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Andrea Anderson Polk’s Blog

Clinically Practiced, Biblically Informed

  • Writer's pictureAndrea Anderson Polk

7 Warning Signs of Your Partner’s Toxic Behavior in Therapy

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Man and woman sitting on couch. Woman is arguing and man has face in hands. Signs of your partner's toxic behavior in therapy sessions.

In the previous post, I identified 13 warning signs of toxic therapy designed to help you know when a therapist is displaying harmful behavior in your counseling sessions. Today we will look at how to recognize when your partner’s behavior in therapy is toxic.

The last thing you want is to feel just as disillusioned and confused in therapy as you did before therapy. Perhaps your intuition is telling you something is not right about the counseling process and how your partner is behaving.

If you are in couples therapy, here are 7 warning signs to help you identify your partner's toxic behavior that can occur during counseling sessions:

#1: They tend to jump from therapist to therapist; firing the therapist if they disagree with how things are going and do not want to be held accountable.

#2: Their behavior never changes. They know how to talk the talk.

#3: They are manipulative and attempt to deceive the therapist with their charm and lies.

#4: They have a hard heart and are not teachable and do not take responsibility for any of their behavior.

#5: They focus the sessions entirely on you and what you are doing wrong.

#6: They are unwilling to do their part to actively participate. You are the one doing all the therapy work.

#7: They act a completely different way in counseling than they do at home. They are performing and putting on a show for the therapist and seeking to win the therapist’s approval.

I encourage you to use these warning signs as a guide in your sessions and bring them to your therapist’s attention. Share with your therapist how your partner is behaving at home outside of the counseling sessions. This is especially true if the toxic behavior patterns (i.e., lying, control, manipulation, abuse, cheating) continue to repeat themselves, even though your partner is telling the therapist things are going well. If this is the case, initiate a private phone call or request a solo counseling session with your therapist. Let your therapist know how you are feeling at this point in your treatment process. Give your therapist an opportunity to address the problem. You might feel your therapist and your partner have partnered up and are building a case against you and creating an agenda that is not based in reality. If you find after discussing these dynamics with your therapist that you cannot trust them, trust your intuition. It is OK to end counseling with your therapist. You can say to your therapist, “Thank you for taking the time to work with me, but I do not feel this is a good fit. Can you recommend other therapists who specialize in________ (whatever the issue is)?”

If your therapist disregards your concerns, you may be experiencing toxic therapy. It is important for you to do your research and find additional counseling options outside of your therapist’s recommendations.

Experiencing toxic therapy creates an unsafe environment because you are submitting yourself to the therapist's authority in the most vulnerable, intimate way and trusting their clinical expertise. And if they abuse that authority, you are no longer safe under their counsel. If your partner is unwilling to go to another therapist, you may seek individual counseling to help you. If your partner asks you what you are talking about with your therapist, gently let them know you are working on your issues and how you feel.

Your therapist will help you address the complexities of your situation and will guide you into the process of developing a strategy. The therapeutic focus will be on what you are learning about yourself instead of attacking, defending, or placing blame on your partner.

If you are wrestling with the difficult question, “Should I stay or leave the relationship?” this 2-part series will help you navigate how to determine the answer. The following posts provide additional help in defining a healthy counseling relationship: what makes a therapist a good therapist and the purpose of therapy.

It takes tremendous courage to continue the healing process, especially when it seems as though you are the only one willing to do the necessary work to change. You are not alone. Having a good therapist partner with you in your struggles is the way breakthrough and lasting transformation happen.

If you need help navigating through a difficult, painful relationship or you are experiencing toxic therapy, then I invite you to apply to work with Andrea one-on-one now.

**The content for this blog post has been taken from chapter 9 (Cuckoo Counsel, Who Hurts You and Who Can Help You) of Andrea’s book, The Cuckoo Syndrome: The Secret to Breaking Free from Unhealthy Relationships, Toxic Thinking, and Self-Sabotaging Behavior

The photo accompanying this article was sourced from istock and is in the public domain.

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Andrea Anderson Polk is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified, registered clinical supervisor, and certified professional coach. She has a private practice in Northern Virginia with nearly 20 years of clinical experience helping hundreds of clients on their healing journey.

She is driven by a deep calling to help ambitious women of faith experience healing and breakthrough so they can live each day with peace and purpose. 

Andrea believes healing happens through relationship. The wounds that occur in a relationship must be healed in a relationship. Andrea invites you into a life-altering relationship.

Work with Andrea one-one- by contacting her here.


Andrea has spent her career studying the human experience and has developed a fascinating analogy that compares cuckoo birds, nature’s master manipulator and imposter, to situations and relationships that leave us feeling drained, confused, lost, and empty. Her new book, The Cuckoo Syndrome, helps us fend off the cuckoos, the unhealthy relationships, toxic thinking, and self-sabotaging behaviors in our life that never truly satisfy the deep longings of our souls and the desires of our hearts. 

Andrea’s clinically proven, innovative method helps us recover the lost pieces of ourselves, discover meaning in suffering, and transform our pain into purpose by teaching us to uncover the truth of who we are and who God is so we can be healed and live free. 

Purchase the book Andrea’s clients call “a life-changing breakthrough” for yourself and the people you care about today.

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If you….

Feel internal pressure to do all things well. 

Tend to neglect your needs to please others and search for validation.

Continually attract toxic or one-sided relationships leaving you drained. 

Want to build a life that is unashamedly true to who you are and what you want.


Then…this is the time to reclaim your JOY, ENERGY, AND TIME so you can live each day with peace and purpose!


Curious to know how?

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