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Is Your Therapist Too Easy On You?

Written By Ashley Gray, LCSW, MFTC

You may have seen memes talk about therapists who go too easy on people who need to be held accountable more often. Perhaps, you have even wondered if your therapist is being too easy on you. What I mean by "too easy" is whether or not they gently challenge your perspective, ask you questions that inspire meaningful reflection, hold you accountable, discuss your progress with you and/or educate you. If they don't do these things then they might be going too easy on you.

What some people mean when they talk about their therapist being too easy on them is that they are too kind, they don't call them out on their mistakes in a way that is familiar to them and they are afraid that there is too much talking and listening and not enough action or practicing of skills.

Discomfort With Gentleness

Some of this might be a very fair critique. While other parts might be a discomfort with receiving gentleness and/or emotion from your therapist. If you grew up with a family or social culture that taught that success, progress, motivation and the like were a result of necessary harshness. It might feel uncomfortable to experience therapy without harshness. It might feel like you cannot achieve your goals without harshness. You might also feel undeserving of the gentleness you receive. If this is you, I want to let you know that you absolutely deserve kindness and gentleness and leaning into the discomfort of receiving that (as you are ready - challenge by choice) can be very healing.

Your desire for this harshness likely comes from the familiarity with this method. You may argue that you have thrived under tough love and perhaps that is true. That thriving also may have been out of necessity and not necessarily been proof that you need a harsh form of tough love.

When Tough Love Makes Sense

Not all tough love is bad. Sometimes when we talk about tough love we're talking about allowing natural consequences to occur or receiving more direct feedback. Both of these things can be done with respect and a form of gentleness. This is what we often want in healthy therapy, a balance of honest, direct accountability without harshness. Gentleness without coddling or overlooking important opportunities for accountability.

Sometimes if you have had more of one than the other in your life, you may need a little bit more of the other to help with your healing. For instance, if you grew up with harshness, so you're most comfortable with people pleasing, over achieving, being hard on yourself and you struggle to slow down and take breaks, you may need to receive and practice a lot of gentleness before you can have a healthy balance. If you grew up with too much parental passivity and a lack of structure, which may have led to some chaos, you could potentially benefit from more structure, accountability and respectful honesty. A balance of facing hard truths and pairing it with self compassion. Holding yourself accountable while also forgiving yourself.

If you are less familiar with this balance, you likely will need it modeled by your therapist. So how do you know if your therapist is providing this balance? You will know if your therapist is providing this balance if...

  • Your therapist is asking thought provoking questions that may challenge your patterns and perspectives.

  • Your therapist helps you identify patterns in your behavior that could benefit from a new approach or perspective AND also points out your current strengths and growth.

  • Your therapist validates your emotions and experiences.

  • Your therapist helps you understand the context around your situations and will also make sure that they are accurately understanding your perspective.

  • Your therapist encourages self-reflection.

  • Your therapist supports you with new skills and tools that may be practiced in session and/or assigned as homework.

  • The skills and tools mentioned above will be aligned with your goals for therapy that you and your therapist have discussed.

  • You feel like you're growing, improving, learning and reaching goals with your therapist.

  • Your therapist asks for your input on how therapy is going for you.

  • Your therapist will explain to you why they are engaging in certain practices with you, when appropriate.

  • Your therapist apologizes and repairs with you when they make a mistake.

  • Your therapist supports you in feeling your emotions and helps you explore them further and does so in a safe and trauma-informed way.

  • Your therapist asks you to reflect on how your behaviors impact you and others.

  • Your therapist asks you to consider other people's perspectives in the situation you are sharing about.

When You're "Just Talking"

Now of course, it is absolutely okay to have sessions (maybe many sessions) where you are mostly venting or allowing yourself to feel your emotions. These sessions might not feel as productive as sessions where you're practicing skills or learning new things because it can take a bit to see how experiencing these things is leading to the growth you were searching for when you began therapy. However, if ever you feel like things aren't going the way you hoped for in therapy, I encourage you to talk to your therapist about that. You can use an, "I feel" statement to let them know what isn't working and what you need instead. That will sound like, "I feel ____ about _____, I need _____ instead." Here is an example, " I feel confused about the direction of our therapy sessions right now. I feel like I need us to review my therapy goals, so we can make sure I'm on track and that my homework is aligned with those goals."

If therapy is feeling too easy, in general, and you're wondering if this is normal, check out this blog post on getting back to basics in therapy.

When They Are Just Siding With You

If your therapist is only siding with you in the stories that you tell, instead of also encouraging you to consider other people's perspectives in the situation, then you may not be receiving the accountability that you need. Of course, there are stories and situations where you are indeed the victim (think trauma and abuse) and considering the other person's perspective may not be as necessary. It is also important to remember that there will also be many situations in which it could be very important to consider how your behaviors impact others (your partner, family, friends, community, etc). Being able to consider such things allows you to grow into a better friend, partner, co-worker, family member, community member and even allow you to show up for yourself better. Just like the meme at the beginning of the article suggests, it is important that we're all held accountable because our behaviors impact others.

If you're only talking about he faults of others and there is no accountability (for you), you may not be growing, you might only be complaining about others without examining what these frustrations are teaching you. There can be an opportunity to better understand your values, boundaries, problematic behaviors, etc, when we examine our frustrations with others, rather than stopping at the frustration and letting that be the last word. It can be difficult and scary to shift from complaining to self-reflection and accountability, but you are far more capable of this than you may realize. I have seen it happen time and time again, with the gentle and direct support of your therapist, you can make this shift.

In the event, that this post made you realize that you need a different balance in your therapy sessions, no need to panic. You can address these concerns with your therapist using the "I feel" statements mentioned earlier in this post. It can be a very healing and empowering experience to address these concerns with your therapist and have them address your needs in a healthy way.

If you would like to have me as a therapist, a therapist who will make you feel heard and hold you accountable, reach out using the contact buttons at the top of this page.

I'm wishing you the best on your healing journey! :)

P.S. If you want to sign up for my newsletter, so that you don't miss a blog post and you get the latest information about free resources, services and news follow this link. There will be a pop-up on the page that will prompt you to sign up. If you get the pop-up after you sign up, you can use the yellow "x" in the corner of the page on your desktop or bottom of the page (you may have to scroll) on your phone to exit.

This post is written by individual and couples therapist, Ashley Gray of Arvada, Colorado. Ashley works with her clients using Gottman Method Couples Therapy, EMDR Trauma Therapy, Prepare and Enrich, attachment focused therapy and techniques from Emotionally Focused Therapy, Couples Intensives and EMDR Intensives. As a therapist, she is passionate about helping people build healthy relationships and supporting people with the resources they need. In her free time, Ashley hikes, paddle boards, reads, spends time with her husband and her cuddly dog. For more information about Ashley and her practice, click here.


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