So You Want to Break Up with Your Therapist

What to do when therapy isn't working or you just want to go to someone else.

Posted Sep 29, 2018

123rf/Stock License
Source: 123rf/Stock License

When you no longer find therapy useful, or feel that your therapist isn't a good fit for you, what do you do?  Most people don't make another appointment or they no-show.  Sometimes this can make you feel uneasy, like you ghosted your therapist.  You've told your therapist about your personal stuff, and then you've just kind of stopped going. Sometimes people start thinking about if they did the right thing.  How do you handle not needing or wanting to go to therapy anymore without it weighing on you? 

Here's something that not a lot of people know: A good therapist is totally okay with you saying that therapy isn't working for you or that you no longer need therapy. 

Therapy is completely voluntary.  You can decide you no longer want to go to therapy at any time.  You don't even need a reason.  Sometimes people just don't "click" with their therapist.  

As therapists, we have done a lot of training on ending therapy.  All therapists have had clients that discontinued therapy at some point.  So telling your therapist you aren't feeling like you need to come in anymore is not something new to them. 

First, talk about your concerns with your therapist. Good therapists always like to know if your concerns aren't being met, if you would like a referral to another therapist, or if you have any questions about therapy. While we as therapists can be good at listening and helping, we may not always catch on that something is up. Open communication is so helpful. We also like to know if therapy is no longer working for you so we can grow and learn as therapists.  It's kind of like a comment card or survey — just in person.  

What are some ways to address this with your therapist? Try one of the following:

  • "I think I don't need to come in anymore."
  • "I'm not sure if I'm getting what I need from therapy."
  • "I'm not sure we click." 
  • "I think I can handle things better now."
  • "I think I need to switch to a therapist that specializes in ____________________."
  • "I think I've done all the work I can do here." 
  • "I think I'm good for now and don't need to come in."

Good therapists will always respond to you with professionalism.  If your therapist doesn't respond with professionalism, consider that reinforcement that you made the right decision to discontinue therapy.  If your therapist's behavior was out of line, consider contacting their licensing board.  A vast majority of the time, your therapist will appreciate that you were direct about your feelings. As therapists, we support autonomy - we want our clients to have the freedom to exercise their own choices. 

In an ideal world, therapists would address the end of therapy at the beginning of therapy. For example, my consent form states that the end goal of therapy is that you are able to handle life's complexities without needing my help.  As therapists, our happiest days are when a client says they feel like they are doing okay and no longer need to come in.  My consent form also states that therapy is completely voluntary, and you can stop going at any time.  It also encourages clients to bring up any issues they might have with therapy or the therapeutic process. 

You can always check back in with your therapist if you need them in the future.  When I end therapy with a client, I always tell them that they can contact me at any time.  Sometimes clients want to come in every few months or so for a "tune-up."

From the therapists' perspective, sometimes we realize that another therapist can help you better than we can.  Therapists have different specialties, and referring you to someone else just means that we are looking out for you and we want you to have the best treatment possible.  In fact, our ethical codes demand it.  

So go ahead and open up that dialogue with your therapist.  If your therapist doesn't respond with complete professionalism, you've made the right decision in discontinuing therapy with them.  Chances are, though, that you will have grown from the experience of telling your therapist what you need.  It's very freeing, and it makes it easier for you the next time you need to talk with someone about ending a relationship.

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