10 mistakes of the psychologist that you have to know how to detect

These are the main mistakes of the psychologist relatively easy to make in psychotherapy.

In the practice of the psychologist, especially the clinician, there can be a series of common errors that, although they do not have to harm the health of the patient or the development of therapy, it is true that they influence it.

Psychologists are also human and, despite having enough knowledge to do our job well, sometimes we screw up a bit.

To err is human and to rectify wise, that’s why the pencils have a built-in eraser. For this reason, and in order to help identify mistakes that we can make, we are going to review those errors of the psychologist that are easy to commit.

10 mistakes of the psychologist that you have to know how to detect

The most important psychologist mistakes in therapy

It is common that, early in our career as psychotherapists, we make some mistakes. Nobody is perfect and to err is human, so it is totally normal to make odd mistakes or mistakes.

However, given the great importance of doing good psychotherapy, both for the health of the patient and for the reputation of the psychologist who has treated him, it is necessary to be careful and avoid committing them, especially those that may have more impact on us as professionals or even harm the patient.

With this, we do not intend to generate fears and insecurities for new therapists. It is assumed that, when one begins as a psychologist, whether clinical or not, they have sufficient theoretical and practical knowledge to practice their profession, with competencies acquired throughout the degree and postgraduate studies that legitimize their practice. The objective of this article is to make known which are the most common psychologist mistakes in order to be able to recognize them in oneself and prevent them from happening again in the future.

These are the most common or easy psychologist mistakes to make.

1. Not adjusting the therapist-patient relationship

One of the most fundamental aspects of therapy is the relationship between the psychologist and his patient. This, when established correctly and together with the characteristics of the therapist, can facilitate the effect of therapy.

We cannot talk about this relationship without mentioning the idea of ​​the Optimal Implication Line, an imaginary space in which the relationship of implication between the patient and the professional is the most appropriate for the effectiveness of the therapy. Crossing this line, either through too much or too little involvement, can spoil the therapist-patient relationship. If it is crossed for a long distance, greater will be the risks.

The error here would be to go over the line to one side or the other, which can lead to two possible situations.

Getting too involved with the patient

A too close therapist-patient relationship is established, with a high level of emotional involvement. We care too much about the patient, so much so that we take their problems home with us and make them part of our lives.

This does not mean that it is wrong to give a warm hug to a patient or that we do not care about their mental health. Of course, we care, but that importance is professional. We must not forget that the therapist-patient relationship is professional and, for therapy to work properly, limits have to be set.

There are several problems that could appear if the relationship is too close, apart from the loss of the effectiveness of the therapy:

  • Loss of objectivity about the patient’s problems.
  • Transfer: what happens to the patient will affect us too much.
  • We will avoid saying or doing things that we think might harm the patient.
  • Questioning: the patient is more likely to start questioning our decisions as a professional.

Being too distant with the patient

On the other hand, we find a low emotional involvement, that is, a too distant therapist-patient relationship.

High involvement is a problem, but so is the excessive emotional distance from the patient, which may suggest that we do not care at all. We must understand that intimacy, sensitivity or warmth are fundamental aspects of therapy and, if we do not show them as therapists, it may cause the patient to leave therapy when they feel uncomfortable.

2. Judge the patient’s beliefs

We all have our own opinions. Nobody has the same vision of the world and the beliefs of each one can be very varied. Sometimes, the beliefs of a patient can be very shocking and even discriminatory as would be the case of homophobia, racism, xenophobia, machismo …

Regardless of our opinions about these beliefs, we are not the ones to judge or correct them in the patient. As his psychologists, we must focus on the problem for which he has come to therapy and other problems that, although they have not motivated him to go to the psychologist, may represent a psychological discomfort.

The job of a psychologist is to help his patients work on those thoughts, behaviors or emotions that make him or her suffer and that generate great discomfort in him or them. What we should not do is try to change those thoughts, behaviors or emotions that we, in our personal opinion, consider being wrong.

What we must be very clear about, and in order to avoid possible errors in consultation related to this aspect, is that if we are not capable of treating the patient because their opinions are too shocking or threaten our way of being (eg. , being homosexual and caring for a homophobic patient) it is better to refer him to a colleague or other professional who we think will be able to handle that case better.

3. Don’t dive into the patient’s story

The patient who goes to the consultation should feel heard and understood, as well as minimally valued.

For this reason, it is essential to immerse yourself in their history, knowing their name, surname, the name of their partner, job, children, and other aspects that are fundamental in their day today.

We can have these data on a sheet and, in case we do not remember them well, review them from time to time during the session, although theirs is to have the review conveniently done before receiving the patient.

Failure to do so will force you to have to do some explanations about who you are, why you are going to consult, who is your family or the relationships you have with them and this, incidentally, will give you the feeling that you are really wasting time and money. money because he does not see that going to therapy helps him to make someone worry about his situation and value how to help him.

4. Do not apply active listening

Every psychologist has heard the expression “active listening” on more than one occasion. It is considered a fundamental skill in the professional life of every therapist and we must master it. If we do not listen to what our patient tells us, it will be very difficult to know what is wrong with him, why he is wrong, and how we can help him. This is why it is essential to comply with the following:

  • Pay attention and interest in what the patient communicates to us, both on a verbal, non-verbal and attitudinal level.
  • Process information and separate what is important from what is not.
  • Not hearing what we want to hear, but what the patient is trying to say.
  • Return listening responses, both verbal and non-verbal, showing the patient that we are actively listening.

There are people who are naturally skilled in the application of active listening and others, even being psychologists, find it a little more difficult. Fortunately, this skill can be perfected, there are multiple active listening exercises and some tips to apply it as we discuss in the following article:

5. Talk too much or nothing about ourselves

Here we enter a point that is the subject of debate among psychotherapists: is it okay to tell patients things about ourselves? How can it help you? Are we crossing the barrier between the professional and the personal?

Some are of the opinion that absolutely nothing personal should be said to him and that we should focus exclusively on the patient’s life and psychological distress. However, others consider that not talking at all about ourselves is a mistake, since we are too rigid with the patient and do not contribute to creating an environment of trust.

The ideal would be to talk about us, but in the right measure and very occasionally. Self-disclosures can be useful to us at given moments of therapy, although it is true that if the patient insists too much on knowing what our life is like, we must respond by highlighting the importance of talking about him or her and not about ourselves.

But we must not talk too much about ourselves, since we will be making a mistake. Therapy is for the patient, not for us, and that is not the place for us to talk about ourselves.

Self-disclosures should be a controlled offering of information, not an outlet for our personal lives. If we want to talk about ourselves in therapy, we go to a psychologist and we exercise the role of the patient.

Self-disclosures have several positive effects on therapy:

  • It makes the patient reveal himself more to us.
  • Increases the confidence of the patient towards us.
  • The therapist is perceived as a warmer and closer person.
  • Improves the effectiveness of therapy.

What can be revealed during therapy?

  • Talk about our professional experience.
  • Age, marital status or number of children.
  • How we have handled certain issues or opinions.
  • Positive feelings about our patient.
  • How the therapy proceeds.
  • Negative feelings (less often)
  • Information about personal religious or sexual beliefs (less frequently).

6. Using overly technical language

When we speak with our patients, we must avoid using too technical language or, if we have to use it, at least explain to the patient what each term consists of.

Using too many complex words and techniques we will run the risk of being pedantic, in addition to giving the patient the feeling that they have gotten into a place where they are not learning anything and feel a bit silly.

We do not want under any circumstances that the patient feels like this since psychotherapy is to make them feel comfortable, open up and improve their psychological state. The therapist must introduce the language of the psychologist to the natural language of the patient so that he can understand what is being done and what techniques are being applied.

This also applies even to patients who happen to be psychologists. Even so, we must introduce them to the techniques that we are going to apply, even if it is a minimal explanation or review. For example, if we are going to apply Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation technique, it is convenient to explain it a little at least.

7. Bypass the therapeutic alliance

This error consists of focusing too much on the techniques that we must use and ignoring the relationship that we maintain with the patient.

It is normal that, at the beginning, we spend a lot of time designing and planning the sessions, something that is certainly essential in the approach to any case. We do this to feel more secure, with a greater sense of control over therapy. However, trying to control the situation too much, ignoring the relationship that we are maintaining with the patient, can weaken the alliance between patient and therapist.

As therapists we must master the techniques and tools that psychology offers us, but also strive to build a good therapeutic alliance since it is a positive predictor of the success of therapy.

The therapeutic alliance is the implicit pact between the patient and the therapist, whose goal is to achieve the therapeutic objectives. To ensure that this therapeutic alliance is adequate, it is advisable to take into account the following 3 aspects :

  • Positive emotional bond between patient and therapist.
  • Mutual agreement on the goals of the intervention.
  • Mutual agreement on therapeutic tasks.

The alliance is an ongoing process, not something that is suddenly established as soon as therapy begins. It is essential that, as therapists, we monitor how psychotherapy is developing in order to maintain, improve and repair the alliance if necessary.

8. Tell the patient what to do

The maxim that says that we should not tell our patients what to do is almost first in psychology, but rather act as a guide in making their own decisions. The patient is the true owner of his life, his actions, and his decisions and he should be responsible for his successes and mistakes.

But despite the fact that this is a fundamental idea in the life of every psychologist, it is also a fairly common mistake. The gaffe would be to direct the patient towards a certain path, the one that we like and that we have not taken into account neither the decisions nor the will of the person we are treating. In other words, telling the patient what to do regardless of what they think or feel is uncomfortable for them.

What we must do is guide the patient towards the path that he or she wants to follow. If we tell the patient what to do and they are unlucky enough that it doesn’t go well, we run the risk of being blamed for the fact that it went wrong. On the other hand, if we limit ourselves to acting as a guide, it is less likely that something will go wrong and, if it does go wrong, we will be exempt from responsibility or fault since the decision was made by the patient.

9. Being too rigid and not flexing

Although we must plan our sessions and have all the tools that we are going to apply with the patient ready, it is true that the idea of ​​perfection, excessive planning and high control of therapy are not good allies of our profession. In fact, it could weaken the therapeutic alliance.

It is not that we should improvise in each session we do, but it is true that sometimes things will not go as we had imagined , especially since the patient’s life is a process, unstable and changing. What we thought would work yesterday may no longer be useful today.

It may also be that, as the therapy progresses, the patient opens up more and more and reveals new information to us, data that makes us see that perhaps it is better to apply a new technique, different from the one we had originally planned to apply, which is why it may be better for us, and above all for the patient, to apply a new approach.

10. Not taking into account where the therapy is

As therapists, we must delve into the feelings and emotions of our patients. Among our functions is to enter the depths of your mind, investigating the best-kept memories, their schemes, beliefs, and values.

By doing this, we must be sure that we will be able to properly control and manage the emotions and attitudes that we are going to awaken in the patient. When we open a door, we must be sure that we will be able to close it later.

Going deeper when not playing poses a lot of problems. If we do it ahead of time, the patient may feel intimidated and threatened, feeling that their times have not been respected. This will put you on the defensive and shut down.

On the other hand, if we take too long to go deeper, it may happen that the patient also closes, refusing to talk about his personal life at this point because he feels that he is better and considers that it is not necessary to talk about something that he does not see the relationship with a problem that, on the other hand, seems to have already been solved.

Lastly, we have not delved at all. Although the patient may not know that therapy has to be deepened at some point, when it is finished, they will notice that not everything that should have been discussed has been treated and they will have the feeling that it has not allowed them to vent all that they have. wanted.


10 mistakes of the psychologist that you have to know how to detect