I can't understand my therapist


SF Supporter
Hi guys. I've really been struggling as to how to put this problem into words without being offensive or insensitive, so I'd like to say straight away that I'm not trying to be rude or discriminative. This is a genuine issue I am having and to be honest, I'm truly baffled as to how to handle it. This is why I am writing about it here hoping for some advice.

A year or so ago, I was assigned a therapist for CBT because I was having some particular problems and my mental health team suggested that CBT was the best course of action. I was happy to go along to these therapy appointments, until I began to realise that my therapist had such a thick accent, I could barely understand a word he was saying. This made each therapy session a lot harder for me, as I had to put in a large amount of effort just to hear what he was saying to me, and a lot of the session would be disrupted by me asking him to repeat what he had said. Then, when my anxiety would eventually take over, I would stop asking him to repeat himself and leave the session completely clueless as to what I was told. As you can imagine, this wasn't a very helpful form of therapy for me, as not only did it increase my anxiety, it didn't help me in any other way. I decided to tell my therapist via email that I couldn't continue with the therapy, but I didn't tell him the reason why, because I was ashamed and embarrassed.

A few weeks ago, I relapsed. I had been put back under the care of the mental health team, who suggested I give CBT another try (they aren't aware of the reason I cancelled the previous sessions). Figuring that the same thing couldn't happen again, I happily agreed to the therapy, because I do genuinely need some guidance in the form of CBT, at the very least. It would be a good starting point for me.

However, the same thing did happen. I wasn't assigned the same therapist as last time, but this new therapist also has an extremely thick accent. He had left me a voicemail the other day, as I couldn't reach my phone, apparently telling me he was arranging my first therapy appointment for me, but again I could barely understand the majority of the message, and had to email the mental health team to confirm said appointment for me in writing. Sure enough, I have an appointment on the 18th of this month. If I hadn't emailed the mental health team, I would have had no idea about this appointment.

I'm genuinely concerned that yet again I will have to go through some gruelling anxiety with this new therapist for the exact same reason as last time, but the appointment has been made for me and I feel like I can't cancel it this time around, otherwise the team will think I'm not serious about my health or my recovery, which I absolutely am.

I have no idea how to pose this issue to the mental health team, or how to handle it myself. I don't want to appear like I have a problem with people with certain accents or backgrounds, because I 100% absolutely do NOT. I want to make that very clear. I think it is fantastic that people all over the world have studied hard and can come to this country (I live in the UK) and join the medical/health industry, we always need more doctors and therapists and such. However, I really think I should have a therapist I can talk to and listen to with ease, seeing as talking and listening are the major parts of therapy itself.

I'm not sure what to do. I hope you guys don't get the wrong idea. Any advice would be hugely appreciated. Thank you!


Safety & Support
SF Supporter
Your concern is valid. I've experienced that as well. Its impossible to work with someone you cannot understand. Perhaps after the first session, if it is how you think, you can contact the agency and tell them what you just said here. It was sensitive and not prejudiced, it was simply "I can't understand them." Hopefully this will get you some results.
Best of luck to you in this.


Loves SF
SF Author
SF Supporter
It isn't rude or discrimination - it is a genuine issue when the entire basis of the relationship (and thus the treatment) is an ability to communicate with the therapist. It is okay to explain this concern to the mental health team - if you can't understand and communicate properly with your therapist it is a waste of everyone's time.


SF Supporter
Thanks guys, I feel a lot better about it now. Looking back, it's possible I was simply over-thinking the matter, but I guess that's understandable especially when anxiety is involved. I'm going to attend the first session and see how it goes, though I'm a little nervous because I know what's coming. I expect that if it does turn out to be like last time, this upcoming appointment will be dreadful. If that ends up being the case, I'll conjure up the courage to explain the situation to the mental health team. Luckily, the man who referred me to the therapist was very easy to talk to, so I can get back in touch with him. It probably sounds silly, but for someone like me with crippling social anxiety and an irrational fear that everyone is always judging me, scenarios like these are like impossible mountains I feel forced to climb.

Thanks again :) I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out, if you're interested!


Well-Known Member
I've had to do that over the phone once. The person I was speaking to had such a thick accent I had to ask them to repeat everything about 5 times. It was really embarrassing but I needed the information, that's what's important. Doesn't make you prejudiced or anything like that


~*Mod Extraordinaire*~
Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
Give us an update please if you can, I'm interested in finding out how this turned out. Hope it went well *hugs*


SF Supporter
Hi guys! Sorry for the late reply, a lot has happened since I originally made this post and I've barely had time to think. Thank you all for your replies and kindness, though. I'll be happy to give an update :)

The appointment I had on the 18th was actually cancelled and rescheduled to the 28th, so I haven't actually met my therapist yet, although I have had a few difficult phone conversations with him. One time he phoned, my mother picked up and almost hung up on him, thinking it was some kind of scam. That's how difficult it is to understand him, sadly.

I intend to give him a chance by meeting him for this first session, but if it proves to be as difficult as I fear it may be, I think I'll write an email to the mental health team saying that I cannot continue with the service with someone I cannot fully communicate with. I'll be sure to write here again if that happens, which I believe it will, and I'll let you know what the mental health team says in reply. I think they have already grown weary of me as I have already made it clear to them that I struggle to understand this therapist during the times he phones me, but that could be my imagination. I'm hoping they don't think too badly of me if I cancel the therapy.

Thank you again, guys :) sorry for the boring update, I'll give you another by the 28th for sure!


~*Mod Extraordinaire*~
Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
Yay for the 28th! I hope it goes well and better than expected, you deserve that at least :) Glad you are fighting this head on and giving it the best possible chance :) Best of luck hun x


SF Supporter
Update: I am furious.

I went to the appointment, and as expected, I couldn't understand him at all. Somehow, it was harder to understand him in person than it was on the phone. I actually had to halt the appointment halfway through to express my anxieties about the fact that I didn't think the therapy would work if we could barely communicate with each other.

He then seemed to change his tone completely, as if he was angry with me for interrupting the session, as if he thought it was going well up until that point, despite the fact I had to ask him to repeat himself about five times. Then he said the one thing I could understand, without having to ask him to repeat himself.

"I'm willing to give you another chance."

WHAT?! HE wants to give ME another chance? To do what? To keep my mouth shut throughout the entire therapy and nod and smile while he talks at me? Let me be absolutely clear; this was exactly what he wanted from me, the more he spoke to me after I raised my concerns about his accent. He decided that his personal offence to what I told him was now going to control the atmosphere of the appointment. Needless to say, my anxiety rose and rose until finally the hour was up, and I burst into tears as soon as I escaped the building.

I've now sent an email to the mental health service saying I want my therapy to be cancelled, and yet again out of shame I haven't expressed the reason why. I can't seem to find the right words, and I am fearful that the therapist will put his own spin on the story, making me out to be a bad patient who doesn't deserve future services.

I guess after I've calmed down and heard back from the mental health team I'll know what to do.

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