It’s surprisingly hard to break up with your therapist, isn’t it?
Wondering how to break up with your therapist? I have been in and out of psychotherapy since I was 12. That’s over 30 years. In that time, I’ve had quite a few different kinds of therapists, psychologists, counselors, and even a psychiatrist. Mental health covers many different kinds of issues. Some of my mental health professionals were good, some were great, some helped me grow in profound ways. No matter how well the therapy worked, however, or even how much I liked the therapist, there was always a time when I wanted to stop. And, it was always hard to break up. Every time. Same goes for group therapy, if that’s the help you choose.
What is the goal of therapy
For me, the point of therapy is to help you through a tough time or to work on specific issues like sobriety, recovery, relationships or whatever else in your life or brain function needs managing. You might need a psychiatrist to explore your brain health or a counselor to help you with your relationships. Whatever help you need, however, your work with mental health care professionals should serve its purpose so you can move on in new, healthier ways.
At which point, therapy can stop. That’s not to say, it hasn’t been wonderful to have therapists I still see from time to time. But the kind of weekly, bi-weekly therapy I’ve needed in the past, isn’t always necessary for me. So, when I feel I’ve reached a goal, or am sick of talking about myself, it’s time to go. Leaving, however, is easier said than done.
When it’s time to break up with a therapist, first ask yourself why?
Making an important decision, like ending therapy, requires thoughtfulness. Are you wanting to leave therapy for the right reasons? Like you’ve reached a goal, resolved an issue or have new tools that make life easier and happier. Or has the therapy work become challenging and a natural resistance to change has kicked in? The other issue to consider is, is the therapist you’re working with helping you? Mental health professionals are human too and can err.
If your therapist has differing beliefs or if he or she has made you feel uncomfortable, that is a reason to move on. What behavior could qualify?
What behavior is inappropriate
Discussing other patients is inappropriate, trying to see a patient outside of therapy is inappropriate, make any kind of sexual advance is very inappropriate. Remember, these are professionals who are bound by a code of ethics and laws about how they behave with their patients.
Forgetfulness or seeming disinterest are also valid reasons to break up with a therapist. If your therapist can’t remember important details of your life that you’ve shared, that’s a bad sign.
I asked a therapist how to break up with a therapist
As I was writing this article, I queried a friend who is a therapist about this issue. I share her response because it adds a whole new perspective to this piece. She told me more often than not, the patients fade away and there is no formal discussion of stopping therapy. She also told me, she wished patients would let her know they want to stop therapy so they can have one final wrap-up session to assess how their work went, and then she always leaves the door open if they want to return. Additionally, here’s more advice on how to break up with your therapist.
In my own experience, I usually want to stop when issues are resolved or improved. So, that is something I can get comfortable sharing with a therapist. Like, “Hey, this has been great and I’m so much better and happier. I think we can make a plan to taper down and stop.” That brings the therapist into the conversation. Everyone wants to know if they’ve done their job well so if it’s been a positive experience, feel good about telling them that.
Remember, therapy is to help you
Regardless of whether the experience was good or not, therapy is designed to improve your life, not the therapists. Therapists are professionals who should not bring their feelings into this. It is your decision to continue or discontinue.
Two steps to say goodbye
First: unless something inappropriate has happened, tell your therapist you want to move and give them an opportunity to have a final session. Or, discuss your progress before you go. If the therapist wants to know why you want to quit, it is completely up to you whether you tell them why. If you’re comfortable and the therapy has been a success, I’d share that. If it hasn’t, or there’s a reason I don’t want to discuss it, I simply say, “I need a break from therapy.”
Second: if you are sure you are done, cancel all your future appointments. Better to get them off the books and feel free. There was one therapist I really liked and felt guilty for leaving. I let it drag on way too long, sometimes canceling last minute. I regret that. It would have been simple to say, “We’ve done great work. I’m ready to live my life.” Click here for more advice on this subject from Better Help.