counselor wants your success more than you do if they are willing to work weekends and evenings to see you, but you aren’t willing to make adjustments to see them.

  1. You need reminders to complete intake forms, pay bills, and complete paperwork

I can estimate with a fair degree of accuracy how well clients will do in therapy based on how quickly and thoroughly they complete intake forms. It’s not perfect, but clients who do them promptly and provide reasonable detail are generally much more likely to put in the necessary work on their own throughout therapy. Clients who need reminders or write things like their goal for therapy is to “improve my relationship” don’t show that they are in the game. Your counselor may have around 50 or 60 active clients at any time. If you don’t have time to worry about this for yourself, your counselor doesn’t have time to see clients and worry about whether clients are meeting their minimal administrative responsibilities.

  1. You show up without having thought about anything you want to talk about or work on that day

While the Gottman Method and your intake session and forms provide the counselor with things they can help you with, the best client results come from clients who put effort into thinking about what they need as well. It is one of a counselor’s worst nightmares to ask clients about their goals or for at least something they want to work on and to get an answer of “I don’t know.” My response is often, “I don’t know either,” We sit in silence until something comes up. If clients can’t take five minutes to figure out what they need, counselors can’t take hours to guess and prepare something the client may not even want.

  1. You want your counselor to be your long-term referee

There is an entire blog post about this and how a long-term referee makes you overly dependent on your counselor.