Break-ups are always awkward — even more so when it’s your therapist you’re breaking up with.
What might lead you to want to end a relationship with your therapist? And how should you go about it so that the break-up goes as smoothly as possible? Here’s everything you need to know.
Signs It’s Time to End Things With Your Therapist
The patient-therapist relationship usually takes some time to build up. If you’re not feeling connected to your therapist just yet, it’s important to be patient. But at other times, it isn’t a matter of time — the relationship just isn’t working out.
Here are some of the most common reasons people decide to break up with their therapists. Do any of them apply to your situation?
Related Blog: "7 Signs your Therapist is a Keeper"
You’ve successfully completed your work together.
This is the best reason for ending a therapeutic relationship. Ideally, your therapist agrees that you’ve made a lot of progress, and you’re ready to strike out on your own. Therapy doesn’t need to be forever — people often go just to resolve one issue in their lives. Once you’ve resolved that issue, it may be time to graduate and move on.
You don’t feel like they understand you.
This is a bit subjective — but you need to trust your therapist for therapy to be effective. And to be able to trust someone, you need to feel like they understand you. You should feel heard, understood, and validated in therapy. If you feel like your therapist is consistently missing your point, then it may be time for a change.
They don’t have lived experience or share your identity.
Your therapist doesn’t necessarily need to share your identity (although they do need to have done the work to be able to affirm it). But many people, especially with marginalized identities, prefer to work with therapists who have some relevant lived experience and can relate to what it’s like to be in their shoes. That’s completely okay.
For example, if you’re a Black woman, you might prefer a Black female therapist. If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, you might want a therapist who’s also part of that community. It’s totally okay to want to break up with a therapist because they haven’t had enough lived experience to be able to relate to your own experiences.
You don’t like their treatment methods.
Not all therapists are created equal. Some therapists are more interpersonal, preferring to empathetically listen to you rather than give you advice. Others are more solution-oriented, and can help you take practical steps to solve problems in your life. And some use very specific treatment methods to address specific issues, like trauma or OCD.
Think about your goals in therapy. Do you just need a place to be heard every week? Do you have specific goals you want to work towards? Are you experiencing symptoms of a mental illness that you need help resolving? Your therapist’s style should match your needs. If it doesn’t, and you’re not feeling like therapy is helping you in the way that you’d hoped, it may be time for a new therapist.
They don’t respect your boundaries.
Yes, therapy is a place where we’re supposed to talk about the hard stuff. But if you tell your therapist you’re not comfortable with something they’re asking or doing, then they should respect that. If you find your therapist is consistently pushing your boundaries, that may be a red flag.
There are logistical issues, like scheduling or finances.
No matter how much you adore your therapist, if they don’t have available appointments that work with your schedule, or if their payment plans don’t work for you, then the relationship probably isn’t going to work out.
How to Break Up With Your Therapist
First of all, it’s important to know that you don’t owe your therapist anything, especially if they’ve crossed your boundaries. If you’ve felt hurt in the relationship, it’s okay to simply tell your therapist you won’t be returning, and leave it at that. You don’t need to give them any information you’re not comfortable sharing.
If this isn’t the case, though - if your therapist hasn’t harmed you in any way, and it’s more just a matter of fit - it’s ideal to be able to communicate openly with your therapist.
If you feel safe and comfortable, give your therapist feedback on why you don’t think the relationship is working. It’s awkward to end any type of relationship, but therapists should be professional when you bring up your concerns.
If your reason for wanting to break up is something that might be able to be changed - like not feeling like you’re making progress toward your goals, for example - you may want to bring it up before deciding to end the relationship. This gives the relationship a chance to be salvaged (if you want it to be), and saves you from having to start all over again with someone new.
When you bring up your concerns, make sure you set very specific goals and benchmarks, so you can measure whether or not things are improving.
Here’s some language you can borrow:
- “I really love seeing you, but I need to have a therapy session more than just once a month. What solutions can you recommend so that we can figure this out?”
- “I don’t feel like I’m meeting my therapy goals. What ideas do you have about how you can help me reach them?”
- “I don’t think the treatment method you’re using is right for me. If you’re trained in any other methods, I’d like to try another one.”
- “Can we check in after 4 sessions to see if anything’s improved?”
Finally, unless you’re breaking up with your therapist because you’ve accomplished your therapy goals, it’s best to line up a new therapist before leaving your current one. Especially if you’re in therapy for a serious mental health issue, it could be dangerous to stop going to therapy completely. Your current therapist may even be able to refer you to someone who is a better fit for you.
Breaking up with your therapist doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. Therapy is one of the most important processes you can go through in life, and the most important thing is to connect with a therapist who is a good fit for you!