Your Rights in Therapy
Updated: May 16
There are a lot of misconceptions about what clients can and can't do in therapy and counselling. It can be intimidating to be in a relationship with a person who holds authority, especially something as vulnerable as therapy, so let's even the playing field. As a client, you have authority too. When you're in therapy, you have the freedom to be yourself and get what you need, how you need it. If you're feeling uncomfortable, you have the right and the ability to advocate for yourself (out loud or silently – boundaries can be external or internal) and do what you need to keep yourself safe. Your therapist is a professional and should respond to your responses and feedback with grace and humility. You are the most important person in therapy.
You have the right to:
ask questions and be responded to with dignity.
be picky when you choose a therapist.
change your therapist and find a good fit.
be informed about what you are signing up for and know potential costs and gains.
come exactly as you are and feel seen, understood, and accepted.
be welcomed into a space where you are respected, included, and treated kindly.
receive fair treatment and trauma-sensitive, high-quality mental health care.
take up space, have wants and needs, make mistakes, and change your mind.
get undivided attention and accept, refuse, or modify anything your therapist offers.
feel safe before you reveal your thoughts, emotions, fears, and hurts.
take up your therapist's time and take your time trusting them.
express your unique identities, cultures, and parts of self.
be in a secure relationship where you have choice and power.
speak as little as you want and choose what to share and what to keep.
say nothing, no, stop, pause, pass, I don’t know, I need water, and I need to pee.
be protected from further harm or pain.
access support without being judged, discriminated, or retraumatized.
rest, set limits, do or not do homework, and honor your body’s defenses.
object if your therapist does or says something you don’t like.
complain if your therapist does or says something that hurts you.
be acknowledged, heard, validated, accommodated, and apologized to.
know what your therapist is writing and how they’ll keep it private.
tell your therapist (when you’re ready) if you think of suicide or self-harm.
consent to intervention without fear of trauma.
see other therapists and helpers or take a break from therapy.
withdraw or finish at any time and have a healthy goodbye.
You have the right to heal and change your life in a way that works for you.
If you're struggling with something on this list in your therapy, you can try talking to your therapist or asking a friend or other professional how to respond.
If you need help and would like to connect with our team, contact us to ask a question or get matched with a therapist.
Carol is a psychologist and the founder of Therapy Alberta, a private group practice with local psychologists, social workers, and counsellors offering individual, couples, and family counselling and therapy in Calgary and across Alberta.